Archive:History of Michigan, Volume II

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Archives > Archive:Extracts > History of Michigan, Volume II

Charles Moore, History of Michigan (New York, NY: The Lewis Publishing co., 1915), Volume II.

From Google Books.

Volumes I, III, and IV not examined.


[p. 716]

DAVID WHITNEY, JR. When David Whitney, Jr., died at Detroit November 28, 1900, it was said of him: "He coveted success, but scorned to attain it except through industry and honest means. He acquired wealth without fraud or deceit, and the results of his life are full of inspiration to the rising generation." His was one of the productive careers in the citizenship of Michigan during the last half of the nineteenth century. In the various departments of the lumber industry lay his chief activities, and his success in that field was sufficient to place his name alongside that of the great lumber kings of the state. His business was for many years conducted from Detroit, and the greater share of his investments was placed in that city.

David Whitney, Jr., was born at Westford, Middlesex county, Massachusetts, August 23, 1830. He always wrote his name David Whitney, Jr., perhaps partly from early usage and partly from respect for his honored father. David Whitney, Sr., was of the true New England type of energy, resourcefulness and rectitude of character, was the owner of a good farm, and also did lumbering and brick making on a small scale. The activities of the farm and the common school was the chief sources of training for David Whitney, Jr., in his boyhood. Throughout his life he acknowledged a close fellowship with honest toil, and it was hard work as much as endowment of masterful ability which brought him success. On coming of age he left the farm and for three years was clerk in a lumber firm, which also operated a box factory. That experience proved of great value to him in his subsequent career. He proved his worth with the firm, and when he left it was superintendent of the plant. In 1857, at the age of twenty-seven, David Whitney, Jr., came to Detroit. He was western representative and a member of the firm of C. & D. Whitney, Jr., and of Skillings, Whitneys & Barnes Lumber Company, which corporation is in existence today and is one of the oldest corporations in the United States. His brother Charles was interested with him in those two firms, whose headquarters were in the east. Mr. Whitney had the immediate management of all the western business, which was principally the buying and shipping of lumber and the purchase of pine lands and logs. The two firms mentioned were for some years among the largest lumber dealers in the United States, and the work of David Whitney, Jr., covered the states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, while the eastern partner had supervision over the business in the northeastern states and Canada. The partnership of C. & D. Whitney Jr., was dissolved in the late seventies, and from that time forward David Whitney, Jr., operated independently, and invested heavily in the pine lands of Michigan and Wisconsin, but he still retains his interest in the Skillings, Whitneys & Barnes Lumber Co. He possessed a practical knowledge of lumbering conditions which made him almost an authority, and with characteristic foresight he realized that the great forests of Michigan and Wisconsin before the close of the century would be called upon to supply a large portion of the lumber consumed in the United States, and his investments were carefully laid to take advantage of such development. As the owner of magnificent tracts of uncut timber, and as a manufacturer, his operations were among the most extensive in the lumber regions of those two states, and eventually made him a millionaire.

Naturally his relations with lumbering led him into many related commercial fields, and into banking. He owned and had in commission a large fleet of steam barges and other vessels on the Great Lakes, utilized chiefly for the transportation of lumber, but subsequently also used for shipping iron ore from the Lake Superior ports to the manufacturing and distributing centers on the lower lakes. The proceeds of his lumbering

[p. 717]

operations were invested chiefly in Detroit real estate. He was a stockholder and director in many banking institutions, and was officially and financially identified with several industrial and manufacturing plants, chiefly in the production of lumber material. The late Mr. Whitney was a Republican in politics, a member of the Presbyterian church, and a liberal though unostentatious contributor to the benevolent work of his home city. While an aggressive and forceful business man, perhaps his most noteworthy characteristic was his extreme reticence and his avoidance of all public notice. He knew and estimated the dispositions and character of men almost as unerringly as he understood the lumber business, and had many close friends among his business associates. Personally he was straightforward and frank in all his relations, and with a proper sense of the responsibilities imposed by success and wealth he used his influence and resources for the substantial improvement and betterment of his home city and state, and would never have deserved any other tribute to his memory than an exact measure of what he accomplished in a business way. Mr. Whitney left four children, as follows: Grace, now Mrs. John J. Hoff, of Paris, France; David C., of Detroit; Flora, wife of R. A. Demme, of Detroit; and Katherine, wife of Tracy W. McGregor, of Detroit.


[p. 836]

GEORGE L. WHITNEY. An enterprising and public-spirited citizen and wide-awake business man of Bad Axe, the county seat of Huron county, is George Lewis Whitney, who is mayor of the city and president of the Whitney & Chatfield Company, which conducts an extensive hardware and lumber business, based upon fair and honorable policies and also upon the personal popularity of the interested principals in the corporation. Mr. Whitney has won large and worthy success as a businessman of stability and aggressiveness and has proved a most valuable acquisition in both business and civic activities at Bad Axe, where he has maintained his residence since 1891. Further interest attaches to his career by reason of the fact that he is a native son of Michigan and a member of a family whose name has been identified with the annals of this commonwealth since early pioneer days.

