"The Whitman Story"

The first John Whitman to come to America was a native of Weymouth in the state of Massachusetts and, according to Wintrops Journal, was made a freeman and admitted to all the rights and privileges of a citizen. He was appointed by the Governor and assistants as an ensign there in 1645, which was probably the first military appointment in that town. The date of his arrival in America is thought to have been December, 1638, arriving on the ship "Confidence".

In 1641 John Whitman was joined in Weymouth by his wife and family of four sons and five daughters. Altogether, John Whitman and his wife, Ruth, had eleven children: Zechariah, Thomas, Sarah, John, Mary, Elizabeth, Hannah, Abiah, Judith, Joseph, and Nicholas. John Whitman is the ancestor of nearly all members of the family name of Whitman in Nova Scotia. Zechariah Whitman, the son of "John Whitman of Weymouth" had a son John who married three times. Of his marriage to Dorcas Green was born another son John, known as "John "Deacon" Whitman, who is the ancestor of nearly all of the members of the family bearing the name of Whitman who originated in Nova Scotia.

John Whitman's Deacon John Whitman was born at Stowe, Massachusetts on September 21, 1717 and married Mary, the daughter of Rev. Mr. Foster of Stafford, Connecticut, who died December 24, 1812. In1745, the British Government, dispossessed a large number of French settlers in Nova Scotia during the expulsion of the Acadians. The Governor of the Province issued a Proclamation inviting settlers. So, in the company of 45 others, John Whitman, a Loyalist, set off for Nova Scotia in 1761 in the sloop "Charming Molly". With them, they brought their families, household goods, and livestock. Land grants were issued to about a hundred applicants from a tract of land extending along the south line of the Annapolis River from Saw Mill Creek to Wilmot Line; seven and a half miles in depth. John Whitman died in 1763 and did not live to see his share, which was then inherited by and distributed among his sons.

Abraham Whitman, the youngest son of John "Deacon" Whitman was born at Annapolis Royal September 10, 1761. The early death of his father and their comparatively limited means compelled him to see his fortune elsewhere. Abraham was of an active and energetic disposition and at an early age started out to make his own living. He first went to Halifax, then to Liverpool, Nova Scotia and finally settled in Chester, where he settled down for some years. Here, on March 1, 1793, he married Hannah Webber, born March 19, 1769, whose family had recently come from Connecticut. Her father was a mill owner. Abraham was for a time engaged in shipbuilding, with which he was readily assisted by some Halifax merchants, notably Forman and Grazsie. Looking about for a new field of interest, he turned his interests to the town of Canso, Nova Scotia, through which he had often passed on his voyages on business with trading and lumbering. He was struck with the facilities of Canso and its opportune location for trade and fishing, and in 1810 he took up large land grants and built for himself a house and store there. He lived at Canso in the summer and returned to Chester in the winter. His business consisted of fitting out vessels and selling the cargoes brought home from the Banks. Then the War of 1812 brought with it an abundance of privateers, threatening his business and establishments at Canso, and rendering communications extremely dangerous. Abraham decided to move his family to Canso permanently and in December of 1812, he hired a teacher for the children and relocated to this sparsely populated area. At the time of his relocation to Canso, there were only five families in the area. Abraham employed them in his business and as it thrived, so did the town of Canso. His business was passed on through his family for over a hundred years, and the population of the town grew to well over a thousand souls during that time.

Abraham died March 14, 1854 at the advanced age of 94, leaving his legacy to his nine children, all but the youngest of whom had been born at Chester: James, Isaac, John, Dorcas, Mercy, Hannah, Letitia, Sarah, and Abraham (Abram).

Captain Isaac Whitman was born September 24, 1795. Isaac had been educated with the expectation of becoming a sailor by his father. At the age of nineteen, his father having business of importance at Halifax, Isaac was sent in one of his father's vessels as his representative. As the press gangs were then flourishing and ever on the lookout for likely youths to man the ships of his Majesty and maintain the supremacy of Britain on the high seas, it was arranged that the young seaman be articled as Captain or Master of the vessel, for the law exempted from the power of the press gang the commander of a craft. In this position of command, he was able to carry out his father's business and later his own. It was not long afterwards that he became not only master but owner of a vessel. Carrying the chief products of the coast, dried and pickled fish, his voyages took him to the Azores, the Mediterranean and the West Indies, where in exchange for fish and lumber, he would secure sugar and molasses.

In command of the "Alligator", which had been built at Manchester, Guysborough County, N.S., by Jarius Hart, Captain Isaac Whitman, during a return trip from Spain was hailed by a large, black, swift sailing ship bristling with guns. The ship ran up near the "Alligator" and ordered Captain Whitman to come on board with his papers. He went alone in a small boat and the pirates then sent men to search his vessel. They helped themselves to fruit and whatever else they fancied, but they could find no money. They examined his papers and ascertained that he had sold ninety days ago, so they gave up the search. Still, they detained him and for four hours he stood among these savage-looking creatures, who said they had not been in any port for two years. Captain Isaac expected every moment to be his last. Meanwhile, all this time, his own ship was drifting away.

At last they gave him leave to go. He was obliged to take the painter of the boat in his hand and make the fearful leap from the side of that high ship to his little dory; a feat which would ordinarily have been impossible. He regained his vessel and found his men in a state of great trepidation. They had given him up for lost and had been consulting as to how they should bring the vessel home.

Captain Isaac Whitman was a most persevering man. Often, during gales, he would have himself lashed to the helm for several days and nights. Another story about him tells that on one of his voyages to the south, his crew was so reduced by yellow fever that when ready to sail home to Canso, the only man fit for duty was the black cook. With these two all went well for a few days, but one morning there lay within gun shot on the port beam a low, rakish-looking craft.

