Archive:The Ancestry of John Whitney, Chapter VII

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Melville, Henry, A.M., LL.B., The Ancestry of John Whitney: Who, with His Wife Elinor, and Sons John, Richard, Nathaniel, Thomas, and Jonathan, Emigrated from London, England, in the Year 1635, and Settled in Watertown, Massachusetts; the First of the Name in America, and the One from Whom a Great Majority of the Whitneys Now Living in the United States Are Descended (New York, NY: The De Vinne Press, 1896).

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                    CHAPTER VII


The Whitneys of Coole Pilate. Geoffrey Whitney, Poet. Thomas
  Whitney of Hay, Soldier. William Whitney of Abergeoir, Soldier.
  John Whitney of London, friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  Geoffrey Whitney of London, Merchant Taylor. Walter Whitney
  of London, Plasterer. Sir William Whitney, Baronet. Thomas
  Whitney of Dieulacres, Abbot. Captain James Whitney, "High-
  wayman." Captain Thomas Whitney, " Pirate."

THE present work does not afford space for any
general account of the Whitneys of England as
distinguished from those of the place that gave them
name. Only a few can be mentioned before turning
again to trace the ancestry of the emigrant.
   As the estates were kept together and descended
through a line of eldest sons, the cadets in each
generation, as a rule, had to seek their fortunes else-
where. Some were successful and made for them-
selves a name and position. Their descendants, how-
ever, were few, and in each place where they acquired
real estate, the male line, after a few generations, ran
   All of these families can be traced to the common
cradle of the race on the banks of the Wye.


        Collateral Whitney Families          197

   The most important was that established, as early
as the reign of Richard II., at the manor of "Coole
Pilate," in the parish of Acton, near Nantwich, in the
county of Cheshire. From it came Geoffrey Whit-
ney, a poet of no mean ability, author of "A Choice
of Emblemes," and other works. He was born about
1548, probably in the family manor-house; was edu-
cated in the grammar-school at Audlem in the same
county, studied several years at Magdalen College,
Cambridge; was under-bailiff of Great Yarmouth, in
Norfolk, from 1580 to 1585, and then passed over
(probably in the service of his patron and friend, the
Earl of Leicester) to Holland, where he studied at the
University of Leyden and published his "Choice of
Emblemes" in 1586. Though credited with three other
works, this was his masterpiece. It consists of two
hundred and forty-seven engraved devices, to each
of which is appended an original stanza embodying
a sentiment, a moral maxim, or a rule of action.
   It was highly regarded by his contemporaries,
Peter Colvius of Bruges singing:

      So shall this book on happy pinions rise
         Through lips of learned men its course to fly;
      My augury such:--high fame herself outvies,
         That never Whitney's praise may fade and die.

   And John Allen of Baliol, Oxford, responding :

      Geffry thy name subscribed with thy penn,
      Extractinge honour from the noblest men;
      For by thy Emblems thou dost moralize
      Fram'd Poems, fitted for all human eyes.
      Reflectinge on the naturall state of man,
      Enviinge none, assistinge whome he cann,

198         The Ancestry of John Whitney

      Yealdinge such frutfull rarityes that all
      Which Whitney knew may wittely him call
      Honor'd of men; what can theare more be said
      In givinge due, wheare due ought to be paid.
         Whearfore like Momus 'gainst him do not cry,
         Though Whitney 's dead His name shall never dye!

   After his death, it was lost sight of and almost for-
gotten for nearly three centuries until reproduced in
facsimile at London in 1866, with an elaborate in-
troductory dissertation and explanatory notes by the
Rev. Henry Green, M. A.1
   He died in 1601, leaving the following will, proved
in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury at London :

        THE WILL OF GEFFREY WHITNEY, gentleman.

     Dated September 11, 1600. Proved May 8, 1601.
                 Woodhall fol. 33.

   In the name of God, Amen. I JEFFERY WHITNEY, of Ryles
Green in the Countie of Chester, gentn, being sick in bodie
but of sounde and perfect memorie, thancks be to god there-
fore, make and sett downe with my owne hande this my last
will and Testament in manner and fourme followinge.
   First I bequeath my sowle to Almightie god my Creator
beseching him for the merritts of Ihesus Christe my onlie
Savior and Redemer in his great mercie to receave the same
into the congregac'on of the faithefull to live with him for-
ever. And for the buriall of my bodie to be at appointe-
ment of my Executor.
   And for such smale worldlie goodes as the Lord hath
blessed me withall my will ys they shalbe disposed as fol-

   1 The above poetical extracts are taken from Mr. Green's work. It
will be noted that the second is an incomplete acrostic, GEFFREY WHI.

