The Whiting family has long tradition

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

William B. Whiting began his business in Holyoke during the first presidential term of Ulysses S. Grant.

He was 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 in 1636. In 1870, he leased land from New York , New Haven & Hartford Railroad, constructed a building and opened his coal and wood heating business on 458 Dwight St. He married his wife Elizabeth Murphy (1818-1878), of New York City, on April 12, 1840, in Dudley.

The eventually had 11 children who had a major impact on the city of Holyoke, particularly their sons William and Edward G. Whiting.

William Whiting opened the Whiting Paper Co., in 1865 and went on to become a U.S senator in 1873 and the mayor of Holyoke (1878 to 1879). He also served on many corporate boards through out the city and gave generously to local institutions, including Holyoke Public Library and Holyoke Hospital.

Edward G. Whiting (1852-1921) successfully ran his father’s coal and wood burning company for many years, although it was a struggle finding heating materials during World War I. They started utilizing trucks at this time to deliver coal to their customers.

His son, Phillip C. Whiting, or "Pete" joined the company after attending Cornell where he excelled at basketball. By 1923, a record 30,000 tons of coal was distributed annually, making it necessary to build a massive garage to store their trucks.

In 1935, the company added oil as an energy option for their customers.

Phillp’s son, Richard Whiting, was raised in Holyoke, attended Williams College and was a naval officer. He spent time in World War II with a PT squadron in the Pacific. He took over the company when Edward passed away.

Presently Richard’s son, the fifth generation to enter the family business, Richard C. Whiting Jr., or "Rick" manages the company. He graduated from Holyoke High School, Holyoke Community College and the Occidental College in Los Angeles.

By 1965, the Whiting Energy Co. stopped selling coal, but remained in the oil and propane business. Presently, the firm maintains a storage capacity of just over 1 million gallons of oil with a distribution of a million gallons of propane annually.

"The key to Whiting Oil's growth has been through personalized service to homeowners. We're out there 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. That's more than most doctor are on call," says Richard Whiting, according to Rick Whiting.

As the saying goes, "Behind every good man is a woman." The Whiting family was no exception when it came to strong woman. William B. Whiting’s wife, Elizabeth Potter Whiting, a devoted wife and mother, instilled in her children a moral code of ethics, still adhered to today.

Her daughter-in-law, William’s wife, Anna Fairfield Whiting, was also a strong woman. She was born January 15, 1841, in the old Fairfield homestead on Northampton Street. Her father was Luther Morgan and her mother was Maria (Clark) Fairfield. Her maternal grandfather was a Congregational minister in Southampton.

Mrs. Whiting helped the public through different projects throughout her life. She could have enjoyed herself by having lavish parties and staying in her privileged little world, but chose to volunteer her time and resources.

She planned and conducted fairs at their Elm Street home that helped raise more than $25,000 for furniture at the Holyoke Hospital and funds for patients to pay for their care at the hospital.

She was one of the founders of the Rain and Shine club that helped the elderly, director of the Hampden County Children’s Aid Association and supported African American girls in Maysville, Ga.

She was a gracious hostess who entertained local woman’s organizations, businessmen and presidents, including Garfield before he was elected president and President William McKinley when their daughter graduated from Mount Holyoke College.

She was an advocate of a woman’s right to vote as was her sister in-law Edward’s wife, Amelia H. Higginbottom.

Amelia was the Vice President of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1884 that lobbied for woman’s suffrage and Prohibition, according to an article in a 1923 Transcript Telegram in the History room at Holyoke Community College.

Clearly, William B. Whiting’s paternal instincts inspired his children to be good citizens in the city of Holyoke.

An honorable Holyoke family indeed, the Whiting family left and continues to leave, an indelible mark. We should be proud of their generous support and hope for their continued success in our good city.

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