William Whiting, his family a boon to city

Published Wednesday, February 28, 2007 in the Holyoke Plus section in The Republican. Go to www.masslive.com for more interesting stories.

William Whiting wrote in his journal, "I do not know of any duty that carries with it more satisfaction than to do something for those who are sick." This is one of the many virtuous principles he followed throughout his life.

He learned many principles from his mother and father, Elizabeth and William Bailey. William Whiting was born on May 24, 1841, in Dudley. His father was a wood and coal merchant in Holyoke in 1870 whose company, Whiting Energy Fuels, still operates today in Holyoke and Northampton.

Whiting was educated in the Holyoke public school system where he excelled with an astute mind that enabled him to work as a bookkeeper for the Holyoke Paper Co. in 1858. He than organized the Hampden Co., which he sold to open up the Whiting Paper Co., in 1865.

In 1872, he organized the Holyoke National Bank, serving as its first president until 1891. He was also a director of the Chapin Bank and & Trust in Springfield, the president of the Whitmore Manufacturing Co. in Holyoke and also the National Blank Book Co., and the Holyoke Warp Co. and the Boston & Maine Railroad.

He was a member of the finance committee of the Holyoke Savings bank,a trustee of the Washington Trust Co., of New York City, vice president of the Holyoke & Westfield Railroad and a manager of the Collins Manufacturing Co. of North Wilbraham.

He was one of the organizers of the Holyoke Board of Trade and served as its first president, until 1892, and he was president of the Holyoke Public Library and the Holyoke Hospital.

He even made time to build an opera house and a hotel, named the Windsor House. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention at Cincinnati in 1876 and at St. Louis in 1896. He was also on the Committees on Banking and Currency and on Pensions, Bounties, and Back Pay. President McKinley appointed him a member of the first Philippine Commission, but he declined.

He was a Republican senator in 1873, city treasurer in Holyoke in 1876 to1877 and Holyoke’s mayor from 1878 to 1879.

In 1890, he was chairman of the commission appointed to revise the Holyoke city charter, and in 1900 he was a commissioner of the World’s Exposition in Paris, France, according to records in the Holyoke History room at Holyoke Community College.

On June 19, 1862, he married Anna Maria Fairfield (1841-1915) of West Springfield. A writer at the Holyoke Daily Transcript wrote, "Whiting saw his work broadening as he had dreamed-saw his sons take the leadership in the world of industry and affairs as he had done-grandchildren growing up, still further fulfilling his vision of a family that would honor the name of Whiting and the city of Holyoke. It is almost too intimate and sacred to touch upon the closest, finest influence of Mr. Whiting life-that of his wife. But their relationship was so very beautiful and so mutually stimulating, their comradeship through almost half a century of shoulder to shoulder work so fine, that no word of Mr. Whitings life would be adequate with out it." Whiting said " that he owed most of his success in affairs and life generally to his wife."

His son, William Fairfield Whiting, attended Holyoke Schools, Williston Academy in Easthampton and Amherst College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1886. He worked in his father’s paper mill as a young man, and then became president when his father died in 1911.

He was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1920, 1924, and 1932. On Aug. 21, 1928, President Calvin Coolidge appointed him secretary of commerce.

The younger Whiting was chairman of the United States Section, a trustee of Smithsonian Institution, Inter-American High commission, and a member of Federal Narcotics Control Board, the National Board for Vocational Education, the Foreign Service Building Commission, the Federal Oil Conservation Board and the U.S. Council of National Defense.

Like his father, the first citizen of Holyoke, who developed an extensive collection of books, he was also an avid reader of biography, history, and political science. Both of these fascinating men were major contributors to the Holyoke Public Library and to the Holyoke Hospital.

Holyoke has been fortunate to have such an incredible family settle there-a family that not only gave its citizens a place to earn a decent living, but a family that gave back through their time and generous contributions to their institutions.

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

In the next issue, she will travel through a moment in time that highlights other generous Whiting family members.