Family:Whitney, David (1830-1900)

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David9 Whitney (David8, Jonathan7, Jonathan6, Joseph5, Benjamin4, Joseph3, John2, John1), son of David8 and Catherine (Horn) Whitney, was born 23 Aug 1830, Westford, MA,[1] and died 28 Nov 1900, Detroit, MI.[2]

He married firstly, 1860-1863, Flora H. McLaughlin, daughter of Laughlin and Christian Ann (Summers) McLaughlin. She was born 1831, near London, ON, and died 7 Feb 1882, Detroit, MI.[3]

He married secondly, 5 Mar 1883, Detroit, MI, Sarah Jane McLaughlin, daughter of Laughlin and Christian Ann (Summers) McLaughlin. She was born Apr 1844, near London, ON, and died 13 Mar 1917, Detroit, MI.

He resided 443 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI.

"Lumber Baron, Owned steam barge fleet, Home is now Whitney Restaurant.

"In 1857, David Whitney, a descendant of early Massachusetts settlers, came west to Detroit to run the operations of two East Coast firms involved in the lumber industry. By the 1870s, Whitney had branched out on his own, investing in pinelands primarily in Wisconsin and Michigan. Becoming involved in maritime transportation, Whitney also owned an extensive fleet of steam barges and consorts. This fleet shipped lumber, as well as iron ore from Lake Superior ports, to manufacturing and distributing centers along the lower lakes. By the turn-of-the- century, Whitney had become one of Michigan's wealthiest citizens, owning large amounts of land and holding interest in many banking institutions and industrial corporations. In 1890, construction began on a lavish new residence for Whitney and his family-- a project which took four years to complete.

"When he died in 1900 Whitney was the wealthiest man in Detroit with a fortune estimated at $15 million. There are claims his home, turned into a restaurant is haunted.

"Death was Heart Attack -

"Very Famous Detroiter"[4]

History of David Whitney's Residence in Detroit, Michigan:

"The Whitney mansion is an impressive home on Woodward Avenue near downtown Detroit. The structure, completed in 1894, was designed for lumber baron David Whitney, Jr. and described by one newspaper account in 1894 as "the most elaborate and substantial residence in this part of the country." Created in the Romanesque style by respected Detroit architect Gordon W. Lloyd, the structure is built of South Dakota Jasper, a rare variety of pink granite which gives the outside of the House a striking rose hue. The exterior features a multi gabled roof and arched windows that add drama to the, already, luxurious facade. The 21,000 square foot home has 52 rooms, 218 windows, 20 fireplaces, a secret vault in the original dining room and an elevator. Construction took four years at a cost of $400,000.
"The inside of the house is as impressive as the outside. A grand staircase dominates the Great Hall that is elaborately adorned with a bronze balustrade and is richly illuminated by colorful Tiffany stained glass panels on the second and third floors. The most impressive room, the Great Hall, is dominated by an ornate fireplace and mantelpiece which holds an antique bronze clock. The interior walls and ceilings of the rooms in the house are adorned with hand-woven silks, tapestries and other objects from the Whitney's extensive collection. The original electrification in the house was done by Thomas Edison who was a friend of David Whitney's.
"David Whitney, Jr. was born in 1830 in Watertown, Massachusetts. In 1857, at the age of 27 he came to Detroit to take charge of the Western operations of two eastern seaboard lumber concerns. He was primarily responsible for purchasing timberlands and for the shipment of lumber. In the 1870's both firms were dissolved and Whitney began to invest in Michigan, Wisconsin and Oregon timberlands. He rapidly became the largest lumber baron in the Midwest. In addition to his lumber concerns, he invested in commercial paper. His other accomplishments included bank directorships and the leadership of several corporations while also holding title to numerous barges and Great Lakes ships as well as wood products plants.
"Whitney died in 1900, but the family continued to live in the House until the 1920's. At that time it became headquarters to the Wayne County Medical Society. The Medical Society later sold the house, and the 6,000-square-foot carriage house behind it, to the Visiting Nurses Association. Richard Kughn purchased the property in 1980. He was a man with a vision and on December 12th, 1986, the Whitney mansion became The Whitney, "An American Restaurant in an American palace." Mr. Kughn was an ardent supporter of the City of Detroit, and in 2007 he sold this amazing property to another believer in the strength of the City, Bud Liebler. Mr. Liebler is a former Chrysler executive who is on a path to refresh and revitalize the property and keep it functioning as a treasured Detroit icon. It is an exciting adventure that he hopes will be shared -- and enjoyed -- by many for years to come."

