WILLIAM P. WHITMAN, president and treasurer of the well-known shoe manufacturing concern of the Whitman & Keith Company, of Brockton, and one of that city’s successful and progressive business men, as was his father before him, is a descendant of distinguished and historic New England ancestry. Mr. Whitman is a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, of the “Mayflower,” 1620; of Rev. James Keith, the first ordained minister of Bridgewater; and of John Whitman, who settled in Weymouth, Mass., as early as 1638, from whom descended many persons eminent in professional life and otherwise, among them Dr. Marcus Whitman, who saved the vast territory of Oregon to the United States; Hon. Ezekiel Whitman, for many years chief justice of the Superior and Supreme courts of the State of Maine; and Hon. William E. Russell, twice governor of Massachusetts. The ancestry of the Whitman family, which follows, is given in chronological order.
John Whitman, from England, appears at Weymouth as one of the first settlers, and there was made a freeman in December, 1638. His brother, Zachariah Whitman, who came from London in 1635, in the ship “Truelove,” settled first at Dorchester, but later went to Milford, Conn. John Whitman was a very respectable man, and was for years the first deacon of the church, was the first military officer of the town, and was one of the three persons appointed by the governor “to end small controversies” there. The Christian name of his wife was Mary. Mr. Whitman died Nov. 13, 1692, aged about ninety years. His children mentioned in his will, 1685 (proved 1692), then living, were:
Five daughters, all married, as follows:
- Sarah Jones
- Mary, wife of John Pratt
- Elizabeth, wife of Josiah Green
- Hannah, wife of Stephen French
- Judith King
All but one of these children survived the father, and six of them lived to be upward of eighty years of age.
Thomas Whitman, born in England about 1629, came to this country with his mother (his father having come previously) about 1641. He married Nov. 22, 1656, Abigail, daughter of Ensign Nichols and Martha (Shaw) Byram. He settled first in Weymouth, but sold his farm there in 1662, and removed to Bridgewater (the only one of the children of John who located in that town), becoming one of the first settlers in what became East Bridgewater. He had some two hundred acres of land lying between the rivers Satucket and Matfield, which became known as Whitman’s Neck. There he resided for fifty years, until his decease in 1712, when aged eighty-three years. The children of Thomas and Abigail, all except John born in Bridgewater, were:
- John, born Sept. 5, 1658
- Ebenezer, born about 1673
- Nicholas, born in 1675
Nicholas Whitman, son of Thomas, born in 1675, married (first) in 1700 Sarah Vining, of Weymouth. She died in 1713. He married (second) Mary, daughter of Francis and Hannah (Brett) Cary, and after her death, in 1719, he married (third) in 1719 Mary, daughter of William and Mary (Trow) Conant. Mr. Whitman had his father’s homestead and lived with him. He was a man of great vigor, industry and activity. He was a constant attendant upon public worship, although for a greater part of his life the meeting place was three miles distant from him. He had the rare felicity of having eleven of his children all settled, and well settled, in the same town with himself, where they all spent their days in good reputation. Five of them lived to the ages, respectively, of eighty, eighty-six, eighty-seven, ninety and ninety-four. The other six died between the ages of thirty and seventy years. He met his death by accident Aug. 6, 1746, when in the seventy-second year of his age. His children were:
- Thomas, born in 1702
- John, in 1704
- Josiah, in 1706
- David, in 1709
- Jonathan, in 1710
- Seth, in 1713
- Eleazer, in 1716
- Benjamin, in 1719
- Mary, in 1720
- William, in 1722
- Josiah (2), in 1724
- Sarah, in 1726
- Abigail, in 1728
- Nicholas, in 1731
- Susanna, in 1734
- Ebenezer, in 1736
Capt. Thomas Whitman, born in 1702, married (first) in 1727 Jemima, born in 1702, daughter of Isaac and Mehetabel (Allen) Alden, and a direct descendant of John Alden and his wife Priscilla Mullins. She died March 5, 1766, and he married (second) in 1767 Mrs. Rebecca, widow of Deacon Seth Allen. Mr. Whitman had by deed the northeasterly part of her father’s homestead, on which was a fine mill site, and here was erected the building called Whitman’s mills. He was a man of considerable education and much employed in town affairs, serving as selectman from 1757 to 1766, as well as holding other offices of trust. He was chosen deacon of the church in 1748, and held the office for many years. He was captain of the militia in East Bridgewater in about 1750. He died Dec. 15, 1788, aged eighty-six years. His wife died March 29, 1791. His children, all born to his first wife, were:
- Simeon, born in 1728
- Peter, 1730
- Benjamin, 1732
- Jemima, 1734
- Nathan, 1736
- Amos, 1738
- William, 1740
- Isaac, 1742
Nathan Whitman, son of Capt. Thomas, born in 1736 in East Bridgewater, Mass., married in 1761 Betty Allen, born in 1739, only child of Seth and Rebecca (Richard) Allen. He resided in East Bridgewater and there died May 13, 1784, and she died in that same year. Their children were:
