Whiting Legacy linked to English ancestry

Published Wednesday, January 31, 2007 in the Holyoke Plus section in The Republican. Go to www.masslive.com for more interesting Stories.

Two Holyoke women stared at him as he drove by, commenting on how beautiful his snowy white hair looked. One woman even said, "Yes, Mr. Whiting’s soul is as white as his hair."

It was not uncommon to hear the citizens of Holyoke compliment William Bailey Whiting. Born in Willington, Conn., on Feb. 14, 1817, to Daniel Whiting (1778-1842), a native Abington, Conn., and his wife Elizabeth Potter Whiting (1788-1856), herself a native of Willington.

The family descended from English ancestors who settled in Lynn, MA in 1636. Daniel was a farmer and a cooper. Whiting attended school in Willington and worked on farms after school when he was 12 years old. By the time he was 22, he was running a large farm for a Mr. Tufts in Dudley, MA where he worked for about six years.

Around this time, he purchased a livery business in Webster. After a four-year period, he decided to try his hand at operating a boarding house. He then went to the much-touted community of Ireland Parish in the West Springfield section that eventually became know as Holyoke.

In 1848, the Hadley Falls Co. employed him as a teamster for four years. He then worked in the meat business. He even worked in the paper business at one time when he purchased the W. L. Martin Co., which manufactured boxes.

In 1870, he leased land from New Haven Railroad, constructed a building and opened his coal and wood heating business on 458 Dwight Street.

In those days, coal and wood were delivered to customers by horse-drawn wagons. The 30 horses and wagons were housed in a big horse barn at the corners of Elm and Hampden Street, according to fifth-generation president and treasurer, Richard C. "Rick" Whiting Jr., of the Whiting Oil Corp. They now have offices at 111 Lyman St., Holyoke, and 300A King St., in Northampton.

William married Elizabeth Murphy (1818-1878), of New York City, on April 12, 1840, in Dudley. They had 11 children including U.S. Rep.William Whiting and paper industrialist. Elvira F. Whiting, who married Charles E. Ball, a druggist. Albert Whiting drowned at the age of 6. Ella M. Whiting married P.A. Underwood of Boston. Edward G. Whiting worked with his father. Edwin a twin brother of Edward died in Pomona, Calif., on Jan. 7, 1886, at the age of 33. Mary Elizabeth Whiting died Nov. 18, 1873, at the age of 19. Fred Albert Whiting worked for the Holyoke Coal and Wood Co. Harriet Whiting married James S. Flower, of Ashfield. George Whiting died in May 1865, when he was only 2 years old and the youngest was Frank Whiting.

Here is poignant tribute that was published on May 12, 1902, in the Springfield Daily Republican in honor of Whiting by J.W. Carney of Galesburg, Ill.: "The death of William B. Whiting removes a man whom to know was to esteem highly. Mr. Whiting was proud of the city in which he had lived for so many years, and in whose life he had an active part, almost to the last of his advanced age. In those streets, which have been thronged with young and ambitious men, his sturdy and hale old age was pleasant to look upon. His was ‘the good gray head that all men knew,’ and that all men honored. When I went to Holyoke, in 1886, stopping at the Windsor hotel, Mr. Whiting was the first to meet me and bid me welcome. He was a man who stood by his friends, and stood by his convictions, as I can testify from personal knowledge. His business honor was unimpeachable, and he was among the most friendly, unassuming and liberal-minded of men, in whom strength of purpose and ideas was tempered by moderation and consideration for others. His reward was to reach a ripe old age with the enjoyment of life, if somewhat dimmed by growing infirmity, still not lost. He enjoyed life, putting in practice the doctrine of live and let live. In these later years, he particularly enjoyed the home on Lincoln Street, where he was tenderly cared for and was happy in his old age, as no man had a better right to be."

Whiting was known to be a dedicated husband and father. He worked diligently at his company for many years, never audacious or grandiose--- just a hard working gentleman.

He died at the age of 85 on May 8, 1902 at his daughter Harriet’s home on Lincoln Street. Sadly, he had lost his beloved wife 25 years before. Six of his children not only survived, they flourished, especially one in particular.

© 2007 The Republican. All rights reserved. Used with permission

In the next issue, read about Richard B. Whiting’s remarkable children who had a major impact on the city of Holyoke.