They Came to Milton

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  • ID: I25412
  • Title: Rev.
  • Name: William Clarke WHITFORD
  • Given Name: William Clarke
  • Surname: Whitford 1 2
  • Sex: M
  • Change Date: 24 MAR 2013
  • Occupation: Professor, College president
  • Religion: Seventh-day Baptist
  • Birth: 05 MAY 1828 in West Edmeston, Otsego Co., New York
  • Baptism: 1843 Leonardsville, Madison Co., New York
  • Note: 1st Brookfield SDB Church 3
  • Event: Member 1851 Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin
  • Note: SDB Church 4
  • GRAD: 1853 Schenectady, Schenectady Co., New York
  • Note: Union College
  • GRAD: 1856 New York City
  • Note: Union Theological Seminary
  • Note: Fourth pastor of the Milton, Wisconsin Seventh-day Baptist Church, serving from 1856 to 1858.
  • Census: 1880 Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin
  • Note: age 52
  • Note:
    The Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock County, Wis.', 1889, p 875, 876, 877.
    HON. WILLIAM C. WHITFORD, President of Milton College, of Milton, Wis., and a leader in the cause of education in this state, was born in the town of West Edmeston, Otsego Co., N.Y., May 5, 1828, and is a son of Capt. Samuel and Sophia (CLARKE) WHITFORD. His father and mother were descended from English ancestors who settled in Rhode Island early in the seventeenth century. The father was born in the town of Brookfield, Madison Co., N.Y., Aug. 28, 1797, was a farmer by occupation and also raised and dealt in cattle and sheep for market. David WHITFORD, the grandfather of our subject, died when his son Samuel was but sixteen years of age, leaving a family of eleven children, all of whom except one sister were younger than himself. Two of that number were cripples from their birth and all he assisted until of mature years. He carried on the small farm left by the father and added to the income of the family by the manufacture of potash.
    For fourteen years he devoted his earnings to the support of his mother, brothers and sisters. Oct. 26, 1826, he married Miss Sophia CLARKE, who was born in Plainfield, Otsego Co., N.Y., Feb. 6, 1802. Mrs. WHITFORD was related to the several families of CLARKEs that originated in Rhode Island, members of which have occupied important positions in that State. She was the eldest of eight children, and lost her father at an early age, when after reaching her majority, she aided her mother several years in supporting the younger children of the family. Mr. and Mrs. WHITFORD, the parents of our subject, first made their home in West Edmeston, and later at Plainfield, Otsego Co., N.Y. The husband possessed great physical strength and endurance, sound judgment and superior moral and religious character, and in later years became a man of considerable influence, holding various positions of honor and trust in both civil and military life. His death occurred Sept. 21, 1848, his good wife surviving him until July 14, 1888, her death occurring at the old homestead.
    William C. WHITFORD, our subject, was the eldest of four children, all sons; Hamilton Joseph, the second, who for many years owned the homestead and cared for his mother after the death of his father in 1848, until her death, is now residing in Plainfield, N.Y., and is engaged in farming; Albert, the third son, since his graduation at Union College, Schenectady, New York, has been engaged in teaching, having served as principal of De Ruyter Institute, and as professor in Alfred University, both in the State of New York. He was also a professor of Milton College, Wis., and during the service of his brother William as Superintendent of Public Instruction of this State, served as President of the College. He is now the professor of mathematics in that institution. The youngest son, Herbert David, was a soldier during the most of the Civil war, having enlisted in a Wisconsin Regiment. He was in several of the principal engagements of the southwest. He has served four years in the regular service, and now resides at Leavenworth, Kansas.
    The subject of this sketch passed his early life on his father's farm where he developed a strong constitution and laid the foundation for that mental and physical strength and vigor, and capacity for endurance, that has since characterized his life. He attended the district or select schools in winter and worked on the farm during the other seasons of the year. At the age of twelve years he developed an extraordinary fondness for reading, and for the ensuing five years applied himself assiduously to the perusal of all works of travel, history, biography and works of a didactic nature, that came within his reach. Finding farm work ill suited to his taste, he resolved to make preparations for some literary or professional calling, and accordingly at the age of sixteen years he entered Brookfield Academy, near his home, where he was a student for nearly three years. When nearly of age, he entered De Ruyter Institute in New York, where he prepared himself to enter the Senior Class of Union College, from which he graduated in 1853. He began teaching at the age of sixteen years and taught his way through both Brookfield Academy and De Ruyter Institute. While a student at the Institute he had charge during nearly every term, of classes in penmanship, elocution, Latin and rhetoric. After graduating at Union College, he entered Union Theological Seminary of New York City, where he took a three years' course of study, graduating in 1856, and was ordained a minister of the Seventh Day Baptist Church at New Market, N.Y., in April of that year. He immediately accepted the position of pastor of the church of his faith at Milton, Wis., and held that charge for two years, when he assumed the charge of Milton Academy, in the summer of 1858, and has continued to serve as president of that institution and of Milton College, which is an outgrowth of the academy, until the present time, covering a period of thirty-one years. During five years of this time his connection with the college was only nominal, as he was granted a leave of absence to serve as Superintendent of Public Instruction for Wisconsin, to which office he was elected in the fall of 1877. Under his administration, Milton Academy enjoyed healthy development and rapidly acquired great vigor and popularity. During the late Civil War, the spirit of patriotism led to the enlistment in the military service of the country of 311 of its students, many of whom were aided by Mr. WHITFORD in securing good positions in various regiments in the State. For nine years, the school as an academy was under his charge, and in 1867, largely through his efforts, was converted into a college. Mr. WHITFORD has not only served as president of the college all these years, but has also been the head of its Board of Trustees. Under his administration old debts have been cancelled, additional rooms and other accommodations furnished and quite a large endowment fund secured.
