Francis Whitmire, Sr. & Offspring

Whitmire Family History Document
Whitmire Family History Document

PREFACE: Both of my parents are from Butler, PA.  My grandmother was Edith (Whitmire) McClain (1917-2003), and I have childhood memories of attending Whitmire family reunions in Alameda Park in Butler, PA.

I possess a genealogical record full of names and dates concerning the Whitmire’s of Butler, PA,  compiled over the years by family members.  I’ve been toying with the idea of using that record and writing a family history.   I am interesting in capturing the stories of the lives of the Whitmires. I’m very much an amateur genealogist and historian,  so part of the purpose of this blog post is to document my experience of researching my ancestry, another part is to share what I know/don’t know, with the hope that readers could help fill in the blanks.

So, let us start at the head:  The patriarch of the Whitmire’s of Butler, PA is Francis Whitmire, Sr. (d. 1832).  What is known about this man? What is his ancestry and who are his descendants?  I only have partial answers.  This post will focus on immediate descendants.

Signature of Francis Whitmire, from 1832.
Signature of Francis Whitmire, from 1832.

The 1883 History of Butler County provides the following biographical sketch in the chapter about the history of Oakland township (chapter 34):

Among the earliest settlers of this township were Francis WHITMIRE and Connell O’DONNELL. The former came from Berks County in 1798, with his wife and family, and settled on a tract of land in the neighborhood of Boydstown, which he purchased of Stephen LOWRY. Dying in 1832, he left his farm, in a good state of cultivation, to his children. His wife’s name was Catherine RUST. She was the mother of nine children, none of whom are now living except John, who is now living with his son Peter, in the northwestern portion of the township on a magnificent farm, upon which an elegant frame house and barn were erected, the former in 1878 and the latter in 1880. (pg 323)

From this statement, we learn several key facts concerning Francis  (all of which require verification):

  1. Francis arrived in the region eventually known as Boydstown, Oakland Township, Butler County in 1798 (Butler County was formed in 1800 from parts of neighboring counties).
  2. Francis purchased land from a man named Stephen Lowry.
  3. Francis’s spouse is named Catharine RUST.
  4. At his time of arrival (1798), Francis and Catharine were married and had children.
  5. Francis and Catharine were parents of nine children.
  6. Eight of the nine offspring of Francis and Catherine died prior to 1883.
  7. One child of Francis and Catherine is named John. He is still alive in 1883, residing on the well-developed farm of his son, Peter.
  8. Francis died in 1832 and left his farm to his children.

The 1883 History also provides some biographical information about John Whitmire, listing his children.  I’ll discuss that information at a different time.  As an aside: I am a descendant of John Whitmire, the last surviving child of Francis Whitmire, Sr.

The 1895 History of Butler Co. repeats much of 1883 History.  However, the 1895 history provides some additional detail about some of Francis and Catharine’s other children:

FRANCIS WHITMIRE, SR., came from Berks county to Butler county in 1798, accompanied by his wife and family, and settled on a tract of land near the site of Boydstown, Oakland township, which he purchased of Stephen LOWREY. His wife’s maiden name was Catherine RUST, and they were the parents of nine children, all of whom are dead. Among them were Daniel; John; Francis; Julia, and Catherine. Daniel served in the War of 1812, and died on March 21, 1867, in the seventy-sixth year of his age. His wife Susan died May 14, 1861, in her sixty-ninth year. Mr. and Mrs. WHITMIRE spent the remaining years of their lives upon the homestead, where he died in 1832.

The 1895 History has biographical sketches of son’s John and Francis, Jr, calling them respectively, second and third sons. These sketches include their birth and death dates.  In addition, the 1895 History include a biographical sketch of a man named Jacob Fleeger, and lists his spouse as Catherine Whitmire, a “native of Berks Co” who died in 1863 and who was the mother of 17 children. So, additional facts now known:

  1. First son Daniel (~1791 – 1867),  War of 1812 veteran. Spouse’s name is Susanna
  2. Daughter Catherine (assumed before 1798 – 1863), married Jacob Fleeger
  3. Second son John, Sr. (1805-1891), married Catherine Painter
  4. Third son Francis, Jr. (1809-1880), married Susanna Osembauch, married Anna Painter
  5. Daughter Julia (? – before 1883)


Last Will and Testament

I have images of Francis Whitmire Sr.’s Last Will and Testament, dated May 19th, 1832.  What follows is my best attempt at a transcript. I have attempted to preserve the original spelling and line breaks.

