John Thomas "Tom" Vardiman, 1838-1923

Shelby County, Kentucky & Saline County, Missouri


John Thomas Vardiman



Age at death: 85

Union Soldier,
Baptist Itinerate Pastor

Married:18 December 1867

# of Children: 11

State: Kentucky & Missouri

# of States at birth: 26

U.S. President at birth: Martin Van Buren

Significant Events in Lifetime: Civil War

# of States at death: 48

U.S. President at death: Calvin Coolidge


Cornelia and John Thomas Vardiman

John Thomas' wife, Nellie,
and 3 of their girls

Cornelia "Nellie",
Elizabeth "Lizzie"
& Frances "Fannie"

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion

John Thomas and Cornelia's
11 adult children

August 1939
All 11 Adult Children,
same photo as above, different source

Miles, John Peter, Richard Henry, Lizzie & Fannie were 5 of 11 Vardiman siblings

Luella Mae & Callie Smith were sisters who married Vardiman brothers, John Peter and Richard Henry


John Thomas Vardiman was born on 2 October 1838 in Bagdad, Shelby County,  Kentucky.  Everyone called him Tom.  Martin Van Buren was the current (8th) President of the 26 United States of America.  Twenty-two more states were added to the United States during Tom's life which meant there were 48 states by Tom's death in 1923.  At the time of  Tom's birth the state of Kentucky was prohibiting the importation of slaves since 1833. (World Almanac of the USA, p.117)

Famous contemporaries growing up at the same time as John Thomas Vardiman were:
John Muir (born in 1838), naturalist;
Dwight L. Moody (1 yr.), evangelist;
James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickock (1 yr.), frontiersmen & entertainer;
Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemens (3 yrs.), author;
and Geronimo (9 yrs.), Indian Leader in Arizona.
Famous explorer, William Clark, passed away in 1838.

Tom was the fourth child of Peter Vardiman and Mary W Scroggins who went by Polly.   Peter was 28 and Polly was 23 at Tom's birth.  He had an older brother David about age 6, an older sister, Evangelina, about four years old and a  two year old brother, Jeremiah.  His parents had thirteen more children after him. 

When Tom was 12 in 1850 the state of Kentucky repealed the slave ban and "Kentucky became an important center of the slave trade." (World Almanac of the USA)

In 1859 Charles Darwin's book Origin of Species was published and had a tremendous impact on society bringing the theory of evolution with the idea of "survival of the fittest" to the forefront.  His writings challenged Chrisitianity's Biblical view of Creationism and this has been an ongoing battle ever since.

Tom's parents were Baptist most likely as three of their sons became Baptist ministers including Tom in later years.  "They were … reared in fear and admonition of the Lord." (Biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardeman Conaway)

Civil War

From age 23 to 26, Tom served in the 6th Regiment, Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Company F for the Union Army in the Civil War from 14 October 1861 to 31 December 1864. He was wounded on 26 December 1862 at Hurricane Creek on the way to the battle at Stone River, Tennessee.

Click here to read about it!


John Thomas Vardiman (Tom) married Cornelia Fenwick Gaines (Nellie) on 8 December 1866.  Tom was 28 and Nellie was 20 years old at the time of their wedding.  His occupation was a farmer and "they raised various grains, livestock and tobacco, mostly tobacco." (Biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardiman Conaway) In fact, Kentucky is the world's largest loose leaf tobacco market according to the (World Almanac of the USA).  

Tom and Nellie's first child, Ernest Johnson Vardeman, was born in Bagdad, Kentucky on 26 September 1867 during Andrew Johnson's Presidency.  They continued having children every two to three years with a grand total of eleven.  They had their first seven children in Kentucky then decided to move near Tom's brother, William and Sallie Vardiman with their family of four girls in Missouri in 1882.   So Tom at the age of 43, Nellie at 36 who was probably just a few weeks pregnant and their six boys and one girl: Ernest (14), John Peter (12), Richard H (10), Jeremiah (8), Hiram Botts (6), Grace Truman (4) and Miles Standish (2) moved to Missouri.  The two year old was Miles Standish Vardiman, our ancestor.

On 14 March 1882 they arrived in Marshall, Missouri.

"Uncle Will met them in a farm wagon, drawn by four mules, and they drove out on what is now North Odell Avenue over a stumpy road through muddy Salt Fork bottoms where they stuck once, to be helped out by Messrs. Bob Marshall…  They found my aunt and cousins waiting for them in semi-darkness; their only light, a lantern and tallow candles.  They had broken their lamp flues that morning in the excitement of getting ready for their Uncle Tom, Aunt Nellie and the children." (biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardeman Conaway)

                They were almost pioneers but the "Indians were gone when they came to Missouri, but flocks of wild turkeys were in the woods, and there were plenty of woods, hazel brush and uncleared land.  Hazel nuts, hickory nuts, and acorns were plentiful; also wild grapes, wild plums, blackberries, strawberries, and all kinds of wild game." (biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardeman Conaway)

The family lived on various farms north of Marshall except for one year until 1908.  During those years north of Marshall, Missouri Tom and Nellie had their last four children, all girls, which brought the family to eleven children, six boys and five girls.  The girls names were: Bonnie Stanley, Margaret (Maggie) May, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Gaines and Frances (Fannie) Laura.  Tom was 52 years old when his youngest daughter, Frances Laura who went by Fannie, was born and Nellie was 44 in 1890.

                "Uncle Will lived north of Marshall…and the two brothers and their families were, for many years, the only relatives in Missouri, and they were always friendly and had great regard for each other.  One cousin says, "There was no greater pleasure in our childhood than going to see the cousins and having them come to visit us…Going to Uncle Will's when a child, eating Aunt Sallie's salt rising bread, yellow butter, and jam, watching her rock serenely and receiving notice from the cousins was my realization of earthly heaven.

