Compendium of History and Biography of Hillsdale County, Michigan

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Reynolds, Elon G., ed., Compendium of History and Biography of Hillsdale County, Michigan (Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., 1903).


[p. 89]


William G. Whitney, com. 2d lieut. Jan. 7, 1863; wounded at Chickamauga; 1st lieut. June 17, 1864; capt. March 1, 1865; must, out Sept. 16, 1865.

[p. 94]


William T. Whitney, Co. D; disch. May 21, 1865.

[p. 122]


The pen of the biographer has seldom a more engaging theme than the life story of a good citizen who has grown old in the service of his people, and has lived to see the fruit of his labors in their prosperity and happiness and the established success of valued public institutions, to whose creations and development he has essentially contributed. Such a theme is presented in the career of Dr. Lester R. Watkins, one of the pioneer physicians of Hillsdale county, who departed this life on February 4, 1880, after a successful practice of his profession of over thirty-four years in Allen township. He was a native of Hopewell, Ontario county, New York, born on September 3, 1821, a son of Ephraim and Deborah (Whitney) Watkins, natives of Massachusetts, who spent the last years of their life in the place of his birth. His father was a farmer and the family consisted of three sons and six daughters. One daughter, Mrs. Susan Metcalf, of Rochester, New York, is still living. His son, Lester, was a student by nature and manifested his bent early in life. After leaving the primary schools of his native town he entered Canandaigua Academy, and upon the completion of his course there he began the study of medicine under the capable direction of Doctor Holden, of Hopewell.

Before he was twenty-one years of age he entered Geneva (N. Y.) Medical College, and in 1846 he was graduated from that institution with the degree of M. D. He located in Hillsdale county, Michigan, at Allen, made that place his home for the rest of his life, and, throughout all of the surrounding country, he was soon well known as an energetic and skillful physician and surgeon, finding himself favorably launched on the flood tide of a large and successful practice. He was a close and thoughtful student, an attentive and discriminating observer, a resourceful and intelligent practitioner. Throughout his entire life he was faithful to every duty, holding broad and progressive views in reference to the development and moral standard of the community in which he had cast his lot. Churches, schools, all educational and moral forces, received his earnest and active support, while in social life he was genial and companionable to such an extent that his presence was ever a stimulus to good humor and the better and loftier aspirations of the human mind. The literature of his profession enlisted his continual and studious interest, as did the organizations formed among his professional brethren for the purposes of mutual benefit and the common good, which were aided and elevated by his active membership and the valued contributions he drew from his extensive experience and ripe judgment.

Doctor Watkins belonged to the county and state medical societies and was a zealous and useful member also of the Tri-State Medical Association. In politics he was an unwavering Republican, and, although not an active partisan, he took great interest in the public local affairs. He served as the township clerk for many years, being wise in counsel and diligent in his action in behalf of every public enterprise. He was a charter member of the Masonic lodge at Allen, in which he kept up his active membership to the day of his death. His early practice was in a wild, unbroken country, with bridle paths and Indian trails as the only thoroughfares of travel in many places, and over these for long years he rode on horseback day after day, in all weathers and under all kinds of trying circumstances. Through the exposure to which he was thus subjected he contracted a chronic rheumatism, the disease ending his life at the age of nearly sixty years, reaching and paralyzing his heart in one of its acute attacks.

On April 27, 1852, at the home of the bride [p. 123] at Gorham, Ontario county, N. Y., Doctor Watkins married with Miss Zeruah W. Pickett, a daughter of Ansel and Charlotte (St. John) Pickett, the former a native of Litchfield, Connecticut, and the latter of Saratoga county, New York. After their marriage her parents settled at Gorham, subsequently removing to Phelps, in the same county, where the father died in 1866. The mother then divided her time between the home of Mrs. Watkins and that of a daughter at Rochester, N. Y., dying at the Watkins home in Allen township, Michigan, on June 3, 1881.

