Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Does a Man Think Before He Dies?

Written on the 15th Chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians by the late James K. Whitman, sometime in the weeks before his death in 1894. James attended the St. Michaels Episcopal Church (pictured below) church as a boy with his family in Oakfield, Genesee County, New York in the 1850s. He moved west with his bride and young family, settling in Delaware County, Iowa. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church at his death.
"What thinketh a man? So is he..."

Is there no God, no life beyond the tomb,
No joy, no light, but a perpetual gloom.
When we shall in the grave’s dark portals lie,
All there is left for man, to live, to toil, to die,
The few brief pleasures of this world to share,
The glory and the grandeur of it’s toil and care,
Why strain our minds and discipline our lives,
If the cold tomb shall end this earthly strife.
Why shall we, for another’s sake deny,
The joys of life, its comforts, tell me why,
If there no resurrection morn shall be,
And life shall end to all eternity.
If the dark confines of the silent grave,
Christ entered here, has he no power to save?
To rise triumphant to the realms of light,
To conquer death and hell or errors black as night,
There is a God of life, and being free,
All space doth occupy in Him and wisdom see,
With power omnipotent he doth existence fill,
All life, all light were given at His will,
The sun, the moon, He gave creation birth,
And filled with joy the utmost bounds of earth,
By sending Christ, Redeemer, Savior, Son,
To die upon the cross for sins that man hath done,
So great his love of us he shed his precious blood
And made us white as snow by washing in the flood,
He died to live again, entered the silent grave,
And then triumphant rose, a world from sin to save,
As He the victory won and took from death the sting,
So we shall rise at last and full salvation bring,
By giving unto Christ our love, our life, our all,
And coming to his cross in deep contrition fall,
Take thou our lives, we pray, our bodies take them too,
And make us pure in thought and give us grace anew,
Worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost praise,
And trust in Him till death shall end our days,
Then sanctified, redeemed, immortal shall we rise,
To sing the songs of praise forever in the skies.

The Manchester Democrat, Manchester, Iowa
June 6, 1894

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Genealogy is Hereditary - Thank You Celia Orpha Whitman

Celia Orpha Whitman was the oldest child of James Kennicutt Whitman and Sarah Ellen Vallette. She was born 21 May 1851 in Oakfield, Genesee County, New York. Celia was given her maternal grandmother’s name, Orpha (see her story below) for a middle name, and knew her. She also knew her paternal grandparents, James W. and Betsey Whitman, before she and her family moved west leaving Oakfield at about age 13. The family eventually settled in Manchester, Delaware County, Iowa. She and her younger sister, Louisa, were both unmarried and spent a lot of time living and travelling together according to collected family letters.

Celia is remembered by her great-niece, as having been a very tall and imposing woman, who was a “schoolmarm” by trade. She tells us that as a young child she was terrified of her stern Aunt Celia because of her severe and unyielding disposition. To a child, this very tall and commanding woman must have seemed intimidating. However, through some of Celia’s own correspondence and writings, we see a woman who is very concerned about her family and keeps in regular contact with cousins and extended family in an effort to find out more about her own genealogy. It is to Celia we owe a great deal for the things we know of the Whitman, Kennicott, and Polley lines. Celia wrote all over the country to various cousins and distant relations to find out the origins of her family. She protected the Whitman family bible (see below) begun by her parents in the early 1850s and saw that it was passed down to the next generations of Whitmans. She began a book, of sorts, handwritten at first and then asiduously typed retelling the stories and generations for her Vallette and Whitman heritage. For her time, Celia was an impressively organized genealogist. Her writings have clarified a few family mysteries and her facts, while unsourced according to today's genealogical standards, have proven reliable time and time again.

For a woman who wrote so much about her family, we know very litte about her personally. No diaries and not many letters have surfaced about her, excepting her genealogical writings. In the 1900 federal census we find the sisters, Celia and Louisa, living together. They were living in Kanosh, Millard County, UT, right next door to their married brother, Edward, and with their unmarried brother Wilbur. In 1910, Celia and Louisa have moved to Illinois and are housed with the John J. and Jessie L. Acker family, and both listed as “aunt.” Jessie Louisa Acker was Jessie Louisa Lewis, daughter of Celia’s sister, Jessie, and her husband Thomas Jefferson Lewis. Celia was a Dressmaker in 1910.

Celia’s obituary gives us a little look into her life. The news of Celia’s passing was reported in the Glen Ellyn News and The Glen Ellyn on December 14th, 1939.
Miss CELIA ORPHA WHITMAN, aged 88, a resident of this village for the past sixteen years, died December 11. Miss Whitman had lived in Lombard and Wheaton before coming to Glen Ellyn. She was born May 21, 1851 at Oakfield, Genesee County, N.Y. and is survived by one sister Miss Louisa E. Whitman of Glen Ellyn, and one brother Edward N. Whitman of Salt Lake City. Funeral services were held at the Pierce Funeral Home in Wheaton, Wednesday, December 13,at 2 p.m. Dean Cowan C. Williams of St. Marks Episcopal Church officiated.

Photos above: (Top) Celia, aged about 12, tintype. (Middle) Celia aged about 50, circa 1900. (Lower) Celia (with glasses, seated next to child in high chair) is enjoying dinner in her father's Manchester, Iowa home. The man across from her is recognized as the eldest brother, James Adolphus Whitman, and the man to her right in profile is her youngest brother, Wilbur Archer Whitman. Other women pictured are likely sisters Frances and Louisa. If the woman sitting next to James is Celia's mother, Sarah Ellen (Vallette) Whitman, then this picture was taken before her death in 1889.