My father and uncle lived to see many marvels of science.  They saw the laying of almost the first, perhaps the first railroad in Kentucky…  One of the cousins remarked that the roar of the early trains filled her childish heart with more terror than thoughts of the Devil.  Electric lighting, the auto, the airplanes were in use before their deaths.  The radio with ear phones was just coming in at the time of their passing.  None of these things moved their faith in God - rather heightened their faith in Him.  Did not God make man in his own image?

My father did itinerant missionary work, but held no regular pastorate in Missouri.  A cousin says, "The brothers loved the Bible.  Their eyes shone with joy as they discussed the great truths it contains, and in passing they pillowed their head on its promises." 

Uncle Will was a great worker for the Lord, serving four rural churches of Saline County for years.  Two of them, Salem and Pin Oak, were organized through his efforts, and the influence of his life and work will live forever.  It was my privilege to attend a service in one of his churches… and I could seem to feel his spirit present." (biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardeman Conaway)

In 1908 Miles Standish Vardiman got married at age 28 to Mary Josephine Harris (Mollie) who was 26.   His parents and unmarried siblings moved to a small farm they purchased near Nelson, Missouri.  After eleven years the children were all grown up, their youngest Fannie being 29 years old, so Tom and Nellie sold their farm and "bought property in Marshall" in the fall of 1919, during World War I, at the ages of 81 and 73 where they lived until the remainder of their lives. 

Nellie died 20 November 1921 at the age of 75 and Tom died 16 October 1923 at the age of 85.  Uncle Will passed on at the age of 83 in October 1925.  "Pointing upward his last words were "Mommie" (his name for my aunt), "Heaven"." (biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardeman Conaway)  Will's wife, Sallie died in October 1928.  All four are buried in Ridge Park Cemetery.

                "Among the brothers' numerous descendants are to be found; a doctor, a preacher, a school teacher, a policeman, and many worthy followers of various occupations." (biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardeman Conaway)                     

Compilation by Michelle Vardiman Fansler from Biographical sketch by Bonnie Vardiman Conaway

Click any photo to enlarge

Death Certificate


1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Ernest's Family

Ernest Johnson Vardiman
b. 1867 (age 72) right side

Lizzie Elliott Vardiman, Ernest's wife (age 68)

Edward (age 39)
Albert (age 37)

Woman on left unknown

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - John Peter's Family





Left to Right:
(Ages in 1939 at reunion)

John Peter b. 1869 (seated), (age 70) Luella Mae,
John Peter's Wife (age 67)

Charlie's wife (age 49) Charles "Charlie" (age 43) Shirley, Charlie & Emma's daughter (age 13)

Luetta, Johnny's bride (age 19) John Wesley "Johnny" (age 40)

Gladys, Eddie's Wife (age 31) Miles Edman "Eddie" (age 34)

Harry Lee "Bud", Charlie & Emma's son (age 15)


1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Richard Henry's Family

Richard Henry Vardiman
b. 1871 (age 68) left side

Mary Caldonia "Callie" Smith, Richard's wife, had passed away in 1930

They had 8 children, not sure who is who in the photo so by age:

1. Rena b. 1898 (age 41)
Husband, Thomas "Jeff" Uzzell 
Daughter, Phyllis b. 1930 (age 9)

2. Nellie b. 1900 (age 39)
Husband, Charlie Brown
3 Children: Janice, Richard & Jesse (b. 1930) (age 9)

3. Claude Phillip “Jack”
b. 1901 (age 38)
Wife, Beatrice 2 Children: Sam & Gertrude

4. Bonnie not present, passed away in 1910 at 6 years old

5. Irvin b. 1908 (age 31)
Wife, Velma, Son, Stephan (not born yet)

6. Jeremiah “Jerry” Thomas b. 1910 (age 29)

Wife, Alma, 2 girls: Mary Ester b. 1935, Elizabeth Ruth “Betty” b. 1936

7. William Francis “Bill” b. 1913 (age 26)
Wife, Velma Beatrice and son, Kenny, but not sure if they're in photo, don't have dates yet

8. Mary Elizabeth b. 1915 (age 24)
Husband, Charlie Staples married 1931, no known children

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Jerry's Family

Jeremiah b. 1873 (age 66)
Married twice
1st wife, Rosa Eihlers
2nd wife, Dora Wilkes
No children

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Hiram's Family

Hiram Botts b. 1875
(age 64) on right
Loveva "Lula" Thomas, Wife
Children unknown

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Grace's Family



Grace Truman Vardiman Nall b. 1878 (age 61)

Howard Boone Nall, Husband

5 Children:
Bonnie Nall, daughter
C.O. Nall, daughter
Vardeman Nall, son
Frank Nall, son
Russell Nall, son

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Miles's Family


Miles Standish b. 1880
(age 59)

Mary "Molly" Josephine Harris, Wife

Ross b. 1913 (age 26)
Phil   b. 1915 (age 24)

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Bonnie's Family

Bonnie is in front with white hair clutching something, not sure of others.They had 3 children.

Bonnie Stanley b. 1882
(age 57)

Charles Lewis Conoway, Husband

Jerry Lewis Conoway
Charles Conoway
Bonnie Conoway

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Maggie's Family


Margaret May Vardiman Self
b. 1885

Emmett Self, Husband

6 Children:
3 Boys: Albert, Joshua, J.V.
3 Girls

1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Lizzie

Never Married, No Children


1939 Vardiman Family Reunion - Fannie

Never Married, No Children



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