History of David Whitney:

"The man who could out-lumber Paul Bunyan
"David Whitney bought Michigan and Wisconsin pine lands by the hundreds of thousands of acres for $3 to $50 an acre -- and made profits that sometimes equaled 100 times the original cost. When he died in 1900 Whitney was the wealthiest man in Detroit with a fortune estimated at $15 million. His first job in his native Massachusetts, operating a paper box factory for a lumber company, gave him some lumber background. He came to Detroit in 1859 at age 29 and started a lumber business with his brother, Charles. He foresaw the great future of lumbering in the Midwest and, when the profitable partnership was dissolved in 1877, he put everything he had into buying pine lands. Whitney's fortunes expanded in the north woods as swiftly as Paul Bunyan's prowess in the loggers' legends, and he soon became a millionaire. His instincts concerning land values in Detroit were

equally keen, and he became known as "Mr. Woodward Avenue."

"Upper Woodward had long been a magnet for Detroit's finest families. David Whitney proved he could strip the lumber from a hillside [ . . . ] appointed paneled office. Whitney himself lived at the corner of Woodward and Sproat. Around him tightly clustered the homes of many leading wit ~ut eavmg IS nc families of the day - the Pridgeons, the Heavenriches, the Farrands, the Heinemans. Fine homes also surrounded Grand Circus Park, but Whitney could see changes coming. He began buying up properties and in 1890, he built the Grand Circus Park Building, five stories high, at Woodward and Park."


"A Giant Among Detroit Leaders
"In the late 1800s, when David Whitney Jr., the first of a three-generation family of DAC members, built his majestic home on the corner of Woodward and Canfield, he was famous in local lore as "the man who could out-lumber Paul Bunyan." The multi-millionaire lumberman, vessel owner and banker had built a fortune from the pine forest of Michigan and Wisconsin and made his mark on Detroit, building "some of the finest business blocks" in the city, according to the Detroit News. His "palatial residence on Woodward Avenue" was "perhaps the costliest and most magnificent ever erected in the state." Whitney came to Detroit from Lowell (MA) about 1857. In partnership with his brother Charles and others, he built a hugely successful lumber business that spread to the Upper Peninsula, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. He was able to buy up Michigan and Wisconsin pine lands at a cost of from $3 to $50 an acre, sometimes realizing a profit of 100 times his initial investment. Whitney's instincts concerning the land values in Detroit were equally keen, earning him the nickname "Mr. Woodward Avenue." When he lived at the corner of Woodward and Sproat, many of Detroit's leading families of the day were his neighbors -- the Pridgeons, the Heavenriches, the Farrands and the Heinemans, for example. He began buying property in the area, and in 1890 he built the five-story Grand Circus Park Building at Woodward and Park."

