LAFOREST R WHITTIER
The surname of the subject of this memoir at once recalls to the mind of the American patriot the gentle poet whose pen wielded an incalculable influence toward the downfall of slavery. Indeed, the gentleman of whom we write comes of the same New England family as did John G. Whittier, and drew from the same fountainhead an undying hatred for the enslavement of any part of the human race. His history and his loyalty to his country, both in peace and in war, will be of interest to his many friends here and elsewhere.
His father, Philetus Whittier, was a shoemaker by trade, a native of New Hampshire, born in 1808. When he had arrived at manhood he married Sophia A. Wilkins, whose birth had occurred at Danbury, in the same state, September 23, 1819. Six children were born two this worthy couple, namely: Flora, now of Canton, Illinois; Melissa, of Davenport, Iowa; Warren and Rosetta, deceased; Ida, of Canton, Illinois, and Laforest, of Effingham, Kansas. In 1853 the father removed to Canton, Illinois, and a few years later death cut short his career. He was a radical Republican and an ardent abolitionist. He lost his devoted wife in 1856, at Canton, Illinois, and on May 16, 1862, he followed her to the better land. They were members of the Methodist church, and were earnest exponents of the noble faith which they professed.
Laforest R. Whittier was born near Newport, New Hampshire, November 22, 1850, and thus was only six years old at the time of his mother's death, while, from the age of twelve years, he had to make his own way in the world, unaided by either parent. The great Civil War, which was in progress during the years when he should have paid the most earnest attention to his studies, interrupted them noticeably, and if it had not been for his youth he would have enlisted early in the war. However, he volunteered as a soldier in the ranks of Company C, One Hundred and Fifty-first Regiment of Illinois Infantry, on the 9th of February, 1865. With his comrades he left Camp Butler, at Springfield, Illinois, immediately, and was transported to Nashville, Tennessee, where the hard-pressed Union forces were in sad need of reinforcements. Thence later he went to Dalton, Georgia, and to Rome and Columbus, in the same state. Returning to Nashville, he soon afterward was sent back to Camp Butler, as the war had been terminated, and was honorably discharged on the 1st of February, 1866. He had suffered the hardships incident to army life, but, in spite of his youth, had borne them with fortitude, and often received the commendation of his superior officers.
For a few years after his return to Illinois Mr. Whittier was engaged in business at Bushnell, meeting with fair success. In 1884 he came to Kansas, settling in Norton county, and in 1893 he purchased his present homestead (formerly known as the "Piggott Farm"), in Benton township. It comprises one hundred and sixty-three acres, all of which is in a high state of cultivation and improved with a comfortable house, barn and farm buildings. Adding to the beauty and value of the place are the fine orchard and groves of well-kept shade trees.
On December 29, 1870, the marriage of Mr. Whittier and Caroline D. Van Doren was solemnized in Raritan, Illinois. She was born at Fairview, Fulton county, Illinois, July 22, 1851, one of the seven children of William and Mary Munson Van Doren. The father, who was born and educated in New York city, came of an old Holland Dutch family, and for years he was prominent in the business world as a hotel keeper in New York city. His two sons are George, of Illinois, and Charles, of Leland, Kansas. Susan and Sarah and Annie reside in Illinois. Steyphen (sic) (deceased) completes the family. Nine children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Whittier, namely: Albert L.; Mary E., wife of Samuel Lockwood, of Brush Creek, Atchison county; Emma May, who died when nine years old; Flora Bell, wife of James Iles, of Everest, Kansas; Ida Ordelle, Charles Philetus, Susie E., William J., Sarah Ellen and Carrie Ethel. Mrs. Samuel Lockwood has one son, Samuel Laforest, and Mrs. James Iles has two sons, Barry J. and W. Edgar.
The boys who wore the blue have ever been sincerely loved by Mr. Whittier, who is a member of the Grand Army post at Effingham. He also belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America, being identified with the Effingham lodge. With his faithful companion and helpmate along life's journey he holds membership in the Christian church.