Mrs. Zeruah W. (Pickett) Watkins was born at Gorham, Ontario county, New York, May 3, 1826, where the earlier years of her life were spent. On April 27, 1852, she was given in marriage to Doctor Watkins, and she came directly to Allen, where the remainder of her life was passed at her well-known home. Two children were born to Doctor and Mrs. Watkins ; one a son, died in infancy; the other, Charlotte A., at the age of four years. On the evening of November 9, 1902, Mrs. Watkins .suffered her second stroke of paralysis, from which she made some progress toward recovery. On December 26, the third stroke fell upon the afflicted lady, and from this she had not strength sufficient to rally, gradually losing her hold upon life, until the evening of January 27, 1903, when the worn and weary spirit left its tenement of clay, to be "forever with the Lord." During the long weeks of her last sickness, Mrs. Watkins was tenderly cared for by her only niece, Mrs. Josie Bainbridge Maynard, who chanced to be with her aunt when the blow fell upon her, and later, by her only sister, Mrs. L. H. Haskins, of Morgantown, North Carolina, and also by her lifelong friend, Mrs. M. L. Wyrick, of Saginaw, and Mrs. Watkins' faithful companion, Mrs. Jane Hamburg. The only brother, J. H. Pickett, of Geneva, New York, was unable to be present at the bedside of his sister, owing to his own bodily affliction, from paralysis. Funeral services were held at the Baptist church on Saturday, January 31, conducted by Rev. R. J. Lobb, a former pastor, assisted by Rev. Jordan, the choir rendering the appropriate selections in a manner befitting the occasion. The remains were tenderly laid at rest in Allen village cemetery, beside those of her beloved companion, who passed suddenly to the Great Beyond twenty-three years ago. The casket was literally covered with floral offerings of exceptional beauty, the flowers the deceased so loved in life. Soon after her removal to Allen, Mrs. Watkins was received into the membership of the Baptist church, and since that time her first thought, outside of her own home, was for the church of her choice and the tender memory and fragrance of her quiet, Christian life rests like a benediction over the community.

[p. 209]


While peoples of all ages, climes and conditions have had their practitioners of medicine for the alleviation of human suffering, it was not until a short time ago that any systematic effort was made to found schools of veterinary surgery and pathology. Perhaps among the earliest, and certainly among the best, of such schools is the one located at Toronto, Ontario, which, from its foundation has steadily increased in value as an educator in its line and widened its streams of benefaction, especially for the dumb brutes, whose sufferings must be inferred, and can be alleviated only by human aid. Of this excellent veterinary college, Dr. Jonathan C. Whitney of Hillsdale is an alumnus, having been graduated there on March 29, 1883. He is the son of Jonathan and Ann J. (Garrett) Whitney, the former a native of New York and the latter of the Isle of Man, and was born in Allen township, this county, on August 19, 1852. His father, a farmer, came to Hillsdale county in 1838, and settled on a farm of government land, which he cleared and lived upon until his death. Ami Whitney, the paternal grandfather of the Doctor, a New Yorker by nativity, owned land in Hillsdale county, but never resided here.

Doctor Whitney was one of four children, the other children being William G., Anna E. and Jennie. His father, an active Republican, for years capably served as supervisor and as justice of the peace, and his brother William G. was with the Eleventh Michigan Infantry in the Civil War. The father was also a zealous worker and a valued official in the Methodist Episcopal church, who assisted in building all churches of this denomination in Allen township. The Doctor, educated in the public schools of the county, after leaving school engaged in farming until 1881, then, through his own experience and that of others finding a pressing need for a veterinary surgeon in his neighborhood, he determined to supply the need and to this end entered the veterinary college located at Toronto. After a two years' course of instruction there he was graduated in 1883, and at once began practicing his profession with headquarters at Allen in this county.

Doctor Whitney has been engaged in the practice ever since, from 1885 to the present time, being located at Hillsdale. Here he has a fully equipped hospital for the treatment of all diseases of animals and their proper care, its high reputation and his practice extending over this and the adjoining counties. He also still owns and operates his farm in Allen township. On November 21, 1883, he was united in marriage with Miss Fannie E. Ellis, a native of New York state, but whose residence since her infancy was in the township of Allen. She was educated in the public schools, also in Hillsdale College and taught [p. 410] several terms with great ability in the township of Allen. They have two attractive daughters, Marjorie and Jennie. In politics the Doctor is a Republican, but he is not an active partisan and has never * sought office, having, however, very capably served four years as alderman. He belongs to the State Veterinary Association, of which he was president for one term, and is also a blue lodge and a chapter Mason, holding memberships at Hillsdale. He is also an official of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which he is a valued member. In his profession he has been signally useful to the people of Hillsdale county. In his citizenship he has been found worthy in every way of the public and private esteem which he enjoys in good measure.

[p. 249]

Justus F. Douglass, like his brother Augustus, was born on the farm belonging to his father in this township, his life beginning on April 21, 1842. He attended the public schools of the neighborhood, finished his education with a four years' course at Hillsdale College, and with one year passed at Oberlin, Ohio. After leaving college he began farming and has kept to that vocation ever since, only varying it by a few years of teaching, which he performed in connection with his farming operations in his early manhood. He was married, in 1867, to Miss Mary Emma Bradley, a native of Monroe county, Michigan, and a daughter of Eber and Hannah (Whitney) Bradley, the former born and reared in Connecticut, and the latter in New York. They were married in the east and came to this state about 1835, settling in Monroe county and making that their permanent home. In politics Mr. Douglass is a Republican. He served four years as town clerk, and he has been for a long time an active and appreciated school inspector. He is a deacon of the Congregational church, of which his wife is also a valued member. They have six children: Grant E., living in Huron county; Dwight J., a resident of Van Buren county; Hugh S., at home; Watie E., now Mrs. H. J. Cunningham, of this county; and Olive T. and Ned E., at the paternal home. Mr. Douglass has lived an unostentatious, useful life, among this people, by whom his family name is held in high esteem on account of the public service to the community and county for which it stands, and by reason of the good example of worth and merit it has given to the section. Of its members none is more honored or more justly revered than himself.

