JUDGE JAMES M. VAN SANT, successful rancher and man of affairs at Canyon City, Randall county, has had a varied and many-sided career, but in general very successful, and ever since taking up his residence in the Panhandle country he has taken a prominent part in the public and industrial activities and used his influence for the progress and best welfare of his town and county.
Judge Van Sant was born in northwest Arkansas, Crawford county, March 18, 1840, and was the son of Isaiah and Margaret (Chenault) Van Sant. His father, a native of Botetourt county, Virginia, was one of the earliest pioneers of northwestern Arkansas, establishing his home in Crawford county three miles from the town of Van Buren, and his son Isaiah still lives on this homestead, where he was born in 1842. The father died at the old home place in 1862.
Judge Van Sant passed his early years on the home farm, and received most of his education at Cane Hill College in Washington county, Arkansas. As soon as he came out of school he began his connection with official life, becoming employed in the county clerk’s office at Van Buren. He was later a clerk in the post office for a year or two, and then went into the mercantile business at Van Buren in partnership with W. B. Heard. He was in that business when the war broke out. He enlisted in the Third Regiment of state troops, and was in the first battle fought in southwest Missouri, that at Wilson’s Creek, or, as the Confederates call it, Oak Hill. He later enlisted in the regular Confederate service under General Fagin, being in the cavalry branch of the military, and after a short time was place in General Cabell’s brigade. He participated in the campaigns throughout northern Arkansas and Jenkins’ Ferry, Poison Springs, Marks Mills, and others, and was with the army until the close of the war with the exception of a short time in 1863 when he brought his family as refugees to Paris, Texas.
At the close of the war he returned to his family at Paris, and has been a resident of Texas ever since. He lived at while in Hunt county, when a short time in Lamar county, after which he went into the mercantile business at Ben Franklin in Delta county, where he continued as a prominent and successful merchant for twenty-seven years. Considerations for the health of some members of the family led him in 1892 to transfer his residence to the high plains country in the Panhandle, and in that year he located at Canyon City, the county seat of Randall county. In 1895, he was appointed to fill the vacant county judgeship, and in the following year he was the candidate for and was elected justice of the peace and county commissioner of precinct No. 1, serving in this office four years. He has been notary public ever since coming to Canyon City. When he first came to Canyon City he took charge of the Victoria Hotel and was its proprietor for some years. He and his son Isaiah now have a fine ranch seven miles and a half south of Canyon City.
Judge Van Sant was married in Crawford county, Arkansas, to Miss Susan J. Foster, of a South Carolina family. They have four children, all married, as follows: Josie, wife of R. B. Redfearn, the county treasurer; Gertrude, wife of W. R. Redfearn; Isaiah L.; and Mrs. Eddie Jennings. Judge Van Sant is an active member of the Christian church, and is prominent in Masonic circles, having attained the Royal Arch and Knight Templar degrees.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 136-137.