Hamilton County Pioneers - the Van Epps Family

Friday, August 1, 2008 - by John Wilson

Amos Covey Van Epps was one of the river merchants at Chattanooga when the landing was still the center of commercial activity. His family was swept away from Chattanooga by the Civil War.

The Van Epps family was “one of the oldest and best” in Holland for many centuries. They were “farmers all, sober, industrious and thrifty.” Dirk Richard Van Epen left Delfthaven, Holland, in 1620, and settled in New Netherlands. He arrived eventually at Beaverwyck (Albany, N.Y.), where the name was changed to Van Eps. He married Maritje Damen and had children Johannes and Lysbet. Johannes married Elizabeth Janse and was one of the first settlers of Schenectady, N.Y. His mother bought for him
a bowery on the Groot Vlachete and a house and lot in the village in 1664. His children were Johannes Baptist, Everet, Sarah, Elizabeth, Maritje and Anna.

Johannes Van Eps and two of his children were killed in the Massacre of 1690. The eldest son, Johannes Baptist Van Eps, was taken captive by the French and Indians on Feb. 9 of that year when Schenectady was burned. After remaining with the Indians three years he learned their language and later was often employed as an interpreter. He returned to Schenectady and in 1701 was given several island acres in the Mohawk River. He married Helena Glen, daughter of Johannes Sanders Glen, and they had five
sons and six daughters.

The eldest, Johannes Van Eps, was born in 1700. He married Neeltje Toll, daughter of Carl Hansen Toll, in 1720, and they had eight children. The fifth child, Jan Baptist Van Eps, married Annatje “Anna” Vedder, daughter of Harmanus Vedder. That was May 2, 1761, according to the Dutch Family Bible of the Van Eps family that was printed in 1600. They had 12 children. Jan Baptist Van Eps died in 1813, and Anna Vedder Van Eps died in 1816.

Their third child, Johannes “John” Van Eps was born at Westina, N.Y., in 1764. He married Jannetje “Jane” Van Vleck, daughter of Harmanus Van Vleck, in 1795. They lived at Glenville (the former Westina) in Schenectady County. When John was 15 in the fall of 1779, he was called into the Patriot army in place of his father. He went on an expedition to Fort Paris, then in August of 1780 he was among those called out after a party of Indians and Tories laid waste the nearby countryside. Later he marched on a campaign to Fort Hunter, Caughnawaga, Fort Plain and Herkimer “in pursuit of the enemy.” He was involved in several other military excursions and was with Walter Butler
when he was tomahawked by the Oneidas. John Van Eps later lived at Amsterdam, N.Y. He was awarded $60 per year pension payments in 1831. He died in 1847 at age 82. Jane Van Vleck Van Eps died in 1868 when she was almost 90.

A.C. Van Epps was among the 12 children of John and Jane Van Eps and was born in 1814 at Schenectady. In early manhood he moved to Alabama. He marrried Caroline L. Howard, daughter of Nicholas Howard of Columbus, Ga., in 1845. They were living at Eufala, Ala., when a son, Howard, was born on Dec. 21, 1847. Another son, George C., was born earlier. Two other children died in infancy.

The Van Epps family came to Chattanooga in 1848 and he set up a mercantile business near the river. He was described as “very quiet and unassuming.” The Van Epps home was an elegant, one-story frame house at the southeast corner of Walnut and Third streets. It featured large fluted columns with Ionic caps across the front, and a broad veranda extended around the entire width of the house. The rooms had high ceilings, large fireplaces and tall mantels and the doors were handmade of the finest black
walnut. There was a broad hallway from the front of the house to the rear. A stone well house was in the corner of the back yard. The Van Epps house was described as “a fine wooden structure with pretentious columns in front and one of the most attractive in the city.”

A.C. Van Epps bought several acres on Lookout Mountain, and he also purchased an 80-acre farm at the foot of and side of Missionary Ridge. There he planted a large orchard. He also owned property at the Van Epps Spring, which formerly was known as Indian Spring and also as Gardenhire Spring.

Some of the Van Epps holdings were near a pond that was one of the subjects of a committee of the city fathers in 1855. These water holes were considered “great nuisances and producers of sickness, having a bad influence on the future prosperity of the city.” One of these was “a mud hole on Chestnut Street near the Crutchfield House.''

A daughter, Ida, was born while the Van Epps family lived at 302 Walnut.

Another Chattanooga merchant, David B. Ragsdale, was friends with the Van Epps. In
1857, he married Eugenia Howard, who had come from Georgia to visit her Van Epps relatives.

Just before the war, A.C. Van Epps had five slaves and an estate of $15,500.

The family was saddened when on Dec. 21, 1860, Caroline Howard Van Epps died. It was the 13th birthday of her son, Howard. As the Civil War began, A.C. Van Epps refugeed to Georgia. The Van Epps home was taken over as headquarters for officers of one army, then the other.

The Van Epps sons, despite their young age, volunteered for the Confederacy's 19th Tennessee Infantry in Co. A. George was wounded and captured at Franklin, Tenn., on Nov. 30, 1864. He was sent to Camp Chase, Ohio. Howard enlisted in the spring of 1864 “though still a lad” and was in the heavy fighting around Atlanta. He was severely wounded at Egypt Station, Miss., near the close of the war and spent two months in a hospital at Lauderdale Springs suffering from gangrene.

George C. Van Epps died in 1872. The remaining Van Epps family members settled in Atlanta. The Missionary Ridge farm was sold and finally came into the possession of the Rev. T.H. McCallie.

A.C. Van Epps returned to merchandising in Atlanta, but he retired in 1887 to a farm in DeKalb County. He died there in 1890. He had taken a second wife, Julia Cooper of LaGrange, Ga., in 1867. Their children were Claude, Lillie and Amos C. Jr.

Ida married Dr. George A. Wilcox of Augusta, Ga.

Howard Van Epps settled in Atlanta after graduating from the University of Georgia with second honors in 1869. He became a prominent attorney. He was judge of the city court of Atlanta many years and was the author of a number of works about the law. Judge Van Epps was “dignified in his demeanor and just in all his decisions, fearing neither friend nor foe in the discharge of his duties.” He married Minnie C.
Thomas, daughter of Stevens Thomas, in 1873. Howard Van Epps died in Atlanta in 1909.

D.B. Ragsdale purchased the former Van Epps home at Third and Walnut. J.P. Kindrick
occupied the fine home for many years, then it was torn down.

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