Archive:History of Long Island

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A History of Long Island From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume III, written by William S. Pelletreau, A. M. Published by The Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1903.

Extracted by Brenda Hartwick.

Pages 237 - 240


According to Noble's "British Family antiquities," the family of Whitney is of Saxon origin and was seated at Hertfordshire, England, before the Norman conquest. In the year 1086, Eustace, who was Lord of Whitney in the county of Herford, in conformity with the Norman custom, took the surname of Whitney, and was the ancestor of a long line of knights and gentlemen who distinguished themselves in the field for four or five centuries. Sir Randolph de Whitney, the grandson of Eustace, accompanied Richard Ceour de Lion on his crusade, and distinguished himself greatly by his personal strength and great courage, having, single handed, dispatched three Saracens who attempted to intercept him while on an important message for the king.

Henry Whitney, the founder of the Long Island and Connecticut branches of the family, was born in England about 1620, and came to America before 1649, but was later a resident of Huntington, where, it is claimed, he preached for some years in the first church. He was opposed to Rev. William Leverich, the first settled pastor, who was not sufficiently orthodox to please the people, and was a leader in the movement which resulted in Mr. Leverich's dismissal. The first allusion to Henry Whitney's wife is found in the Huntington court records, which state that he married Sarah, the widow of Edward Ketcham. He removed to Jamaica, Long Island, after 1661, and his name appears on the Norwalk, Connecticut, records July 24, 1665. He was one of the petitioners, May 19, 1672, for Liberty to begin a new plantation near the backside of Norwalk; this was Danbury.

John Whitney, son of Henry, was probably born before 1644, as he had a grant of land on which to erect a mill in 1665, and must have been of age at that time. He succeeded his father as millwright and miller at Norwalk. He married, March 17, 1674, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Smith, and had issue, John, Joseph, Henry, Elizabeth, Richard, Samuel, Anne, Eleanor, Nathan, Sarah, Josiah.


Samuel Whitney, sixth child of John and Elizabeth (Smith) Whitney [NOTE], was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1688. He married, January 18, 1721-2, at Stratford, Connecticut, Anne Laboree. He had previously bought a lot and dwelling house of Samuel Hawley in Stratford. The children of this marriage were Sarah, Mary, Samuel and Anne.

Samuel Whitney]], son of Samuel and Anne (Laboree) Whitney, was born is Stratford, Connecticut, December 13, 1727. He married, March 26, 1751, in Stratford, Hannah Judson, of whom the "Whitney Phenex Genealogy" states, "She was pretty surely the daughter of Captain James and Martha (Lewis) Judson, late of Stratford deceased." The town gave him (I. E., Samuel Whitney) "Liberty to erect a storehouse under ye bank of ye Mill river." Tradition says that he was a soldier in the Revolution and that he died in service. This may be the one referred to in "Connecticut Men in the revolution," who was "transferred to Invalid Corps, September 1, 1782." By his wife Hannah (Judson) Whitney, Samuel had issue, James, Samuel, John, Hannah, Sarah and Isaac.

James Whitney, eldest child of Samuel and Hannah (Judson) Whitney, was born in Stratford, Connecticut, August 10, 1753. He was a farmer, weaver and comber. He removed to Newtown, Connecticut, in 1771. His service in the war of the Revolution covers almost the entire period of the war. His first enlistment was in May, 1777, for three years, in the Fifth Regiment "Connecticut Line." It was recruited largely in Fairfield and Litchfield counties, with men from all parts of the state, and rendezvoused at Danbury. It was commanded by Colonel Philip Burr Bradley of Ridgefield, and Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Mead of Norwalk being second in command. It was first assigned to McDougall's Brigade and was engaged at the battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777, when it suffered some loss. It was afterward assigned to Huntington's Brigade and wintered at Valley Forge, 1777-8; took part in the battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, and went into camp with the main army at White Plains. Its light company was detached to Meig's Light Regiment and engaged in the storming of Stony Point on the Hudson, July 15, 1779. James Whitney's name appears on the first list of pensioners residing in the state of Connecticut in 1818, and it also appears on the list of 1840. He died of old age, May 21, 1841, aged eighty-eight years. James Whitney married, August 13, 1777, Eunice Johnson, born in Newtown, December, 1756, daughter of Abraham and Miriam (Peet) Johnson, a descendant probably of Robert Johnson, one of the founders of the New Haven colony. Their children were Abraham Johnson, Hannah Judson, Zerah, Ruth Ann, Jerusha, James Lewis, Sarah, Philo, Ezra, Eli, Ethiel, Abel.

