Family:Whitney, Henry Melville (1839-1923)

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Henry Melville9 Whitney (James Scolly8, Stephen7, Josiah6, Josiah5, Richard4, Richard3, Richard2, John1), son of James Scolly8 and Laurinda (Collins) Whitney, was born 22 Oct 1839, Conway, MA, and died 25 Jan 1923, Brookline, MA. He was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery and Crematory, Jamaica Plain, MA.[1]

He married, 3 Oct 1878, Brookline, MA, Margaret Foster Green,[2] daughter of Admiral Joseph F. and Elizabeth (Bowman) Green. She was born Dec 1856, Annapolis, MD.

Henry M. Whitney, the Builder of the West End Railway System of Boston
By George L. Austin
Standing upon a public platform in Lynn, Massachusetts, 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, Massachusetts - 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 public addresses and the great work which he has accomplished, Mr. Whitney, as a personality, 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 democratic 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 indicated 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 County, Massachusetts, a county which is a part of the ever-beautiful Deerfield valley, Mr. Whitney was born on 22 Oct 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 discussed 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 preceding the inauguration of President Lincoln. His death occurred 24 Oct 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 booklearning, 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 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 business man of Boston. His mind was full of enterprises of various kinds, and character; 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 Brookline, 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 Boston 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 following 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 Company 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 delivered 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, Virginia, 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 convictions, in 1888 an electric line was set in motion, extending from Park square, Boston, to Oak square, in the Brighton district, a portion of it being operated by an underground conduit and the remainder by the trolley system. The conduit system proved a failure.
In February, 1889, a line of twenty motor cars from Bowdoin square, Boston, to Harvard square, Cambridge, was inaugurated, and so successfully by the Thomson-Houston Electric Company, that Mr. Whitney, six months later gave an order for 600 additional motors. This was the beginning of the great electric system, which is to-day both the pride and the boast of Boston.
Since then, the history of the West End Street Railway has been one of constant development and of rapid improvement. Gigantic power stations have been erected, which are marvels of engineering skill; more modern models of apparatus have replaced those of older and less efficient types; nearly 16,000 horse-power are being daily furnished by the electric generators at these stations, and over 1,200 motors are under 469 electric cars. Although but 100 miles of the 260 operated by the company are equipped with the electric system, suburban property reached by the system has appreciated in value over 100 per cent.
To this grand result the best skill of this country has contributed; but, to the credit of the company it should be added, that its own corps of engineers have supervised the work. This work has not progressed, however, without opposition. Upon several occasions ignorance and prejudice have combined to stay the progress of the growth, which means so much to the body politic. How ably this opposition has been met by Mr. Whitney is evidenced by the numerous addresses which he has been forced to make within the past two years. While he has contested for rights which, in justice to his corporation and himself, are vital to the future welfare of the enterprise, he has never yet lost sight of the fact that argument and not anger, courtesy and not disdain, are the best weapons to use in dealing with an enlightened public.
Mr. Whitney's home is in Brookline. It was in this beautiful but quiet town that he first met Miss Margaret Foster Green, to whom he was married on Oct. 3, 1878. The union has been blessed by the birth of one son and four daughters. The summer home of the family is at Cohasset.
Mr. Whitney's success in life has been phenomenal, a surprise even to his most intimate friends. The West End enterprise has not required the whole of his time by any means, and his name is associated with several other prosperous corporations, notably the Hancock Inspirator Company, the Never-Slip Horseshoe Company, the Metropolitan Steamship Company, and several others. In all of these enterprises he has largely invested capital and actively directed their policy.
The personal appearance of Mr. Whitney is clearly indicated by his portrait. There is no mistaking the look of firmness and decision which his eyes flash upon all occasions; but it is a look tempered by refined courtesy and kindness, except when it confronts a man unworthy of his trust. Frank, outspoken and confiding himself, Mr. Whitney regards nothing more despicable than deceit. He is of medium stature, rather stout and somewhat inclined to stoop when walking. He appreciates a sound mind in a sound body and is happily blest in the possession of both. He is quick in all his actions - perhaps nervously so - and equally as quick to decide a question. In social intercourse he appears to be more a good listener that a good talker; and yet few persons can recite a more taking anecdote or more keenly relish one. As is generally conceded, he is a most impressive public speaker, and always commands the attention even of his opponents. He possesses a wonderful memory, a deep sense of the value of facts and figures, and rarely advances an argument that does not rest on such. His address to the state legislature in March 1891, is an illustrious example of this assertion. There is always a sincere purpose underlying his speeches; this he expounds with the earnestness of Sumner and the graceful diction of Phillips.
Mr. Whitney bears a big heart, filled with the tenderest sympathy towards those of his fellow-men who are worthy of it. His generosity is proverbial, his charities are dispensed freely, unostentatiously and with discretion; and many there are who to-day are indebted to him for their success in life. Happy in his home, true to his friendships, appreciative of all efforts that tend to uplift humanity and ever ready to assist them, he enjoys the universal respect of the community. The best tribute that I can pay to the man and his achievements is the assertion that he is the idol of every one in his employ.

