Rev. George Whipple D.D. (June 4, 1805-October 6, 1876)

The Illustrated History of the Whipple Family in America, 1631-1987

Rev. George Whipple D.D.

(June 4, 1805-October 6, 1876)

by George Carroll Whipple III

George Whipple was born the tenth child of Benjamin and Susanne (Hall) Whipple on June 4, 1805 in Albany, N.Y.

He pursued his studies for a while at Oneida Institute, N.Y. and then at Lane Seminary under Dr. Lyman Beecher. George was one of the class of young men that left that institution on account of the action of its Board of Trustees denying the right of free speech. He with most of his class soon went to Oberlin, where they pursued their theological studies under Professors Finney and Morgen. George was enrolled in the Seminary during the year of 1834-1835. Mr. Whipple graduated in 1836 and was ordained, but never entered the pastoral office. On September 13, 1836 Rev. George Whipple was appointed Principal of the preparatory department at Oberlin. He was also appointed a member of the Presidential Committee on which he served until 1847. From 1837 until 1846 Rev. Whipple served as professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Oberlin.

It is reported in American Missionary November 1876 in an article entitled "The Death of Rev. Geo. Whipple D.D." that "this professorship was peculiarly suited to his tastes and habits of study, and he was eminently successful, but his influence was not confined to the class-room. One of the older professors has often remarked to the writer of this article, that in faculty meetings, this young professor would frequently, after others had spoken, give his own views modestly and yet so clearly, putting the subject in so new a light, as to reverse the decision foreshadowed in the remarks of all who preceded him.

"His practical and business capacity is attested in the edifice of the First Church in Oberlin, so economically, and yet so well built, largely owing to his constant care and supervision as one of the building committee."

Rev. George Whipple was married at Oberlin April 2, 1840 by the second President of Oberlin, the famed evangelist Charles G. Finney to a daughter of Hon. Ezekiel Webster, brother of the Massachusetts Senator. Alice Bridge Webster was the widow of Professor Jarvis Gregg at Boscowen Academy and Western Reserve College now (1976) Case Western reserve. Alice was the favorite niece of Daniel Webster and he dedicated some of his books to her. Most notable is the dedication in Volume I of The Works of Daniel Webster (1851, Boston)

of the First Volume

to my Nieces,
Mrs. Alice Bridge Whipple
Mrs. Mary Ann Sanborn

Many of the speeches contained in this volume were delivered and printed in the lifetime of your father, whose paternal affection led him to speak of them with approbation.

His death, which happened when he had only just past the middle period of life, left you without a father, and me without a brother.

I dedicate this volume to you, not only for the love I have for yourselves, but also as a tribute of affection to his memory, and from a desire that the name of my brother,


may be associated with mine so long as anything written or spoken by me shall be regarded or read.

Daniel Webster

Due to the family link to the Websters we have had passed down in the family a number of correspondences that Daniel Webster had with prominent politicians of the day. Among them are letters from John Adams, John Quincy Adams and John Marshall. The family has also maintained possession of a soup ladle from Daniel Webster's table which is enscribed "to my Niece A.W. from D.W." The soup ladle is presently (1986) in the possession of Alice Webster Whipple Ryan. Also we have Ezekiel Webster's book The Psalms Hymns and Spiritual Songs by Rev. Isaac Watts D.D. (Boston 1823).

It is believed that Alice Webster Whipple wrote a book called Alice in the Honeysuckle however we have not as yet secured a copy. We do have Daily Light on the Daily Path a book which Alice possessed in 1874.

The home life of Reverend George and Alice Webster Whipple was most beautiful according to contemporary accounts. Eugena Carroll wife of Rev. Whipple's eldest son remembers visiting George Whipple in their home in Brooklyn, N.Y. and marveling at the large marble staircase that dominated the entry hall. Rev. George and Alice Whipple were noted for their culture and refinement and generous hospitality as well as for their bright Christian examples. The house still stands (1981) at 231 Clinton Street in Brooklyn. It has however been extensively remodeled with all exterior decorative elements removed and divided into small apartments. It was able to salvage some bricks and brown stone for the garden at Pine View Farm.