"DAVID WHITNEY, JE. For many years the development of Michigan rested upon the utilization of its great lumber resources and the prominent representatives of business life in the state were those who were actively connected with the manufacture and handling of lumber. In that field of labor David Whitney, Jr., won a notable place and position; yet extensive and important as were his private business interests he ever found time for cooperation in those activities which led to the development and substantial improvement and upbuilding of his city. He came to Michigan from New England, his birth having occurred at Westford, Massachusetts, August 30, 1830. His parents were likewise natives of that state, being representatives of old Massachusetts families. David Whitney was named for his father and always retained the use of the "Jr." after his name, even following his father's death. He was reared on a farm and his early education was acquired in the common schools. From early boyhood he knew the value of labor and never failed to appreciate its true dignity and worth. Upon attaining his majority he left the farm and secured a clerkship with a lumber company which conducted a yard and borx factory. For three years he remained with that firm and gained considerable knowledge of the business while thus employed. He steadily advanced, winning promotion after promotion, until he became superintendent of the business, so serving at the time he severed his connection with the plant. He was twenty-nine years of age when in 1857 he came to Detroit, and from the time of his arrival here he was a member of the firms of C. & D. Whitney, Jr., and Skillings, Whitney Brothers & Barnes, his brother Charles being largely interested in these two enterprises, which maintained their headquarters in the east. David Whitney, Jr., assumed personal charge and management of the western business, which consisted principally in buying and shipping lumber and also in the purchase of pine lands and logs. For a considerable period these two firms ranked with the largest lumber dealers of the country and David Whitney, Jr., had charge of their extensive operations in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, while his partners supervised the business in the east and in Canada. In the late '70s each of these firms dissolved and thereafter David Whitney, Jr., gave his attention more largely to investing in pine lands, principally in Michigan and Wisconsin. He recognized something of what the future had in store for the lumber industry and his investments were accordingly placed. He became in time one of the most extensive lumber operators of the middle west and was interested in the manufacture of timber products and became the owner of large tracts of valuable timber land, his business being conducted along constantly growing lines until he ranked with being conducted along constantly growing lines until he ranked with Michigan's millionaires. While becoming one of the leading lumber operators of the west Mr. Whitney also had large connections with lake-marine transportation, becoming the owner of an extensive fleet of steam barges and consorts, utilized principally in the lumber trade but also in the shipment of iron ore from Lake Superior ports to manufacturing and distributing centers on the lower lakes. He made extensive investments in valuable timber tracts, of which he remained owner to the time of his death, and he likewise became the owner of a large amount of real estate in Detroit. He was likewise a stockholder and director in many banking institutions and in many industrial corporations and was the owner of manufacturing plants in connection with the lumber industry. Through his investments in Detroit real estate he did much for the development and improvement of the city.

Politically Mr. Whitney was a stalwart republican, unswerving in his allegiance to the party, and he was always a loyal and devoted member of the Presbyterian church. A contemporary writer has said of him: "His nature was strong and true, with perhaps a touch of austerity; he knew men at their real value and had no toleration of deceit or meanness in any of the relations of life. He did not come so largely to the attention of the public eye as did many of his contemporaries who accomplished less and who did less for the world, but he felt the responsibilities which wealth and success impose and ever endeavored to live up to those responsibilities, in the straightforward, undemonstrative way characteristic of the man. His name merits an enduring place on the roster of the honored and valued citizens of the state of Michigan." Another writer said: "He coveted success but scorned to attain it except through industry and honest means. He acquired wealth without fraud or deceit, and the results of his life are full of inspiration to the rising generation." These significant words were written at the time of his death, which occurred on the 28th of November, 1900."[5]

David, Flora, their son David, and their daughter Grace, are buried in Woodmere Cemetery, Detroit, MI.

Son David9 Whitney
Daughter-in-law Flora H. (McLaughlin) Whitney

Children of David9 and Flora H. (McLaughlin) Whitney:

i. Grace Nichols10 Whitney, b. 22 Oct 1862, Detroit, MI; d. 18 Dec 1938, Ouchy, Switzerland; m.(1) 17 Nov 1881, Detroit, MI, John Everett Evans; m.(2) 5 Apr 1900, MI, John Jacob Hoff.
ii. David Charles Whitney, b. 26 Jan 1867, Detroit, MI; d. 24 Apr 1941, Grosse Pointe, MI;[6] m. 2 Feb 1902, Chicago, IL, Susan Catherine Marshall, b. 16 Jul 1871, Chicago, IL, d. Nov 1953, Grosse Pointe, MI.[7]
iii. Flora Ann Whitney, b. 24 Oct 1869, Detroit, MI; m. 1898, George F. Whiting.
iv. Katherine Whitney, b. 20 Jan 1872, Detroit, MI; d. 7 Jun 1954, Detroit, MI; m. 20 Nov 1901, Tracy William McGregor.