(click on images below for high resolution view)

record-image (24)

Francis Whitmire Sr Will Pg2

I Francis Whitmire of the Township of Centre and Cou
nty of Butler for once do make and publish this my last will
and testament hereby Revoking and making void all for
mer wills by me at any time hertofore made. And first
I direct that my body be decently Intoned in the burying ground
and that my funeral be conducted in a manner corre-
sponding with my Estate and station in Life: And
as to such worldly Estate as it hath pleased God to entrust
me with I dispose of the same as follows First I direct
that all my Debts and funeral Expenses be paid - and
I do bequeth unto my son John one hundred and fifty
acres of the tract of land I now live on to be taken out of the
East Corners of said tract adjoining Lands of Michel
Thomson the East and the Heirs of John Thompson
dec’d on the north and the remaining part of said
tract on the south and west. and to my son Francis
I do bequeth the remaining two Hundred and fifty acres
of Land that I now reside upon with all the apertain
ences[?], thereunto belonging.  and I do direct and it is
my will that my son John do pay in trade fifty
dollars to my son Daniel and Twenty five dollars
to my daughter Peggy within four years after my
decease. And it my will that my son Francis do
pay to my Daughters Sarah and Peggy Fifty dollars to
Sara and Twenty five dollars to Peggy in trade to be
paid in four years after my decease.  And  I do further
bequeth unto my Daughters Catherine now Entermarried wi
th Jacob Fleger and [?] now Entermarried with Daniel
Sherit, and Elizabeth now Entermarried with Fredrick
Sarens and Polly now Entermarried with Andrew Ma
ise two Hundred and fifty acres of Land lying and
situate in Muddy Creek Township Butler County in
the first Donation[?] District to be Divided Equaly
amongst the last four named of these my daughters
And I do bequeth unto my son Francis five head
of Horses and one Cow, and four head of Sheep and
sixteen head of Hogs or Swine and one wind mill and
Plow and harrow and horse gear[?] and one mare sa-
dle. And I do further bequeth unto my daughter Peggy
two beds and beding and all my kitchen furniture
and one spinning wheel and one cow and calf and four
head of sheep, and I do bequeth unto my Heir
Goredy Premire two beds and Beding and one spin-
ing wheel and one cow and calf and four head
of sheep, and I do further direct and it is my will
that all Bonds and Notes due to me shall remai
in the hand of my son Francis until the are collect
and after my Debts and funeral expenses is Discharg
ed all that remains of said Money I allow to be
applyed to the pattenting[?] of the Land now in
the occupancy of my self and John Whitmire
In witness whereof I Francis Whitmire the Testator
have to this my will written on one half sheet of paper
set my hand and seal this nineteenth day of May in
the year of our Lord one thousand Eight Hundred
and thirty two 1832

Francis  X Whitmire {x}

Signed sealed and Delivered
in  presence of us who have

Inscribed in the presence of Each other
Witness present
Andrew Christy
Irving Bainmores

From Francis Whitmire, Sr’s Will, we have confirmed and we learn:

  1. son Daniel (~1791 – 1867), married Susanna —–
  2. daughter Catherine (Whitmire) Fleeger (assumed before 1798 – 1863)
  3. son John, Sr.  (1805-1891), married Catherine Painter
  4. son Francis, Jr. (1809-1880), married Susanna Osembauch, married Anna Painter
  5. daughter Sarah (? – ?), living as of 1832, presumably unmarried
  6. daughter Peggy (? – ?), living as of 1832, presumably unmarried,
    (also presumed to be properly called Margaret because an other document as part of the Will court records citing a “Margaret Whitmire”)
  7. daughter (presumably Julia) (?-?) who married Daniel Sherit
  8. daughter Elizabeth (?-?),  living as of 1832, who married Frederick Sarens
  9. daughter Polly (?-?),  living as of 1832, who married Andrew Maise

In addition, the absence of any mention or provision by Francis for wife Catherine leads one to suspect that she died prior to 1832.

I have some additional resources which help to fill in the above blanks, a little.

St John’s (Hain’s) Reformed Church, Berks Co.

