Biography of Jacob W. Vanderwerf
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

JACOB WITZEL VANDERWERF. Intrinsic integrity of purpose dominated the activities of the late Jacob W. Vanderwerf in all the relations of his busy and useful life, and that life touched many phases of worthy service in connection with civic and business affairs in the City of Cleveland, where he maintained his home from his boyhood until the time of his death, January 16, 1918. He was a man who stood four square to every wind that blows, and he made his life count for good in every sentiment and motive and action. To him is eminently due an enduring tribute in this publication.

Mr. Vanderwerf was born in the City of Buffalo, New York, July 8, 1857, and thus was sixty years of age at the time of his death. His parents, Jacob and Mary M. (Witzel) Vanderwerf, were born in Holland, but both were children at the time of the immigration of the respective families to the United States, the old time sailing vessels having necessarily served as the medium of transportation across the Atlantic Ocean. The parents were thus reared and educated in the United States, and in the old Empire State, where their marriage was solemnized, they continued to maintain their home until 1865, when they established their residence in Cleveland. Their son Jacob, Jr., of this memoir, was the eldest of their eight children and was a lad of eight years at the time of the removal to Cleveland, where he was reared to manhood and received the advantages of the public schools of the period and where the parents passed the remainder of their lives. Here the father was for a time engaged in business as a contractor and builder, but he met with an accident that permanently impaired his vision, so that during a period of about twenty years prior to his death he was able to give but minor attention to business affairs, his death having occurred April 15, 1901, and his wife having preceded him to eternal rest in April, 1898.

While still a boy Jacob Vanderwerf, Jr., immediate subject of this review, began to assist his father in the latter's operations as a contractor and builder, and in this connection he gained the experience that well fortified him when, at the age of eighteen years, he initiated independent business in building construction. He established himself in a small shop on Spring Street, and his first contract was in connection with the remodeling of the Cushing Block, on Euclid Avenue, just to the east of the old time business place of William Taylor. Absolute fidelity to the terms of contract characterized the activities of Mr. Vanderwerf throughout the entire course of his distinctly successful career as a builder, and it was popular recognition of his ability and integrity that gained to him from the start a representative support. For a term of years he was retained by the May Company as its superintendent of construction, and through this connection as well as in an independent way he was concerned in many large and important construction contracts during the passing years. Thus he had much to do with the building of stations and power houses for the Cleveland, Painesville & Eastern Railway, and he erected also the Lake Shore Electric Railway power house at Avon and built the Electric Building, one of the large buildings of Cleveland at that time.

Mr. Vanderwerf was one of the organizers of the Nungesser Carbon & Battery Company, one of the first concerns of the kind in Cleveland, which initiated operations on a small scale and rapidly grew to a concern of broad scope and importance, so that a profitable transfer, as touching the interests of its stockholders, was made when the plant and business were sold to the National Carbon Company.

A service of great and enduring public value was then rendered by Mr. Vanderwerf as one of the three members of the Board of Arbitration selected by the City of Cleveland and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company to determine land values for both property owners and the railroad corporation when the latter initiated and carried forward the work of elevating its tracks over the various grade crossings in Cleveland. Mr. Vanderwerf was chairman of this board, and had much to do with making its service so careful and equitable that all court litigation was avoided in the prosecution of this important public improvement, his service in this connection having covered a period of several years.

Few citizens of Ohio have proved more earnest students of the history and teachings of the Masonic fraternity than Mr. Vanderwerf, and in the Scottish Rite of this time honored fraternity he attained to the ultimate thirty third degree. On the 12th of October, 1883, he became an entered apprentice in Iris Lodge No. 229, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and in the same he was raised to Master Mason on the 3d of the following November. He served as master of this lodge in 1888, after having passed other official chairs He became a Royal Arch Mason February 21, 1884, and on the 13th of January of the following year he was initiated a member of a Local Council of Royal and Select Masters, his reception of his first chivalric honors having occurred in September, 1884, when he became a member of Oriental Commandery of Knights Templar, of which he later served as commander. It is a matter of record that he was the first member to succeed in bringing this Commander before the public in military manoeuvers, he having become its expert drill master and having done much to make it one of the best drilled Cornmanderies in the entire United States, the Commandery having won honors in many competitive exhibitions of military drills. In the Scottish Rite Mr. Vanderwerf initiated his connection in 1885, in Eliadah Lodge of Perfection, and in Lake Erie Consistory he thereafter won advancement to the thirty second degree, he having been the treasurer of this Consistory for many years prior to his death. In 1910 he received the ultimate honor, when he was made sovereign grand inspector of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, in which he thus received the thirty third degree. He was an active member also of Al Koran Temple of the Mystic Shrine and Al Sirat Grotto of the Veiled Prophets. As an active and valued member of the Cleveland Grays, the crack military organization of the Ohio Metropolis, he served as its drill master and brought it up to a high standard of tactical proficiency. In this connection he had the satisfaction of giving the first drill lesson to Hon. Myron T. Herrick, former governor of Ohio.

Mr. Vanderwerf was a stalwart republican but had no ambition for public office. He was known for his civic progressiveness and liberality, and his circle of friends was limited only by that of his acquaintances. He was an active member of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, the Cleveland Real Estate Association, the local Architects Club, and the Cleveland Yacht Club, of which last he was a life member.

April 23, 1888, recorded the marriage of Mr. Vanderwerf and Miss Anna Louise Hubbell, daughter of Augustus Byron Hubbell and Harriet S. (Robinson) Hubbell, both residents of Cleveland at the time of their death and for many years prior thereto. Augustus Hubbell was born at Warrensville, Cuyahoga County, and established his home in Cleveland in 1866, within a short time after completing his service as a gallant young soldier of the Union in the Civil war, he having been a first lieutenant of Company H, Forty second Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the regiment of General Garfield. Since the death of her husband Mrs. Vanderwerf has continued her residence in Cleveland. Howard, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Vanderwerf, completed in the Case School of Applied Science a course in electrical engineering and was graduated as a member of the class of 1916, with the degree of Bachelor of Science. In connection with the nation's participation in the World war Howard Vanderwerf entered service in the United States Navy in June, 1918, and later received promotion to the rank of ensign, he having been in the naval transport service until the armistice brought the war to a close.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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