Archive:Portrait and Biographical Album of Isabella County, Michigan

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Portrait and Biographical Album of Isabella County, Mich., Containing Portraits and Biographical Sketches of ... Citizens ... Also Containing a Complete History of the County, from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (Chicago, IL: Chapman Brothers, 1884)

[p. 198]

Rensselaer G. Whitney, of the firm of Whitney Bros., liverymen at Mt. Pleasant, was born in Ontario Co., N.Y., Feb. 12, 1850. He is a son of Benjamin and Caroline E. (Hall) Whitney. His father was a native of Vermont and a blacksmith; he died in Ontario County, aged 72 years. His mother was born in Ontario County, and is still living, near Salt River.

Mr. Whitney was brought up on a farm, and, on reaching his majority, joined his brothers, William T. and Charles C. Whitney, at Mt. Pleasant. He passed three years laboring as a builder, and in 1879 was elected Constable. While discharging the duties

[p. 201]

of the post (which he held one year) he was also engaged in draying. On the expiration of his term of office he was appointed Deputy Sheriff, and has been the incumbent of the office ever since. In 1883, associated with his brother, George G. Whitney, he opened the livery stable which they are still managing. Their business is conducted in connection with the Bennett House, and they keep ten horses and livery accommodations in proportion to their patronage. They run an omnibus line for the benefit of the Bennett House, and to accommodat the public. They are also engaged to some extent in traffic in real estate, buy and sell buildings, lots, etc., and now own three houses and five lots. Mr. Whitney is a member of the Order of Masonry.

He was first married Sept. 2, 1868, in Shortsville, Ontario Co., N.Y., to Sarah L. Beadon. His second marriage, with Mary R. Schuyler, occurred at Mt. Pleasant, in September, 1876. She is a native of Watertown, Jefferson Co., N.Y.

[p. 205]

George G. Whitney, of the firm of Whitney Bros., liverymen at Mt. Pleasant, was born Oct. 4, 1845, in Ontario Co., N.Y., and is a son of Benjamin and Caroline E. (Hall) Whitney. (See sketch of R. G. Whitney.) At the age of 11 years he was apprenticed to the Empire Drill Company, of Shortsville, N.Y., to learn wood and carpenter work on their machines. He remained in their service until he was 16 years old, when he enlisted. The civil war had broken out a few months previous, and he yielded to the influence which ruled all classes and conditions of men in the North. He enrolled at Canandaigua, in Co. L, 24th N. Y. Vol. Cav., as bugler, and served two years. He was with his regiment in the engagements of the Wilderness, at North Anna River, Cold Harbor, Spottsylvania Court-House, and on the 17th and 18th of June, 1864, in front of Petersburg. They were again engaged in the siege of that city Sept. 30, 1864, and afterwards at Hopper's Farm, Farmville, Appomattox Court-House, Stony Creek, and in numberless skirmishes of minor importance. At the storming of Petersburg, June 17, 1864, he was slightly wounded in the head by a piece of shell, otherwise escaping unharmed throughout the entire period of his service. He was discharged June 11, 1865, at Cloud's Mills, Va. In the month following he cam to Michigan and located at Cambria Mills, Hillsdale County, where he pursued the business of a carpenter. In the spring of 1881 he came to Mt. Pleasant, where he was similarly engaged a year. In the spring of 1882 he entered into association with his brother, in which they are now operating with gratifying results.

Mr. Whitney was married Nov. 19, 1865, in Cambria Mills, to Mary A. Jackson. She was born

[p. 206]

March 19, 1848, in Wheatland, Hillsdale Co., Mich., and is a daughter of Zachariah and Charlotte Jackson. Four children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Whitney, as follows: Clara, Aug. 30, 1866; Vettie, Oct. 24, 1869; Charlie B., Aug. 8, 1872, and Everett, May 20, 1874. The latter was killed at Isabella City, Aug. 25, 1883, by being thrown from a horse he was riding. His foot caught in the stirrup and he was dragged some distance, receiving injuries from which he died.

[p. 468]


[p. 469]

William T. Whitney, of the firm of Russell & Whitney, at Mt. Pleasant, and County Superintendent of the Poor, was born Dec. 17, 1838, in Hopewell Township, Ontario Co., N.Y. He is a son of Benjamin and Caroline (Hall) Whitney, who were born respectively in Vermont and New York. His father was a blacksmith by trade, and later in life became a farmer, which calling he pursued until his death, which occurred in the State of New York. The mother resides at Salt River in Isabella County.