First, it has been proposed that Francis Whitmire is the son of Eberhardt Weydenmeyer, a German immigrant who lived in Berks county after his arrival in 1764.  There are several good reasons to believe this is true.  They were in the same place at the same time, and there is common variations of spelling of their names.  Eberhardt Weydenmeyer’s name is spelled in various ways in documents dated between 1764 and 1794, when it is believed he died.  These variations include (but are not limited to): Weidenmeyer, Witmeyer, Whitmoyer, and Whitmyer.  Variation and ultimately change in name was a common experience for German immigrants to a English speaking colonies, and is well documented.  Spelling of the name transitions to more closely match the English phonetic sounds.  There is some evidence of variation in the spelling of Francis and Catharine’s last name in documents from Butler, where it is spelled Whitmyre.

Taking into account what we know of Francis and Catharine’s family, and understanding variation in spelling of German immigrant names makes all the more credible the claims that records of St. John’s (Hain’s) Reformed church in Lower Heidelberg Township, Berks County from the 1780s and 1790s are those of Francis and Catherine and their children.   According to this church’s baptismal records: (pg 123-124)

  • 1788, Dec 7.  Catharine Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Witmyer.  Born 29 Nov, 1788. Sponsored by Philip Stiely and Catharine Elizabeth.
  • 1790, June 20. Juliana, daughter of John Francis Witmoyer and Catharine, born April 5, 1790. Sponsor, Antelle Witmoyer
  • 1792, April 29. Daniel, son of Francis Witmoyer, born Jan 17, 1792. Sponsored by Philip Stiely and Catharine.
  • 1794, Mar. 16. Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Witmoyer, born Dec 11, 1793. Sponsors, Ernst Witmeyer and Margareth.

These records appear to corroborate what was is know about Francis and Catharine’s family.

Whitmire Family Cemetery, Butler PA.

A Whitmire family cemetery exists in Oakland township.  In this cemetery is buried Francis Whitmire Sr, Daniel, John, Francis Jr, and Pollie, who death is given as 1846, age 45 and is listed as “the wife of Andrew Mays”.  Catharine (Whitmire) Fleeger is buried with her spouse and some offspring in Jamisonville, Butler County, in the Fleeger family cemetery.

With the additional information from the St. John’s records and the cemeteries, what we know of Francis and Catharine Whitmire’s offsprings is as follows:

  1. daughter Catherine Elizabeth (1788 – 1863),  married Jacob Fleeger
  2. daughter  Julia (1790 – aft 1832/bf 1883), married Daniel Sherit
  3. son Daniel (1792 – 1867), married Susanna —–
  4. daughter Elizabeth (1794- aft 1832/bf 1883) , married Frederick Sarens
  5. daughter Polly (1801-1846), married Andrew Mays
  6. son John, Sr.  (1805-1891), married Catherine Painter
  7. son Francis, Jr. (1809-1880), married Susanna Osembauch, married Anna Painter
  8. daughter Sarah (? – aft 1832/bf 1883), presumably unmarried
  9. daughter Margaret AKA Peggy (? – aft 1832/bf 1883), presumably unmarried

Brick Walls

There is considerable known documentation regarding the families of Catherine, Daniel, John, Francis and Polly.   In contrast, there is virtually nothing known regarding Julia, Elizabeth, Sarah and Peggy.  In addition, what is known about them is unclear.  In his will, Francis spells Catharine Fleeger’s married name as “Flegar” and Polly’s Mays married name as “Maise”.  In other words, in the document which is the only record we have of Elizabeth and Julia’s spouses the spellings of their names are suspect.  Will other documents list Daniel’s last name as “Sherit” and Frederick’s last name as “Sarens”? Or are these more phonetic spellings of the name?  Given the lack of any documentation concerning these individuals, it is suspected that either they moved away from Butler in the first part of the 1800s or their documentation eludes me due to variation in spelling.

Finally, there is the issue of the additional heir listed in Francis’ will.  On page 2, Francis appears to have written:

and I do bequeth unto my Heir
Goredy Premire two beds and Beding and one spin-
ing wheel and one cow and calf and four head
of sheep

Who is this person (presumably a female) and why does Francis list this person as an Heir?  Her inheritance is not insignificant, so she must be a person of some significance to Francis Whitmire.  What was that significance?


