The Gene Pool: JTR's Colorful Family History


John & Mary (Griswold) Whiton

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From the “WHITON FAMILY IN AMERICA” published 1932

The family moved to Great Barrington and then about the year 1789 to Stockbridge, Mass. where they united in 1791 with the First Congregational Church, in which he was a deacon from 1817 to 1819. About 1812 he built a house in Stockbridge, which is still standing, having for many years been used as a rectory of the Episcopal Church, and is now occupied by a sister of a former rector. It was enlarged and modernized some years ago by the Architectural firm of McKim, Meade and White, who endeavored to retain as much of the original character as possible. There are several conveyances of realty to him recorded in Pittsfield between 1772 and 1824. He was a skilled cabinet maker and engaged in that business both in Stockbridge and in Ithaca, NY, to which place he removed and where he died March 24, 1827.

From the ITHACA (NEW YORK) JOURNAL, March 2, 1921

John Whiton, founder of the family in Ithaca, was born in 1763, a descendant of an old English family, members of which had emigrated from Kent, England, in the ship (Elizabeth Ann) to the Plymouth Colony in 1635. The family was also distinguished in Revolutionary days. John married Mary Griswold at Wintonbury, Connecticut in 1784 and they first settled in Stockbridge, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, removing to Ithaca with their children in 1819. George, the youngest son, came with his father's hired men, team and load of goods from Stockbridge, Massachusetts to Ithaca.

The story of their trip has been handed down to the present representatives of the family. It is said that at the close of a long day they came to the crest of East Hill, but looked in vain for Cayuga Lake, of which they had heard so much. They saw at first only the densely wooded hills and the deep valley. Wearily, they looked for signs of water until finally, they saw the bright gleam of the lake in the afterglow of a brilliant sunset through the darkening forest. Soon after they were resting and feasting before the glowing wood fire of the old-time tavern in the little hamlet of Ithaca. John Whiton, soon after arriving here, bought land and built the Whiton homestead, long known as the center of the social life of the village, full of good cheer and welcome to the people who came from the faraway eastern states.

The house is still standing on the corner of Buffalo and Geneva Street, having been remodeled and is now occupied by Thomas W. Summers. Mr. Whiton began his business, that of a cabinet maker on South Aurora Street, then the center of Ithaca. In this business he was succeeded by his youngest son, George. Many a piece of carved mahogany or rosewood now cherished in the homes of Ithaca and surrounding towns as priceless heirlooms was made by the Whitons, father or sons. (note from JTR: sure would love to find a piece of this furniture! There is said to be a Whiton "stamp" that identifies pieces made by the family)

John Whiton and Mary Griswold had nine children of whom three died in childhood. The other six - Mary, Luther, Clarissa, John, Julia and George, were all prominent in the early history of Ithaca.

  • Mary, the eldest daughter, married Dr. Henry Ingersoll, a successful physician, and they had four children. Three sons early went to Canton, Illinois, Mary Ingersoll Bell, granddaughter of Dr. Henry Ingersoll, is now living on Cayuga Heights.

  • Luther Whiton, the eldest son, married Nancy Cooper in 1813 and came with her to Ithaca in 1827, where he died in 1832. His widow continued to live in the village with their eight children. Their son, John L. Whiton, is well remembered. He married Keziah Byington in 1838, and on State Street established a bakery which has had an unusually successful history up to the present time. He purchased the F.K. Andrews house on South Aurora Street where he died in 1868. Miss Addie K. Whiton, his youngest daughter, now resides in this house. Fred S. Whiton, Grandson of Luther Whiton, is also well known in Ithaca.

  • Clarissa Whiton, the second daughter of the original John, married Augustus Sherrill at Stockbridge in 1814, and they made their home in Ithaca at the Whiton homestead with her parents. Mr. Sherrill was a lawyer of unusual memory and mental ability. Their only child, Mary Whiton, married H.C. Seymour in 1836. He was an engineer engaged in the survey of the first railroad from Owego to Ithaca. They had seven children. Of these, Miss Louise Seymour, their eldest daughter, is well remembered. She married E. R. Houghton of Piermont on the Hudson. Mrs. Louise Seymore Houghton spent much time in her grandmother's home, where she studied with her grandfather Sherrill, later becoming a writer and translator of many books. Her months of travel in Europe with her children and her year in Palestine added much to her literary study of the Bible and to voluminous writings. She died August 20, 1920.

  • John Whiton, the fourth child of the original pioneers, married Mrs. Eunice Wright at Bennington, Vermont in 1825. He was a Presbyterian minister, pastor of a church in Salem, New York and later at Wolcott, where he died in 1868.

  • Julia Whiton, the youngest daughter of the original John, married Henry Lenard of Ithaca in 1822, and they had one daughter, Caroline, who married Theodore Judd of this city.

  • George Whiton, the youngest son of the pioneers, born at Stockbridge in 1801, married Sylvia Northway of New Hartford, and they had two sons and three daughters. Besides entering his father's business of cabinet maker, George also dealt in real estate, and held interests in canal boats, then a thriving industry. He built the brick house at 206 Prospect Street, now occupied by Miss Harriet L. Hollister, and in 1828 the cottage at 201 South Aurora Street, into which he moved with his family. The same year, a daughter, Cynthia Marsh Whiton was born. She died on November 20, 1920, in her 93rd year, one of the oldest and most respected residents of Ithaca. Catherine Louise Whiton was born in the same house in 1840, and is the last of this generation now living.
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