HOW THE FIRST "VANS" WERE CONVERTED
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Genevieve Van Wagenen
Halmagh John Van Wagenen and Mary (Polly) Van Houten were both of
Dutch descent. They were married December 22, 1810 at Horseneck Dutch Reformed Church,
Bergen County, New Jersey, by reverend John Duryee.
Halmagh and Mary settled in Wanaque, Pompton township, Bergen County (now Passaic County), New Jersey. Here they became the parents of five children: John, Henry, Hanna, Ann, and Sarah. They were a happy, industrious, thrifty, hard-working family. Halmagh was a farmer. He grew a variety of crops, including flax. From the flax Mary wove linen tablecloths, sheets, towels, and material which she colored for her childrens dresses. As the children grew, Mary taught them to mend, darn, patch, and care for their belongings. She taught her daughters to card, spin, weave and sew.
Mary was a good homemaker and kept a very attractive home. Her needlework pieces were real art treasures. She made a marvelous carpet of wool. Taking the wool from sheep they raised, she dyed it several colors. She carded and spun it into heavy yarn and wove it into a magnificent carpet, which was given to cover one of the rooms in the Nauvoo Temple.
Mary was neat and very particular and she taught and trained her daughters well, She said, "Learn to do your work well now. When you get older, if you want to slight it then, you can. But you must learn to do it right."
John, the eldest son, was apprenticed out for seven years. He learned the carpenter and the wheelright trade. The Van Wagenen"s Built a lovely home in Wanaque. It had a beautiful hand-carved walnut staircase and china cupboards which the family were very proud of. No doubt John was the creator of these beautiful carvings.
The Van Wagenens were a happy, united family. United in all but one thingreligion. Mary was a Presbyterian. She was devoted and faithful to her church. Halmagh, on the other hand, would not attend or have anything to do with any church. In fact, he was very much opposed to religion. Halmaghs attitude worried and grieved Mary. She wanted her children to be Christians-good Christiansbut how to accomplish it with a house divided? Halmagh was firm in his convictions. "I cant see anything in religion," he said.
It was about this time that the Mormon missionaries came to New Jersey. Out of curiosity John, the eldest son, attended some of their meetings. He bought a Book of Mormon and some other Mormon literature. Knowing the sentiments of his father and not wishing to hurt his mother, he kept the book secreted in a drawer in his room. Every opportunity he could find he would slip into his room and read the book. It fascinated him. He could hardly put it away to do his work. He attended more meetings, asking questions and received enlightening answers. John studied and prayed and asked for guidance. By now, the Book of Mormon was more than interesting or fascinatingJohn knew it was true. He had a testimony. He was so thrilled with what he read and heard, he longed to share it with his family but he didnt dare. Prudence and fear of ridicule stopped him.
One morning the men folks were away at work. Mary was ironing. Her aged mother was busy darning socks and humming as she rocked by the fire. Sarah was preparing the bread for the oven. "Sarah," called her mother, "as soon as you put the bread in the oven, come here. Will you please gather up the stockings, these grandma had darned, and take them with these shirts Ive ironed to Johns room. Put them away neatly and while youre there, tidy up his room. I think John has been neglecting it lately."
Sarah climbed the stairs with an armful of carefully paired and rolled stockings and the shirts. She opened the door and tossed the socks on the bed while she hung the shirts in the wardrobe closet. She began tidying up the room. She pulled open the stocking drawer to put them away. For a minute she stood frozen to the spot. Her eyes bulged. Her mouth gaped open wide. She gasped a deep breath. Automatically her hand flew to her throat and she pressed it hard against her chest as if to keep her pounding heart from bursting. Was she seeing things? Slowly and cautiously she reached her hand out and touched it. It was real! But what was it doing here?
MORMONS. The word seemed to leap at her. She had heard of the Mormonsthe Minister had warned everybody about the awful Mormons. A sickening feeling came over her. She must tell mother. Never had Sarah made the stairs in such record time. From the hall she motioned for her mother to come quickly. This was private. Grandmother (Annatje Roome Van Houten) must not know. At her age it would upset her terribly.