All the above yields the following genealogically “brick walls” concerning the offspring of Francis Whitmire, Sr. of Butler Co.:

  • What happened to Julia and Daniel Sherit? Can we trust Francis’ spelling of Daniel’s last name?
  • What happened to Elizabeth and Frederick Sarens?  Can we trust Francis’ spelling of Frederick’s last name?
  • What happened to Margaret/Peggy Whitmire? Did she marry?
  • What happened to Sarah Whitmire? Did she marry?
  • Who was “Goredy Premire”?


PREFACE: This is an experiment is writing history // family history.

One interesting aspect of genealogy is the capacity to discover and explore common familial interests.  One interest of mine is education and how society organizes itself so as to advance education.  In my research of the Whitmire family of Butler, Pennsylvania I discovered a brief newspaper note concerning an incident in the life of Cora (Whitmire) Ohl (1884-1961), my great grandaunt.  At the age of twenty, she once delivered a lecture entitled “Education.”  This little fact makes me happy. This fact, and some others, causes me to wonder just how deep an interest in educational philosophy and schools runs in my family.

To understand the significant of Cora’s lecture,  I’ll first provide some context regarding Butler educational history.

Butler Schools

From the 1883 History of Butler County (pg 325-326), we learn a little about the development of schools in Butler County’s Oakland Township, where the Whitmire’s resided:

The first school building was erected on the farm now owned by Martin EYTH, in 1834, and in the fall of the same year another school was held in a house which had been used as a dwelling house on the GOFF farm. William GREER taught the first school in the township. Other early teachers were John and Robert THORN, Jacob BOYD, Abraham STEVENSON, William MCCLUNG and John O’DONNELL. In 1854, when the township took its present form, public schoolhouses were built throughout the township in sufficient number, viz.: The GOFF School, the MILLINGER School, the WHITMIRE School, the DUFFY School, now called McGINLEY School. (emphasis mine)

The date of 1834 corresponds to a significant education legislation in Pennsylvania history,  the Free School Act of 1834.  Donald Kent,  author of “The Fight for Free Schools in Pennsylvania” writes,

The Act provided that each county should be a school division, and every ward, township, or borough a school district. [It also] provided for the election of school directors very much as at the present time. The permissive features of the bill were in Sections 4,5,6 and 7, which provided for annual meetings in each county of the county commissioners-and a representative of each school board in the county. These joint meetings would decide whether a county school tax should be levied for the support of common schools, and if in favor, would arrange for a tax levy which should be sufficient to yield at least twice the amount given by the State. If the vote was against levying a tax, the districts would receive no money from the State, and would continue to operate under the Act of 1809.

This law was challenged by many communities. Many incumbents lost their legislative seats because of it, and there arose a significant effort to repeal the law.  That effort, however, was ultimately thwarted. Credit is given to Thaddeus Stevens, who delivered a celebrated speech in favor of the bill and who chastised those against, saying that those in opposition

cheerfully pays the tax which is necessary to support and punish convicts, but loudly complains of that which goes to prevent this fellow from becoming criminals, and to obviate the necessity of the humiliating institutions.

The School Act of 1834 resulted in the formation of schools districts, school funds were managed by the county school board, comprised of school directors.  Little information is known of the Whitmire School, except that it was directed by John Whitmire Sr (1805-1891), the second son of Francis Whitmire (d. 1832), the family patriarch. Again, from the 1883 history:

School Directors were Henry CONWAY, Capt J. GOFF, Michael MCGINLEY, John MCELWEE, Thomas MARTIN and Eli BALPH. Later Directors were Archie MCJUNKIN, Michael O’DONNELL, A.J. SIMPSON, Hugh MCCAFFERTY, Robert HAMILTON, John H. NEYMAN, Anthony HOON, John MILLINGER and John WHITMIRE(emphasis mine)

From the 1895 History of Butler County, we learn that John Whitmire Sr must have passed on his commitment  to education to his sons, Jacob Whitmire (1833-1902) and John Whitmire Jr. (1835-1916) both who are recorded as having served as school director. John filled the positions of “school director and treasurer of the district three years and a half.” (p 1017).   A commitment to the common good and participation continued to extend down the family tree.  Concerning John Whitmire Sr’s grandson, Robert J Whitmire (1858-1913), son of Jacob Whitmire, in McKee’s 1909 History of Butler County it is written (p 783):

[Robert J Whitmire] takes a very active interest in politics and is always willing to do his share in anything looking to the improvement of the public highways, the advancement of the schools or other public questions which good citizens are called upon to decide.