Philo Whitney, eighth child of James and Eunice (Johnson) Whitney, was born at Newtown, Connecticut, April 27, 1792. He was an enterprising and thrifty blacksmith and farmer. He died from a fracture of the skull, the result of an accident, April 6, 1830. He was married on October 1, 1815, to Jerusha Wheeler, born in Newtown, October 11, 1796, daughter of Abraham and Marcia (Botsford) Wheeler; she died September 21, 1829. He married again on December 14, 1829, Aurelia Wheeler, a sister of his first wife. Abraham was probably a descendant of Moses Wheeler, on e of the founders of the New Haven colony, who was among the first to receive an allotment of land there in 1643. He lived in Stratford in 1648. He was an extensive land holder and one of the leading men of Stratford township. He died in 1698, aged one hundred years. Philo Whitney by his first wife, Jerusha (Wheeler) Whitney, had issue: Harriet, born July 14, 1816, married Edmund Fairchild. Joseph Botsford, born March 14, 1818, was drowned in Croton river in 1834. James Wheeler Whitney, born at Newtown, Connecticut, November 27, 1819. Emily, born October 11, 1821, married LeGrand Fairchild. Aurelia, born at Newtown, October 26, 1823, married Oliver Warner Moore. Ruth Ann, born May 27, 1826, married, first, Truman Hubbell, second, Mark S. Hubbell. Abraham Johnson, born October 3, 1828, married Marietta Parmalee.

James Wheeler Whitney, third child of Philo and Jerusha (Wheeler) Whitney, was born at Newtown, Connecticut, November 27, 1819. His father died when he was but ten years of age and he was placed in charge of one of his relatives on a farm, where he resided for the next five years, working on the farm during the summer and attending the district school in the winter. At the age of fifteen he went to le Roy, New York, where he was a clerk in the store and afterwards a partner. Ambitious for a wider field and more extensive business operations, he came to New York City in the early fifties, where after four years experience as a salesman in a wholesale dry-goods house he formed a co-partnership with hill, Groves & Company, continuing his connection with its successors under the firm names of Groves, Northrop & Taylor, Northrop, Taylor & Company, Hazen, Whitney & Company, and finally Whitney & Company, from which firm he retired with a competence in 1890. He outlived many of his contemporaries, but the various firms, of unquestioned honor and integrity, with which his name was connected, will ever live in the commercial history of the great metropolis.

Mr. Whitney was identified with the various interests of Brooklyn for nearly a half century. He became a resident of that city in 1855, and in 1868 purchased a home at 138 Second Place, which was then one of the most fashionable residence parts of the city. He was always interested in church and benevolent work and continued this up to the day of his death. He was a vestryman and later junior warden of Emanuel church (now St. Martin s) for many years, with Mr. Alexander E. Orr as senior warden, and on the latter's retirement he became senior warden. He was a trustee of the Church Charity Foundation for over twenty-five years and was especially active in the construction an management of St. John Hospital, which forms a part of this institution. Without ostentation he assisted in the support of many works of charity and benevolence. Though not active in politics, he was a member of the Young Men's Republican Club, of Brooklyn, and loyal in his support of the party. He was a director of the South Brooklyn Savings Bank, an institution in which he became deeply interested and was one of the auditing committee. At the time of his death the following preamble and resolutions were adopted by this institution and an engrossed copy presented to the family:

"The Board having learned with deep regret of the very sudden death of their late associate, James W. Whitney, and being desirous of showing their appreciation of the faithful and efficient services rendered by him during his thirteen years connection with the Bank, it is hereby
Resolved, That in his death this institution loses one who has always manifested great interest in its welfare, as evidenced by his regular attendance at the meetings of its Board and the thoroughness with which as chairman of its examining committee he contributed his share in the investigation of its securities and accounts. A man of retiring disposition whose genial manner and strict integrity won for him the respect and esteem of his fellow trustees.
Resolved, That the foregoing be embodied in the minutes of this institution and an engrossed copy of the same be sent to the family of the deceased, with the warmest expressions of sympathy for their great loss.

This preamble and resolutions were signed by Alexander E. Orr, president, and C. S. Denney, secretary.

