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John Whidden

By Spessard Stone

John Whidden, a pioneer settler of Polk County, Florida, was a veteran of the Third Seminole War, Confederate soldier, and farmer.

John Whidden was born February 6, 1839 in Hamilton County, Florida. With his parents, James W. Whidden and Mary (Altman) Whidden, he moved in 1843 to Hillsborough County.

During the Third Seminole War, John Whidden enlisted as a private on February 20, 1856 in Capt. Francis M. Durrance's Co. and was mustered out of service at Fort Frazier August 22, 1856. He then re-enlisted on August 22, 1856 in the same company and was mustered out December 21, 1856 at Tampa. He enlisted as a private at Fort Brooke on June 21, 1857 in Capt. Johnston's Company and served to December 28, 1857.

During the Civil War, John served as a private in Company B, 7th Florida Infantry, CSA. The company was mustered into service on April 10, 1862. Records are unavailable of John's service, but he served to the war's end. On September 23, 1909, he was approved for a pension of $120.00 per annum from that service, effective July 1, 1909.

In 1865 John moved to Sumter County and lived there about three years before settling permanently in Polk County where he farmed.

When applying for a pension from his service in Capt. Durrance's Company on November 17, 1902, John Whidden gave his address as Auburndale, Polk County, Florida. John's application quickly hit a snag when it was learned that a John Whidden had deserted from Capt. Leroy G. Lesley's Company. It soon became clear the culprit was a cousin, John L. Whidden, known as Long John Whidden, who, while serving a life sentence for murder, died in prison November 11, 1891.

John T. Lesley of Tampa in May 1904 declared:

"The John Whidden who deserted is now dead, that he killed a man in Sumpter Co., Fla. and was convicted and sent to the Penitentiary and that he knew that John Whidden was the deserter and that this claimant did not desert at any time.
"Whidden known as Cutthroat John and his brother William Whidden with another man did desert the company at Fort Meade when the company was ordered to the Big Cypress and the John Whidden who deserted afterwards killed a man by the name of Thomas Jones in Sumpter County, was afterwards convicted of his murder and sent to the penitentiary and I learned that he there died. The above John Whidden is an honorable man."

On June 3, 1910 John stated, "I had a cousin named John Whidden. He died in state prison...His father's name was William Whidden." Continuing, John declared: "My description was in service height 5 ft. 6 in., complexion dark, hair black, eyes black, birth mark on right hip. My cousin John Whidden was much taller than me, slender built, light hair, gray eyes, sandy whiskers & hair."

John T. Lesley on June 4, 1910 averred:

"The Whidden men were frontier men and here before I was and I came in 1849. This John Whidden who had a brother William deserted together with his brother William. We were stationed at Fort Meade and were ordered to go to the Everglades in the interior of the state and they John Whidden and his brother William said they would not go and were put under guard. They then promised to go with us but when we started they were missing. At this time this John Whidden and his brother William were members of my father's company."

On June 14, 1910, the pension was finally approved at the rate of $8 per month from June 27, 1902. On February 10, 1913, it was increased to $20 per month.

John Whidden died March 13, 1926 and was buried at Collins Cemetery on Cumbee Road, Lakeland, Florida.

At Sumterville, Sumter County, Florida on May 27, 1867, John had married Arminda Roberts.

Issue of John and Arminda (Roberts) Whidden:

1. Charles Leroy Whidden, born March 13, 1868; married on October 13, 1889 Lillie O. Yeomans.
2. Lula Whidden, born December 28, 1869; married on January 4, 1888 William M. Turner.
3. James Whidden, born 1870; married on September 12, 1889 Callie J. Branch.
4. Ella Whidden, born January 24, 1872; married on April 1, 1891 Jesse M. Griffin.
5. Beulah Whidden, born 1876; married Henry Cumbee.
6. Osceola Whidden, born May 14, 1879; married _______ Anderson.
7. Ulee Call Whidden, born 1883.

Middle seated: Lucinda "Cindy," Left to right standing: Malinda "Lindy," Laura Amanda "Mandy," Arminda "Mindy," Frances "Fanny." They are the daughters of Jackson Roberts and Frances Brown. Lucinda married Williams Mimbs, Arminda married John Whidden, Malinda married James J. "Pokey" Smith, Laura Amanda married James Aaron Whidden (son of Noah Whidden and Rebecca Vickers), Frances married James Thomas. Photo, courtesy of Ann

References: Indian War pension application of John Whidden, courtesy of Denton Cash; Spessard Stone, "Profile of James W. Whidden," "History of The Outlaw Long John Whidden," The Herald-Advocate, respectively of July 27, 1989 and January 9, 1992.

This profile was published in The Herald-Advocate of January 4, 1996.

February 10, 2001 & links = October 16, 2001& May 4, 2002 = midi, "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," Taylor's Traditional Tunes.