Peter G. Van Winkle

Parkersburg Daily Times
April 22, 1872

I. O. O. F.

At a special meeting of the members of said Lodge, held on the 16th of April, 1872, in which Sharon Lodge No. 28 was invited to participate in the funeral obsequies of the late Hon. P. G. Van Winkle, deceased.

It was ordered that Past Grands, S. C. Shaw, R. P. Davis, and J. B. Scullen, be appointed to prepare a sketch of the life and character of the deceased for publication.

In accordance with the above order, the committee present the following:

Hon. Peter Godwin Van Winkle.

"The memory of the just is blessed." Solomon.

In this dark world of sin and suffering, there are oases springing up in the desert of man's mortality. Among these, the memory lingers and delights to dwell, as the warm affections of the heart cluster around them, whispering through all its silent chambers, of a better world, a brighter home and a purer life. It is thus, amid the impressive emblems of our worthy brother, the late Hon. Peter Godwin Van Winkle, who departed this life on the morning of the 15th of April, 1872, aged 63 years, 7 months and 8 days.

On the paternal, as also on the maternal (Godwin) sides of his parentage, his family records went back to the early settlement of the Colonies of this country. He was the third son of Mr. Peter Vanwinkle, and his wife, Mrs. Phoebe Godwin, born in the city of New York, the 7th of September, 1808. Being endowed by nature with studious habits and enquiring mind, he in early life laid the basis of a good education, and in all his after years, with unwearied diligence and close application, he studied to improve, until he became a ripe scholar, a correct thinker, and an able writer, with a wide sweep of practical knowledge. His love of letters was so great that in all the active duties and claims of his life, and the laborious studies of the law, (his profession,) he found time to devote his talents in the higher walks of literature, and his manuscripts grace the pages of many of the literary journals of the day.

On the 21st day of September, 1831, at Paramus, Bergen county, N. J., he was most happily united in marriage with Miss Juliette Rathbone, daughter of the late Judge, W. P. Rathbone, a lady of fine accomplishments, refined manners, social in intercourse, with a most amiable disposition and warmth of affection. By her he became the father of six children; three of whom died in early infancy, his fourth, the late Hon. Rathbone Van Winkle, died at his residence in this place, the 18th of March, 1870, leaving at the time of his death his youngest son, Godwin, and his youngest daughter, Mrs. Blackford, to mourn his loss. His loving and accomplished wife, after a long and painful illness, died in 1844.

Mr. Van Winkle came to this place early in the year 1835, and completed his study of law, in the office of Gen. J. Jackson, and was admitted to the practice in our courts. At that time this country was comparatively new, and Parkersburg was a small town situated on the Southern bank of the Ohio river, surrounded by wood, with a vast undeveloped country stretching away to the East and South, against the Alleghany mountains. Yet from its relative position, geographically lying in a direct line between the sea-board cities, and the far on and outspreading West, he came to the conclusion that it had a bright future, and determined to make it his future home. He formed a co- partnership in the practice of law with Gen. Jackson, and gave the energies of his mind in leisure hours to the developement and growth of this place and the surrounding country. Our county paper, both editorially and otherwise, teemed with articles from his able pen, setting forth its local and commercial advantages. These weekly contributions to our paper, unfolded to the enquiring mind the vast rich resources of wealth hidden in our mountains and valleys - the music of its water power passing through the unbroken solitudes of one of the most salubrious climates of earth, inviting the enterprise of the capitalist and the strong energy of the woodman's ax.

The public spirit and enterprise of his mind, thus seen through these articles of his pen, allied him with the Council of our growing town and made him president of its Board. This relation he sustained for many years, and indeed, until a wider sphere of usefulness opened out before him to fill. Wherever, and whenever enterprise, public or private, looked to the advancement of our town and country, it at all times found in him a friend and advocate, and he became an able co- worker in securing its advantages to our city. He was for the first seven years President of the Little Kanawha Bridge Company, also Secretary for several years of the N. W. Va. R. R. Co., then its President and President of the Parkersburg Branch Railway. To all these offices he brought his patient, untiring energies, and performed their duties with entire satisfaction to all connected with them.

In 1850 he was elected and served with distinguished honor and ability, in the State Convention of Virginia, for revising the Constitution. His labors upon committees were arduous, yet he found time to assist our Representative, and contributed largely in securing the passage of the Charter for our Railroad. He was a prominent and working member of the Wheeling Convention, of 1861, also of the Convention of 1862, which formed the Constitution of West Virginia, and was a member of the Legislature of this State from its organization, to June 1863. In August of that year, he was elected a Senator in Congress from this State, for the term ending the 4th of March 1869. In all these high, responsible and honorable positions of trust, as a Statesman, he fulfilled the arduous duties with marked ability, conscientious exactness and unwavering devotion to the best interests of his country. The same conscientious regard for truth and justice, which marked all the private acts of his life, he brought into the political arena of his public life, as his guide in the performance of duty.

No base or private prejudices, or unholy passions ever marked or marred his career in all his intercourse with his associates in public and private life. During the late unhappy war, when the passions of many ran riot with the spirit of revenge, there is no individual case, when the finger of anger and resentment can be pointed at him, as being unjust or unmerciful. His nature rose above the angry passion of vindictive hate, or the malignant policy and purpose of the carping demagogue. His carefully formed and well balanced mind, resting upon the golden rule of right and justice, at all times felt its responsibility and never swerved from the conscientious purpose of moral rectitude.

It is with the greatest pleasure, we can look over and review the life and character of our honored friend, as a citizen in private life, and as an officer in his public career, giving, (as he has nobly done,) to the world a bright example of a life of unwavering effort, which has culminated in an honored repose.

But in closing this record of his memory and virtues, we feel and mourn the loss of a Brother Odd Fellow, whose voice once cheered us in our counsels, and whose life and character was a living exposition of the holy ritual of our beloved order. Peter Godwin Van Winkle was the Senior Past Grand of Parkersburg Lodge No. 7, I. O. O. F. and no member in life and character ever reflected more honor upon that Office, or gave brighter evidences to the claims of Odd Fellowship. For years past he has made a donation of fifty dollars annually for the Widows and Orphans, to be distributed by the Lodge, thus causing the blessings of the bereaved to light up his pathway along life's closing journey. But he has passed from the living of earth, full of years, and full of honors, to the rest of the patriarchs.

It is at such a moment we realize the gathering darkness of the tomb, over the days of our mortality, we realize the loosening of the silver cord - the breaking of the golden bowl - the fall of the pitcher at the fountain - the wrecking of the wheel at the cistern, for man goeth to his long home. Our friend and brother "has passed the years of his appointed time," "the days of the years of his pilgrimage are numbered," with the evergreen as an emblem of immortality, his remains are committed to the silence of the grave, "for the memory of the righteous shall be in remembrance for ever and ever."

S. G. SHAW, P. G.