Rev. George and Alice Whipple had four children, George Hall Whipple (b. Oberlin, Ohio Dec. 25, 1840 d. N.Y. Feb. 4, 1915); Mary Webster Whipple (b. Oberlin Dec. 17, 1842 d. Faribault, Minn. Dec. 14, 1916): Ezekiel Webster Whipple (b. Oberlin Aug. 20, 1845 d. Faribault Oct. 3, 1894) and Edward Pollard (b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Sept. 3, 1848).

Mary Webster Whipple worked at a Birch Coulee Indian Mission in Minnesota with the Right Rev. Henry Benjamin Whipple, 1st Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota. Bishop Whipple was known by the Indians as "straight tongue." He was a cousin of Rev. George Whipple D.D. who helped him get into Oberlin. In the Pine View Farm library today (1986) we have her Book of Common Prayers and Hymnal.

Ezekiel Webster Whipple was an honored professor of the Shattuck Military School for many years. He is reputed to have later taught at Dartmouth where his father the Rev. Whipple received his doctor of divinity in 1876. Ezekiel Webster Whipple was known to a host of friends as "Dear old Zeke." His grandfather Ezekiel Webster was addressed by his younger brother Daniel as "E."

Rev. George Whipple D.D. terminated his professorship at Oberlin in 1846 at which time he returned to New York and helped found the American Missionary Association. The association made up of men "who could not sustain--and could not keep silent about slavery". Thus, a constitution was written and officers elected. Rev. Whipple was elected corresponding secretary, a position he held until his death in 1876.

Rev. Whipple wrote that he was "laboring in the midst of obligery" and he deplores the instances "where men in high positions in the church have apologized for the fugitive slave law." "Surely the time is near at hand when the church will clearly see that the moral evils of slavery cannot be abated while those who are involved in its support and are received in good standing in the Christian churches and have a voice in the control of benevolent societies. Providential causes at work in this land make more evident to all the necessity of our principles in the work of Christian mission and philanthropy.

"Thus at the close of the year 1846 Mr. Whipple entered forty-second year of his age, in the full vigor of his manhood, and he devoted his whole energies to his new position with a success that is well known by the results, but with a faithfulness and spirit of self-sacrifice that few outside of his office ever knew. In those days the resources of the Association were quite limited and came mainly from those who were poor in this world's goods. His salary was very small, and he did not feel at liberty to employ adequate assistance. In the outer room of the office there yet stands a long table on which Mr. Whipple was then accustomed to write, often continuing his work till one or two o'clock at night, then wrapping himself in a blanket, he would sleep on the table till four or five o'clock in the morning, and then spring from it to resume his writing. The toil and care of his position at length impaired his health, and in 1858 he took a short trip to Europe to recruit his health, and to acquire information respecting missions in Africa, and the best mode of extending them. Through the whole course of his thirty years' duties as Secretary, he labored with unceasing diligence. He was a model of punctuality in the regularity of his office hours, and his vigilance and supervision extended to all parts of the work of the Association. He seldom took any time for vacation or relaxation, and even in the hours of conference and consultation, he soon became restless if the discussions wandered in the least from the point immediately in hand.

"Mr. Whipple's character was so well rounded that it is difficult to single out peculiar traits, yet a sound judgment--a judicial cast of mind--was perhaps the most marked feature. He was not apt to make suggestions of new plans, but he was always ready to consider them when proposed, and in their consideration he was not content with a superficial or second hand view of the case. He examined the papers himself, and always if time permitted, verified the accuracy of the figures by recasting them with his own hand. Perhaps it might be said that he was not quick in reaching his conclusion--certainly he was not hasty--but when his opinion was fully made up, his associates were accustomed to value it as highly as that of any man living. If Mr. Whipple had entered the profession of law, he would have adorned the bench in the highest courts of the land; if he had given himself to politics, he would have been fitted for a senator: but it is certain that he would never have sought either position. The place must have sought him, not he the place.

"This judicial feature of his character fitted him peculiarly to represent the Association in its intercourse with the officers of Government, in its relation to the Freedmen and to the Indian tribes. We have reason to know that he commanded the esteem of all the officers--military and civil--with whom he was thus brought into contact, and that he had a great weight of influence with them.