Mr. Whitney was brought up on his father's farm, and in 1858 he and his uncle, John F. Hall, bought a saw-mill in Middlesex, Yates Co., N.Y. After continuing the management of this for two years, they sold out and Mr. Whitney went to Mason Co., Ill., where he operated six months as a farm assistant. Afterwards he went to Cambria Township, Hillsdale Co., MI, and engaged as a builder until the second call for troops in the war of the Rebellion. He enlisted Aug. 6, 1862, in Co. D, 18th Mich. Vol. Inf., Capt. C. B. Van Valer. Mr. Whitney served with his regiment in all the service for which it was detailed and was in action in several skirmishes. He was in the detachment which left Decatur Sept. 24, 1864, to reinforce the garrison at Athens. The command included 231 officers and men. When within two miles of Athens they were attacked by a rebel force under Gen. Forrest, and, after five hours' desperate fighting and pushing toward the fortifications at Athens, they surrendered, as the fort was in the possession of the rebels. A few of the command escaped, the remainder were captured, killed, or wounded. Mr. Whitney was among the latter and received four gunshot wounds,--in his right leg, abdomen, right fore-arm and left lower leg. He was wholly disabled and was finally discharged from Harper's Hospital, Detroit, May 2, 1865, when he returned to Hillsdale County.

In the spring of 1866 Mr. Whitney came to Mt. Pleasant, where, in company with his brother, C. C. Whitney, he engaged as a builder until 1870. After that date he was variously occupied. He was the proprietor of the Whitney Exchange Hotel in 1882-3 and has since operated in insurance and other light business. In January, 1884, he formed his present association with F. Russell, and the firm are transacting insurance business. Mr. Whitney has never recovered from the severity of his injuries received in his country's service. Besides the duties of his official trust as Superintendent of the Poor, he is discharging the oblications of the offices of Secretary of the Village Board, Village Clerk, and Clerk of Union Township. He was Township Treasurer in 1879-80. He is a member of Lodge No. 217, I.O.O.F., at Mt. Pleasant, and belongs to Wabon Lodge, No. 305, Chapter No. 111, R.A.M., and member of Wabon Post, No. 250, G.A.R.

The marriage of Mr. Whitney with Selinda M. Fry occurred Sept. 2, 1858, at Farmington, Ontario

[p. 470]

Co., N.Y. She was born Jan. 17, 1841, in Allegany Co., N.Y., and is a daughter of Obadiah and Luna Fry. Six children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Whitney, three of whom are deceased--Isabel, Hiram B. and Walter. William B. is a printer in Coburg, Can. Irving E. and Wallace remain with their parents.

The portrait of Mr. Whitney is presented on another page. It will prove a substantial addition to the collection of portraits of representative men in Isabella County.

[p. 503]

Charles C. Whitney, of the manufacturing firm of Jeffords & Whitney, at Mt. Pleasant, was born in Hopewill, Ontario Co., N.Y., June 15, 1844. He is a son of Benjamin and Caroline E. (Hall) Whitney, and his father was a blacksmith by trade.

Mr. Whitney was 18 years old when the country was thrilled with the news of the rebellious assault upon Fort Sumter, and, with the multitudes of the young, ardent sons of the Republic, he donned the regulation blue and marched to the help of the endangered Union. He enlisted at Canadaigua, N.Y., Nov. 8, 1861, as a private in the 18th Vol. Inf., of the Empire State, under Captain H. H. Frote. Among the battles in which Mr. Whitney was under fire were those at West Point, Va., Gaines' Mill, Savage Station, Charles City Cross-Roads, Malvern Hill, second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg (first and second) and in numberless smaller skirmishes common to the fate of war. He received honorable discharge May 28, 1863, at Albany, N.Y., and re-enlisted Nov. 10, 1863, in Co. H, Capt. H. C. Thompson, 16th N. Y. Heavy Artillery, and received honorable discharge 21 Aug 1865, after the close of the war. He was in the engagements at Fort Pocahontas and at Fort Fisher. The only casualty he sustained was an insignificant injury in the head by a piece of shell, at Gaines' Mill.

On receiving his well-earned release from the service of his country, her returned to his native State, and in February, 1866, he came to Cambria, Hillsdale Co., Mich. In April, 1867, in company with five other individuals, he came to Saginaw in quest of a location. One of the party was his brother, William T. Whitney, and they made their way to the terminus of the railroad at St. John's.

[p. 504]

They walked thence to Mt. Pleasant, with which place they made first acquaintance Apr. 10, 1867.