[Picture omitted]

                   RHYDSPENCE INN.

        Collateral Whitney Families          199

   First I bequeath to my brother Brooke Whitney the resi-
due of yeares yet remaininge in my Farme or lease which I
hold of Richard Cotton of Cambermere esquier together
with the deede of the same Lease and all my severall par-
cells of howsholde stuffe remaininge within my house there
as allso eleven sylver spones a silver salte a tipple pot with
silver and all ether my goodes there and apparell whatsoever.
   Item I bequeath unto him my Dunne nag.
   Item I bequeath my Librarie of Books whole without
dim'ishinge to Gefferie his sonne yf yt shall please God to
indue him with learninge in the lattin tonge or else to anie
other of sonnes which shall attaine unto the same; yf none
of them prove a scholler then I leave and bequeath them to
my brothers disposinge.
   Item I bequeath to him a trunck with Lynnen and ap-
parell together with my plate remaininge in the safe cus-
todie of my Cosen Jefferie Whitney of Draiton.
   Item I bequeath unto him all such debts as are due unto
me by bond bill or otherwise. Out of which legacies so be-
queathed to my brother as is remembered my will is that
he shall pay unto Joan Mills twentie pounds within one
quarter of a yeare after my decease.
   Item to James Woodgate Tenne Poundes at his age of
twentie yeares on this condic'on that he appllie himselfe to
the gettinge of some arte or trade to live honestlie withal
and not otherwise.
   Item I bequeath to my sister Eldershae five marks.
   Item to my sister Baron Fortie shillings.
   Item to my sister Evans Fortie shillings.
   Item to my sister Margerie twentie shillings.
   Item to Martha Colby ten shillings.
   Item to Charles Evance ten shillings.
   Item to Helen Evance ten shillings.
   Item to Marie Eldershae Fortie shillings.
   Item I bequeath my best ringe to my Ladie Nedehan.
The second Ringe in goodnes I bequeath to my sister in
lawe Mawdlin Whitney.

200         The Ancestry of John Whitney

   Item I bequeath my third Ringe to my Cosen Elizabethe
Aruedell. My forth to my Cosen Mills. My scale Ringe to
my Cosen Geffery Whitney. And my Brooche to my Cosen
Walter Whitney.
   Item I bequeath to my brother Eldershae my gowne and
fustian dublett.
   Item to Edmond Eldershae another of my dubletts with
a paire of best breeches and a paire of nether stocks.
   And for the performance of this my will, I nominate and
appointe my brother to be my sole executor.
   In witnes whereof I have subscribed to theise presents
the eleventhe daie of September Anno Dni one thousand
six hundred and in the two and fortethe yeare of the Raigne
of our gracious soveraigne Ladie Queene Elizabeth. By me
                                    GEFFERY WHITNEY.

   Witnesses hereunto Angell Baron, Walter Whitney, John

   Among the wills proved in the Prerogative Court1
are several other interesting ones of Whitneys, who,
though they died outside of Herefordshire, unques-
tionably belonged to the main Whitney family.
   The following are abstracts of a few of them:

   THOMAS WHITNEY, of Hay, in Brecon, Wales. Will dated
May 16, 1544; proved February 18, 1545. Being about
to go to war. Wife Elizabeth. Son, and heir apparent,
William. Son, James.  Daughters, Alice and Elizabeth.
Father-in-law, William David.
   WILLIAM WHITNEY, of Abergeoir in Brecon, Wales. Will
dated July 1, 1558; proved May 3, 1563. About going to
war towards New Haven. Son, William. Brothers, James
and John.  Sisters, Eleanor, Margaret, and Elizabeth.
Father-in-law, William Vaughan. Speaks of a bond given

   1 Copies of such wills are now to be seen at Somerset House, London.

        Collateral Whitney Families          201

by him to James Whitney, of Clifford, and Richard Whit-
ney, of Hardwick.

JEFFREY WHITNEY, of London, Citizen, and Merchant
Taylor. Will dated October 20, 1602; proved February 8,
1602-3.  Sister, Katharine, wife of John Cartwright, of
Drayton-in-Hales, in Shropshire, and their children, Jeffrey,
John, Jane, and Mary. Brother-in-law, Edward Mauncell.
Brother-in-law, William Yeadley. Sister Yeadley. Late
partner, Master William Webbe, Citizen, and Merchant
Taylor, of London.

