Richard H. Whiting.To have accomplished so notable a work as did the late Major Whiting, in connection with the early development of Morris county, Kansas, would prove sufficient to give precedence and reputation to any man, were this to represent the sum total of his efforts; but Major Whiting was a man of broad mental ken, strong initiative and distinct individuality, who left not only a lasting impression on the early life of Morris county, but also was a most potent, though unostentatious factor in the commercial, social and public life of Illinois, where he took up his residence in 1841.
Richard H. Whiting was born in West Hartford, Conn., Jan. 17, 1826, a son of Allen and Elvira Amanda (Alford) Whiting. He received his education in the schools of his native city and, in 1841, when sixteen years of age, immigrated to Illinois, locating at Altona, where he secured employment as clerk, subsequently becoming the owner of a prosperous mercantile business in Victoria, Knox county. In the early '50s he removed to Galesburg and founded the gas works there, as well as in Aurora, and owned them until his death. In the early days of the Civil war he was commissioned an army paymaster by President Lincoln, with the rank of major, and on the conclusion of the struggle was appointed assessor of internal revenue at Galesburg, Ill., but on the abolition of that office in 1869, he was appointed collector of internal revenue by President Grant, to succeed Hon. J. J. Henderson, with office in Peoria. In 1874 he resigned this office and was elected to Congress from the Fifth Illinois district, serving one term with honor and distinction, but refusing to become a candidate for renomination. From its organization he was an active and influential member of the Republican party and served as a delegate to two national conventions, in 1880 being one of the "306 immortals" who received bronze medals as souvenirs of their gallant fight in the interest of ex-President Grant, who for many years was a close friend of Major Whiting.
In 1866 Major Whiting made his first trip to Kansas, where he purchased his first land, and during the succeeding five years accumulated holdings of 8,100 acres, situated in different parts of Morris county. He expended large sums in improvements and stocked his ranches with the best horses, mules, cattle and hogs, and was justly accredited one of the most progressive ranch owners of Kansas. These properties were bought with the view of placing his children in the new and growing West, and his sons, Charles R. and Thomas Wilbert, were given leases and the active supervision of the properties. He was from an early day interested in the Morris County State Bank, and on the organization of the Farmers' & Drovers' Bank of Council Grove, became its largest individual stockholder, and placed his son-in-law, John Farnham, as assistant cashier and director. His sons, Charles R. and Thomas Wilbert, are now directors and large stockholders in the institution. He was one of the most potent factors in the development of Morris county, and from 1876 until 1887 spent a large part of his time in the general supervision of his largest interests in the county.
In the fall of 1887 Major Whiting was summoned to the bedside of his daughter, Mrs. Howard Knowles, who was ill in New York City, and who never recovered. Grief over her death resulted in illness, from which Major Whiting died May 24, 1888, in New York. His burial was in Springdale cemetery, Peoria, Ill.
Major Whiting married July 28, 1851, Elizabeth Hanna Kirkbride, born May 25, 1827, daughter of David M. Kirkbride, of Woodsfield, Ohio. The widow, now a resident of Los Angeles, Cal., and the following children survive him: Charles R., born March 17, 1854, is the owner of the Diamond Spring Ranch in Morris county, Kansas, a director in the Farmers' & Drovers' State Bank of Council Grove, and is one of the most prominent citizens of the county; Ella, born Jan. 22, 1858, is the widow of John Farnham and resides in New York City; Thomas Wilbert (see sketch); and Frank K., born Aug. 14, 1867, is a resident of Los Angeles, Cal. Ida A., born May 2, 1852, the eldest child, married the Hon. Howard K. Knowles, collector of internal revenue at Peoria, Ill., and died in New York City in 1887. Two children died in infancy.
The following tribute to Major Whiting, from his lifelong friend, Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, who was a daily attendant at his bedside during his last illness, has been published in full:
"The river of another life has reached the sea. Again we are in the presence of that eternal peace that we call death. My life has been rich in friends, but I never had a better or truer one than he who lies in silence here. He was as steadfast, as faithful as the stars. Richard H. Whiting was an absolutely honest man. His word was gold, his promise was fulfillment, and there never has been, there never will be, on this poor earth, any thing nobler than an honest, loving soul. This man was as reliable as the attraction of gravitation; he knew no shadow of turning. He was as generous as autumn, as hospitable as summer, as tender as a perfect day in June. He forgot only himself, and asked favors only for others. He begged for the opportunity to do good, to stand by a friend, to support a cause, to defend what he believed to be right. He was a lover of nature, of the woods, the fields and flowers. He was a home builder. He believed in the family and the fireside, the sacredness of the hearth. He was a believer in the religion of deed, and his creed was to do good. No man has ever slept in death who nearer lived his creed. I have known him many years, and have yet to hear a word spoken of him except in praise. His life was full of honor, of kindness and of helpful deeds. Besides all, his soul was free. He feared nothing except to do wrong. He was a believer in the gospel of help and hope. He knew how much better, how much more sacred, a kind act is than any theory the brain has wrought. The good are the noble; his life filled the lives of others with sunshine. He has left a legacy of glory to his children. They can truthfully say that within their veins is right royal blood, the blood of an honest, generous man, of a steadfast friend, of one who was true to the very gates of death. If there be another world, another life beyond the shore of thisif the great and good who died upon this orb are there then the noblest and best with eager hands have welcomed him, the equal in honor, in generosity, of any one that ever passed beyond the veil. To me this world is growing poor. New friends can never fill the place of the old. Farewell! If this be the end, then you have left to us the memory of a noble life. If it is not the end, there is no world in which you, my friend, will not be loved and welcomed. Farewell!"Pages 880-882 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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