Robert J Whitmire, public servant and father of Cora.
Robert J Whitmire, “good citizen” and father of Cora Whitmire.

The Teachers Institute

In 1854 Pennsylvania passed another education law, the School Act, which created the role of county school superintendent. The 1895 history records Isaac BLACK as Butler’s first school superintendent.  Opposition to this law also existed.  Support for Mr. Black came more directly from the local citizens of Butler.

In the multiple published History of Butler County (1883, 1895, 1909), we learn about the existence of the Butler County Teachers Institute, an association organized November 19, 1855.  The mission of the Butler County Teacher’s Institute was to advance the common school system and advocate for the authority and leadership of the newly formed superintendent position, part of the School Act of 1854.  At its formation, the Teacher’s Institute issued the following statement:

WHEREAS, We firmly believe the common school system of Pennsylvania to be well calculated to redeem the schools of the State, and advance the sadly neglected cause of popular education, and feel that we are worthy of public confidence and support, therefore,

Resolved, That in order to promote the public interest in this respect and elevate the character of our profession, we hereby secure the allegiance we owe to that great system, by pledging ourselves to the faithful discharge of our responsible duties as educators commissioned by the State, and to a cordial co-operation with our energetic County Superintendent (Isaac BLACK), in his arduous efforts to reform and build up the common schools of Butler County.

Resolved, That in the opinion of the teachers here assembled, Mr. Isaac BLACK, our worthy Superintendent of Public Schools, has discharged the arduous and responsible duties of his office with marked zeal and ability, and that we will cordially co-operate with him in all of his efforts to elevate the common schools of the county.

Resolved, That the several Boards of Directors of this county be respectfully requested to vote a salary to the County Superintendent, commensurate with the duties of his office, which have demanded, and will continue to demand, his whole time and best energies.

Resolved, That we loudly call upon the friends of education throughout Butler County to unite with us in our endeavors to elevate the standard of teaching, and the condition of our common schools.

One activity of the Institute was to make curricular recommendations. According the 1895 History:

The school books recommended [by the Institute] were MCGUFFEY’S pictorial primer, spelling-book, first, second, third, fourth and fifth readers; RAY’S mathematics, MCNALLY’S geography, and PINEO’S series of grammars.

Other ways the Teachers Institute contributed was that it hosted academic contests and organized and provided examination committees for local high schools. The November 5th, 1879 edition of the Butler Citizen provided a detailed report of the proceeding of a week long Institute held Monday, October 27th through Friday, October 31st.  Thursday’s proceedings included the presentation of awards of a spelling contest, and it recorded that 5 year old Maggie Whitmire (1874-1944) was one of nine recipients of second-place awards.

The February 18, 1904 edition of the Butler Citizen reports that county high school examinations are scheduled for the 26th of March.  Cora Whitmire (1884-1961) is listed as member of the West Liberty examination committee.

But most significantly, the Institute held professional development events.  According to the 1895 History,

Every year since the organization, teachers’ institutes have been held with more or less success. The thirty-ninth annual session held at Butler, December 18-22, 1893, was attended by 286 teachers … The Institute proves, by its popularity, that it holds the key to practical information for all interested in the common school system of the State.

The Butler County Teacher’s Institute worked to advance education the Butler community for nearly 100 years. It mirrored associations formed in other Pennsylvania counties.

The November 1857 edition of the Pennsylvania School Journal (Vol VI, No. 5) contains a report, submitted by J.S. REID, the Institute’s secretary, on a three day semi-annual meeting, held Oct 7-9th in Prospect.  The agenda of conference included official organizational business as well as talks on pedagogy, including the best method to introduce Geography, Penmanship, Arithmetic, Physical education as well as the “best method securing order in the school room.”  The event was attended by approximately 75 individuals and, according to the secretary “the discussions and deliberations were conducted with great earnestness and good feeling.”

For nearly a century, the Teachers Institute served the citizens of Butler by bringing to the region nationally-acclaimed performers and speakers. For example, Dr. James Hedley, a lecturer of national acclaim, was present at the 1889 Institute and delivered two of his lectures, “The Kingly No” and  “Failure and Success.”

