Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter was born on a farm near Dundee, Michigan, on December 5, 1855 to John Wesley van Deventer and his wife, Eliza Ann (Wheeler) van Deventer.
In 1870, he was one of four children. His older brother, Virgil, was 18 and attending school. Judson was 14 and also a student. His younger brother, Nelson, was 12, and he had a sister, Fanny, who was five. His family was living on a farm in Dundee, Michigan. His grandmother, Polly Wheeler was 6o and living with them.
He graduated from Hillsdale College and became an art teacher. Later he was the supervisor of art in the public schools of Sharon, Pennsylvania.
In 1880, when he was 24, he married Malissa Miller, who was 21. Malissa’s mother, Ivy, had remarried to a farmer, named Oscar Curtis. They lived in Summerfield, Michigan, and had a newborn son, Arthur. Judson moved in with the family and was employed as a painter. A year later, Judson and Malissa had their daughter, Cleo Iva.
He was active as a layman in the Episcopal-Methodist Church, and became very active in the evangelistic meetings held in his church. Seeing his abilities, his friends urged him to quit his job and become an evangelist. For five years he wavered between the ministry and seeking recognition as an artist.
Finally he surrendered his life completely to Christ and travelled extensively throughout the United States, England, and Scotland as an evangelist, assisted by the singer, Winfield S. Weeden.
In 1886, he was living in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and received a passport. He planned to go to the British Isles, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Holland, and Belgium. He was described as being 30 years old, 5 foot 6 inches tall, dark brown eyes, medium nose, large mouth, dark brown hair, with a light complexion and a sharp, angular face. He used the passport to tour Europe, and visit the art galleries and museums, and other resources to study painting.
In 1888, he had a son, Paul Dorel. They were living in Michigan.
In 1902, their daughter, Cleo Iva, died. She was twenty years old.
In 1910, he was 54 and his wife, Malissa, was 51. They had been married for 30 years and were living at 4th Street North, in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Their house was near the corner of First Avenue North. Their son, Dore D. was 21. Judson owned his own photography shop and his son also worked as a photographer.
In 1920, Judson was 62, and his wife was 57. They owned an apartment house, free of a mortgage and shared it with their son, Dore, and his wife and son, Judson. Dore had the Photography shop. At the same address there were three other renting families and four lodgers: 428 3rd Ave North, Saint Petersburg, Florida.
In 1924, his wife died in Florida at the age of 65.
In 1925, when he was 66, he married a single woman who was 47, with the name of Carolyn, who was a pianist and music teacher.
Judson had a radio program called: “The Gospel in Song and Story.”
In 1930, Judson, and his wife, Carolyn, and her sister were living on River Side Drive, in Temple Terrace, Florida. They had $5000 in personal real estate and owned the house. They had a radio. He was 75 and retired. His wife, Carolyn was 52. His wife’s sister, Lottie Lanz, was 75 and widowed.
In 1935, “J.W.” was 79 and living in Temple Terrace and Carolyn was “50.” They reported they both had gone to college and he was a hymn writer and she was a musician. They owned the house on Glen Arvin Avenue.
In the 1930’s he had a home in Tampa, Florida, and was a regular visitor to the Florida Bible Institute. Along with many others, Billy Graham credits him with having influenced him in his preaching, and mentions the great time the students had in the evangelist’s home for fellowship and singing.
Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter died, on July 17, 1939, in Temple Terrace, Florida. He was 83 years old. His remains were placed in the Maple Grove Cemetery of Dundee, Michigan.
Even though he wrote quite a number of hymns, only a couple remain in use today:
Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1985), pp. 135, 136.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), p. 261.
Census and family tree information were gleaned from Ancestry.com’s website of Provo, Utah on Dec. 4, 2010. The following are specific pages referenced:
Vandevender family tree by “BobKR2K.” Has notes about the family.
U.S. Passport Applications, Issued on May 21, 1886, to Judson Wheeler Van De Venter.
1880 United States Federal Census Records: Census Place: Dundee, Monroe, Michigan; Roll: M593_691; Page: 236A; Image: 157; Family History Library Film: 552190.
1880 United States Federal Census Records: Census Place: Summerfield, Monroe, Michigan; Roll: 596; Family History Film: 1254596; Page: 578B; Enumeration District: 187; Image: 0345.
1910 United States Federal Census Records: Census Place: Saint Petersburg, Hillsborough, Florida; Roll: T624_161; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 20; Image: 453.
1920 United States Federal Census Records: Census Place: St Petersburg, Pinellas, Florida; Roll: T625_229; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 138; Image: 815.
1930 United States Federal Census Records: Census Place: Temple Terrace, Hillsborough, Florida; Roll: 321; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 158; Image: 485.0. Lines 17-19.
1935 Florida State Census: (Microfilm series S 5, 30 reels); Record Group 001021; State Library and Archives of Florida, Tallahassee, Florida. Hillsborough, Precinct 70, page 6.
Forrest M. McCann, Hymns & History, ACU Press 1997, p. 539