George Washington & Nancy Van Marter - the first Van Marters of Michigan About the Van Marter and LaForge Families


Van Marters have been in America since colonial times. The first Van Marters to immigrate to America were Jan Gysbertsen VanMeteren from Bommel, Holland (b. ~1625) and his son, Cryn Janse VanMeteren (b. 1650); they immigrated in 1663, living in the growing Dutch community in New Utrecht on Long Island, NY. Cryns’ great-grandson, John Van Marter, was a corporeal in the New Jersey 3rd Regiment, during the Revolutionary War – an American patriot. The Van Marters remained in the NY, NJ, PA areas, most of them farmers; it was John’s great-grandson, George Washington Van Marter, who moved to Port Huron, MI with his bride Nancy Melvin and family, establishing the current Michigan branch of the family. George fought in the Civil War, Michigan Light Artillery, Company H, 1st Regiment. Nancy bore him 12 children before her death in 1873 from tuberculosis. George remarried twice more, with two more children born to him. George & Nancy’s son, John, married Mary Jane Eagen in 1879; the two had seven children among whom was Orval Van Marter, our grandfather, who married Anna LaForge (see below for the amazing LaForge story). Mary Jane Eagen (who is, by the way, of 100% Irish ancestry) re-married to Marshall Cloar in 1898, four years after husband John passed away.

While we cannot trace the specific family members before 1600, we can trace the family name back to the 13th century. The name "Van Meteren" means from the manor of Meteren in Holland, of the estate of Van Cuick Van Meteren. The earliest mention of this family was in a deed dated September, 1253. It was subsequently mentioned in knighthood lists after that, implying a prominent, wealthy family. Among the most famous Van Meteren's In Holland was Jacobus Van Meteren (b. 1519), a printer who printed/financed the earliest English translations of the Bible: the Coverdale Bible, Tyndale's New Testament and (probably) the Matthew Bible, all in the mid-1530's. Myles Coverdale was employed by Jacob.



The first person with the name LaForge to come to North America was Jean-Simon Pradet-LaForge, from Nort, Deuax-Serves, Poitou-Chrantes, France; he immigrated to Quebec City, QC prior to 1730 (the year he married Marie Genevieve Charron). Their son, Louis-Samson Pradet-LaForge headed east to make his home in Detroit, MI (then still part of New France and not yet part of the U.S.); Louis married Marguerite Campeau, thus connecting the LaForge family to the famous Campeau’s of Detroit. Their son, Joseph LaForge, was one of three founders of the city of Sarnia, ON; his name is commemorated on a Canadian historical marker in that city.

The ancestors of Joseph LaForge go back, however to the very earliest days of New France. Barb Poisson, Marie Pinet and Anne Deliercourt of France, were three of the famous “Filles a Marier” (marriageable young girls) sent by France in the 1600’s to marry the pioneer men building settlements. Another ancestor of note, Dr. Jean-Baptiste Chapoton, an immigrant from France, was assigned in 1719 as surgeon-major to Fort Pontchartrain, the original settlement of Detroit. He was granted about 100 acres of property in the area surrounding the fort. Finally, of great interest is the relationship of the LaForge family to Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. She and Joseph LaForge have a common ancestor in Etienne Campeau, the 17th century immigrant from France to Montreal, QC; this is through Ms. Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Howell.

In general, the LaForge ancestry through all lineages was 100% French, going back to 18th century Ontario and 17th century Quebec.


As noted above, Joseph LaForge was a founding father of the port city of Sarnia, ON. His grandson, Francois LaForge, married Hermine Martin of Montreal in 1883 and the family moved from Sarnia to Port Huron, MI in 1888; here began the growth of the LaForge family in south-eastern Michigan. That same year Anna was born, who would later marry Orval Van Marter. The youngest of the family, Ilah, would later marry Henry Payette.

How far back can we go following the LaForge name? Immigrant Jean-Simon’s father was Gaspar Pradet, born in 1680 in the Vendee. Gaspar’s parents were Jean Pradet and Marie Nort., both born around 1650 in the Vendee. Why did the name change from Pradet to Pradet-LaForge? LaForge is the French term for “the blacksmith,” so presumably Jean-Simon was baptized as a Pradet, but later became known as Jean-Simon Pradet the Blacksmith, i.e., LaForge. It only took two generations to drop Pradet from the name. How far back we go via any lineage? Through Joseph LaForge’s wife, Angelique Pare, we can trace back seven more generations to Barnabe Gagnon, born in LeMans, France in 1531.


The Martin’s ancestry is not well known. Hermine came from Montreal; we can trace back to her great grandfather, Amable Martin of unknown years or origin. Her grandfather, Francois, was born in 1816 and married Henriette Moquin in Soulanges, QC in 1839. Hermine’s mother, Adelaide Montpetit, can only be traced back two more generations to 18th century Quebec.


As mentioned above, Francois LaForge’s great-grandmother was Marguerite Campeau. Marguerite was 2nd cousin (once removed) of the most famous of the Campeau family, Joseph Campeau, a Detroit businessman and the first Michigan millionaire. Joseph Campeau Avenue in Detroit/Hamtramck is named after him. Joseph’s wife, Adelaide Dequindre, was the granddaughter of military colonel and businessman Louis-Cesaire Dagneau Douville de Quindre; the Dequindre family owned much property in Detroit and the current Dequindre Ave. is named after them. In fact, through the Campeau line, we are related to many of early Detroit’s elites, family names now well known as Detroit streets: Beaubien, St. Aubin, Campeau, Dequindre. And, by a Campeau marriage , we can claim a relationship with King St. Louis IX of France!


As noted above, Dr. Jean-Baptiste Chapoton was an original settler of Detroit, as surgeon-general of Fort Pontchartrain. His descendants include many noteworthy and interesting Detroiters. Eustace Chapoton (b. 1792) was Ellen Chapoton’s uncle (Ellen being Francois LaForge’s mother). Eustace was a builder in Detroit and Michigan, having constructed many famous sites in Detroit. Eustace’s son, Alexander, continued this tradition, building the Globe Tobacco bldg and the Alexander Chapoton House. Three generations of Chapoton’s built the Russel House, Helen Newberry Building, St. Mary’s Church, Traverse City Asylum, Detroit Opera House, and many more.

Of interest, perhaps, is that Francois LaForge’s parents, Louis-Joseph and Ellen Chapoton, were 2nd cousins; he through his mother’s side and she through her father’s side both count Jean-Baptiste Pelletier & Marie-Josephte Cornet as great-grandparents.

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