Biography of William Clitus Witter

Son of Doctor William Witter and Emily Bingham, his wife, was born at Willimantic, Conn., November 13th, 1842, in the substantial brick house now standing at the corner of Main and Witter (now called High) streets. His ancestry, both on the father’s and the mother’s side, is given with some detail in the sketch of Doctor William Witter at pages 201203 of this volume, where it is seen that he comes from some of the best and oldest New England families, the Witter, the Waldo and the Bingham. The mother of Mr. Witter died when he was five years old and the father when he was eight, leaving the family in the care of a step-mother, who subsequently became the wife of Rev. Samuel G. Willard, the village pastor at Willimantic. For some years the subject of this sketch lived in the family of this educated, wise and good man. It was under the personal instruction and training of Mr. Willard, now recognized as one of the most admirable characters of modern Connecticut, that the early student years of Mr. Witter were spent-the years when good habits, good breeding and high aims are most readily implanted in the character. After leaving the family of Mr. Willard, he enjoyed for a time the advantages of classical study under Reverend Daniel Dorchester, a New England educator of high repute. He completed his academical studies at Bacon Academy, Colchester, Conn., and at Marion, Wayne County, New York; under the thorough instruction of Reverend Philo J. Williams, himself a native of Windham County. At the age of fifteen he was ready to enter college, but for nearly three years he devoted himself to general reading and to the acquisition of business habits in connection with the leading merchants of Providence, R. I., Messrs. G. & D. Taylor, living in the family of the senior member of that house. On entering Brown University in 1861, at the age of eighteen, he competed for the Wayland premium for best examination in the Latin language and literature, and gained the first prize. He remained at Brown University, ranking first in his class, till the end of the second college year, when he entered the Union army and served during the summer college vacation as private and non-commissioned officer in the Tenth Rhode Island regiment. Returning from the war and resuming his studies, he entered the junior class at Yale University and graduated in 1865. Deciding to embrace the profession of the law, he entered the Columbia College Law School in New York City, was vice-president of his class, graduated in 1867, and in order to learn the practical side of the profession of the law, he at once entered the law office of Evarts, Southmayd & Choate upon the invitation of Hon. William M. Evarts.

In 1869, at the solicitation of George Gifford, Esq., then the foremost lawyer of the country in those branches of the law which deal with patents for invention, copyright and trademarks, he became a student of those branches of legal learning, and during ten years remained with Mr. Gifford and in charge under him of a very large patent law practice. On the suggestion of the late Senator Roscoe Conkling he at this time received the appointment by Hon. Alexander S. Johnson of United States Examiner in Equity. In 1879 he severed his connection with Mr. Gifford and became law partner in New York City of Causten Browne, Esq., under the firm name of Browne & Witter, afterwards Browne, Witter & Kenyon, and now Witter & Kenyon, appearing only in the United States Circuit and Supreme Courts, and only in causes dealing with the law of patents, trademarks and copyrights. He has attained eminence in his profession and numbers among his clients many of the largest manufacturing concerns of the country, such as The Brush Electric Company, of Cleveland, Ohio; The De Lamater Iron Works. of New York City; the great thread making companies at Willimantic, Conn., and Holyoke, Mass.; The Hartford Carpet Company, The North American Phonograph Company and many others. His only literary undertaking has been the writing of a small book intended as an aid to the acquisition of the French language, which was printed for private circulation only. He is a member of the Union League Club, the Nineteenth Century Club and of several other clubs of New- York City, has been a life long republican, but too much engrossed in his profession to take a very active interest in the politics of the country.

On October 30th, 1871, he married Florence Wellington, of Cambridge, Mass., daughter of Doctor Jedediah Wellington, member of an old and highly cultured Cambridge family, earlier ancestors of whom shared in the Lexington conflict. Florence Wellington was educated with the children of Longfellow and of other Cambridge families at the school of the late Professor Louis Agassiz. There has been only one child of this union, a daughter, Florence Waldo Witter, born in New York City January 17th, 1887. Although Mr. Witter’s business, city residence and citizenship are in New York City, his country seat and home are in the mountain county of his native state, at Lakeville, in the picturesque old town of Salisbury.



History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889. Additions and corrections © by

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