JOHN K. VANSTAVERN was appointed to the Camden Fire Department on October 9, 1872, as a replacement for Josiah Davis, who had resigned.. He served as an extra man with the Hook and Ladder Company (present-
day Ladder Company 1). He was removed from service with the Fire Department on May 7, 1874. He was replaced by Benjamin Middleton. John Vanstavern was called back to the Fire Department in April of 1876 and served for one year, again with the Hook and Ladder Company.

John Vanstavern was born in New Jersey in 1837 according to records from the 1850 and 1860 Censuses. He appears to be the third of five brothers, the eldest being William, then Francis, with Everett and Lemuel coming after John Vanstavern's birth. The 1850 Census shows Francis Vanstavern, age 17 in Camden's Middle Ward, the other brothers were all then living with their widowed mother. The 1860 Census shows John Vanstavern as unmarried and working as a house painter. He does not appear to have served during the Civil War.

Oldest brother William Vanstavern died of natural causes on December 2, 1862 and was buried at what is now referred to as Old Camden Cemetery. William Vanstavern had been a member of Lenni Lenape Tribe No. 2, Improved Order of Red Men.

When the census was taken on July 8, 1870 John Vanstavern was working as a janitor and living in Camden's Middle Ward with his wife Ellen R., who was then pregnant. Their daughter Emma was born in November of 1870. By the fall of 1872 the family had moved to 647 John Street, which was later renamed Locust Street. As indicated above, John Vanstavern was appointed to the Fire Department in October of 1872. Fire Department records state that he was working as a "captain" in 1872 and 1873, and as a painter in 1874. When he was recalled to the Fire Department in 1876, he was working as a floatman aboard one of the many boats that worked on the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia. The family then lived at 444 South 2nd Street. Another daughter, Laura, was born around 1873. The family still appears to be on South 2nd Street when the Census was taken in 1880, although where is somewhat unclear, as the address is obscured in the microfilm image of the census sheet..

City Directories from the years 1882 through 1897 show the Vanstavern family at 430 South 2nd Street, the northeast corner of South 2nd Street and Washington Street, where Ellen Vanstavern operated a candy and cigar store, while John Vanstavern worked outside of the home as a painter. The family moved to 215 Washington Street by the time the 1898 Camden City Directory was being compiled. John Vanstavern was still working as a painter. By 1900 he had started working as a laborer at the nearby railroad yards. His next door neighbor at 217 Washington Street was Camden policeman John Truitt, the Truitts and Vanstaverns would remain neighbors into the 1920s.

John K. Vanstavern is listed in the 1906 Camden City Directory as 215 Washington Street. He passed away on February 20, 1907. Ellen Vanstavern and unmarried daughter Emma were still living at 215 Washington Street, as was a boarder, Jacob Laubach, 36. Younger daughter Laura was married, to who is not known at this time, but she was alive at the time of the Census. She may have been married to George Madera, as there was a George and Laura V. Madera living at 211 Washington Street, next door to the Vanstavern family, at the time of the 1910 Census. Ellen Vanstavern passed away during the 1910s. Emma Vanstavern and Jacob Laubach were both still living at 215 Washington Street as late as April of 1930. Emma Vanstavern was still at that address as late as 1947.

John Vanstavern's nephew, Samuel Vanstavern, led a troubled life. He murdered his wife Ellen in November of 1901 and was hanged for the crime in April of 1902.