Jacob H. Van Auken was born on a farm in Pike County, Pennsylvania, August 13, 1810. His father was a soldier in the War of 1812. Jacob was the youngest of a large family of children, and at the age of five years was left homeless. He attended country schools in New Jersey, with his feet clad in rags during the winter time. He was a diligent student and afterward mastered the art of surveying. He taught in Pennsylvania, and one of his pupils was Nancy Strawway. In March 1831, they were married, and their happy relationship continued for nearly fifty years, until her death. Soon after their marriage they started for southwestern Michigan, but on account of the Blackhawk Indian war stopped in Portage County, Ohio. Jacob Van Auken taught village school and worked a little farm. From Portage County they moved to Cuyahoga County and in the fall of 1860 came to Pleasant Lake in Steuben County and bought the homestead around which so many of the family associations still gather. Jacob Van Auken was often confronted with poverty, having a large family to rear and maintain, but his courage and industry enabled him to keep his face bravely to the front. He was a skilled broom maker as well as a surveyor. In 1840 he was one of the surveyors in Northern Michigan. At one time he had assisting him in his work a boy he called Jim, and who afterwards was better known as James Garfield, President of the United States. Jacob Van Auken was a follower of Thomas Jefferson in politics, and his extensive reading and study made him a liberal in religion.
His wife, Nancy Strawway was born in New Jersey, the daughter of an iron miner, and she too spent her girlhood in near poverty, rising above her circumstances by sheer force of will and a great native intelligence and perfection of character. In the early days of her married life she had to perform the never ending toil of the mother of numerous children, and her entire life was consecrated to the high ideals of service for others. She was born November 22, 1814, was married March 3, 1831, and died July 19, 1878. She was the mother of sixteen children, and was comforted in her last hours by the presence of children and many grandchildren. The record of her children is as follows: Sarah Jane, born in 1832, and died in 1832; Calvin R. born in 1832, killed at a railway crossing in July, l910; James H., born in 1837, died in October, 1906; Horace N., born in 1839, died in July, 1914; Maria, born in 1841, died in October, 1918; Nancy, born in 1842, died in 1845; Phoebe Elizabeth, born in 1843, died in February, 1917; Mary Jane, born in 1845, and is still living at Westgate, California; Amos B., born in 1847, and killed by lightning in 1874; David E. born in 1848, and died in September, 1889; Frank B., born in 1850, died in November, 1915; Jacob J. born in 1852, died in November 1905 ; Nannie, born in 1854, died in 1856; Leah Catherine, born in 1856, died the same year; William E., born in 1858; and Perry D., born in 1861,and died in 1865.
History of Northeast Indiana : LaGrange, Steuben, Noble and DeKalb Counties (1920)