    In the denomination to which President WHITFORD belongs, he has filled influential positions, among which is the presidency of its Conferences in this county, which he has twice held. He also served more than four years after 1872 in an important agency for raising a Memorial Fund of that people, visiting in that time most of the churches of the Seventh Day Baptists in the United States. From 1865 until 1882, with the exception of intervals amounting to three years, he served as a member of the State Board of Normal Regents, and for a while was an ex-officio Regent of the University of Wisconsin. In 1867, he was elected a member of the Wisconsin Legislature, and served one term; in 1877, was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction of Wisconsin, was re-elected to that position in 1879, and served in all four years, proving a very competent and popular officer. He was during that time editor of the Wisconsin Journal of Education - a monthly. He is now corresponding secretary of the Seventh Day Baptist Education Society, and one of the corresponding editors of the Sabbath Recorder of Alfred Center, N.Y., also has been editor of the Quarterly, published by that denomination. Since residing in Milton he has been Superintendent of the Sabbath School of his church for fifteen years.
    Mr. WHITFORD has been twice married. His first wife was Miss Elmina E. COON, a graduate of De Ruyter Institute, N.Y., to whom he was married at that place Oct. 19, 1850. She was a most amiable and accomplished woman, who had fitted herself for teaching and a missionary life. Her death occurred within six months after her marriage, from quick consumption. Mrs. WHITFORD was a daughter of Clarke and Betsey COON and was born in Lincklaen, Chenango Co., N.Y. Mr. WHITFORD's second marriage was celebrated at Shiloh, N.Y., March 23, 1852, when Miss Ruth HEMPHILL became his wife. She was born in Deerfield, Oneida Co., N.Y., June 15, 1829, and is a graduate of Alfred University of the class of 1848. At the time of her marriage, she was engaged as a teacher in the academy at Shiloh, where Mr. WHITFORD was also employed some two years as principal during his early life. Mrs. WHITFORD began teaching in Allegany County, N.Y., when but fourteen years of age. She also taught a select school at Adams Center, Jefferson Co., N.Y., was preceptress of an academy at Shiloh, N.J. for two years, and had charge of the Seminary at New Market in the same State for three years. Since coming to Milton she has taught at intervals in the college for twenty-five years or more. Mrs. WHITFORD is a woman of superior culture and possesses a moral and religious nature most highly trained. Four children have been born of their union, only one of whom is yet living. Minnie, the eldest, died at the age of five years; William died when sixteen months old; Freddie, the third child, lived to the age of twelve years; Milton, the youngest, who was born at Milton, Wis., Sept. 17, 1866, is now employed in the mercantile business in his native village. The parents have an adopted daughter, Elizabeth A. STEER, now residing with them, who was born July 22, 1859, in the town of Cavan, Ontario.
    Mr. WHITFORD has been prominently identified with the educational interests of the State. While serving as a member of the Board of Normal Regents, which position he filled for nine years, he usually acted on the committees for examination of graduating classes and for conducting Teachers' Institutes in the State. He was twice elected as visitor to the State University and has frequently been called upon to lecture before teachers associations and lyceums. During the Centennial year of our country, he prepared at the request of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a work containing a succinct history of education in Wisconsin, a most thorough and exhausted one, the result of much research on his part. This, with other contributions from the State, was on exhibition at Philadelphia. During his service as Superintendent of Public Instruction, he devoted much attention to such measures as would improve and elevate the standing of the country or upgraded schools, and delivered many addresses in various parts of the State on educational subjects.
    In his religious opinions and practices, Mr. WHITFORD is devoid of all cant or bigotry, while his convictions in respect to the doctrines and precepts of Christianity are firm and ardent. Among the thousands of young men and women who have been under his instructions, there is probably no one who does not cherish sentiments of respect and esteem for him, or who has not been benefited and influenced in moral and religious character by his teachings. He is endowed with a powerful physical and mental organization, which has been trained to habits of ceaseless activity; and while he does an immense amount of work, he never tires or shows signs of fatigue. He is exceedingly fond of public speaking; and with a full choice, earnest manner, a practical view of the subjects discussed and ready action of mind, he attracts and holds his audiences. From his early boyhood to the present, the subject of education has been the all-absorbing idea of his life, and he has the pleasure of knowing that thousands of young men and women have risen to a higher plain of intelligence and culture through his well-directed efforts.
  • Event: Cause of death 1902
  • Note: Colitis
  • Death: 20 MAY 1902 in Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin 5
  • Burial: 22 MAY 1902 Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin
  • Note: Milton Cemetery 6 7
  • Event: Obituary 22 MAY 1902
  • Note:
    'The Weekly Telephone', Milton Junction, Wisconsin, Thursday, May 22, 1902.
    Rev. William Clarke Whitford is at rest. The well-loved president of Milton College breathed his last at 9:30 o'clock Tuesday morning. For a year he had suffered from an affection of the lungs, which finally developed a weakness ot the heart that brought the end, and with it mourning throughout the state.
    The funeral will be held today at 2 o'clock.

