Guide to the Van Gorden Family Papers, 1940–1945

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Overview of the Collection

Special Collections & Archives
McIntyre Library
University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire
P.O. Box 4004
105 Garfield Ave.
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004

Owner: Wisconsin Historical Society

Collection Number: Eau Claire Mss CE

Creator: Cyrena M. Van Gorden Dierauer, Archie H. Van Gorden, Harry H. Van Gorden

Title: Van Gorden Family Papers

Dates: 1940–1945

Quantity: 0.2 linear feet (1/2 archives box)

Location of Collection: Box 1. Shelf location B4/3b

Languages: Collection materials are in English.

Summary: Transcriptions completed by Cyrena Dierauer of her grandfather’s diary (1940–1945) and her father’s World War II letters home. Harry Van Gorden kept the diary while living in Eau Claire, Wis., where he operated a gasoline supply business and several gas stations. His diary entries reflect family life of the times, the gasoline business during World War II, and his interest in news events of the day. The letters are from his son, Archie “Red” Van Gorden, written while serving with the 32nd Division between July 1941 and December 1943 in Australia and New Guinea. Dierauer compiled the letters into a volume entitled “Red Arrow ‘Red’: Letters Home from WW2” with a brief family history, transcriber’s notes, photocopies of family photographs, a few news clippings, and an index to names mentioned in the letters.

Biographical/Historical Note

Harry Humphrey Van Gorden was born on February 2, 1881, to Schuyler and Clara Van Gorden. Schuyler owned a General Store in Hixton, Wisconsin where Harry worked up until 1902, when he married Mary Ellen ‘Nellie’ McCullough and they opened a store together in Fenwood, Wisconsin. The couple would have three sons: Archie ‘Red,’ Bruce, and Kenneth between 1903-1905. After their store in Fenwood burned down, they bought a General Store in Alma Center, Wisconsin in 1908 which they would run until 1930. They also bought the Feed Mill in town in the 1920s. By the 1930s, Harry and his sons would own four Feed Mills in four different cities under the firm “H.H. Van Gorden & Sons” before Harry sold out of the business in 1939 and bought the Texaco bulk plant and station in Eau Claire that same year. Harry writes in his diary about some of the struggles he experienced with running his Texaco stations during the war as gas was rationed and he was shorthanded, having to do much of the work himself at 60 years old, as all the young men were going off to war. Harry would sell his Texaco business in 1945 and he and Nellie moved to Merrillan, Wisconsin where they lived until 1951 when they moved to Neillsville. Harry died on October 21, 1956 in Neillsville at age 75.

Archie Humphrey ‘Red’ Van Gorden was born on April 11, 1903 in Hixton, Wisconsin. He married Hazel Madeline Fremstad on July 10, 1924. The couple had three children together: Richard (born in 1925), Heron (born in 1926), and Cyrena (born in 1928). Red worked for his father until he bought the Feed Mill in Neillsville, Wisconsin in 1929. He joined the National Guard in Neillsville in 1940 and was called into Federal Service in October when his unit was sent to a camp in Louisiana for training. Red, joined by Hazel while Harry and Nellie looked after their kids still in Neillsville, remained in Louisiana until he was sent to Australia in April 1942. He would serve in Australia and New Guinea until 1943. He tried to return to the family Feed Mill business that his brother Kenneth had maintained while he was serving but found it too difficult to work in the cold weather. Red and Hazel moved to Florida in 1946 where they ran a motel until they retired in 1958. The couple would primarily live in Florida for the rest of their lives but would return to live in Wisconsin during the warmer months. Red suffered a stroke on September 27, 1981 and died on October 8 in Neillsville at the age of 78.

Content Description

This collection mainly contains the transcribed pages of Harry Van Gorden’s diary from 1940–1945. Also included is a family tree, a brief family history, and a copy of “Red Arrow ‘Red’: Letters Home from WW2” which contains a brief family history and letters from Archie “Red” Van Gorden while he was serving in WWII.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: Presented by Cyrena M. Dierauer, Bloomington, Minn. in 1993. Collection is owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society. For more information, please consult the Historical Society.

Access Restrictions: Collection is open to the public.

Use Restrictions: Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. Copyright not owned by the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.

Processing Note: Finding aid created by Stephanie Much in February 2022.

Arrangement: Flat arrangement.

OCLC #: WIHV93-A757


Personal Names: Van Gorden family
Corporate Names: United States — Army — Infantry Division. 32nd
Subject Terms: World War, 1939–1945 — Personal narratives, American; World War, 1939–1945 — Wisconsin — Eau Claire

Detailed List of Contents






Harry Van Gorden Diary and Brief Family History




Harry Van Gorden Diary




“Red Arrow ‘Red’: Letters home from WW2”

Book: Undated

Letters: 1942–1943