James Whitaker

M, (19 February 1782 - 5 April 1875)
     James Whitaker was born on 19 February 1782 at Hopewell Furnace, Berks County, Pennsylvania.1 He was the son of Joseph Musgrove Whitaker and Sarah Updegrove. James Whitaker married Sarah Adams circa 1803. James Whitaker died on 5 April 1875 at Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, at age 93 years, 1 month and 17 days.1
     He was an iron master and merchant. James was a millionaire. He worked for his fortune as an iron master and merchant. His final days were at his home, 1725 Olive Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of his daughters married a Joseph Cauffman and had a daughter Mary Ann Cauffman who married a Mr. Hughes. His obituary was published on 8 April 1875 in the Philadelphia Press, printed in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. His obituary stated:

     James Whitaker died at his residence, at the Southwest corner of 17th and Wallace Streets, in this city on the 5th in the 94th year of his life. He was born Feb 19th, 1782, near Coventry, in Chester County and was descended in the paternal line from a noted Saxon family in England, and in the maternal line from Abraham Opeen Graeff, one of the 13 original settlers of Germantown in 1683, and one of the four Germans who signed the historical first protest against slavery.

     Seventy years ago, Mr. Whitaker came to Philadelphia and commenced the manufacture of nails in Hartung's Alley, continuing the business afterwards at the corner of Old York Road and Fourth Street. In 1816 he and his brother Joseph leased a rolling mill at the Falls of Schuylkill, and in 1820 another [J & J Whitaker, manufacturer of stoves, springs, and nails in Phily according to Lynne M. Witte] near Wilmington, Delaware, and Gibraltar Forge, in the neighborhood of Reading. In 1826 he bought an interest in the Cumberland Iron and Nail Works at Bridgeton, NJ, and in 1827 an interest in the Iron Works at Phoenixville, PA. He moved to the latter place and remained there for several years as the managing partner of the firm of Reeves & Whitaker, now the Phoenix Company. In 1836 he removed to Reading, and for ten years was an active partner in the successive firms of Keim, Whitaker & Co. and Whitaker, Seyfert and McManus, now Seyfert, McManus & Co. In 1846 he returned to Philadelphia, withdrawing to some extent from active business life, but leaving considerable capital invested in the firm of Whitaker & Stevens, at the Ark wright Cotton Mills in Many. A pioneer in the iron trade, his associates one after another passed away until he alone remained as the solitary representative of an era now being rapidly enveloped in oblivion.

     For many years he has been without doubt the oldest of the Iron Makers of Pennsylvania. Endowed with physical and mental vigor, and possessing unusual energy and force of character, he was well fitted to fight the battles of life with success. His reputation for integrity was without smirch or stain.

     In 1814, when the British threatened an attack upon this city, he joined a military company, and assisted in throwing up entrenchment at Marcus Hook. Later in life he became a member of the Society of Friends, and was connected with the Green Street Nick Site Meeting. His descendants numbered 15 children, 61 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and 2 great great grandchildren.

     The above was contributed by Samuel Pennybaker, Philadelphia, PA, later Governor of Pennsylvania.

Children of James Whitaker and Sarah Adams

Last Edited=10 Apr 2009


  1. [S15] June (Shaull) Lutz, History of the Op Den Graef / Updegraff Family (Grand Rapids, Michigan; 1433 Elderwood Ct. N.W.: J. S. Lutz, 1988), p. U-146.