The troubled master immediately thought of the bag of gold in his cabin, which embodied the proceeds of this trip. Returning onto the deck and seeing the slush bucket near the foot of the foremast, Captain Isaac had the presence of mind to deposit the gold into this bucket, which held the melted talon and oils used in greasing the spar. Very soon the commander of the strange craft was climbing aboard Isaac's vessel, accompanied by armed men. They demanded the ship's papers and any valuables on board. The invaders did manage to secure some loose coins in the Captain's pockets, but had no idea that the slush bucket was concealing the gold.

At this point, the black cook could no longer contain his curiosity, and, against good judgement, he came out of hiding. As he poked his curly head up out of the companion way, he was immediately seized by the disappointed pirates and thrown overboard into the shark-infested waters. In the meantime, Captain Isaac had been tied to the foreshrouds and was being tormented by the pirates with drawn daggers and their old-fashioned bulldog revolvers. They had poor results, though, and could get nothing from him. Therefore, they began helping themselves to the bountiful stores of sugar and molasses. After loading up their own vessel with Captain Isaac's cargo, they sailed away.

Desperate as the case was during the pillaging, Captain Isaac had seen with glad surprise the face of his cook appear above the taff-rail and knew that deliverance was at hand. Apparently, the cook was an excellent swimmer and had gone to the opposite side of the ship away from the pirate's view and had seen a friendly rope hanging over the side. This he grasped and held on until all was quiet and then by its aid was able to climb on board. He was glad to see the captain still alive but bound to the rigging. It did not take long for him to release the skipper. When the pirates had sailed away, they reset their course for Canso.

Captain Isaac Whitman married Deborah Bears in 1823 during one of his home stayings. He built himself a fine stone house on the shores of the Tickle at Canso. Here his family resided while he was on the high seas. This building attracted much attention as it was the only house built of stone in that part of the country, although there is stone to be procured all around Canso in every direction. This house long remained a monument to Captain Isaac even after he had passed from the scene of his resourcefulness.

Isaac had just decided to quit the sea and settle down with his family at Canso when he was lost bringing his vessel home from Newfoundland. He had just landed a load of building material for the Government, and sailed from St. John's on December 15, 1831. His ship, the "Pretropic" probably foundered in a gale which occurred on December 17.

Captain Isaac Whitman left three children: Ann Marie (Mrs. Avery Kinsman of Fort Hill, Ontario), Jane (Mrs. Levi Hart, of Halifax, Nova Scotia), and his son, Captain David Whitman.

Captain David Whitman was born in 1828 and married Mary Myers. He was lost at sea with all hands during the August Gale of 1873. He had started out that morning in his schooner "Ada" (named after one of his daughters) with good weather, and within hours, the gale blew in. His death left six children fatherless, five of whom were born of his first wife;

  1. Isaac J. Whitman, who was a merchant in Canso
  2. Olivia Whitman, who married Captain Thomas Roberts, of Canso
  3. Jane Whitman, who married William Kirby of Canso
  4. Mary Ada Whitman, for whom his vessel was named, married George Grant of Guysborough
  5. Letitia Whitman, who married George Harris
  6. Nina Whitman, born to David's second wife Mary Ann (Kirby) Horton. Nina married

Hunter Clark.

David's second wife Mary Ann (known as Minnie) is the one who caused the confused relationship between the Kirbys and Whitmans. She was a sister of William Kirby. By marrying David Whitman, she became the stepmother to her sister-in-law, Jane Kirby, the wife of William Kirby. Minnie was born on July 1, 1842, and was married three times. First, to William Horton on November 3, 1860. Her second husband was Captain David Whitman, with whom she had daughter Nina.

After David's death she married a man named Dinghoff by whom she had another daughter, Eva. Eva lived in Nova Scotia with her husband William Cunningham.

Isaac J. Whitman married Carrie Morrison, the daughter of Captain William Morrison, of Guysborough. They had three children:

1. HarryMorrison, who married Cora McLean. They lived in Canso and ran a store of the Whitmans.

2.Laura Morrison (nicknamed Dot), who married Garnet Birmingham

3. Joan Morrison, who married Don Stewart.



This essay, "The Whitman Story", was sent to me by David Crittenden, of Ontario.

I have rewritten some of the sentences to a more readable form, but have kept the story the same as in the document he sent me. This document also appears on file at the Whitman House Museum in Canso, Nova Scotia, but nobody seems to know who was the original author. I thought it was an interesting collection of information regarding certain members of the Whitman family who lived at, worked in, and sailed from Canso, and so I am including it on my web pages.

P. D. Crowe, July, 1999

UPDATE: April 7, 2001:
I received this letter recently from a descendant of Mary Ann Kirby and thought I would include it here because it updates this genealogy. But rather than start editing out the words of David Crittenden, I will add the letter here and hope you will update your own files accordingly. The letter is from Steve Marshall:

I found your site and the interesting history of the Cape Canso Whitmans.

I am not a Whitman descendant, but am interested in Mary Ann Kirby, wife of David Whitman. Her third husband, Dinghoff in your notes, was a brother to my ancestor. His correct name was John Edmund DIECKHOFF, born 20 March 1840 at Intervale, Guysborough Co., son of Samuel DIECKHOFF and Hannah STROPLE. Their surname appears in many different fashions - usually Dickhoff/Decoffe etc.

Mary Ann married John on 10 April 1882 at Guysborough Co. They had two known children: 1. Fanny Lowe Dickhoff - born 1 October 1883 2. Eva Hope Dickhoff - born 8 May 1886

I have no further details on either, but note you have Eva marrying a William Cunningham - do you have information on this couple?

Hope this proves of interest.

Steve Marshall

Thank You Page