- Seth Allen, born in 1762
- Rebecca, in 1764
- Nathan, in 1766
- Celia, in 1768
- Eliab, in 1776
- Asa, in 1772
- Betty, in 1777
Nathan Whitman (2), son of Nathan, born in 1766, in East Bridgewater, Mass., was a member of the company which marched from East Bridgewater in the autumn of 1814, under command of Capt. Isaac Keith, to defend the coast of Plymouth, Mass., against the invasion of the British. In 1823 he was one of the many petitioners of the town who desired that the East parish of Bridgewater be set off and incorporated into a distinct and separate town by the name of East Bridgewater. In 1788 he married Mercy Byram, born in 1770, daughter of Josiah Byram. Their children were:
- Gilbert, born in 1788
- Celia, in 1790
- Freedom, in 1792
- Nathan, in 1796
- Willard, in 1803
- Marcena Allen, in 1805
- Mercy Lewis, also in 1805
The father died in 1829, and the mother in 1824.
Nathan Whitman (3), son of Nathan (2), born in East Bridgewater in 1796, married Samantha Keith, daughter of Deacon William Keith, and a descendant of Rev. James Keith, of Bridgewater. He learned the mason’s trade, and followed it with great success for a number of years in Boston. On account of impaired health, he eventually returned to East Bridgewater, where his remaining days were spent engaged in farming. Mr. Whitman was a very devout Christian, and a consistent member of the Congregational faith. In 1849, upon the organization of the Trinitarian Congregational Church of East Bridgewater, Mr. Whitman and his wife became original members of that society, and he was elected one of the first deacons of the church, continuing in that office until his death, Jan. 26, 1862, when he was aged sixty-five years, nine months. He was a strong advocate of the cause of temperance, and took such a firm stand in that cause that he was made the particular target for the shafts of those opposed to it, and upon arising one morning he found “New England Rum For Sale” painted on his house in large red letters. He was of a genial and social nature, and it was a pleasure to meet him, and he always accorded a hearty welcome to the stranger. He was kind-hearted and charitable, and he enjoyed the respect and esteem of all. In his political faith he was a Whig, but never aspired to official position. To Deacon Nathan and Samantha (Keith) Whitman were born children as follows:
- Abigail Russell, who married Deacon Rufus Ames Littlefield, a native of Grantham, N. H., but later a resident of East Bridgewater, where they both died
- William Elbridge, mentioned below
- Mary Shepard, who married Ivory Marsh, of Newport, R.I., where she is conducting a private school
William Elbridge Whitman, only son of the late Deacon Nathan Whitman, was born in East Bridgewater, Mass., May 31, 1834. After attending the district schools of his native town he furthered his educational training at the Peirce Academy at North Middleboro, after which he took a course at Comer’s business college, Boston. Returning to his native town he there became bookkeeper in the general store of Samuel D. Shaw, remaining in that capacity for a period of about two years. He then took up shoemaking, which he followed for several years, eventually engaging in the manufacture of shoes on his own account, having a shop adjacent to his home where he employed several hands, his produce going mostly to the Southern trade. The breaking out of the Civil war greatly interfered with his business and he finally withdrew from the manufacture of shoes, and upon the death of his father, in 1862, he engaged in farming and for a period of about ten years was occupied conducting the home farm. Mr. Whitman then again became identified with the shoe industry, accepting the position of superintendent of the shoe factory of James S. Allen, then located in North Bridgewater, now Brockton, in which capacity he continued until 1878, when, in company with George Churchill and the late Lucius F. Alden, under the firm name of Whitman, Churchill & Alden, he began the manufacture of boots and shoes in that part of the town known as Campello. At the expiration of five years Mr. Whitman retired from this firm, disposing of his interest in the same to his partners, and in August, 1883, he formed a partnership with the late Daniel Noyes Keith, under the firm name of Whitman & Keith, and continued in the manufacture of shoes. This firm started in business on Clifton avenue, in the factory where Mr. Keith at that time was manufacturing shoes, and the business has been continued there ever since, although several additions had been made thereto, and in fact the factory as it stands today has been practically rebuilt, the former building having been entirely destroyed by fire April 2, 1891. In 1887 Mr. Whitman’s son, William P. Whitman, became a member of the firm, which was then changed to the Whitman & Keith Company, and in July, 1897, the business was incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts, with a capital stock of $80,000, as the Whitman & Keith Company, with the following officers:
- William E. Whitman, president
- William P. Whitman, treasurer and clerk
- Daniel N. Keith, director.