David9 and Sarah Jane (McLaughlin) Whitney had no children.


The following information was provided by Tracy McGregor (Whitney) Howe:

David Whitney, Jr. : b:8/23/1830 in Watertown,MIDDLESEX, Massachusetts d: 11/28/1900 in Detroit, WAYNE, Michigan : married 1st- Flora/Florah McLaughlin in 1860 (b:1831 near London, Ontario, Canada..d:2/7/1882 in Detroit, WAYNE, Michigan ) : married 2nd-Sara/Sarah Jane McLaughlin 3/5/1883 in Detroit, WAYNE, Michigan Sarah was Florah's sister. Sarah b:1845 near London, Ontario, Canada d: 3/13/1917 in Detroit, WAYNE, Michigan


215 249 David Whitney 40 M - Farmer $7000 Mass. Catherine " 45 F - " David " 20 M - Farmer $150 " Hiram " 17 M - " " Attended school Harriet T. " 14 F - " Attended school Albert " 11 M - " Attended school Mary E. " 6 F - " Attended school Jonathan A. Scott 26 M - Laborer "

2541 3393 David Whitney 53 M - Lumber Dealer $2000 $5000 Mass. Catherine " 55 F - Wife " Charles " 33 M - Lumber dealer " David " 30 M - " " $3000 " Hiram " 26 M - " " $1800 $2000 " Harriet S. " 23 F - " Albert " 20 M - Attends school " Attended school Mary E. " 15 F - " " " Attended school

1857 1795 Whitney, David J. 40 M W Lumber Merchant $125000 $300000 Massachusetts Male citizen over 21 " Flora 38 F W Keeping House Canada Parents foreign born " Christina 16 F W At School New York Mother foreign born, Attended school " Grace 7 F W Michigan Mother foreign born " David 4 M W " Mother foreign born " Flora 1 F W " Mother foreign born McDonald, Margaret 21 F W Domestic Servt. Canada Parents foreign born " Duncan 25 M W " " " Parents foreign born Chisholm, Bella 30 F W " " Scotland Parents foreign born Lunom, Mary 26 F W " " " Parents foreign born, Illiterate

Christina Whitney is unidentified.

David WHITNEY 50 Self M M W MA Lumber Dealer MA MA Flora WHITNEY 49 Wife F M W CAN CAN CAN Grace WHITNEY 17 Dau F S W MI At School MA CAN David C. WHITNEY 13 Son M S W MI At School MA CAN Flora A. WHITNEY 11 Dau F S W MI At School MA CAN Kate WHITNEY 7 Dau F S W MI At School MA CAN Christa MC MILLAN 21 Oth F S W IRE Servant SCOT SCOT Mary BELITZ 22 Oth F S W MI Servant GER GER Ellen MC LAUGHLIN 35 Oth F S W CAN Servant IRE IRE Sarah MC LAUCHLIN 35 SisL F S W CAN CAN CAN

Whitney, David Head W M Aug 1830 69 mar XX Massachusetts -----, Sarah J. Wife W F Apr 1844 56 mar XX Xch Xliv Canada -----, Katherine Dau W F Oct 1873 26 sgl Michigan

  • 1910: Widow Sarah Whitney not found.


  • Census records.

1.^  "David [Whitney], s. David and Catherine, [born] Aug. 23, 1830," according to Westford Vital Records.

2.^  [ Find A Grave memorial #36793816|, David Whitney, Jr.

3.^  [ Find A Grave memorial #12793552|, Flora Ann McLaughlin Whitney

4.^  [ Find A Grave memorial #36793816|, David Whitney, Jr.

THE CITY OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN 1701-1922 By: Clarence Monroe Burton, William Stocking, Gordon K Miller (pages 576-579)

6.^  [ Find A Grave memorial #38299906|, David Charles Whitney.

7.^  [ Find A Grave memorial #38300128|, Susan Catherine Marshall Whitney.

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