    The above obituary was followed by four tributes written by local pastors. 'His long connection with the school, first as a tutor in the Du Lac Academy in the early fifties, then as principal of the Milton Academy from 1858 to the organization of the College in 1867, then as president of the College to the day of his death, gave him an opportunity to leave his impress upon a large number of young people.' Rev. L. A. Platts, Milton S. D. B. Church '

    Officiated at the funeral of Charles Fremont Saunders in Milton 26 Dec 1885.
  • Note:
    'Rock County Wisconsin, Vol. 2'; 1908, p 319-320.
    WILLIAM CLARKE WHITFORD. After several efforts were made to secure a successor to Professor SPICER as principal of the school [Milton], the trustees prevailed upon the Rev. W. C. WHITFORD, then the pastor of the Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church, to assume the charge during the following fall term of 1858, and he consented to remain in the same position the balance of the year. He then resigned the pastoral charge of the church and became permanently connected with the school as principal. He had fitted himself for college at De Ruyter Institute; graduated at Union College in 1853, and completed the full course of studies at Union Theological Seminary, New York city, in 1856. From that time until his death on May 20, 1902, a period of forty-four years, he was the president of the academy and of the college, and the history of the school for this almost a half century is in reality a part of his biography; a part, because his life was even more extended than that of the school, for he was one year a member of the Wisconsin legislature, for four years the superintendent of public instruction, and for nine years a member of the state board of regents of the normal schools. Then, he was often invited to deliver lectures and addresses wholly outside of the work of the school. He wrote many articles for newspapers and magazines, and was an influential force in all the departments of the Seventh Day Baptist denomination. During the first year in which he had charge of the school he had associated with him Professor Albert WHITFORD, Mrs. Chloe C. WHITFORD, Mr. S. S. ROCKWOOD, Mrs. Flora H. ROCKWOOD and Mr. W. H. CLARKE, a music teacher.

    Father: Samuel WHITFORD b: 28 AUG 1797 in Brookfield, Madison Co., New York
    Mother: Sophia CLARKE b: 06 FEB 1802 in Town of Plainfield, Otsego Co., New York

    Marriage 1 Ruth R. HEMPHILL b: 15 JUN 1829 in Deerfield, Oneida Co., New York
    • Married: 23 MAR 1852 in Shiloh, Cumberland Co., New Jersey 8
    1. Has Children Milton Clarke WHITFORD b: 17 SEP 1866 in Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin
    2. Has No Children Minnie WHITFORD
    3. Has No Children William WHITFORD
    4. Has No Children Freddie WHITFORD b: ABT 1862

    Marriage 2 Esther Elmina COON b: 19 SEP 1828 in Lincklaen, Chenango Co., New York
    • Married: 19 OCT 1850 in De Ruyter, Madison Co., New York 9

    1. Title: The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island
      Author: Nellie W. Johnson
      Publication: The Syracuse Typesetting Co., Syracuse, NY, 1937
      Page: 60, 274
    2. Title: The 'Clarke' Families of Rhode Island
      Author: George Austin Morrison, Jr.
      Publication: The Evening Post Job Printing House, New York, 1902
      Page: 75
    3. Title: Membership Records of Seventh Day Baptists of Central New York State 1797-1940's
      Author: Ilou M. Sanford
      Publication: Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD, 1996
      Page: 10
    4. Title: An Analysis of Milton, Wisconsin SDB Church Members 1840-1968
      Author: Prof. David Nelson Inglis, Milton College
      Page: 17
    5. Title: Wisconsin Death Certificate, Rock County Courthouse
      Page: V5 P71
    6. Title: Gravestone Photo
    7. Title: Milton Cemetery
      Publication: Wisconsin State Genealogical Society, 1980
      Page: 90
    8. Title: The Sabbath Recorder
      Publication: Seventh-Day Baptist General Conference, SDB Historical Library, Janesville, Wisconsin
      Page: V8, N 42, p 167
    9. Title: The Sabbath Recorder
      Publication: Seventh-Day Baptist General Conference, SDB Historical Library, Janesville, Wisconsin
      Page: Vol 7, No 21, p 83, Nov. 7, 1850
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