"What is it, Sarah? You look like you have seen a ghost."
"Its awful, mother! Its awful," she whispered. "Im afraid John is going to join the Mormons."
"The Mormons? Thats nonsense! Wherever did you get an idea like that?"
"Hes got their terrible book in his drawer," said Sarah. "I saw it with my own eyes. I touched it."
"Well dont you worry your pretty head anymore," she said reassuringly. "Ill take care of the matter. John has better sense than to do a thing like that. Whatever you do," she warned, "dont say anything about this, to anyoneleast of all to your father." Sarah promised. She visioned what it would be like if he knew.
Mary couldnt settle down to her work until she had opened the drawer and verified the evidence. There it was in black and white. She closed the drawer quickly. A feeling of restless uneasiness swept over her. She tried to put it out of her mind, but it kept coming back. "John is a good sensible boy," she kept reassuring herself. "He wouldnt do this. Its just that he has an inquiring mind, and Ive always admired him for that."
As Mary sat down to help grandma with the mending, grandma inquired, "Whats bothering you, Mary? You look worried."
"Im just tired, Mama." But Mary was worried. She was recalling how much of late John had chosen to stay in his room. And he had been evasive occasionally, as to his whereabouts, when he had gone out lately. Maybe Sarah was right. Maybe John was thinking of joining the Mormons. "I must handle this tactfully," she vowed to herself.
The next evening, after a day of much praying for guidance, and after most of the family had retired, Mary knocked on Johns door. His lamp still burned. "Its mother, John. May I come in?"
"Youre always welcome, Mother," he said, as he slid the book under his pillow. Mary pulled the chair near his bed. She held his manly hand and looked into his sun-tanned face and his honest blue eyes. "Its about that Book of Mormon, son." There was a moment of awkward silence.
"You found it?"
She nodded her head affirmatively.
"Im glad you found it. Have you read any of it?" he asked eagerly.
"Youll want to read it, mother. Its the most wonderful book I have ever read. I know its true."
"Now John," she said in a cautioning voice, "how do you know?"
"Let me read you something," he said, turning the pages of the Book of Mormon searchingly. "Here it is, Moroni 10:4-5. Listen carefully to this promise, mother." He read: And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost
And by the power of the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things.
"Mother, I have followed the Prophet Moronis counsel. I have earnestly and sincerely prayed and I know it is true. If you would only read it, mother, I would be so happy. Ill put the book in the desk in the hall. Then you can read it whenever you get time. You better not let dad see it," he cautioned. "Mother," he said, full of enthusiasm, "you will find it so interesting, you wont be able to leave it alone. Say, Mother, Ill bet you didnt know that Jesus visited America after His crucifixion. Well, He did. It tells all about it in this book." John turned the pages to where he had it marked. He briefed his mother in on a few details surrounding the occasion: Jesus stood in the midst, he commanded the multitude that they should kneel down. "Let me read it to you. It is in III Nephi, Chapter 17:15-17: And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.
And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father.
And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
"How beautiful," she said. "I think I would like to read the Book of Mormon."
"Dont forget Moronis promise," John reminded, as she closed the door behind her.
It was just as John had predicted. She couldnt leave it alone. Household tasks were neglected s she read aloud to her family. They listened first out of curiosity, but curiosity was soon replaced by enthusiastic desire. There was plenty of suspense, especially when they had to interrupt the story and quickly put the book back in the desk when Halmagh showed up unexpectedly.
They talked about the things they read with John. They began going to the meetings to learn more. They were greatly impressed with the Book of Mormon, the Gospel, and the missionaries. They were all convinced it was true. They decided to be baptized. Mary had not mentioned a thing about it to Halmagh. The children hadnt let a word of it slip in front of their father.
The day for the important event arrived. The house was buzzing with activity as they made preparations.
"Whats going on?" demanded Halmagh. "What is this you folks are all so busy about?"
Marys heart began beating faster. Suddenly she felt as if a chill wind had flung open the door.
"You seem to have some secret," said Halmagh sternly.
