Archive:Eugene Herbert Whitney, Sr. (1872-1936)
by Marcia Green
Eugene Herbert Whitney, Sr., was born 7 Sept. 1872, in Dresden, Iowa, to Myron Whitney and his second wife, Rosina Breniman. His father's first wife Sophia Grier had died in 1868, so Grandpa came to a household that already had a 9 year old boy named Evan, a 7 year old girl named Edith, and a 4 year old girl named Ethel. He would later have a full brother named Rudolph, and when he was 12, a little sister named Julia. His father Myron Whitney had come to Dresden in 1855 from Poultney, Vermont, his birthplace. Myron's older brother Newton bought land in Iowa two years earlier, after a trip to California in 1849. These two brothers started a mercantile business in about 1856.
About Dresden: The first permanent settlers came about 1847 to Deep River Township, SE corner of Poweshiek Co., originally a part of Jackson Twp. The first post office was established in 1852 and called Deep River. The village of Dresden was surveyed in June of 1856. A stagecoach passed through Dresden on the route between Iowa City and Des Moines. This route was known as the Diamond Trail or Black Diamond. Coaches ran on schedule and accommodated 7-9 passengers. A large amount of mail was carried.
A. C. Armstrong [later to marry Helen Whitney, Grandpa's aunt] built the first residence in Dresden, and the first business was a general store started by Newton and Myron Whitney [Grandpa's uncle and father]. Deep River Twp. was organized 7 Mar 1857 and the first election was held the next month. The meeting was held in Whitney's store in Dresden. Myron was the clerk of the board of trustees. He was appointed postmaster in 1857.
Before 1880, there were 3 stores, a hotel, etc., 2 churches, a schoolhouse, and 140 residents. (History of Dresden from History of Poweshiek Co.)
Dresden declined when the railroad went through one mile to the west, and nearly everything in Dresden moved to Deep River. (Centennial Hist. of Deep River)The 1880 census for Dresden, Poweshiek County, Iowa shows the family:
Miron WHITNEY Self M Male W 53 VT Farmer VT VT Rosanna WHITNEY Wife M Female W 38 SWI Keeping House SWI SWI Evan WHITNEY Son S Male W 17 IA Clerk VT OH Edith WHITNEY Dau S Female W 15 IA At Home VT OH Ethel WHITNEY Dau S Female W 12 IA At Home VT OH Eugene WHITNEY Son S Male W 8 IA VT SWI Rudolph WHITNEY Son S Male W 4 IA VT SWI
(Family History Library Film #1254362)
Not much is known about Grandpa Whitney's growing up years. He probably helped with farmwork, since by 1880 his father was no longer involved with the Dresden store, the railroad having come through and business having died out in Dresden. According to Gene, Jr., at some point Grandpa was trained to be a mortician and worked for one year at this occupation, but did not like it. He may have attended school at Grinnell for this? (Pose said she thought he worked for a mortician, perhaps building coffins. He was a skilled carpenter, also was a joiner.)
From the Deep River Centennial Book of 1984: "E (Evan) T Whitney ran a grain and feed store in 1900. He apparently began operating about 1884 or 1885. In 1916 he and a Terry Connell jointly built a large brick building which still stands (as Winegarten Hardware). It was designed as an undertaking business." [Perhaps this is connected to Grandpa's early occupation?]
April 29, 1898: E. H. Whitney, Sr., enlisted (age 25) for Spanish-American War, Served in Co. A of 52nd Inf., Iowa Volunteers. Discharged on Oct. 30 at Des Moines. Height given as 5 ft. 9 in., dark blue eyes, dark brown hair, a carpenter. Private, involved in no battles. "Character: Excellent. Service: Honest and faithful." He was paid $68.55. (See copy of his papers. Also Roster Iowa Volunteers, p. 725.) Gene: "His company was from Mason City, and they went to a camp for training near Chattanooga, TN. It rained hard most of the time while they were there. They didn't get out of the country because of the short duration of the war."
1900 census: Eugene H. Whitney, b. Sept. 1875, age 24, b. Ia. Living Mason City, 202 S. Main. w/Dan Dyke (partner) age 31, b. NY.
1901-02: At some point along in these years, he did some work for Grandpa Lon Green, building Skipper Inn? This is most likely how he met his future wife.
Sept. 24, 1902: Married to Ruth Ernestine Green. (see wedding article on our Whitney webpage.)
1907/08: lived in Mason City for a few months, due to carpentry work, but soon moved back to the lake shore. (Source: EH, Jr.)
1910 census: Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo, IA. He is 30, a carpenter, wife Ruth is 27, Eugene 7, Alonzo, 5, and Helen 1 1/2. They are listed with head of household, Alonzo Green, age 75 (boat builder.) N. Second St.
1910 (fall): Moved to new house at 414 N. Shore Dr. (EHW, Jr.'s autobiography)
1915 state census: EH is 40, carpenter, $1,000 yr. 8th grade completed. Home valued at $3500. Spanish War Inf. Parents b. NY/Switz. [His father was born in Vermont, near the NY border.] Ruth is 32, 8th grade, parents b. Ohio, Chr. Scientist. EH is 11, Alonzo 9, Helen 5, Charles 4, Rosemary 2 and Bonnie 6 mo.
1918 Armistice Day: Played drum with veterans in parades all day long in Clear Lake, M.C., and neighboring towns.
1920 census: Cherie is the baby in this one.
1930 census: Carpenter, 3 oldest children not there.
24 Jan. 1936: Died at age 63.