“As we go through history, we find that the busiest man [or woman] is always the one who finds the time to do things and this is well exemplified by Van A. Snider who was a busy Fairfielder for half a century. During his working life, he has been a farmer, lawyer, jurist, soldier, humanitarian, social worker and author. The Legion boys call him Major; his professional associates call him Judge, but his close friends call him Van and he likes it,” stated a Nov. 28, 1931, article in the Daily Eagle. This writer knew a little about Snider’s military service by reading Dwight Barnes’ EG articles. However, I recently discovered all the other “lives” lived by Van A. Snider (1869-1935).
Van was born in 1869 on a farm in Walnut Township to Absalom and Effie Ellen Snider. He taught school, began reading law with Judge John G. Reeves, and served as a deputy sheriff for a few years until he passed the bar exam in 1896. He married Cora Holland (daughter of lawyer EF Holland) in 1897. Two daughters were born to them, Mary Vaneta (1898-1970) and Effie Miriam (1900-1993). In the early 1900s, Van’s law office was in The Columbian building and the family lived at 149 W. Mulberry St.
Van served as a city attorney from 1910 to 1914. Because 1913 was the 50th anniversary of Morgan and his troops entering Ohio in July 1863, Van decided to write a book about the event.
To prepare, he rode from the Indiana line to Ohio and followed the exact route Morgan had taken. He timed himself to make each save and pass each point at the same time Morgan had passed. Along the way, he gathered information from people still alive who remembered the raid. Van ended his ride at a point near Salineville, where Morgan had surrendered on July 26, 1863 with 336 prisoners and 400 horses.
During the summer of 1913, Van also found time to call a meeting of all the patriotic organizations to discuss an armory for Lancaster. A committee was formed and Van served as chairman. With a successful bond issue, the city purchased the southwest corner of Broad and Wheeling as the site of the Sherman Memorial Armory.
By 1915, the Snider family had moved to 243 E. Fifth Ave. Van, the historian, was one of seven men to organize the Fairfield County Historical Society on June 23, 1915, and he traveled to Columbus to obtain their charter. In late June 1915, the Sherman Memorial Building was constructed and approved by the State Armory Board.
At the start of the “World War”, the first day of registration in Fairfield County was June 5, 1917. All men between the ages of 21 and 31 were ordered to register. Records show that 2,733 people signed up to serve their country. Major Van Snider had enlisted as a private in the Co. H. 14th Regiment, Ohio National Guard in 1889 at Canal Winchester, Ohio. He was appointed Major 7th Inf. NGO on January 19, 1914. On May 17, 1917, at the request of President Wilson, Major Snider was ordered to Fort Still, Oklahoma, to attend a special field officer school. Before he left, the Lancaster Bar collected $371 and, as a “sign of their appreciation”, bought him a horse, saddle, bridle, overcoat, officer’s watch, and other necessary items.
He was sent to Camp Sheridan in Alabama as an officers’ instructor, then to other locations until he was honorably discharged after undergoing surgery for a double hernia. When he was released, he weighed only 114 pounds. He returned home in early September 1918, and by February 1919 had resumed his law practice.
Juvenile Judge Van Snider and his wife hosted a community welfare conference at the Martens Hotel on April 26, 1921. It was the first such conference ever held in Fairfield County. About 78 people associated with the city’s and county’s 40 or more welfare societies attended.
“Our Old Glory,” Judge Snider’s first book, was published in July 1923. County high school students received 1,764 copies. Justice Snider began his second four-year term as probate and juvenile judge in 1925, but in 1926 Justice Snider was also elected chairman of the public library board. He launched this challenge in the Daily Eagle of July 13, 1926: “The public library is the underprivileged child of Lancaster. He is fairly well housed, but terribly undernourished. As individual citizens, clubs and officials, what are we going to do about it? Van A. Snider, chairman of the library board.
Van Snider had been busy compiling the information needed to write and publish his book “Fairfield County in World War”. A notice appeared in the Daily Eagle on December 15, 1926 stating that the book was then available. “This book is a memorial to the fallen soldiers of Fairfield during the World War and also contains a full list of all the men and women in the services, as well as the activities of the organizations during wartime and after the armistice.” In 1927, 55 one-room schools and 14 high schools received copies of the book. The purpose of the donations was “to build up the libraries of the various schools and to arouse and arouse interest in local history.” The judge’s motto is “Let’s get to know the county of Fairfield”.
Justice Van A. Snider retired in February 1929 and “the eminent soldier, lawyer and author” died Friday, September 13, 1935, at age 66 after his countless multifaceted contributions to Lancaster and Fairfield County, including many could not be related in this article.
Readers can contact Harvey at [email protected]