[p. 337]


The useful life of Archibald Weir, which ended in this county in 1883, after a long career of faithful devotion to duty and of productive industry, began in Scotland, where he was reared and educated, and where he learned his trade as a stone-mason. He was engaged in mining in his native country until 1842, when he emigrated, coming to the United States to join his older brothers, Thomas and Andrew, then located at Hillsdale, but now all deceased. Two sisters, now also dead, remained in Scotland. At once, on his arrival here, Mr. Weir formed a partnership with his brother Andrew, and here together for a number of years, they conducted a tannery as the Weir Brothers. Archibald then went into the employ of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, working in the baggage department, and, when he quit that corporation, he formed a partnership with John Lamberts and George Tompkins for the purpose of carrying on a meat business.

After some years of active industry in this enterprise Mr. Weir retired from mercantile life and again began working at his trade as a mason, following this occupation until his death in 1883. He married in Scotland with Miss Margaret B. Lee, a native of Glasgow, and they became the parents of six children, five of whom are living: Marian B., wife of A. Carrette, of Brooklyn, N. Y.; Robert, living at Battle Creek, Mich.; Maggie, wife of M. J. Fanning, of Boston, Mass.; Archibald B., a mail deliverer and a resident of Allen, in this county; Katie, also living in Boston. Mr. Weir was an ardent Democrat in politics, but never sought or accepted official station of any kind. He belonged to the Odd Fellows fraternity and to the Presbyterian church. His widow survived him eight years, dying in 1891.

Archibald B. Weir, son of Archibald Weir, was born at Hillsdale, this county, on June 5, 1860. In his native town he grew to manhood and was carefully educated, beginning his course in the public schools and finishing at the Hillsdale high school and the commercial department of the college. Soon after leaving school he began farming and has since steadily pursued that calling. He was married, in 1886, to Miss Jennie S. Whitney, a sister of Dr. J. C. Whitney, a sketch of whom appears on another page of this volume. Their union was blessed with one son, A. J. Whitney Weir. His mother died in 1891, and Mr, Weir, in 1893, married with Miss Ida M. Watkins, a daughter of Charles Watkins, whose history is given elsewhere in this work.

In politics Mr. Weir is a Republican and has been one from his young manhood; in the campaigns of his party he has taken an active and serviceable part, but has never sought office for himself. Since the establishment of the U. S. rural free delivery in this county, Mr. Weir has been a popular carrier. He belongs to the fraternal society of the Knights of Pythias and is a member of the Knights of the Maccabees, giving [p. 338] to the work of his tent in the order a careful and helpful attention. Throughout the length and breadth of Allen township he is well and favorably known, by all who know him he is respected as an upright and useful citizen, devoted to the best interests of his community, thoughtful and of material assistance in promoting its welfare in every commendable way and possessing a generous breadth of view and spirit of public good.

[p. 342]


One of the leading and representative farmers of Hillsdale county, Michigan, Albert R. Whitney, whose address is Osseo, is the subject of this sketch. He is a native of this county, where he was born on May 2, 1848, as the son of Horace W. and Polly (Crum) Whitney, natives of the state of New York. His father followed the occupation of farming in his native state, and, in 1844, disposed of his property there and removed his residence to the then frontier country of Michigan, where he settled upon the fine farm now owned and ,occupied by the subject of this review. This section was then a wilderness; the father cleared the land, and, by the most industrious efforts, builded himself a home in and out of the forest. He resided here during the remainder of his life, and passed away from earth in 1856. The mother died on August 1, 1878. To this worthy pair five children were born, three sons and two daughters, of whom only Albert R. is now living.

Albert R. Whitney grew to man's estate in his native county, received here his early education, and, after the completion of his school life, began work on the home farm, ably assisting in the care and management of the place, to which he has since made large additions and improvements. It is now one of the best-equipped farms in that section of the county, having the best modern buildings, and being one of the finest pieces of farm property in that prosperous neighbor- [p. 343] hood. On December 8, 1869, Mr. Whitney was united in marriage to Miss Alice M. Travis, a native of Hillsdale county, and a daughter of Gilbert and Harriet Travis, both well-known and highly respected citizens. To them have been born two children, Nellie A., now Mrs. Curtis Rich, residing in the township, and E. Belle, who is at the present writing in the state of California. Mrs. Whitney passed away on January 19, 1901, and awaits the resurrection near the old homestead.