Mr. Whitney was interested in local history and was a life member of the Long Island Historical Society. He married Anne Maria Lewis, daughter of Samuel Lewis, of Genesco, New York, a collateral descendant of William Penn. Their children were: anna Maria, who married Captain A. L. King, and resides at Arrochar, Staten Island; Joseph Botsford; Isabella Lewis, died January 8, 1874, aged twenty-one years.

Joseph Botsford Whitney, second child and only son of James Wheeler Whitney and Anne Maria (Lewis) Whitney, was born at Le Roy, New York, September 3, 1849. He came with his parents to Brooklyn in early childhood, where he has since continued to reside. He was educated at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, taking the scientific course of study, intending to follow the profession of a civil engineer, but afterward decided on a business career. He entered his father's firm in New York city and finally succeeded to the business. Later he turned his attention to the manufacture of silk goods and subsequently to improved methods of manufacture combined with economic features. He invented an improved creel, by means of which are made more perfect warps, and by the same process reducing the cost of manufacture. His next and most important improvement was a warp stop-motion for looms, so finely adjusted as to be suitable for silk, the most delicate of fabrics. In this not only the quality of the fabric was improved but the cost of production was decreased, as it had been in the previous instance. A third improvement was for the purpose of equalizing the tension on the threads in the process of quilling on a silk quilling frame. By means of these and other improvements Mr. Whitney advanced his manufactures to a high degree of perfection, being the first manufacturer in America to make goods equal to those of the finest foreign looms, and although he had studied and perfected himself for the profession of a civil engineer he has succeeded in carrying the art of silk manufacturing to a higher state of perfection than any other manufacturer of his day in this country by putting into practice in this line the principles of thoroughness and exactness of his scientific course of training. His manufactory, located at Paterson, New Jersey, of which he is the sole owner, is known as the Brilliant Silk Manufacturing Company.

The name of Whitney will ever be associated with industrial improvements through Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin, which invention gave impetus to the cultivation of cotton, making it for the last half century the world's greatest staple for fabric manufacture. We are glad to be able to record the fact that this same ability to advance the requirements

J. B. Whitney

in another branch of industry finds expression through Joseph B. Whitney, whose important inventions are aiding in the onward march of our great nation toward the industrial supremacy of the world.

Mr. Whitney has been too busy developing his various improvements to give special attention to public affairs. He married Martha Hazeltine Cummings, of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, daughter of Aaron Cummings, of that place. Three children are the issue of this marriage: Isabel Lydia; Hazeltine; and Arthur Aaron, who died in infancy.

Pages 405 - 406


The best English authorities state that the family of Whitney is of Saxon origin, and was seated in Hertfordshire, England, before the Norman conquest. In the year 1086 Eustace, who was Lord of Whitney, in the county of Hereford, in conformity with the Norman custom, took the surname of Whitney, and was the ancestor of a long line of knights and gentlemen who distinguished themselves in the field for four of five centuries.

Henry Whitney, known as the Long Island and Connecticut ancestor, was born in England about 1620. The first record of him is when he was associated with three others, October 8, 1649, in the purchase of land at Hashamommock in Southold, Long Island. He removed to Huntington, Long Island, and was a resident there August 17, 1658. He settled in Jamaica in 1661, removing thence to Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1665. He was one of the petitioners in May, 1672, for liberty to begin a new "plantation neare the backside of Norwalke." This was Danbury. Leave was granted and the plantation was begun in 1684, but he did not live to take part in it. He died in 1673, leaving a son, John.

John Whitney, son of Henry, was born probably before his father went to Southold. He settled with his father in Norwalk, Connecticut, and engaged in business as a millwright and miller. He died in Norwalk in 1720. He married, March 17, 1674, Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Richard, and had five children, of whom Richard (2d) was the fifth.

Richard Whitney, fifth son of John and Elizabeth (Smith) Whitney, was born at Norwalk, Connecticut, April 18, 1687, resided there for a number of years and finally settled in that part of Stratfield Society which lay in the town of Fairfield. He was living there October 18, 1714, when he sold land in Norwalk to "William Jarvis, of Huntington, on ye Island of Nassau." He married, April 7, 1709, Hannah Darling, a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Beers) Darling, of Fairchild. They had five children, of whom Daniel (1st) was the fifth.

