The Interesting Career of the Father of a Well Known Columbia Business Man

Mr. James M. Van Metre father of Mr. J. M. Van Metre of Columbia, died at his home in Berkeley County, W. Va., last Wednesday night. The daily papers of his home city speak very highly of the deceased. In the following article, the old stone house referred to was built in 1716 and is said to have been a fort in Indian days. It was once the home of Gen. Gates of Revolutionary fame. The article is as follows.

Mr. James M. Van Metre, for many years one of the wealthiest and most prominent farmers and stock raisers of Berkeley County, and a descendant of one of the oldest families in West Virginia, died at his home, about four miles from the city (Martinsburg, editor), near the village of Kearneysville, at 8 o’clock Wednesday night, death being due to the infirmities of his advanced age. He was in his 82d year.

Mr. Van Metre had been in feeble health for several years, but retained his vigor to a remarkable degree for one of his age. He did not become seriously ill until recently, since when his decline was rapid.

Surviving him are his widow and the following children, George Van Metre and Isaac D. Van Metre of Martinsburg, James M. Van Metre, Jr., of South Carolina, Mrs. Funderburk of South Carolina, Mrs. P C Myers of Little Georgetown, this county.

The funeral services will be conducted Friday morning at 10 o’clock at the Friendship United Brethren church, near Vanclevesville, by Rev. A J Secrist, pastor of the United Brethren churches on the Inwood circuit, and interment will be in the family burial ground on the home farm.

Mr. Van Metre was in many respects a remarkable man, and was known practically to ever resident of Berkeley County, especially the older people. He was a native of this County, and spent his entire life here. He was a descendant of one of the oldest families in West Virginia, his ancestors having come to this section of the County when it was yet wilderness. They were granted large tracts of land by Lord Fairfax, and at one time owned many thousand acres in Berkeley and adjoining counties.

He began life as a poor boy, but by the exercise of considerable business ability, thrift and industry amassed a fortune by the time he reached middle life that made him the richest farmer and stock raiser in Berkeley County. He was an extensive sheep raiser and he used the large profits from his industry to regain hundreds of acres of land that had formerly been owned by his ancestors. To this task this task he devoted practically all his life and was in great measure successful. Among the several tracts of land he purchased was the old home farm, on which his son Mr. Isaac D. Van Metre now resides, and on which stands the old stone mansion erected shortly before the Revolutionary War by one of his ancestors, and where he located the family burial ground a plot of about four acres, where the bones of many members of the Van Metre family rest.

After Mr. Van Metre had succeeded in buying about 1800 acres of the original Van Metre estate, and when he had passed the zenith of his powers and retired from the more active pursuits of life, he made a division of his lands among his children, dividing 1400 acres of his best farming land in the county. He retained one tract of 400 acres, which has enormous deposits of limestone and cement shale and which is believed to be worth $60,000 to $70,000.

For many years Mr. Van Metre was extensively engaged in sheep raising, and at one time owned the largest flock of sheep in this section of the State. It is related of him that he once drove 1000 sheep to this city and sheared them in the public square then complacently ordered the flock tenders to drive them back again after marketing the thousands of pounds of fleece. He amassed the greater portion of his wealth in sheep raising and devoted his energies for many years almost exclusively to this industry.

A number of years ago Mt. Van Metre erected a handsome and cozy brick church on his home farm, and donated the edifice to the authorities of the United Brethren church. This church is known as Friendship of Inwood church, and Rev. A. J. Secrist of Inwood is the pastor. It is in this church that the funeral services will be conducted.

In preparation for his death he several years ago, erected a handsome and costly monument in the family burial ground on the home farm, inscribing it with the date of his birth, etc., and leaving blank space for the date of his death. This monument stands on an elevated portion of the burial ground, and one side bears an inscription to the memory of his faithful flock tenders, while another side bears an inscription in honor of homeless and friendless children.

Mr. Van Metre was a man of marked characteristics, and was a conspicuous figure on the streets of the city for many years. His appearance was patriarchal, his beard and hair being long and heavy. He knew practically every one of the older residents of the city and county and related many interesting stories of the times long ago.

From: The State, Columbia, South Carolina, September 06, 1907.


The material on the site is intended for free personal, non-commercial use. Commercial use of any of the materials presented on these pages is prohibited. Please do not consider any information on this site as a primary source, all data should be verified by you, the researcher. If you encounter any problems or have a question/correction, you can Email me at Scott Van Metre