Adoniram Judson Whitford

ADONIRAM JUDSON WHITFORD. A special place in ranks of the pioneer business men of Kansas should be accorded the late Adoniram Judson Whitford of Manhattan. For over forty years he sold hardware in that city. When he opened his first stock of goods the Civil war was raging over the country. He began on a modest scale, in proportion to his individual resources, and also to the needs and demands of the town and surrounding country. He prospered and expanded his enterprise even as Manhattan expanded as a city and the surrounding country took upon itself advanced features of progress.

He was one of the very early settlers of Kansas Territory, and Mrs. Whitford, his widow who survives him, is one of the few living Kansas women whose recollections go back to the period soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill in the early '50s.

The late Mr. Whitford was born at Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, April 12, 1835, and died at his home in Manhattan December 19, 1910. He had lived three-quarters of a century, and two-thirds of this time had been spent in Kansas. He was a young man of about twenty-one when he came to the territory in 1856. For a time he lived at Topeka and there learned the trade of tinsmith. He was also a homesteader, but afterward sold his land, and with the proceeds, together with his other savings, aggregating not more than $1,500, he invested in his first stock of hardware. He opened his place of business at Manhattan in the early part of 1862. His capital for business was more than the money invested in his original stock. He had judgment, perseverance, industry and above all a thorough integrity of character which caused men to confide in him and to trust him through all the years as a reliable merchant and business man. It is not strange therefore that as a result of his long career he had accumulated a handsome estate, including business property in Manhattan and the handsome home which he erected at the corner of Fifth and Leavenworth streets. A few years before his death he sold the hardware business and planned to enjoy complete rest and freedom from business activities. This well earned rest was not for long, since his death occurred within a few years. The late Mr. Whitford was a republican voter, but in no wise a politician. He led an exemplary life, and what he did and what he stood for should not easily depart from the memory of living Kansans.

On December 3, 1862, the same year he entered the hardware business at Manhattan, he married Miss Jennie Nichols. Mrs. Whitford, who is now in her seventy-fifth year and still resides at Manhattan, was born in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, September 26, 1842. When she was twelve years of age she accompanied her father, O. C. Nichols, to Kansas. The Nichols family located near Topeka, and since then Mrs. Whitford has been a witness of the varied web of events which have transformed a territory into one of the greatest states of the Union. Mr. and Mrs. Whitford had enjoyed their ideal married companionship for forty-eight years. They had long worshiped together as members of the Congregational Church.

Their children were: Walter Scott, who is a traveling salesman living at Kansas City; Effie May, who died in childhood, Minnie May, now Mrs. Alexander, a widow living with her mother; Jessamine, who lives in Council Bluffs, Iowa; Harry Nichols, who was graduated from the Kansas State Agricultural College in 1890, and is now head of the tropical forestry department at Harvard College; and Casso O., a merchant in California.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed October, 1997.
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Tom & Carolyn Ward
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