Daniel Whitney (1st) son of Richard and Hannah (Darling) Whitney, was born at Stratfield parish, Fairfield, Connecticut, April 24, 1723, and settled at Stramford, Connecticut. He served in the war of the Revolution. He enlisted under the first call for troops in April and May, 1775, and served under General Wooster in New York and then belonged to the Northern Department. The following year he was in Captain Keeler's company, Bradley's battalion, Watsworth's brigade, and took part in the defense of Fort Washington, but was among the fortunate ones who escaped capture when the fort surrendered. He was a private in Captain Jonathan Whitney's company, attached to General Wooster's command, 1776-77, and probably rendered other service. He drew a pension under the act of 1818. He married Hester Classon and had six children, of whom Darling was the fifth.

Major Darling Whitney, fifth child of Daniel and Hester (Classon) Whitney, was born at Stamford, Connecticut, September 25, 1758, served in the war of the Revolution and was a private in Captain Samuel Keeler's company with his father, participating in the defense of Fort Washington, November 16, 1776, but was probably captured, the remarks opposite his name being "Died?" which, of course was a mistake. He afterward settled on a farm at East Woods, now the village of Woodbury, Oyster Bay, Long Island. He was a major in the war of 1812, and was for some time stationed at Fort Greene, in Brooklyn, under General Johnson. In May, 1819, he sold his farm to his son and removed to New York city, where he engaged in the grocery business. He died at the corner of Attorney and Stanton streets, New York, November 14, 1834. He married, the 14th of January, 1779, Sarah Valentine, of Oyster Bay (born December 29, 1757), daughter, it is thought, of Richard Valentine and great-granddaughter of Richard Valentine, who came from Lancashire, England. She died July 14, 1821. He married, secondly, Catharine ________. He had seven children by his first wife, of whom Daniel (2d) was the second.

Daniel Whitney (2d), son of Major Darling and Sarah (Valentine) Whitney, was born at East Woods, now Woodbury, Long Island, July 2, 1781, and resided on the farm. He was a lieutenant of militia in the war of 1812 and served for three months at Sag Harbor, Long Island. After the war for a short time he commanded a sloop on the Hudson river and Long Island Sound, and in May, 1819, bought and settled on his father's homestead at East Woods. He married, first Amelia, daughter of Jonathan S. And Deborah Valentine, of West Hills, Huntington, Long Island; she died September 23, 1810, and he married, secondly, April 3, 1813. Nancy Valentine, a sister of his first wife. The children, all by the second wife, were:

I. Amelia Ann, born at West Hills, Huntington, September 17, 1814, married Charles A. Van Sise, and died December 22, 1864.
II. John Clawson, born May 31, 1817, married Catharine Webb, daughter of Charles and Catharine Webb, and died August 9, 1877.
III. Daniel Darling Whitney.
IV. Scudder Valentine Whitney, born March 11, 1821, married Elizabeth Titus, a daughter of Henry and Phebe Titus, of Glen Cove, Long Island, April 19, 1849. He still lives on the homestead.
V. Sarah Ellis Whitney, born July 8, 1823, married W. H. Montfort, February 28, 1846.
VI. Timothy Titus Whitney, born May 6, 1827; died December 31, 1827.


Third child of Daniel (2d) and Nancy (Valentine) Whitney, was born at East Woods, Woodbury, Oyster Bay township, January 31, 1819. Like most boys of that period he worked on the farm during the summer and attended school during the winter months. At the age of eighteen he came to New York city and obtained employment in the retail grocery store of Cornelius M. Lewis. After two years experience he obtained a clerkship with Thomas Day Gerald, No. 20 Fulton street, Brooklyn, and at the end of four years he and his brother, John Clawson Whitney, established the wholesale grocery and flour business, under the firm name of J. C. & W. W. Whitney, which has continued without intermission for more than half a century, the original firm being succeeded by a son of each of the former partners. This is probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest, mercantile firm in Brooklyn.

Without neglecting in any way his business affairs, Mr. Whitney became interested in politics as early as 1858, when he was elected alderman on the Democratic ticket; and again elected in 1863- 64-65-68-69; was president of the board in 1865. In the latter year, during the absence of the mayor, Hon. A. M. Wood, who went with Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and the Brooklyn delegation to assist in the ceremony of restoring the national flag to Fort Sumter, Charleston harbor, Mr. Whitney became acting mayor, and was chairman of the committee appointed to represent the city of Brooklyn at President Lincoln's funeral in Washington. He has been president of the Hamilton Fire Insurance Company for more than a quarter of a century, and was made registrar of arrears for Brooklyn in 1875.