James Hedley Lecturer
James Hedley Lecturer

In 1901 Dr Hedley wrote an autobiography of his experiences lecturing, entitled “Twenty Years on the Lecture Platform”.  As late as 1913 Dr. Hedly continued to lecture.

In December of 1902, the Teacher’s Institute included a performance by the nationally acclaimed Lotus Glee Club and dramatic recitation by Mrs. Minnie Marshall Smith.

Lotus Glee Club pamphlet 1909
Mrs. Minnie Marshall Smith

Teacher Institute events were truly professional development events, designed to bring seasoned educational professionals together with developing local professionals, sometimes with humorous results.  The November 5th, 1879 edition of the Butler Citizen contains this aside regarding some of the attendees of the Institute:

Some of the teachers who were at the Institute would have the Directors connect a graveyard with each schoolhouse, as was inferred from the manner in which they spoke of capital punishments as the proper way to bring about reformation in schools. But, of course, they meant to speak of corporeal punishment.
Schools with Graveyards?

Cora Whitmire

Cora (Whitmire) Ohl (1884-1961) was a granddaughter of Jacob Whitmire, and the eldest daughter of Robert J. and Maggie (Smith) Whitmire. She was active in the Butler County’s Teacher Institute. It even appears she may have been a budding educational philosopher.

As noted earlier, the February 18, 1904 edition of the Butler Citizen lists Cora Whitmire as member of the West Liberty examination committee. She was twenty years old. The same report informed readers that the Butler County Teachers’ Institute had concluded a professional development event successfully, calling it “the most entertaining, instructive and pleasant Teacher’s Institute ever held in Butler”.

From the April 7th edition of the Butler Citizen we also learn that at smaller one-day event was held March 19th in Brady township, and that Miss Cora Whitmire was part of the agenda. It is recorded that she gave a lecture entitled “Education.”  The event was well received, even though, as the April 7th edition of the Butler Citizen reported, the “weather was disagreeable.”

Miss Cora Whitmire, “Education”

In James McKees’ History of Butler County, published in 1909, Cora Whitmire is enumerated in the biographic profile of her father, Robert J.  She is said to be “a teacher at Jefferson Center, Jefferson Township.”   Later that same year, June 9, 1909, Cora Whitmire married Oscar Ohl.  They had eight children.  She died December 14, 1961 and is buried with her husband, as well as several of their children, in the cemetery at Summit United Presbyterian Church in Butler.  It is not known to what extent she continued in her educational career.

Neither is it known if a more detailed history of the Butler County Teachers Institute exists. If not, it would be a great project for an educational historian.

The Institute continued well into the 1930s. The December 16, 1930 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced the recent convening of the Institute and recorded an enrollment of 584 teachers.



A Potential Project

1896 Map of Butler, PA

I’ve dug out my genealogical research notes and been back at it.  I am very much a genealogically newbie, and am learning as I go.   But one thing I am re-discovering is just how much fun genealogy is as it ties together history, human relationships, and social institutions.

Just some highlights:

  • The question of storing genealogical research has always troubled me. There are many programs one can buy, but migrating from computer to the next is frustrating. In addition, I have multiple computers, so having my research on just one machine is frustrating.  Well, I’ve discovered Wikitree, which is an online system for recording genealogical information.wikitree-logo

    I like it and I’ve been using it.  Another website I’ve discovered is Find A Grave.  Amazing.

  • While I do not believe there are any published family histories for any of my lines, I am very fortunate to have inherited lots of genealogical information from family members about the Whitmires of Butler, PA .  I have a document that is nearly 100 pages long and provides family trees for nearly 10 generations, all the way back to Francis Whitmire, the son of a German immigrant, who moved to Butler, PA in 1798.
  • Whitmire Family History Document
    Whitmire Family History Document

    The vast majority of the research this document contains is genealogical research done before the Web.  This fact is amazing to me.  It represents countless hours recording oral history, visiting courthouses, libraries, etc.  I really appreciate all the work.  It makes me appreciate all the more that genealogy is a labor of love, and requires significant determination!

  • Concerning the document, many of the branches in the family lines have gaps. In addition, there are no real significant documentation provided. Lastly, there are no stories in the document. There are generations listed and an occasional biographical note, often concerning a marriage or premature death, but very little that gives one insight into the Whitmire character.  So there is lots of opportunity to share primary sources and tell stories, and in fact, it seems that this document begs for a the next level of a family history treatment.

