The Amazing Captain Benjamin A. Van Sickle

Gravesite of Benjamin Van Sickle

Benjamin Van Sickle and his wife are buried in the Van Sickle Cemetery in Southeastern Hunt County near the site of the former Van Sickle Community. Photo courtesy of Find A Grave.

Captain Benjamin A. Van Sickle was a most unusual man. A native Texan born in 1808 in San Augustine, he was a citizen of Spanish Texas, the Republic of Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, the Confederate States of America, and finally the United States of America for a second time. But he never left the area we still call Texas.

As a young man he participated in the Battle of San Jacinto where he was wounded. The wound did not deter him from serving with a mounted rangers group during the Indian Wars in Texas. After statehood, when the United States went to war with Mexico Van Sickle again enlisted, this time in the US Army.

Somewhere along the way he bought a printing press imported from Vera Cruz to start one of the earliest newspapers in South Texas. Sometime after the Mexican War he found his way to Sulphur Springs in Hopkins County where he studied law before becoming an attorney.

When the Civil War began Van Sickle joined L. G. Harmon’s Company of Col. William Young’s Third Regiment, Texas Cavalry with other men of this northeast Texas region. However, before the men left to persuade Native Americans in Indian Territory to join the Confederate Army, Harmon noted on his roster that S. S. Boss would substitute for Van Sickle. At the time, Van Sickle was fifty-three years old, pushing the upper age limit. More than likely because of his age that early in the war, he was given a position more suited for a man of his status. A document found on www.Fold3.com listed Benjamin A. Van Sickle as Enlisting Officer in Hopkins County.

This may have been Plunket’s Store in the Van Sickle area around 1900.  It may have been Shrum’s Store around 1920.  Notice the advertisement for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper.

This may have been Plunket’s Store in the Van Sickle area around 1900. It may have been Shrum’s Store around 1920. Notice the advertisement for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Gore, Tracy Tredway Ruff, and Odeal Farris Bethea.)

Within one year Capt. Van Sickle and his wife Orlena moved to a small, unnamed community about eight miles south of Greenville where they purchased land and rode out the war. Van Sickle became a leading citizen. When a post office was opened in the Van Sickle home in 1877, citizens decided to name the community in his honor. Appropriately Capt. Van Sickle served as postmaster for six years. He passed away in 1904 at the age of 96 and is buried in the Van Sickle Cemetery.

The community of Van Sickle became one of many small communities in Hunt County providing school, church, post office and cemetery for the nearby residents. The Van Sickle Church of Christ was one of the largest in the rural areas. A two-room school educated many children through eighth grade. At that time many students chose to complete high school in Caddo Mills.

Van Sickle School

Notice that the schoolhouse sits on the open prairie with no trees or grass surrounding it. It was probably built on farmland, earlier cleared of all vegetation. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Gore, Tracy Tredway Ruff, and Odeal Farris Bethea.)

Typical of numerous small communities in northeast Texas all that is left of Van Sickle is the church, but not the Church of Christ. A new Van Sickle Baptist Church was founded in 1971. It grew into a large and lovely facility on FM 1564 west of Highway 34.

I would like to thank Brenda Gore, Tracy Tredway Ruff, and Odeal Farris Bethea who compiled this information. They put together an informative booklet that can be found in the Genealogy/Local History Section of the W. Walworth Harrison Public Library in Greenville.

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