In December, 1887, this firm formed a partnership with William O. Walker, of Newton, Mass., under the firm name of Walker & Whitman, for the purpose of manufacturing shoes for the retail trade, and this firm, though practically identical with the Whitman & Keith Company, handles the business of the latter concern outside of New England. The Whitman & Keith Company gives employment to about three hundred hands, manufacturing about fifteen hundred pairs of medium-grade shoes per day, ranging in price at retail from $3.50 to $5, which are sold to the retail trade through-out the country, their product being known as the “Waukerz” and the “Whitman Special” shoes.
William E. Whitman died in Brockton Nov. 10, 1902, after a long illness, which had kept him from active interest in his business for some years. He was one of the best known and most highly respected citizens of the city where he had so long been identified with industrial and financial interests, and before his retirement had built up a large business for the firm of which he was the senior member, and later president. Mr. Whitman had always taken an active part in the business, and, being a practical shoemaker, was familiar with all the details of shoe manufacturing. About three years prior to his death he had practically retired from active life, although he still retained his interest in the business. Of a genial, affable nature, he enjoyed a large acquaintance both in business and in social circles. For several years Mr. Whitman was a director of the Brockton National Bank, and at one time was a member of the Commercial Club, of Brockton.
On March 7, 1856, he married Patience Curtis Millet, daughter of Solomon and Phebe (Gould) Millet, of East Bridgewater, where the former was engaged in farming and as a mason, and granddaughter of Zebulon and Diligence (Bich) Millet, of Leeds, Maine. Mrs. Whitman survives her husband, and resides at the pleasant family residence on Main street, Campello. To Mr. and Mrs. Whitman were born two children, as follows:
- Emma Curtis, who married William Sears Washburn, of East Bridgewater, associated with the Whitman & Keith Company, of Campello, where they reside
- William Parsons, mentioned below.
William Parsons Whitman, son of the late William E. Whitman, was born April 11, 1863, in East Bridgewater. Beginning his educational training in the common schools of his native town, he later attended the private school in Newport, R. I., conducted by his aunt, Mrs. Mary S. Marsh, after which he attended Peckers & Bradford’s business college, of Boston. He then entered the shoe factory of Whitman, Churchill & Alden, of which firm his father was the senior member, and under the able instructions of his father acquired a thorough knowledge of the rudiments and details of shoemaking. After the dissolution of this firm, and upon his father becoming the senior member of the firm of Whitman & Keith, in 1883, Mr. Whitman entered the employ of the latter concern, and in 1887 he was admitted a member of the firm, continuing as such until July, 1897, when upon the incorporation of the Whitman & Keith Company he became treasurer, and upon the death of his father in 1902 also became president, both of which offices he has since retained. In 1904 Daniel N. Keith, the junior member of the firm, passed away, and his interests in the corporation reverted to his son-in-law, Arthur J. Wallen, and in 1906 Mr. Whitman purchased the latter’s interest in the business, which has since been conducted by Mr. Whitman, as president and treasurer, and William O. Walker, as secretary.
In political faith Mr. Whitman is a believer in the principles of the Republican party, but has never taken an active interest in party affairs. Socially he is a member of the Commercial Club, and the Brockton Country Club, and is also a prominent member and a director of the Brockton Shoe Manufacturers’ Association. He gives his support to the South Congregational Church of Campello.
On Sept. 2, 1887, Mr. Whitman married Elizabeth Williams Richards, daughter of Justin W. and Elizabeth Vinton (Copeland) Richards, of West Bridgewater, and as well a descendant of historic old New England ancestry. This union has been blessed with one son, Richard Parsons, born June 20, 1888, now a member of the class of 1912, Dartmonth College.
Mr. Whitman is an energetic and progressive man, and succeeds to the prestige of his father in carrying forward the business undertakings the latter established, while originating new and diversified features which have resulted in a broadening of the business.