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Joseph Van Buskirk was born on Janaury 12, 1811 in Chestnut Hill, Northampton County, Pennsylvania to unknown parents. The only known information on Joseph's parents comes from the 1880 United States Federal Census, which states that his father was born in New York and his mother was born in Pennsylvania. His spent the early part of his life in the Lehigh River Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania.
In the early 1840s, Joseph came to Luzerne County. In about 1844, Joseph married Ann Evans, daughter of William B. Evans and Elizabeth Snyder. They are recorded in the 1850 Census in Dennison, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Joseph's occupation is listed as a laborer.
In 1854, Joseph joined an expedition led by Hiram Woodward to Slabtown, Elk County, Pennsylvania. Of all the men who went on this expedition, only eighteen, including Joseph survived. Among those who survived were Alfred and Peter Evans, Joseph’s brother in-laws, Jacob Payne, who married Harriet Evans, Alfred and Peter’s sister, and Harriet’s second husband, James Guckhaven.
After the expedition, the Buskirks made the decision to move to Elk County, and were living there by 1860. They appear in the 1860 Census in Jay Township; it was here that Joseph worked as a farm laborer. The Buskirks have not yet been located in the 1870 Census, but it is assumed that they stayed in the same region since the family appears in the 1880 Census in Huston Township, which is just south of Jay Township, in Elk County's neighboring county, Clearfield County. Here, Joseph's occupation was listed as a teamster.
Joseph has been described as an honest industrious man, who by hard work earned his living and reared his family. After the death of his daughter Esther he joined the Presbyterian church and in his last days was comforted by religion. Joseph died on September 27, 1890 from the effects of the Grippe in Penfield, Pennsylvania. The funeral took place in the Presbyterian church on Sunday afternoon after his death. The service was very largely attended. Reverend J. J. Rankin conducting the services and Thomas B. Bouy directed. The interment was at Bundy Cemetery. His widow, Ann, went on to live at the household of their daughter and her husband, Abigail and Barney Black, respectively.
- The Valley Echo, Penfield, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, September 27, 1890
- 1850 United States Federal Census, Dennison, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
- 1860 United States Federal Census, Jay, Elk County, Pennsylvania.
- 1880 United States Federal Census, Huston, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.