Monday, August 24, 2009

My friends call me Betsey.

Meet Elizabeth KENNICUTT (WHITMAN). You can call her Betsey, everyone did. Betsey was a girl growing up in the slow rolling hills of Western New York. She is said to have been born in Batavia, Genesee County, NY in 1801. She was the third of 12 children, and the eldest girl in the family. Her grandfather, Daniel KINNICUTT, was a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and lived until Betsey was about 16. Can you imagine the stories she might have heard from her grandpa? Betsey met James Wescott WHITMAN and they were married by a Justice of the Peace in 1819. Betsey's own children began coming in Nov 1820. She had a total of eight children (and possibly nine) between the years 1820 and 1844, all born in the Avon area of Livingston County, NY. In about 1846 she and her husband moved to the then-prosperous hamlet of Oakfield (also known as Cary), just outside the county seat of Batavia, Genesee County, NY. They owned a little house just a block or two from their church, St. Michael's Episcopal. Betsey seems to have been literate, and certainly valued education as she sent both her sons and daughters to the Cary Collegic Seminary, where they would obtain an advanced education. This picture of Betsey was probably taken in the mid-1860s. Don't blame her for her grim expression - photographs in that day had long exposure times, and smiling would twitch and unfocus a face. The photo may have been taken after Betsey had recently been beareaved; she and James lost their youngest son, Edward, to a terrible Union defeat in 1864. She had already buried one and possibly two toddlers back in Avon in 1824. Only two daughters lived in a nearby county, other children lived in Iowa, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and California. Betsey passed away, leaving her husband a widower, in 1873. We do not know for sure where Betsey and James are buried, but it is likely in the two unmarked graves between their son Edward and daughter Anna in the Oakfield/Cary
Cemetery. The obituary of Betsey is from the The Progressive Batavian, 27 June 1873.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Meet James Wescott WHITMAN

James Wescott WHITMAN was born
"near Troy" in either Saratoga County or Rennsselaer County, NY probably in about 1794. He may have fought in the War of 1812, and was reported to have done so by a granddaughter, but no records prove his service. He moved into Western New York and married Elizabeth "Betsey" KENNICUTT (born 1801, NY) in Ontario County (now Livingston), NY on 17 Oct 1819. They were married by a local Justice of the Peace, Judge Riggs. The county lines changed in 1821 and they found themselves in the new county of Livingston. They are reported to have lived in Avon and/or York. All of their eight known (and possibly nine) children were born in the Avon area. One little daughter, and possilby another child, were taken from the Whitmans at a young age. By about 1848 James moved to a growing new town known as Oakfield in the county of Genesee, NY. James worked as a master mason, and even advertised his services in the local gazeteer. His sons learned the trade as well. James and Betsey seemed to have valued education as many, if not all of their children were literate. A few of his children were known to have attended the Cary Seminary, a highly regarded private school. His daughters Maria, Anna, and son James K. were teachers there at some time. James and Betsey's family attended the St. Michael's Episcopal Church not more than a few blocks from their home. The family weathered the Civil War, and President Lincoln's funeral train came through their town. They lost their youngest son, Edward, to the brutal Battle of Cold Harbor in June of 1864. He was only 20 years old, and had been sending money home from his postings at Harper's Ferry, WV, and Fort McHenry, Baltimore. Their children began to move away in the 1850s and 1860s. Some children moved to Iowa, others to Pennsylvania, to Washington, DC, and one son went all the way to California. Betsey died, perhaps unexpectedly, in 1873, and her obituary mourns the fact that "Mr. now left alone to travel the remaining journey of life." Anna, an unmarried daughter, who was a teacher and accomplished soprano, came home to care for her father. James died not too many years later in 1878. Who was James Wescott WHITMAN? He was a father, a talented bricklayer, a religious man, a grieving widower, a man who is still part of us all.
For more details or source information on this short biography, please contact me.