Joshua Vandruff

Joshua Vandruff was born on January 1791 in Pennsylvania. He came to Rock Island county in 1828, His wife Elizabeth and nine children followed him there in 1829/30. Two more children were born in Rock Island county in the following years.

Vandruff’s wife, Elizabeth Wisecarver Vandruff, was said to be a very friendly woman and a wonderful cook.

Vandruff got along well with Chief Blackhawk and his people and was allowed to live in peace there among them. At the beginning Blackhawk wanted him to move but Vandruff convinced him of how hard it would be to move with 11 children and therefore was allowed to stay.

Vandruff was a shrewd businessman and when he realized how deep and wide that part of the Rock River was he opened a ferry service across that part of the river charging 50 cents. Vandruff operated the ferry for several years.

In some people’s opinion Joshua Vandruff was responsible for the start of the Blackhawk War. In order that he could continue selling whiskey to the Indians. Whiskey was very common at that time and was found in almost every household. Vandruff had brought a still with him from Pennsylvania. And was selling and trading whiskey to Blackhawk’s Indians.

Vandruff loved to play games of chance. In these games of chance Vandruff would end up taking most of the Indians belongings, Horses, money, their houses, traps, and guns. He was also getting them drunk which made Blackhawk furious. At one time Blackhawk himself visited Vandruff’s still and smashed all the whiskey barrells. In Blackhawk’s words “I took a party of young men, went to his home, took out his barrel, broke in the head and poured out the whiskey”.

In the years 1831 and 1832 settlers had to flee to Fort Armstrong for protection from Blackhawk and his Indians. But while at the fort it was impossible to care for the crops and livestock   left on the island.   It was a constant struggle to survive. And in spite of his efforts Vandruff had to mortage his property and finally in 1841 his land was sold by the sheriff.

Joshua died on April 7, 1856 and was buried on his big island. His wife died on April 4, 1875 and her body was brought back and laid to rest beside her husband.

Joshua Vandruf’s children were: Harry, Barbara, Catherine, John Wesley, Susanna, Peria, Joseph, James, Jacob, Joshua and Elizabeth.

Some information from The Milan Independent


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