Address 81 Milk St., Boston, MA; resided Brookline, MA.

Children of Henry Melville9 and Margaret Foster (Green) Whitney:

i. Ruth Bowman10 Whitney, b. 1 Dec 1879, Brookline, MA;[3] m. 26 Apr 1906, Brookline, MA [also recorded Waltham, MA], Herbert Lyman, b. ca. 1865, Boston, MA, son of Arthur F/T. and Ellen B. (Lowell) Lyman.[4]
ii. Elinor Green Whitney, b. 18 Jan 1881, Brookline, MA;[5] m. 25 Jun 1904, Brookline, MA, John Pennington Gardiner, b. ca. 1876, Philadelphia, PA, son of William H. and Helen L. (Baird) Gardiner.[6]
iii. Laura Collins Whitney, b. 20 Jun 1882 [Pierce], "Sarah Collins" b. 21 Jul 1882, Brookline, MA;[7] "Laura" m. 13 Jun 1907, Brookline, MA, Nathan Phillips Dodge Jr., b. ca. 1872, Council Bluffs, IA, son of Nathan F. and Susanna C. (Lockwood) Dodge.[8]
iv. James Scolly Whitney, b. 20 Jun 1886, Brookline, MA.[9]
v. Margaret Whitney, b. 12 Apr 1891, Brookline, MA [given name omitted].[10]


Henry M. WHITNEY 40 Self M M W MA General Merchant MA MA Margaret WHITNEY 24 Wife F M W MD Keeping House ME ME Ruth WHITNEY 6M Dau F S W MA MA MD Bridget O'BRIEN 22 Oth F S W IRE Servant IRE IRE Jane MCKINNON 40 Oth F S W NOVA SCOTIA Servant SCO SCO Mary HARRINGTON 25 Oth F M W MA Servant IRE IRE John GAFFY 30 Oth M S W IRE Servant IRE IRE

400 493 Whitney, Henry H. Head W M Oct 1839 60 mar 22 Massachusetts Massachusetts Massachusetts Iron manufactory, Rents house -----, Margaret S. Wife W F Dec 1857 42 mar 22 5ch 5liv Maryland Maine Maine -----, Ruth B. Dau W F Dec 1879 20 sgl Massachusetts Massachusetts Maryland Student -----, Elinor G. Dau W F Jan 1881 19 sgl Massachusetts Massachusetts Maryland -----, Laura C. Dau W F Jun 1882 17 sgl Massachusetts Massachusetts Maryland -----, James S. Son W M Jun 1886 13 sgl Massachusetts Massachusetts Maryland At school -----, Josephine Dau W F Apr 1891 9 sgl Massachusetts Massachusetts Maryland Dugan, Caro A. Govn W F Oct 1860 39 sgl Massachusetts Massachusetts Massachusetts Governess


  • Census records.

1.^  Find A Grave Memorial #190660551, Henry Melville Whitney.

2.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 299, page 207.

3.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 305, page 240.

4.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 564, page 15, and volume 563, page 734.

5.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 323, page 260.

6.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 548, page 18.

7.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 332, page 271.

8.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 572, page 19.

9.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 368, page 305.

10.^  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910," from original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004; volume 413, page 434.

Copyright © 2006, 2008, 2010, 2015, 2018, 2019, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group.