compiled by Columbian staff in 1989
When any definitive history of Clark County is written, the story of Gearshum and Sarah Van Atta is certain to take up several pages.
The pioneer Brush Prairie couple had 14 children and their children had many children. Their descendants married the sons and daughters of other pioneers, and today it almost seems that almost everyone there is in some way related to a Van Atta.
Gearshum was born in Pennsylvania in 1813. After fighting in the Indian wars, he married Sarah Caroline Palmer in 1833 in Illinois. The couple had 10 children before deciding to head west to the Oregon country.
The Van Attas crossed the plains in 1854, settling first in Linn County, Ore. They lived there long enough for three more children to be born, then settled in Brush Prairie in 1863 where one more daughter, Irene Rebecca, was born.
Along with their prodigious family, the Van Attas should be remembered for helping found the Brush Prairie Baptist Church, which is still going strong and is recognized as the oldest Baptist congregation in Washington. They also deeded the land for the Brush Prairie cemetery, which is recognized as one of the most historic pioneer cemeteries in the county.
Gearshum died in 1896 and Sarah in 1901. Both lie in the cemetery they deeded to the county in 1885.