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Bennett Whidden

By Spessard Stone

Bennett Whidden, a pioneer settler of Old Tiger Bay in Polk County, Florida, was a Confederate soldier and farmer.

Bennett Whidden was born July 1, 1841, Columbia County, Florida. With his parents, James W. Whidden and Mary (Altman) Whidden, Bennett moved in 1843 to Alafia in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Bennett Whidden enlisted as a private in Company B, 7th Florida Infantry, Confederate States Army on March 16, 1862. He was captured December 4, 1864 at Murfreesboro, Tennessee and released June 12, 1865 from Camp Chase, Ohio on taking the oath of allegiance. At the time of his enlistment, James Gettis was captain of Co. B and at his discharge W. E. Sweat was captain.

In Polk County, Florida on March 8, 1866, Bennett married Emily Jane Durrance, born March 20, 1847 at Columbia County, Florida, daughter of William Hutto and Sarah Harriet (Robertson) Durrance, pioneer settlers of (now) Polk County.

Bennett was a farmer and citrus grower at Old Tiger Bay in Polk County. There the couple lived for 45 years until Emily's death in 1911. Bennett then lived with his son W. J. J. Whidden.

On November 7, 1888, Bennett Whidden of Fort Meade, Florida applied for a pension from his service in Company B. He stated he was on the "5th day of January 1864 at Murfreesborough, Tenn. wounded by being shot through the right thigh being in the line of battle when wounded and that as a direct result of said wound, he is now unable to perform manual labor." John Whidden gave an affidavit supporting his brother. On January 11, 1889, his claim was allowed by the Commissioners of Pensions under the law of 1887, paid from July 1887 to Jan. (?) 8, 1889 $186.13.

On September 2, 1907, Bennett Whidden of Tiger Bay, Polk County, Florida, applied under the Act of 1907 for a pension based on his Confederate service. He stated at Murfreesborough, he was wounded in the right thigh "which disables right leg and foot." G. R. Langford of DeSoto County, late Capt. Co. F, 4th Fla. Vols., and A. S. Campbell of Torrey, DeSoto County, gave supporting affidavits. Campbell, who had served with Bennett in Co. B, had also been a prisoner of war at Camp Chase, Ohio. Dr. M. L. Crundun [?] described Bennett's disability thusly: "The bullet entered the middle third of right thigh from the rear and escaped above patella of same leg. The first sciata nerve was injured. As a result there is considerable atrophy of right foot, considerable sensory disturbance and an impaired control of the muscles of this limb." His claim was approved December 28, 1907, with pay from September 4, 1907 at the rate of $120 per annum. On September 6, 1909, he reapplied under the Act of 1909. His pension was continued at the rate of $120 per annum, being approved September 2, 1909, with pay from July 1, 1909.

Emily Durrance Whidden died September 14, 1911 at home at Old Tiger Bay. Bennett Whidden died October 10, 1921 at Bartow, Fla. They are buried in Wildwood Cemetery, Bartow.

His obituary, "Old Citizen Dies Bennett Whidden, War Veteran of Indian and Civil Wars," was published on page 3 of The Tampa Tribune of October 14, 1921:
"Bartow, Oct 13, - (Special)- In the death recently of Bennet Whidden, this section lost one of its best known citizens. His illness was of only a few hours' duration. He had enjoyed apparently almost perfect health for years, and the fatal attack came as a great surpirse to his friends and relatives. Mr. Whidden was a native of Florida, being born on the Suwannee river, and had resided in this section for many years. He was a Civil war veteran, also a veteran of the war against the Seminole Indians. He was in the Confederate army, was wounded in battle and captured by the Union forces and spent considerable time in a northern prison before being exchanged.
"After the war he married. His wife died some years ago. He is survived by fifteen children, as follows: W. J. Whidden, Bartow; E. F. Whidden, Mulberry; E. K. Whidden, New Mexico; Sydney Whidden, Jacksonville; Cleve Whidden, Frostproof; DeWitt Whidden, Lakeland; S. P. Whidden, Tampa; Miss Josephine Whidden, Jacksonville; Mrs. W. J. Parker, Sanford; Mrs. R. C. Langford, Arcadia; Mrs. Dolly Curry, Palmetto; Mrs. McCree, Palmetto; Mrs. Sheretz, Frostproof; Mrs. Bowers, Palm Beach; Mrs. Frank Hugh, Zolfo Springs.
"He was buried at the side of his wife in the Wildwood cemetery. Pallbearers were: M. E. Skipper, J. B. Pylant, Jr., R. M. Oglesby, T. B. Davis, W. J. Parker, J. H. Lancaster.
"Funeral services were conducted at the grave by Rev. Robert White, burial services being in charge of T. E. Wirt.