Mr. Whitney was born on a farm in Shelby township, Macomb county, Michigan, and the date of his nativity was February 14, 1865. He is a son of Horace Isaac and Mary Elizabeth (Jackson) Whitney, the former of whom was born in Chesterfield township, Macomb county, about eight miles northwest of the present city of Mount Clemens, and the latter of whom is likewise a native of the Wolverine state. The genealogy of

[p. 837]

the Whitney family is authentically traced back to the time of the great Norman, William the Conqueror, who was a direct kinsman of Sir Turstin the Fleming, also known as Sir Turstin de Wigmore. As a reward for assistance in the wars of the period, William the Conqueror gave to Sir Turstin the Fleming, among other lands, that part situated on the Wye river in England and known as Whitney. At some time within the twelfth or thirteenth century a grandson of Sir Turstin the Fleming took up his residence at Whitney on the Wye, and thus, in consonance with the custom of the times, he acquired the surname of De Whitney, implying "of Whitney." The prepositional prefix was eventually eliminated and the family became known by the name of Whitney alone. John Whitney, a descendant of the family in England, came with his family to America, presumably on the ship "Truelove," and he settled at Watertown, Massachusetts, in June, 1635. Jason Whitney, a great-grandson of this progenitor of the American branch, was the great-greatgrandfather of George L. Whitney of this review, and served in Captain Samuel Bullard's command in the Lexington alarm incidental to the war of the Revolution. Authentic data also show that Jason Whitney was a gallant soldier in the French and Indian wars, and that he received a wound that made him permanently lame. His son, Isaac, removed from New England to Middlesex, Ontario county, New York, and there became an extensive farmer. He was twice wedded, his second marriage having been with Mrs. Susanna Hall, who had five children by her previous marriage. Of the second union were born eight children, and after the death of her second husband Mrs. Whitney wedded a man named Dodge, one son, Lewis, being born of this marriage. Five of the Whitney children came to Michigan in the early pioneer days and they settled in Macomb county, where they became closely concerned with the development and upbuilding of that now opulent section of the state. From the college of heraldry in England has been obtained the following description of the Whitney coat of arms, which is retained by the American branch: "Arms-- Azure, a cross chequeyor and sable upon a canton, gules; a lion rampant argent. Crest - a bull's head couped sable; horned argent; horns tipped wi'th red. Motto - Mortis sed non ferox."

Jesse Whitney, grandfather of him whose name initiates this article, reclaimed from the sylvan wilds of Macomb county a productive farm, and he became one of the influential citizens of his community. Horace Isaac Whitney served with marked valor as a soldier of the Union in the Civil war, as a member of what was known as the "Bloody Thirtieth," and two of his sons sacrificed their lives in defense of the Union, as did also three uncles of the wife of the subject of this sketch. Mr. Whitney was reared to maturity in Macomb county, became a civil engineer but during the latter years of his life he was a prosperous farmer, having resumed his allegiance to the great basic industry under the influence of which he had been reared. He was an uncompromising advocate of the principles of the Republican party and was a man of positive convictions and mature judgment. He continued his residence in Macomb county until his death and his widow still resides at Washington, that county. Of the children of Horace I. and Mary E. (Jackson) Whitney the eldest is George L., to whom this sketch is dedicated; William Henry, who was a farmer in Washington township, Macomb county, died in 1910; Jesse Luther is a merchant in the village of Washington, Macomb county; John Jackson, the next in order of nativity, holds a position, under the civil service regulations, at Mount Clemens, this state; Helen is the wife of Julius Knapp and they reside at Washington, Macomb county; James Thomas is identified with the automobile business in the city of Detroit;

[p. 838]

and Horace Frank is a farmer of Shelby township, Macomb county. These brief data show that the family still has many representatives in the county in which it was founded so long ago. By the father's first marriage there were two children, Herbert A., Mrs. Minnie Payne, of North Branch, Lapeer county. The mother of these two children was Marion Preston, of Shelby township.

George L. Whitney duly availed himself of the advantages of the public schools, including the high school at New Baltimore, Macomb county, and as a youth he learned the trade of carpenter, as well as that of builder of fanning mills. In 1891, at the age of twenty-six years, he established his residence at Bad Axe, Huron county, and after following the work of the carpenter's trade for three months he became identified with the planing mill and lumber business. In 1902 he here purchased the hardware and lumber business of F. W. Hubbard & Company, and for the continuing of the enterprise he formed a partnership with Robert Grandy. One year later Mr. R. Grandy sold his interest to Reinhart Kleinpell, and the firm of Whitney & Kleinpell thereafter continued the business until the 1st of March, 1912, when Mr. Kleinpell retired, his interest passing to Ray P. Chatfield. The business was forthwith incorporated under its present title of the Whitney & Chatfield Company, with Mr. Whitney as president and Mr. Chatfield as vice-president and secretary. Mr. Whitney has been the potent force in the upbuilding of the large and important business enterprise of which he is still the executive head and which is the most extensive of its kind in Huron county. He has proved a man of excellent initiative and administrative ability and his success has been on a parity with his recognized integrity and progressiveness. The company of which he is president has a large and well equipped hardware establishment and in its lumbering operations it utilizes several acres of land, the yards lying contiguous to the railroad and thus having the best of transportation facilities.

Bad Axe has no citizen who has shown more loyalty and liberality than Mr. Whitney, and the year 1914 finds him serving his fourth consecutive term as mayor of the thriving little city, besides which he is vice-president of the Bad Axe Board of Trade. As a master Mason he is affiliated with Bad Axe Lodge, No. 365, Free & Accepted Masons; his political allegiance is given to the Republican party; and he is a trustee of the local Presbyterian church, of which his wife and daughter are zealous members.

In October, 1890, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Whitney to Miss Elizabeth M. Curry, of Port Austin, Michigan. She was born in the city of Montreal, Canada, but was reared at Port Austin, Michigan, where her father, Robert Curry, established his home when she was a child. Mr. and Mrs. Whitney have one child, Jessie Margaret, who was born at Bad Axe, on the 22d of May, 1891, who was graduated in the local high school and who also graduated from the Michigan Agricultural College, at Lansing, 1914. The family is prominent in the best social life of Bad Axe and the Whitney home is known as a center of gracious and refined hospitality.


Copyright © 2009, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group

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