Captain Jacob J. Vandergrift was born in Pittsburgh on April 10, 1827. At age 15, he left home to be a cabin boy on a river steam boat. He proved to be industrious and hard working and rose to the position of captain of the boat. He eventually owned one boat and had interests in several others. He is credited with being the first to utilize space on the front of the boat and to develop a new method of towing barges. He moved to Oil City, Pennsylvania, and became the first profitable oil pipeline operator and founded the Imperial Oil and Refining Company. Eventually he became the principle investor in the Apollo Iron and Steel Company. As a business partner, personal friend, and supporter of George McMurtry's "Workingman's Paradise", he financed the building of the Vandergrift Block Building (an early town office and apartment complex) and several homes at the lower end of Farragut and Sumner Avenues before the turn of the century.
It is said of Captain Vandergrift that his entire life was marked by strict integrity and honesty of both principle and practice.
He held the firm conviction that wealth was a gift of God for high and noble use. He was most generous throughout his life to church and philanthropic causes. Jacob J. Vandergrift died on December 26, 1899.
Oddly enough, he never lived within Vandergrift during his lifetime.