Death-Bed Soliloquy of Stephen Whitman
May 6, 1866
By: Roy Whitman, Descendant
And now as I face my final hours here on this Earth, I shall take due stock of all my remembrances, my progeny, and my hopes for this great country called America.
Our nation has just passed through a storm the likes of which it is not likely to witness ever again The soil, although not the soil of Bailey Hollow, has been stained with the blood of brother fighting brother. Antietam, Gettysburg, Shiloh, all these have come to pass and have ripped the heart out of a once innocent nation. President Lincoln sadly was assassinated a little over a year ago in April 1865 just after the War had ended, and we all still mourn his loss, and the loss to our nation.
My dear old mother, Roby Colvin Whitman, died not too long after that in September of 1865. She lived long enough to see her great-grandson, James, go off to serve at Petersburg as a musician for the 187th, Company G and then come home to Bailey Hollow the month before she died. Our nation has been through much in its brief history and so much of the time we have been trying to figure out the fate of the Black man in our country. Should he be free or should he continue to be enslaved?
My people, being God-fearing Baptists, especially of the Six Principle Baptist Church, knew which side they were on. They were for abolition of slavery so that America could live up to its own creed that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being the right to life, liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Bailey Hollow itself was on the path of the Pennsylvania underground railroad and many a night the mighty doors of our Baptist Church were thrown wide open to welcome some Black folk on their way north.
My people originally came from England, descendants of Edward Wightman, the last martyr to be burned at the stake for heresy against the Church of England. Edward's biggest heresy was his belief in, and call for, a separation of church and state and that was something the bishops in England could not stand. So his grandsons, George, Valentine, and Daniel all left England to go to the American wilderness and settled in Rhode Island. There they practiced their Baptist faith and farmed the land. I am a descendant of George Wightman, who had a son George who married and moved to Warwick, Rhode Island.
This George's son also by the name George married Mary Ralph and had three sons and three daughters. The three sons, Reuben, Stephen, and David were prominent in town affairs and the Revolutionary War for Independence, Reuben being named a captain of a militia before his death in April 1777 and Stephen rising to the rank of colonel. I am most likely named after this Stephen Whitman, not only because he was a prominent man in Rhode Island but also because my father, Thomas Whitman, was the only child of David Whitman and his wife Susannah Arnold Whitman.
Well, to make a long story short, my grandfather, David Whitman, and my grandmother, Susannah Arnold Whitman, became divorced in 1798, the year before I was born. My father, Thomas Whitman, died at sea in August 1808 just before my ninth birthday. It was an extremely sad time for me, my mother Roby, and my two younger brothers, George and David. Adding to our sadness was the fact that just four years earlier, my little sister Eliza died as an infant. Despite having lost our father, we all remained in Warwick for several more years until we left with the Six Principle Baptist Church to go to Bailey Hollow, Pennsylvania.
In the summer of 1819, I married Priscilla Wight, daughter of American Revolutionary War hero, Aaron Wight, originally from Scituate, Rhode Island. We had a good marriage. I loved her dearly, but around the time of our seventh wedding anniversary, Priscilla passed away from a bad fever. She had bore two sons for me, Owen and William Harrison, and they were my pride and joy. Not long thereafter, and in need of a new mother for my two boys, I wed Polly Carpenter, daughter of Benjamin Carpenter of Factoryville, Pennsylvania.
Polly was a sweet woman and a great mother, but she could never compare to my beloved Priscilla. By 1835, I had another son named Benjamin and two daughters, Priscilla and Olive Marinda. Now, of course, all my children are grown up with children of their own. Son Owen married Miss Waity Ann Champlin and moved to Stonington, Connecticut where they had a son, Leroys Rensalear Whitman. Son William Harrison married Susan Gardner and had five children, James, Violet, Ranaldo Eugene, Kenneth, and Etta. Other son Benjamin married Dellie Dixon while daughter Priscilla married Franz Pallman and daughter Olive Marinda married Isaac Clay Andrews. They have all done me proud, and I could not be happier than I am right now with my extended family.
My younger brother, George married first Joanna Gardner with whom he had two daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Caroline and a son, Marritt Almon. Later, he married Abbie Gardner and moved back to Rhode Island. With Abbie, he had two daughters, Melissa and Amanda. My other brother David married Lydia Dawley and had a large family, Thomas, Sarah, Phebe, Daniel, David, William, and Charlie. He also moved back to Rhode Island.
Now that I have been blessed with such a family and our nation has been blessed to have come through such a terrible ordeal in one piece, what our my hopes for my family and the America they will inherit once I'm gone? I hope most of all for health and long life to my children. I also wish that they can continue to practice freely their Baptist faith and this country will continue to live by a separate church and state. I pray for a strong nation, a unified nation, one that can put the rancor and bitterness of nearly half a century to rest. I hope that the Black folk can find peace and equality in this great land of opportunity. I hope the nation will continue to produce brilliant Republican leaders in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln who can lead our nation in the way of freedom and prosperity. An old Northern Whig like myself and life-long farmer continues to believe in protecting American markets and the recently ratified Thirteenth Amendment.
As I lay here soon to die, I realize that the only real hope I have for my country is that it continue to be one nation under God with liberty and justice for all, for it is only God Almighty and our Savior Lord Jesus Christ who can show our nat ion the way to ever greater bliss for her people.
And with this soliloquy, Stephen Whitman breathed his last. He was laid to rest beside his beloved Priscilla in a grave near Capwell's farm in Bailey Hollow. Stephen and Priscilla's gravestone was inscribed with the following words: Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Contributed to "WHITMANIA!" by Roy Whitman of Scranton, PA.
Roy's web site "My Brother's Tree" (now offline) details the Whitman family along the lines of Valentine Whitman.
Copyright 2002, Roy Whitman, All Rights Reserved.
"The Whitmans in
Politics" by Roy Whitman
"The Early History of Tripp's Park, Hyde Park, and Providence Scranton, Pennsylvania" by Roy Whitman
"The Battles of Rhode Island And Wyoming" by Roy Whitman
"The Whitman/Wightman Family in America" by Roy Whitman
"A Particular Line of Whitmans from George Whitman, the Immigrant" by Roy Whitman
"The History of the Whitmans in Scranton, PA" by Roy Whitman
Be sure to see the photos Roy contributed to the Whitman Family Album.
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