Mr. Whitney is an Independent in politics, having never identified himself with any party. He believes in supporting the best men for office, and these political principles which best commend themselves to his conscience and judgment, varying from time to time, according to the varying conditions of the county. He comes of a longlived race, his great-grandmother having lived to the advanced age of 114 years, while his maternal grandfather accomplished the age of ninety years. Mr. Whitney is an active and prominent member of the Grange and he has been closely identified with many movements of a public character, which were calculated to advance the prosperity of the community and to promote the general welfare. During his entire life he has been a public spirited citizen, ever ready to contribute of his time and means to the general good, being ever held in high esteem by all classes of his fellow citizens.

[p. 409]


With a record and public testimonials for conspicuous gallantry as a soldier in the Civil War, a high rank in agricultural circles as a successful and progressive farmer, an elevated and well established place in the public regard as a citizen, and a strong hold on the social life of the community as a cultivated and companionable gentleman, Capt. William G. Whitney, of Allen, is passing toward the evening of his life with many elements of peace and happiness in his lot, and with the general esteem and good will of the people among whom he lives as one of their most useful and representative men. He is a native of the township in which he has his home, and was born on December 13, 1840, son of the late Jonathan and Ann J. (Garrett) Whitney, the former a native of Ontario county, N. Y., and the latter of the town of Ramsey, on the Isle of Man, England. His mother accompanied her parents to the United States in 1828, when she was about five years old. They settled in Niagara county, N. Y., where both of her parents died in the summer of 1840.

Mr. Whitney's father, Jonathan Whitney, was an honored pioneer of Hillsdale county and one of its prominent and esteemed citizens. He became a resident of the county in October, 1839, coming here accompanied by his wife, then a bride, whom he married while on the way from his New York home to this state. They settled in what is now Allen township on 280 acres of wild land, and there they passed the remainder of their lives, improving their property, rearing their children, maintaining a home of hospitality and helping to build up and advance the community. They were the parents of four children of whom William was the first born. The mother died on July 9, 1879, and on October 5, 1880, the father married a second wife, Miss Ruth Hooper, who was also a native of New York. He was prominent and serviceable in the early life of the county, aiding in the promotion of every good enterprise for the advantage of its people, and serving the public interests faithfully in official positions of importance from time to time until his death in advanced life.

His son, William G. Whitney, was reared to a life of industry on the farm, and educated in the public schools and at Hillsdale and Albion colleges. After spending the winter of 1860-61 in Illinois he returned to his Michigan home, and, fired with patriotic spirit in defense of the Union, then threatened by armed resistance, he enlisted on August 24, 1861, as a private soldier in Co. B, Eleventh Michigan Infantry. He entered into the contest with all of his ardor and rose rapidly through merit, first to the rank of sergeant, and, on January 7, 1863, to that of second lieutenant. He commanded his company at the battle of Missionary Ridge, and at is close was complimented in the presence of his brigade for his meritorious conduct before the fire of the enemy. On July 3, 1864, in front of Atlanta, he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, and, after the fall of the city, he was appointed military conductor on the Chattanooga & Knoxville Railroad, serving as such until March 1, 1865. He was commissioned captain and made provost marshal [p. 410] of Cleveland, Tenn., holding the position until August of the same year. At this time he rejoined his regiment, which was then stationed at Knoxville, where it remained until it was mustered out of the service. He participated in all of the engagements in which his regiment took part, including the battle of Chickamauga where he received a slight wound in the right hand. After his discharge he remained a resident of Knoxville for two years, being employed as baggage master and conductor on the Knoxville & Chattanooga Railroad. At the end of that period he returned to his native township and engaged in farming until the spring of 1887, having a farm of 130 acres of superior land. He then transferred the farm to the care of a tenant, and removed to the village of Allen, where he has since lived.

On April 23, 1874, Captain Whitney was united in marriage with Mrs. Bessie Kay, a daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Marshall, and widow of Thomas Kay, who died in London, England, on July 7, 1870, the marriage being solemnized in Allen township. By her first marriage Mrs. Whitney had one child, her daughter Lottie, who is living in this township. Through her union with Captain Whitney she has become the mother of four children, three of whom are living, Anna L. M., H. Jennie May and Frederick W. G. A daughter named Mary died in infancy. The Captain and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and he belongs to C. J. Dickerson Post, G. A. R., of Hillsdale. In politics he is an unwavering Republican. Their home is a center of refined and appreciated hospitality, and in all sections of the community they are held in the highest esteem.

Copyright © 2014, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group.

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