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.


  1. Very Cool Becca! I love reading all about the Whitman family history. My family is hard to gather with a lot lost to revolutionary fires and language barriers. I look forward to reading more stories.

  2. Hello Becca, Nice account of the Whitman family. Did you know James Whitman purchased lot 16 of Alfred Cary's estate in 1859 for $544? Alfred Cary was founder of the seminary and namesake of the village. Lot 16 contains the southwest quadrant of today's village of Oakfield. James Whitman did not keep lot 16 since the 1866 map shows it belonging to R Stevens. Best, Terry