    The signature of Francis Whitmire on his Last WIll and Testament – 19 May, 1832
  • So, I’ve been polishing up on my genealogical skills, working on some of these branches, capturing stories and documentation.  As a result I have already collected some documents, like Francis Whitmire’s 1832 Last Will and Testament, and stories and feel like I already have the makings of book about the ancestry and progeny of the Whitmire Family of Butler, PA.
  • I thought I might use the blog as a place to capture and share some of these documents and stories, as I work on them.
  • My grandparents where Edith Whitmire (1917-2003) and Leroy McClain (1916-2000).  The differences in their ancestry in amazing. The Whitmires were German-descendant farmers, who dug roots and in some cases became relatively wealthy and part of the social fabric of Butler. In contrast, my Scot-Irish McClain line were apparently rugged and practical, and prone to wandering.  They represent a more challenging genealogical puzzle. Currently I’m attempting to connect the dots in pre-civil war TN.  If anyone has any connection to Erin, Houston Co., TN and/or knows about the John Biller McClain and/or Joseph Newton McClain (AKA McLane), I’d welcome the opportunity to collaborate.


They Have Come Into It

They have come into it
That state without a name
Whose closest allies are
Widows and orphans
Yet is only parents
Who now are

They must learn the way
To express how it feels.
In ancient days they
Tore their clothes and
Poured ashes on their heads
Sharing what was

They have no recourse
Nothing can help
Simply stay and witness
Their substitute, their grief
And in doing so give
Power and grace

This Blessed Advent Morning

That pew
I occupied it again
This morning
That pew
Often hard and stiffening
Did soften and ease
This blessed Advent morning.

The songs
We sang them again
This morning
The songs
Recently more breathless noise
Resonated deeply
This blessed Advent morning.

My sins
We confessed them again
This morning
My sins
Which accuse and condemn
Were justly silenced
This blessed Advent morning.

The news
We celebrated it again
This morning
The news
Which has never come to me in dreams
Came in the story of a dreamer
This blessed Advent morning.

The Word
I heard it again
This morning.
The Word
Often passé is now anticipated
A babe born in the House of Bread
This blessed Advent morning.

Great Grandfather

B McClain, listening to the radio

In the photo, maybe seventy years old,
He widely sits, slumped into a parlor chair
Nestled near the corner.

Arm on the rest, he holds his ancient head
And cares not that his wire-rim glasses
Have ever-so-slightly slid.

Beside him stands the radio cabinet
On which sits a rack of phonograph records
And an inconspicuous trophy.

His neck just overflows his buttoned shirt collar.
His tie, thin and tight, matches his lips.
He is listening, looking to the right.

Whether it be the news, filled with desperation
Or the music of that era, spinning, skipping
He has heard it all before.

PHOTO: William “Bea” McClain (1882-1963)

Big Mountain Jesus

Photo By CarleyJane
Photo By CarleyJane

Big Mountain Jesus, why so sad?

It cannot be the view.
For surely Northwest Montana is just as beautiful
As it was the day you arrived
Over 50 years ago
Commemorating the 10th Mountain Division
Men who skied the Alps for the Allies
Who in Italy and France found solace
In numerous shrines.
I guess things seemed grim, and yet
they found perspective.

It cannot be your powder blue toga.
(Though I do wonder if that is the best choice, given the climate)
True, some flannel-lined pants, or maybe
A wool sweater would better trap the heat.
But then they’d possibly restrict
Your out-raised arms and
Your bleeding heart.
And a toboggan! Don’t get me started,
that would have given you hat head.
All in all, a robe is not a bad choice,
Blue looks good on you
The tourists note it compliments the sky.

It cannot be the Constitution.
It’s true, those bickering over it
And its several clauses
Seem to miss the point.
Your baby-blue eyes
With their soul-searching power
They have rights too.
So you go right ahead, please continue
Establishing and
Subjecting each skier
vacationing on the hill
To your sovereign will.
Each descends
In sprays of fresh powder
To do your mighty bidding.

Really, Big Mountain Jesus, why so sad?
I mean, transfiguration happens?


NPR 12/3/12: ‘Big Mountain Jesus’ Statue Divides Montanans