John S. Van Winkle was born in Wayne County, Kentucky, on March 8, 1829. His father was Micajah Van Winkle and his mother was Mary (Phillips) Van Winkle. His grandfather, Abraham Van Winkle, was the first of the family to come to Kentucky. The Van Winkle family came to the New World with Peter Stuyvesant in 1647.
John S. Van Winkle was raised on a farm and received his education at Monticello, Kentucky. At the age of eighteen he began work as a salesman in a store. In 1852, he began studying law with his brother, Ephraim L. Van Winkle. He graduated from the Law Department of the University of Louisville and was admitted to the bar in 1854. He practiced law in Wayne County and was elected to the legislature in 1861. He moved to Danville in 1863. In 1866, he was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Thomas E. Bramlette to fill out the unexpired term of his brother Ephraim L. Van Winkle who died in office. At the expiration of his term in office, he resumed the practice of law in Danville.
He married Mary Buster of Wayne County on January 21, 1858. After her death, he married Louise Dillon on January 24, 1867. Her family had settled in Franklin County around 1810. The couple had seven children, six sons and one daughter: Frank D., John S., Edward L., Julian P., Arthur C., Ernest, and Mary Louise. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
John S. Van Winkle died on October 28, 1888, and is buried in the Bellevue Cemetery in Danville.
Perrin, "History of Kentucky, Vol. 4", pgs. 1059-60;
"Biographical Encyclopedia", (1878), pg 769;
Phillips, "A Century of Wayne County", (1939), pgs. 94-95;
"City of Danville Interment Register", pg. 52.