Mr. Whitney operated for a time as a carpenter, and later as a contractor and builder. In 1880 he superintended the construction of the Opera-House Block, and in 1881 he formed a partnership with George A. Lance, and the firm entered into a contract to erect the Union School building. Its construction occupied a year, and at its completion the firm terminated its business relations. The present partnership of Jeffords & Whitney was formed Dec. 25, 1881, and has since been in successful operation. In 1883 they constructed 16 buildings at Mt. Pleasant, among them the Unitarian church. Mr. Jeffords was the proprietor of the Mt. Pleasant Novelty Works, and on combining their interests Mr. Whitney purchased a half interest in the property. It is utilized in the manufacture of doors, sash, etc. In the winter of 1883-4 they built the mill where they now operate. They employ about 30 assistants, do all kinds of building, furnish plans, specifications and detailed drawings. They manufacture sash, doors, blinds, rough and finished lumber and ornamental scroll work. They own four houses and lots, a blacksmith shop and three vacant lots. Their works include three lumber yards, situated respectively by their mill, on Wisconsin Street and on Main Street. They handle about 3,000,000 feet of lumber yearly, which they ship chiefly to Saginaw and Detroit.

A few months after Mr. Whitney located at Mt. Pleasant, he decided to change his condition in life, and made a marriage contract with Miss Dora E., daughter of George W. and Louisa Howk. Their marriage was celebrated 17 Nov 1867, in the Methodist Episcopal church at Mt. Pleasant, and was the first event of that nature within its walls. Mt. Pleasant had half a hundred inhabitants, and the privileges of the place were not of the latest and most approved metropolitan order. The only livery in town was a joint affair under the auspices of Moses Brown, who owned a horse, and David Morse, who was the possessor of a harness and a buckboard. With this equipment, Mr. Whitney set out to fulfill his pre-arranged program, and when less than two miles on his route to Salt River, where the bride's parents resided, he met a man on horseback, who contrived to collide with his turn-out and dislocate one of the hind wheels. He abandoned the vehicle and returned to Mt. Pleasant and borrowed another buckboard, with the aid of which he succeeded in accomplishing his matrimonial intentions. He was, at the time, the owner of $146. He paid the minister $5, bought a small elevated-oven cook-stove for $37, a barrel of flour for $24, and paid proportionately for other domestic fixtures. The period was not long after the war, and everything in the way of merchandise was high, and had to be transported from St. John's and Saginaw by teams. It should be remarked that the wedding livery of Mr. Whitney cost him $4.

Mrs. Whitney was born July 31, 1849, in Hounsfield Township, Jefferson Co., N.Y. George B., eldest child, was born Feb. 8, 1869; Lulu, Nov. 17, 1874; Charles Francis, March 18, 1873 (died in July, 1873); Mary L., Nov. 14, 1874; Charles Frederick, Aug. 17, 1879.

Mr. Whitney is a prominent member of the Orders of Masonry and Odd-Fellows. In the former he is connected with the Royal Arch Chapter and the blue lodge at Mt. Pleasant, and in the latter fraternity he has passed all the chairs. He has also represented the local organization at the Grand Lodge four times. He is also a member of the Unitarian Church. He owns an attractive and valuable residence at Mt. Pleasant and 30 acres of land on section 3, Coe Township. Mrs. Whitney belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

[p. 520]

Benjamin Whitney, deceased, a relative of several residents of Isabella County, was born in the State of Vermont, Nov. 14, 1802. Leaving that State at the age of 13, he spent some time in Batavia, N.Y., and then went to Ohio and lived in Rainsville [sic: should be Painesville] several years. He then settled in Ontario Co., N.Y., where he followed blacksmithing and farming, and for a time was employed in driving stage for his father.

He was married in Ontario Co., N.Y., Dec. 24, 1832, to Caroline E., daugther of Thomas and Annie (Ralston) Hall. Mrs. Whitney was born in Steuben Co., N.Y., Feb. 27, 1815, and bore to her husband nine children, as follows: Clarissa E., Emily J., William T., Hiram B., Charles C., George G., Albert N., Rensselaer G. and Mary C. Hiram B. died March 18, 1864, while on his way to Yorktown, as a member of the 16th Heavy Artillery. His body was embalmed and sent back to his mourning parents.

Mr. Whitney enlisted Feb. 17, 1864, in Co. E, Eighth Mich. Vol. Inf., and served 18 months. He fought at the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and in numerous other engagements; and while in a skirmish near Petersburg he was shot through the left hand by a minie ball. With other wounded and disabled men, he walked ten miles to City Point, Va., where his wound was dressed and he was sent to Washington, D.C., and afterwards to Philadelphia. He was assigned to the invalid corps, where he remained till Aug. 7, 1865, when he was discharged and returned to his home.

He died of heart disease, Feb. 8, 1874, in Yates Co., N.Y., while on a visit to his daughter, Clarissa E.

Copyright © 2009, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group

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