Issue of Bennett and Emily (Durrance) Whidden, all born at Old Tiger Bay:

1. William James Joseph Whidden, born Nov. 28, 1866; died June 17, 1943; married (1) Lillie Wingate (1867-1897), Dec. 4, 1887 ; (2) Ida Rosa Colding (1876-1933).
2. Edward Kirby Whidden, born Feb. 5, 1868; lived near Hendersville, N. C.; married on Dec. 31, 1890 Stella E. Norton.
3. Eldridge Saxton Whidden, born Jan. 9, 1869; died June 9, 1936, Mulberry, Fla.; married on Dec. 19, 1898 Susie A. Holland.
4. Harriet Elinor Whidden, born Dec. 9, 1870; died July 1, 1950; married on Feb. 12, 1888 Robert Caul Langford.
5. Josephine Whidden, born June 8, 1872; died Feb. 10, 1952, Plant City, Fla.; never married.
6. Julia Mable Whidden, born Feb. 6, 1874; lived in Indiantown, Fla.; married Dec. 1, 1896 William S. Parker.
7. Susan Adeline Whidden, born May 21, 1876; lived in Indiantown, Fla.; married (1) James C. Rowell; (2) D. Bowers.
8. Sidney C. Whidden, born August 24, 1877; lived in Punta Gorda, Fla.; married on June 4, 1902 Florence M. Young.
9. Emily Estelle Whidden, born March 9, 1879; died Sept. 17, 1941, Zolfo Springs, Fla.; married on Jan. 2, 1898 Frank M. Hough.
10. Nannie May Whidden, born Nov. 2, 1880; died 1958; married on Jan. 25, 1899 Joseph N. McCree.
11. Dolly Lee Whidden, born June 2, 1883; married on June 1, 1902 Hervey Baxter Curry.
12. Bennett Cleveland Whidden, born November 25, 1884; died March 25, 1932, Bartow, Fla.; married on Oct. 7, 1922 Mrs. Annie Langford.
13. Samuel Paul Whidden, born April 11, 1886; died on Oct. 10, 1947, Tampa, Fla.; married (1) on Nov. 15, 1903 Dora Lee Carlton; (2) Nettie Hall.
14. Flossie L. Whidden, born Sept. 29, 1888; died on July 23, 1977 at Avon Park, Fla.; married Walter Sherertz.
15. Grady DeWitt Whidden, born Feb. 15, 1891; died Jan. 11, 1957; married Lula Haines.

Bennett Whidden in his Confederate uniform, Polk County Historical Quarterly, March 1986, page 4

Bennett Whidden family, 1890, Polk County Historical Quarterly, March 1986, page 5

Bennett and Emily Whidden

References: Margaret Durrance and Ann Folk Durrance, Lineage of Joseph Durrance; "The Bennett Whidden Family," Polk County Historical Quarterly, March, 1986, pp. 4-6; pension application of Bennett Whidden, courtesy of Denton Cash; obituary of Bennett Whidden from Teresa McGowin.

This profile is adapted from the author's feature in The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Fla.) of August 15, 1996.

February 10, 2001, January 18, 2002, June 4, 2004 (photos, June 5, 2006 (obituary)