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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Andrew J. Whiffen

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 667 - 669

Andrew J. Whiffen, Superintendent of the Sheboygan County Chronic Insane Asylum, is a native of the Empire State, and was born near Rome, Oneida County, March 4, 1844, of English parentage. (See sketch of father, William Whiffen, elsewhere in this work.)

Our subject removed with his parents from his native State to Illinois in the spring of 1844, and thence to Sheboygan County, Wis., in the fall of 1845. On coming to this county, the family settled in the town of Sheboygan Falls. There Andrew J. was reared on his father's farm, and was educated in the public schools and in the Sheboygan High School. In 1869 he engaged in mercantile business in the village of Onion River, now Waldo Station, and continued there for thirteen years, eight years of which time he held the office of Postmaster.

On the 4th of March, 1880, Mr. Whiffen was married in the town of Lyndon, Sheboygan County, to Miss Viola Mead, Mrs. Whiffen was born in Lyndon Township and is a daughter of S. W. and Georgiana Mead. Mr, and Mrs. Whiffen have two children living and have lost one. Olive, is the eldest. The second, Alice May, a child possessed of most promising intelligence and rare self-possession in one so young, died at the age of three and a-half years. The youngest is an infant son named Clarence F.

In politics, Mr. Whiffen is a Republican, but has never entertained any taste for official distinction, having always refused to allow his name to be used for an elective office. When the institution of which he is at the head was founded, he was chosen to the office of Superintendent, and has filled that position continuously since. The Sheboygan County Chronic Insane Asylum was opened for occupancy June 1, 1882, under the management of A. J. Whiffen. The institution has a capacity for the accommodation of one hundred and twenty inmates. It is situated on an elevated site in the western part of the city of Sheboygan, and the grounds proper embrace forty acres of land, all of which is cultivated except a limited amount around the buildings. In addition to land belonging to the Asylum, the Superintendent rents from eighty to ninety acres, which he cultivates with the usual force of employes{sic}, and the assistance of those of the inmates whose services can be made available. About seventy-five persons are so employed, some full time, some half time, and some only occasionally, at odd jobs that they may safely undertake. The regular hired help averages eight hands. The average number of inmates in the institution is about ninety-five. The work that the inmates are induced to perform is only what they can do with comfort, and which is conducive to health and happiness.

Under the judicious management of Mr. Whiffen the institution not only produces all the vegetables, meat and milk consumed there, but has a surplus each year to sell. The past year the surplus sold brought $800. Some thirty-five to forty head of cattle are kept, and nearly as many blooded pigs, while four horses are required to operate the farm. The institution has city water and every sanitary convenience. Dr. Almon Clarke has been the attending physician since the beginning, except for about a year when absent from the city, when Dr. Bock acted in his place. The record shows that the Asylum has been prosperous and successful, furnishing the best of care for the unfortunate class for whom it was erected, at a very reasonable cost.

A memorable incident in its history is the fire which occurred December 29, 1892, in which an employe{sic} lost his life, and which very nearly caused the death of the worthy Superintendent. It happened about one o'clock that smoke was discovered issuing from the laundry, and Mr. Whiffen, having sent word to his wife to unlock the women's wards and get the inmates out (for the fire was directly beneath them), proceeded into the laundry, trying to locate the fire, in order to direct the means for its extinguishment. He found the smoke so dense that he was forced backward, and was about to retire, when he fell unconscious to the floor, overcome by the heat and smoke. In the mean time Mrs. Whiffen had telephoned to the city fire department, and had released the women. The firemen responded so promptly that the fire was extinguished before it had attained much headway. It was not until their work was completed that they found Mr. Whiffen lying unconscious and apparently dead, and the body of the night watchman. In Mr. Whiffen's case, the only sign of life was a very faint flutter of the^ heart. The attending physician claims that if the application of restoratives had been delayed a few minutes longer life would have been extinct. As it was, he lingered in an unconscious condition between life and death for several days, and had it not been for the possession of an unusually robust constitution and great vitality, he never would have survived the terrible ordeal.

Among the most prominent of those deserving praise for the establishment and successful working of the institution, should be mentioned William Elwell, who was most indefatigable in his efforts to effect the establishment of the Asylum, and was very influential in its accomplishment. At that time he was one of the worthy and successful business men of Sheboygan, but is now deceased. Carl Zillier, J. M. Kohler, and Mr. Brickner, of Sheboygan Falls, were also active in the same worthy enterprise. The present Board of Trustees are Carl Zillier, of Sheboygan; Henry Walvoord, of Cedar Grove; and Henry Fisher, of Plymouth.


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