He succeeded Hon. Seth Low as mayor of Brooklyn in 1886-87, after a hotly contested election. The Brooklyn Eagle, referring to his election, said: There never was a moment in the campaign since Mr. Whitney was selected as the choice of the Democratic convention where any other issue was possible. The conditions all rendered opposition to him in the sense of obstructing his election futile, and the handsome plurality which stands opposite his name in the returns, in spite of the questionable influences that were brought to bear against his canvass, is evidence that at no time had the people of Brooklyn any doubt as to the choice to be made.

On taking his seat in January following, the Eagle said further: Mayor Whitney represents in the distinctest manner possible the Democratic party and is pledged to manage the government through Democratic agents. He represents the commonality acting for itself and full of confidence in its ability to take care of itself. It has not, we dare say, ever occurred to him that he is "better than his party," or that there is anything degrading in being a party man. If the outcome of Mayor Whitney's administration shall be as we think it will, to show that the Brooklyn system of municipal government is good whether in the hands of independent Republicans or Democrats, we shall be in a position to accept it as a permanent feature of our civic life. Mr. Whitney has already proven his thorough acquaintance with the present conditions of the municipality and a keep perception of its needs and the means of supplying them.

One year from this time the Eagle voiced the sentiments of the people of Brooklyn and gave its unqualified approval of the administration of Mayor Whitney in the following terms, in referring to his message: From the first to the last word the practical character of the mayor's message is noticeable. Not a subject is introduced except such as concern home affairs. They are treated narratively yet in a way which make the facts a defense and an argument, a commendation and an advocacy, an indication and a vindication of the course of the municipal government for the year which has passed. One of the exercised rights of Brooklyn is to criticise and advise their public servants. That right, to be justified, should rest on knowledge. That knowledge cannot be obtained unless the facts are perused. The extent of the message is measurable by the interest Brooklynites have in Brooklyn affairs. All through, the message is loyal to Brooklyn as well as replete with Brooklyn facts and opinions.

The records show that during Mr. Whitney's administration the debt of the city was reduced over four million dollars. His aim was to administer the affairs of the city just as he would his own business, and he never allowed himself to be swerved from the battle of duty through any political influences or pressure. In all his public acts Mr. Whitney has sought the guidance of a Higher Power, and has strictly adhered to the conditions contained in the words of Cardinal Woolsey, viz.: "Let all the ends thou aimest at be thy God's, thy country's and truth's."

Mr. Whitney has been an active and earnest worker in the Sands Street Methodist church since 1850, and has been frequently in office. He has long passed the "three-score and ten" years, the allotted age of a man's existence, but is still active in business and religious affairs, with mind and body unimpaired.

He married Sarah Titus, a daughter of Henry Titus, of Glen Cove, July 5, 1845. The issue of this marriage is: Phebe Anna Whitney, born July 8, 1846, and died December 18, 1862; Lizzie Titus Whitney, born February 13, 1849, and died February 10, 1878; she married Harry A. Evans, a son of David and Sarah (Whitney) Evans, of Upton, Massachusetts, June 27, 1871; Gerald Whitney, born November 18, 1851, and succeeded his father in the grocery business; and Daniel D. Whitney, Jr., born June 8, 1854, a successful lawyer of Brooklyn and assistant district attorney.

Pages 242

One of their children was William H., born at Black Stump, August 15, 1825, who is a well known and prominent farmer at West Hills, and for the last half century has taken an important part in the affairs of the town of Huntington, having been a justice of the peace of that town for twenty- eight consecutive years. He married Sarah E. Whitney, a daughter of Daniel Whitney of Woodbury, whose three sons all became more or less prominent in the affairs of Long Island; the eldest, John C. Whitney, was a prominent merchant of Brooklyn, Daniel D. Was at one time mayor of that city, and the youngest, Scudder V. Whitney of Woodbury, was for several years supervisor of the town of Oyster Bay.

William H. And Sarah E. (Whitney) Monfort were the parents of Henry A. Monfort. After graduating at the somewhat noted high school at Huntington, young Monfort entered Cornell University, where he remained two years. He then returned to Huntington and began the study of law in the office of ex-Judge Thomas Young, and was admitted to the bar in May, 1875. About a year later he removed to Jamaica, where he has ever since resided, and began the practice of the law. Entirely unaided by adventitious circumstances, he early gained a foremost place in the ranks of the profession, and for some years has been the acknowledged leader of the bar of the county of Queens.

Copyright © 2012, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group.

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