Archive:The Descendants of John Whitney, page 631

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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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1866 he became Boston agent of the Metropolitan Steamship company; and, in 1879, after he had obtained possession of the stock, which had gradually sunk in value, he became president, holding the same position to this day. From that time to 1887, Mr. WHITNEY was recognized by all who knew him as a keen-witted and thrifty busi- ness man of Boston. His mind was full of enterprises of various kinds, and char- acter; in all that he engaged success followed him. Indeed, everything to which he turned his attention seemed to bring him gold. In the spring of 1886 Mr. WHITNEY, who had long foreseen the magnificent possibilities of that section of Boston, which borders on the suburban town of Brook- line, quietly purchased large tracts of land along the line of Beacon street, in the last-named place. In midsummer of the same year he became conscious that he had himself put not less that $800,000 into the scheme, and that it was likely to be too heavy a load to carry on alone. He at once took a number of his more intimate and wealthy friends into his confidence, told them what he had already done, and what he proposed to do further, and then invited them to join him. That they acceeded promptly is a striking evidence of the confidence reposed in Mr. WHITNEY's integrity, wisdom, and tact. The syndicate thus formed was the now famous West End Land company. The result of its endeavors is one of the most picturesque boulevards of which this country can boast, fringed with residences and suburban villas of rare beauty such as only the rich can afford. The next move was the building of a street railway which should connect Bos- ton with Brookline and run directly through this territory, by another corporation formed and headed by Mr. WHITNEY. The length of the road was about eight miles and it was named the West End Street Railway. This line had been in operation but a few months when the subject of street blockades in Boston began to seriously worry the public mind. At the time, the fol- lowing roads, besides the West End, centered in Boston: The Metropolitan, the Cambridge, the South Boston, and the Consolidated (Middlesex and Highland). Popular sentiment decreed that the incessant clashing of interests engendered by so many distinct companies must come to an end, and that, too, speedily. Mr. WHITNEY and the mature minds associated with him became convinced that there was only one way out the chaos, that only a single plan could solve the problem - that was consolidation. Such a plan was outlined and was agreed to by the various roads. In Sept., 1887, Mr. WHITNEY explained the policy of the West End Street Railway Com- pany at a meeting of the new corporation in language as forceful to-day as it was prophetic then. The address is one of the most interesting and important ever deliv- ered by its author. One passage in it merits reprinting in this sketch. Said Mr. WHITNEY: "I believe that this company is destined to play a very important part in the lives of this whole community. I am myself deeply sensible of the responsibility which this organization holds in this community. I hope and believe that we shall so be able to administer our affairs that not only shall the stockholders be proud of the organization and have a security second to none, but that every employee shall be proud to belong to the organization, and that the entire community will point to it with pride. We believe that we can do something for the comfort and happiness of this people that we could not do as individual corporations, and I am deeply sensible of the responsibility which rests upon us to do it. I hope that this company will meet the future questions connected with the transportation problem in the broadest way." No words were ever uttered with more profound sincerity, and that they have been scrupulously lived up to so far as Mr. WHITNEY is concerned, no one can deny who is knowing to all the facts underlying the history of this gigantic enterprise from that date to the present moment. That, perhaps, the most important franchise ever granted by the state and city to a private corporation was placed thus in safe hands is equally true. I am forced to pass over many events which have transpired during the last half decade though important they are as bearing upon Mr. WHITNEY's life, and come next to the part which he has taken in giving to Boston the most complete system of electric railway which exists anywhere in the known world. In 1887 the electric railway in Richmond, Va., attracted attention far and wide. It attracted Mr. WHITNEY, who went to that city to study its merits. He returned to Boston impressed with the conviction that electricity was indeed the power of the future. He decided to test it as a power for the present and, as the result of his con- victions, in 1888 an electric line was set in motion, extending from Park square, Bos- ton, to Oak square, in the Brighton district, a portion of it being operated by an under- ground conduit and the remainder by the trolley system. The conduit system proved a failure.

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