Mary moistened her dry lips. "You see, Halmagh," she said apologetically. "I have been going to tell you, but it seems I just havent had the opportunity." She lowered her eyes, straightened her skirt. "You are so opposed to religion. I meant to tell you before we went. You see, we have all decided to join the Mormons, if you dont object."
"So you have been keeping me in the dark," he said in a very disappointed tone. Then a big smile wrinkled his face. "You are not the only one with a secret." His eyes twinkled merrily. "You see, I found Johns book. I, too, have read the Book of Mormon. So if you will get my things ready, I will go with you. I want to be baptized also."
Everyone was very much surprised but so happy and delighted. The children hugged and kissed their father. Mary, having recovered from the shock, now rushed into Halmaghs waiting arms. "You really want to be baptized?"
"I was never more serious in my whole life," he said. "I know the truth when I hear it."
With a testimony of the truth, happy hearts and a wonderful feeling of unity, they stood as a family on 13 April 1844, by the waters of baptism, and Elder John Leach baptized each one into the Church, including Grandma Van Houten.
Halmagh could see real value in the Gospel. He attended his meetings and was devoted to the Church. Halmagh was willing to make any sacrifice for the Church. In 1844, the Van Wagenens desired to join the Saints in Nauvoo. They were unable to sell or dispose of their property in New Jersey, so they left it behind. They established themselves in Nauvoo. Here they endured the persecution and hardships with the Saints.
On the 25th of April, 1846, they left their home and the beautiful city of Nauvoo for the West, where they hoped they could worship God according to the dictates of their conscience. They crossed the Mississippi River in May and traveled to Winter Quarters. Here they were to spend the winter. Again they build a home. They made their own furniture, beds, tables, benches, etc. But due to the severe hardships they encountered, and the lack of necessities, Mary died in October, 1846, and Halmagh died soon after, on the 4th of December, 1846. They were laid to rest in the Pioneer Cemetery, on the bench above the Winter Village. Their children came to Utah. They became stalwarts in the Church, remaining true and faithful. They raised up a noble posterity, full of faith and devotion and an honor to their courageous ancestors.
In 1936 the Church dedicated a beautiful monument at Winter Quarters, now known as the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, Florence, Nebraska. It was erected to honor and pay tribute to those faithful, courageous Saints who "gave their all" for the Gospel. The names of Halmagh Van Wagoner and Mary, his lovely wife, are inscribed among the faithful, so honored.
Dr. Avard Fairbanks, the famous sculptor, who was commissioned to create this great monument, is the second great grandson of Halmagh and Mary Van Wagoner.
Note: Many Nauvoo records were destroyed when the Saints were fleeing Nauvoo. The wagon loaded with records tipped over in the river. This is one reason we see more than one baptismal date. Even though many had personal histories and diaries with these dates recorded, they couldnt be verified with Church records.
SONG OF JOHN HALMAGHS GENEALOGY
Genevieve Van Wagenen
|John Halma had five wives,
John Halma had five wives,
Hi, Ho, Van WagenensWagoner
John Halma had five wives.
He was quite a man,
Yes, he was quite a man,
As you all can see
From this Van Clan.
John took a pretty bride,
The first one by his side,
Her name was Eliza Smith,
Her name was Eliza Smith.
David was their son--
Their one and only son.
He spelled his name with "EN"
So we have Van Wagenen.
|When Eliza Died,
John took another bride.
Clarissa Tappen was her name,
Clarissa was her name.
Large families are a blessing,
As in that early day,
So to this union
Ten children came to stay.
John chose another wife,
The third in his heaven,
Elizabeth Young her name,
They had children seven.
However you spell your name,
With an "E" or letter "R"
You are one of the Van Clan
Were mighty glad you are
Sung by the Hawkins sisters: Cosette, Yvonne, Francine, and Sherri, for the Van Clan reunion at Fairmont Park, August 13, 1966. They were accompanied by their mother, Miriam Van Wagenen Hawkins. They are the great-great-great grandchildren of John Halmagh.
The very young can learn their genealogy and have a greater appreciation of their
ancestry, if they will sing these words to the simple tune of a familiar nursery rhyme.
NOTE: As John Helmaghs fourth and fifth wives have no children, their names were not included in the song.
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