Archive:The Descendants of John Whitney, page 629

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The Descendants of John Whitney, Who Came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635, by Frederick Clifton Pierce (Chicago: 1895)

Transcribed by the Whitney Research Group, 1999.

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Henry M. Whitney, the Builder of the West End Railway System of Boston By GEORGE L. AUSTIN Standing upon a public platform in Lynn, Mass., in September, 1872, Wendell PHILLIPS addressed these words to his audience; "You hear a man talking sometimes who has heard that his brother has found a million dollars, and he says, 'I am very much disappointed.' He means he is surprised. You hear another, who has heard that a noted criminal has been arrested, and he says he is surprised. Now, when he is disappoined, it means that a man falls below his expectations. To be surprised, means that a man gives you thought." I have thought of these words many times while following the progressive course in commercial success of Henry Melville WHITNEY, more widely known to-day as the president of the West End Street Railway of Boston, Mass. - a transit system which is, at this writing, without a peer on the face of the globe. It may truly be said, however, that to thousands of people, who are familiar with his name, his pub- lic addresses and the great work which he has accomplished, Mr. WHITNEY, as a per- sonality, is quite unknown. By some his motives are misconstrued; by others, they are misunderstood, and the reason is, undoubtedly, they do not know the man. This is not because he is unapproachable, in his manner or repelling in his speech; or because he is in the habit of masking his offical identity behind "red tape," and can never be found when wanted. He is the opposite of all this, and his demo- cratic respect for the rights of his fellow-men is as marked as is his conscientious sense of business integrity and justice. Wherever met or by whomsoever approached, Mr. WHITNEY is always the same - a type of manhood eloquently indi- cated by his portrait. Few men of his age, have ever undertaken and carried out to completion more important enterprises. In all these he has been a leader, with courage and sagacity unfailing. For a period of at least five years he has held a position which no other man would dare even to covet, much less occupy. With such a character as this confronting us, is it a wonder that thought is suggested, that those who know him best are surprised, while those who know him least are amazed? In the small, hilly town of Conway, Franklin Co., Mass., a county which is a part of the ever-beautiful Deerfield valley, Mr. WHITNEY was born on Oct. 22, 1839. At the time of his birth his father, General James. S. WHITNEY, kept a good old- fashioned store; and the old stove around which the good citizens of Conway dis- cussed and settled, in their own minds, the most important questions of the day, is still remembered by many. The enterprising public spirit of General WHITNEY, his broad intelligence, his capacity for business and his superior tact in the management of men and affairs, were destined to leave their impress upon the boy, who thus grew up in a home made happy and charming by the presence of a good mother - Laurinda (COLLINS) WHITNEY. General WHITNEY was a stern old Democrat of the Jacksonian type, and the idol of the community in which he dwelt. He served two years in the legislature, where it is stated, his vote decided the election of Charles SUMNER to the U. S. Senate; subsequently, from 1854 to 1860, he was superintendent of the U. S. Armory at Springfield, and was collector of the port of Boston for one year preced- ing the inauguration of President LINCOLN. His death occurred Oct. 24, 1878. Of the youthful days of Henry M. WHITNEY there is little to be said. In the public schools of the town he acquired his first rudiments of education; and then, while still in his teens, he was sent to Williston seminary at Easthampton. He was accompanied by an elder brother, William C. WHITNEY, since famous as secretary of the navy during the administation of President CLEVELAND. At that renowned training school, the boys became acquainted with another lad, of about the same age - Henry D. HYDE - today one of the ablest members of the Suffolk bar. It transpired, however, that young WHITNEY was not much given to book- learning, but was rather more fond of fun and harmless mischief. His term at Williston, therefore, was limited to one year. Returning to Conway he went to work in the store; and then, for three years, he served as a clerk in the Conway bank, where he developed that business turn of mind which has served him so well ever since. In 1860, as already stated, his parents removed to Boston, where General WHITNEY, after leaving the custom house, became identified with enterprises of large extent and importance, notably with the Boston Water Power company, and with the Metropolitan Steamship company. The son, in the meantime, had passed two years in the bank of Redemption; afterwards as a clerk in the naval agent's office, and next had been engaged in the shipping business in New York City. In

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