Sunday, May 25, 2008

Biographical Sketch of Bennet Whitney 1810-1896

Bennet Whitney was the great-great-grandfather to the Barrett brothers - his son, Henry Whitney (great grandfather), his daughter Edith (Whitney) Whitson (grandmother) - her daugher Bertha (Whitson) Barrett (mother).

[For those interested in Whitney genealogy Bennet was descended from the immigrant Henry Whitney: Henry-John -Joseph-David-Ebenezer-Aaron-Bennet]

Bennet Whitney was born in Wilton, Connecticut, March 23, 1810. In April, 1828, he was baptized by Rev. Asa Branson, and joined the Baptist church at Stratfield.

He was learning his trade of molder and furnace-man at Gregory's foundry, corner of Fairfield and Clinton Avenues, in Bridgeport.

In 1832, he was a delegate to the Baptist State Convention at Middletown, when Rev. Jonathan Going was soliciting aid for the new Home Mission Society. "Some of the more conservative brethren opposed the new venture, but Mr. Whitney spoke in its favor and gave $10." He entered his desire to go into the Ministry, in his diary, about that time.

In 1833, with his two older brothers, he bought out the Gregory foundry, and set up the first steam engine used for manufacturing, in Bridgeport. They were pioneers in
the iron-fence business, an in making iron plow-points. He was one of the the very small group who had the courage and foresight to buy the old St. John's Episcopal Church, and start the First Baptist Church.

On October 14, 1836, he married, at Suffield, Susan Curtis, the daughter of
Nathaniel and Elizabeth Smith Curtis, at her brother's home. Rev. Nathan
Wildman officiating. They had eight children, all born in Bridgeport.

B.W. was the first Deacon of the church and served as treasurer several times.
A certain petition always appeared in his Family Worship each morning. One grandchild remembers that sentence, as distinctly as the aching little knees, in the long prayer. He was too humble to instruct the Almighty which side to favor, in any public question, but he prayed fervently, every day, "May the Right prevail!" And his feeble old voice put more vigor into it. He truly lived by the Bible, even to following literally the instruction to the Disciples: "If any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloak also," without realizing the injustice to his children. No wonder early pictures of his wife look "dragged out!"

About 1855, they moved to Keokuk, Iowa, where he saw that town as the "gateway to the great West of the future". His wife's sister, and her son George Parsons, had preceded them, and written glowing letters. Later, they moved on to Pella, Iowa. Perhaps the railroad had not been built, for somewhere the children travelled in a canvas-top wagon over prairie.

They returned East near the end of the Civil War, and lived near New Brunswick, N.M. where the father and his two younger sons could work in Machine shops. In
the spring of 1874, they removed to Rahway, N.J. where he bought a house with
large spread of garden, at 49 Harrison Street. For twenty years he remained in Rahway, where he was greatly beloved, his tall patriarchal appearance attracting attention wherever he went. He served as Deacon in the Baptist churches at Keokuk, Pella, New Brunswick and Rahway, and every pastor had good reason to thank God for his loyal support and wise counsel.

While living here, in Rahway, a well-to-do distant cousin finished the gigantic task of compiling the genealogy of the Connecticut Whitneys, and as Bennet took great pains to gather the data for this branch, he received a set, of three volumes. Later on, his sister Caroline and his brother Zenas each got a set, but the writer is under the impression that they paid over thirty dollars apiece for them. Bennet's set, with the
great Family Bibile, and the stamp, "B.W." with which castings were marked, in
the foundry, are all at the home of his eldest grandson, Ernest Whitney.

The Golden Wedding and the sixtieth anniversary of the marriage of Bennet and
Susan (Curtis) Whitney also came while they lived in Rahway, N.M. His son, Henry, came with his family, for the West,, and lived in the old home. Later, the senior family moved to 39 Myrtle Avenue in Roseville, Newark, where B.W. died August 26, 1898, he was buried in the Whitney plot in Van Liew Cemetery, (formerly Oak Hill) near New Brunswick, N.J.

"He was always very active in church work and especially in Bible study. He mind
remained clear and active up to the last, and in the discoveries (and his interest in all the questions of the day) and inventions of our age continued unabated to the end of his life. But his greatest interest always was in questions of duty, and in contemplating the love, wisdom, goodness and greatness of God, as manifested in his works and in the salvation of men."

"He was never prominent in political matters and held office but seldom, though his
principles caused him always to affiliate with the party opposed to slavery, and
to maintain his views decidedly though courteously."

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