Van B. Swearingen was at once one of the most successful business men and most honored citizens of Champaign County. His name is especially associated with the community of St. Joseph, where the best years of his life were spent.
Mr. Van Swearingen was born in Adams County, Ohio, June 2, 1837, and died January 21, 1901. His father, Andrew J. Swearingen, was a native of Pennsylvania who early migrated to Ohio, where he married Mary Brady. From Ohio he brought his family to Illinois, first locating near Homer and afterwards a mile south of the village of St. Joseph.
Van B. Swearingen was ten years of age when he accompanied his father to Illinois in 1847. He completed his education in the common schools of St. Joseph Township. He was fourteen when his father died and after that he lived with Benjamin Bartley until reaching his majority. Though he had little capital, he possessed that independence which made him willing to venture on his own account and success followed his efforts from the beginning. He first farmed as a renter, and also made an early beginning of buying and selling stock. He possessed natural gifts as a shrewd business man, and two years after he started out for himself he had enough capital to take his place in the ranks of business men.
In 1863 Mr. Swearingen bought his first land near St. Joseph and for a number of years followed the business of trading in stock, a pursuit which he made remunerative and profitable. In 1870, with William Shreve as a partner, he engaged in merchandising and established the first store of the village of St. Joseph. That store was conducted on very successful business principles and soon became a popular and favorite trading place for all that section of the country. Though a merchant for many years, his natural inclination was for outdoor life and he always kept in close touch with the farming interests and grew stock and grain on a large scale. He was also an extensive grain buyer, and he made this feature his main business for many years.
In 1861 he married Lydia Bartley, daughter of Benjamin Hartley. She died April 18, 1867, leaving one son, Mr. U. G. Swearingen, whose career is sketched on other pages of this publication. In March, 1871, Van B. Swearingen married Amanda Patterson, daughter of John K. Patterson, of St. Joseph. The only surviving child of that union is Mrs. Doctor Henry E. Davis of St. Joseph, the other daughter, Mattie, being deceased.
The late Mr. Swearingen was an ardent Republican and gave a steady allegiance to that party from the time he cast his first vote for Lincoln in 1861. He was a recognized leader in his township and his influence was instrumental in accomplishing many things that had a direct and vital relationship with the welfare of the community. In 1866 he was elected supervisor of the township. In his private business affairs his success was measured by the accumulation of over a thousand acres of farm land and much valuable property besides, but best of all he left behind a record of unimpeachable integrity and a large circle of friends among the best people of the county, all of them grateful for his associations and glad of the enviable record that clings to his name.