The foregoing extracts were published by the late
Henry Austin Whitney in his "Memoranda relating
to Families by the Name of Whitney in England,"
and he adds another, from the Commissary's Court
in London, of the will of a relative of the "Embleme"

   WALTER WHITNEY, Citizen, and Plasterer, of London.
Will dated July 25, 1608; proved August 11, 1608. De-
sires to be buried in the church of St. Bridget, alias St.
Brides, where he is a parishioner. Bequeaths to the poor
of St. Brides 40s. To his mother, Jane Grinsell, the new
wife of John Grinsell, £6, 13s. 4d. To his brother Thomas
Family:Whitney, ----- (s1525-b1574)|Whitney]], dwelling at York, £6, 13s. 4d., and one jewel of
gold that was given to testator by his cousin Jeffrey Whit-
ney.  To his brother Thomas Grinsell, of London, Iron-
monger, £6, 13s. 4d., and his best cloak or a mourning
cloak, at his choice, and his best Flanders hose. To the
company of Plasterers, 40s. for a repast or supper after
his burial. To his cousin Arundel, a book; and to cousin
Elizabeth Arundel, his wife, a book of Emblems; and to
their six children, each 5s. in gold. To Elizabeth Whitney,
5s. Several bequests or apparel and household stuff, and a
musical instrument called a gittern.  Appoints his wife
Margaret executrix.

202         The Ancestry of John Whitney

   In the Prerogative Court also was proved the will of
John Whitney, a friend of the Archbishop of Canter-
bury, who evidently died a bachelor.


        Dated 21 May 1597. P. C. C. 46 Cobham.

   In the name of God amen The one and twenteth day of
May in the nine and thirtieth yeare of the raigne of or
Sovraigne Lady Elizabeth by the grace of God Queene of
England Fraunce and Ireland Defender of the faith &c I
JOHN WHITNEY of London, gentleman, being sick in body
but of good and pfect minde and memory (laude and praise
be geven to Almightie god therefore), Doe make and declare
this my last will and testament in manner and fourme fol-
lowing that is to Say
   First and principally I commend my Soule and Spirite
into the hands of Almighty god my heavenly father, assur-
edly trusting through the death and passion of his deere
sonne or lorde and Savyoure Christ Jesus, to obtaine remis-
sion of all my sinnes & offences. And my wretched body I
committ to the earth in hope of a joyful resurrection the
same to be buryed in decent manner according to the dis-
cretion of Myne Executor and over Seer heereafter named.
   And as touching the distribuc'on of such mortall goods
as god hath blessed and endued me wthall I geue and be-
stowe the same in manner and fourme following that is to
say first and principally I will that all such debtes as I shall
owe to any pson or psons at the tyme of my decease sbalbe
duly and truly paide and satisfied wthin convenient tyme
after my decease.
   Item I geue & bequeath to the most Reverend father in
god JOHN by the puydence of God Archbishop of Canter-
bury my very good lorde and mro my ring of gould set wth
a turquoys in tokenn of my good will towardes his grace.

        Collateral Whitney Families          203

   Item  I geue and bequeath unto my Nephewe Eustace
Whitney of Clifford in the County of Hereford Esquier
forty poundes of lawfull mony of England and my case of
pistoles with a touch box of latten a horne flaske and a
moulde for pellet.
   Item I geue and bequeath to my Cosen James Whitney
sonne of the saide Eustace, the some of forty poundes of
lawfull mony of England and my chaine of goulde waying
nine ounces lacking three pence waight and contayning by
estymacon three hundred fourescore and seaventeene linkes
of french Crowne goulde.
   Item I geue and bequeath to the said James Whitney
to and for the only and prop use and behoofe of the same
James & of his executors and assignes all that my lease in-
tereste terme of yeeres and demaunde wth at the tyme of
my decease I shall maie might or ought to have to of and
in the Rectorie and tieths of Clifford in the said County
of Hereford wth thappurtenaunces and every or any parte
   Item I geue and bequeath to my loving freende Henry
Maylord my fetherbedd, boulster, pillowes, Twoo Spanish
blanckette, and twoo Cadowes.
   Item I geue and bequeath to Elizabeth Dicke my Chest,
And to Joane Newman my Cupbourde, And to Richard
Wrighte fourtie Shillinges in monny.
   Item I make & ordaine the saide James Whitney the
sole and only Executor of this my last will and testament
To whome I geue and bequeath the resydue of my goods
not herein bequeathed after my debtes paide my funeralls
dischardged and this my last will and testament pfourmed
And over seer of this my last will and testament I make &
ordaine my loving freend Richard Watkins of london Sta-
coner to whome for his paines in this behalf to be takenn I
geue and bequeath the some of fiue poundes.
   And to my Cosen Thomas Whitney of Clifforde I geue
and bequeathe the some of thirty shillings to buy him a

