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.

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