Richland County


Talented and capable, possessing tact and excellent judgment, Elmer Van Arsdall has attained high rank among the leading educators of Southern Illinois, and as county superintendent of the public schools of Richland county is an important factor in advancing the interests and increasing the efficiency of the educational institutions with which he is associated. A native of Illinois, he was born in Edwards county, October 16, 1881, being without doubt of Holland lineage, as his name would indicate, although he has no definite knowledge of his paternal ancestry.

His father, William Thomas Van Arsdall, was born and reared in Kentucky, where for several years he was prosperously engaged in agricultural pursuits. Losing all of his property during the Civil war, he moved to Missouri, from there coming to Illinois about 1870. Settling in Richland county, he spent his remaining days in this part of the state, being engaged in farming. He married Mary Ann Day, who was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, of English ancestry. Her father, Alfred Day, a native of England, immigrated to the United States, locating first in West Virginia and later in Ohio, in both of those states following his trade of a glass blower. From Ohio he moved to Illinois, where he was employed as a chef.

Laying a substantial foundation for his future education in the rural schools of his native district, Elmer Van Arsdall was graduated from the Parkersburg high school with the class of 1901. Then, after teaching school for a time, he attended the Southern Illinois Normal School, at Carbondale, one term, and the State Normal University, at Normal, Illinois, three terms. Resuming then his professional work he taught school successfully until 1908, completing his ninth year as a teacher. In that year he was elected county superintendent of the public schools of Richland county to fill a vacancy, a position for which he was eminently qualified by education, training and experience. Filling the office ably and most acceptably to all concerned, Mr. Van Arsdall had the honor of being re-elected to the same responsible position in 1910, and as he is never content with results that he thinks can be bettered it is needless to say that under his management the schools of the county, eighty-eight in number, are making notable progress along practical lines.

Mr. Van Arsdall began life for himself with limited means, in addition to caring for himself supporting his widowed mother, who still lives in Olney, and he is a fine representative of the self-made men of the state. He is a Democrat in politics; a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; and an active and valued member of the Methodist Episcopal church, to which his wife also belongs, and in which he is rendering good service as superintendent of the Sundayschool.

Mr. Van Arsdall married, May 2, 1908, Alta Belle Richards, a daughter of J. J. Richards, an early settler of Richland county, and to them one child has been born, Howard Van Arsdall, a bright and interesting little fellow, whose birth occurred October 31, 1911.

Extracted 13 Nov 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 History of Southern Illinois, pages 1270-1271.

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