204         The Ancestry of John Whitney

   In witnes whereof hereunto I haue Set my hand and
seale yeaven the day and yeere first above written.
   A CODICILL. Item. I geue and bequeath to Mris Ellen
King, in recompence of such somes of mony and duties as I
owe unto her, the some of twenty and one poundes.
                                      "JOHN WHITNEY

   "Sealed and delivered in the pce of Willm Maylerd Chris-
tofer Stafell.
   "Proved at London 25 May 1597 by James Whitney the
sole Exr/"

   When the monasteries were suppressed it is re-
corded that a Thomas Whitney was abbot of Dieu-
   There was also, for some time after the Whitneys
of Whitney became extinct, a knightly family of con-
siderable wealth in Clyro, in the Welsh county of
Radnor, established by Sir William Whitney, Bar-
onet, in the reign of James I.
   Quite a number of the name, in addition to those
that have been identified in the foregoing pages, are
found among the graduates of Oxford and Cam-
   And the list would not be complete without men-
tion of two "Captains," men of the greatest vigor and
ability, who suffered from being born too late, and were
condemned for doing what, in earlier times, would
have gained for their ancestors only praise. They
were "Captain" James Whitney, the "gentleman
highwayman"--a prototype of Captain Tom Faggus
in Blackmore's famous "Lorna Doone"-- and Cap-
tain Thomas Whitney, the "pirate."
   Macaulay calls the former "the most celebrated

        Collateral Whitney Families          205

Captain of banditti in the Kingdom." The latter is
not so well known.
   He was the captain of the ship "Encounter," the
largest of Sir Walter Raleigh's fleet, in his last disas-
trous voyage in search of "El Dorado," and was re-
ferred to, in a letter of his commander, as "Whitney,
for whome I sold my plate at Plymouth, and to whome
I gave more creditt and countenance than all the Cap-
taines of my fleete."1
   Raleigh also, in his "Apologie" for his voyage to
Guiana, in explaining the difficulties and delays in
fitting out the expedition, alludes again to the plate
incident, saying "Captaine Whitney, whome I also
stayed for, had a third part of his victuals to provide;
inasmuch as having no money to help him withall I
sold my Plate in Plymouth to supply him."
   The defeat of Raleigh's company in a collision with
the Spaniards, and the failure of his search for gold,
cost him his head. Whitney did all he could to per-
suade him not to return to England till he had some-
thing with which to satisfy the greedy king, and, when
he could not influence him, stayed behind. As Steb-
bins puts it,2 "The collapse at St. Thom3 shook the
faith of his (Raleigh's) Captains in him. Henceforth
they expected him to prefer their wisdom to his own.
Whitney and Wollaston planned the plunder of home-
ward-bound Spanish ships. They would have liked
him to abet them. They warned him that he was a
lost man if he returned to England. When they could
not persuade him, they resolved to go off by them-
selves. At Grenada they carried their intention into

   1 Edward's "Life of Raleigh," vol. ii, p. 362.
   2 "Life of Sir W. Raleigh," p. 325.
   3 St. Thomas, on the Orinoco, in "Guiana" (Venezuela).

206         The Ancestry of John Whitney

effect.  Mr. Jones, the Chaplain of the Flying Chud-
legh, says Raleigh authorized any captain to part if
he pleased as the aim of the voyage could no longer
be accomplished."
   Edwards says that "the precise circumstances are
obscure. But both men (Whitney and Wollaston)
were bent alike on wreaking some vengeance upon
the Spaniards for what they had suffered in the fruit-
less expedition, and on carrying home some booty to
compensate their losses."
   Just what became of Captain Whitney is uncertain,
but while searching the mortuary registers of St.
Margaret's Church, Westminster,--where Raleigh's
headless body was buried in 1618,--for information,
given in detail in the following chapter, there was
found the following, which probably indicates that
his final resting-place was beside his old friend and
      1621, June 13, Captaine THOMAS WHITNEY.1

   1 This may have been the Thomas, born in 1564, younger brother of
the last Sir Robert Whitney, who entered Oxford in 1610. Administra-
tion on his estate was granted June 20, 1621, to Frances Whitney, his

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