"He was very conscientious--not morbidly but practically. He seemed ever to respect the rights of others, in small as well as great things, and it is doubtful if the man lives who feels that Mr. Whipple ever intended to injure him in any way. The rights of the poor slave were espoused by him when worldly considerations would have told him to "pass by on the other side." Nor was he narrow in his sympathies. He was interested in all classes of men, and in all who sought to benefit man or extend the Redeemer's kingdom." In February of 1872 Rev. George Whipple acting as President of the Board of Trustees of the "Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute" a school established to educate the freed slaves received the title to their property. The campus was a 190 acre campus on which Academic Hall had been erected in 1870. General S. C. Armstrong at the time was serving as president.

On Tuesday, January 31, 1984, I had dinner at The Union Club in New York City with Dr. Clifton Johnson of the Amistad Research Center in New Orleans. The Amistad Research Center contains all the papers of the American Missionary Association as well as papers relating to the history of Black Americans. Mr. Johnson related the following stories that may be of interest:

In The White The Black and The Red, one of the earliest histories of the abolition movement in the United States misidentified the Rev. George Whipple as a black abolitionist minister. This was corrected in later versions of this now famous work.

Dr. Johnson also related that a number of years ago he sent the Dillard College archivist for preservation a letter from the Rev. Whipple to the American Missionary Association describing in great detail a meeting which he had with President Lincoln at the White House. The subject of this meeting was the Rev. Whipple's concern that President Lincoln had taken the first steps in freeing the slaves and such freedom was meaningless without the economic support to ensure the new freed man's economic viability. This meeting with President Lincoln led to a host of reforms in the Federal Government that resulted in economic support to the newly freed blacks so that they could attain the status of full citizenship. Unfortunately, Dr. Johnson reports that the letter has been lost but he is attempting to locate other copies of the letter.

Finally, Dr. Johnson repeated that the Amistad Research Center has tons of thousands of Rev. Whipple's letters.

Rev. George Whipple was remembered fondly at the time of his death on October 6, 1876. The American Missionary for November 1876 reads:

In his religious life he was not demonstrative. He was, while in health, little accustomed to the expression of his personal feelings, and it would have been almost impossible for him, especially under the depressing nature of his disease, to have poured forth his heart in the glowing words uttered by his beloved friend, Edward P. Smith, in the hour of death. But this only illustrates the varied characters of the equally consecrated children of the Heavenly Father. It is pleasant for the friends of both these brethren to believe that they are equally welcomed and rejoicing together in the better land. "In their death they were not divided." Those who knew Mr. Whipple most intimately had the highest esteem for his piety and his ripe and well developed Christian character. His humility, his profound reverence for God, his quiet and calm trust in His promises; and love, and the full consecration of all he had and could do to the Master's service were some of the lineaments of that character. His was a busy life. He rests from his labors, and his works do follow him.

Mr. Whipple was seriously ill for nearly three months before his death. He was stricken down on one of those unusually hot days in July, overcome by heat and toil, with symptoms resembling sunstroke. His remarkably fine constitution resisted for a long time, but he never rallied from the attack, and at length the powers of nature gave way, and he died with little suffering, and in the calm and assured hope in the mercy of the Divine Redeemer.

In Augustus Field Blard's book Crusade of Brotherhood Rev. Whipple is described as one who:

brought to the new-born Association not merely a radical championship of the rights of man and an intense conviction of the sin of slavery, but with it a considerate and irenic spirit, a calm and judicial mind that had much to do with the character which the society took on of positive and fearless testimony for its convictions, with the gentleness and freedom from the bitterness so often seen in those who plead for reforms. Of large physical stature, with a pose and dignity that were attractive the first Corresponding Secretary began his life-work. It was a laborious and anxious life, but it was a great one, more than fulfilling the hopes of those who had called him from the quiet of his studies and his teaching at Oberlin.

A clerical assistant, who later came into intimate knowledge of his quality and character, thus writes of him:--
My first introduction to Secretary Whipple was on an afternoon as he sat at his desk in the little upper office of 56 Reade Street. There was another desk in that room that I was hoping to use for a few months if all should be satisfactory, and it was therefore with a little trepidation as well as a great deal of interest that I looked upon the Senior Secretary. His well-knit form and broad shoulders, gray hair--a silver halo above his face--a fine broad forehead, and kindly eyes looking forth from under Websterian eyebrows gave me the impression of a man of unusually strong character and intellect. As I came to know him, I felt that the patrician element was in his inner nature as well as in his outward appearance. If I were asked to name the principal characteristics of Secretary Whipple as I knew him in the time that followed, I should certainly say, "sound judgement and fairness."

... These were strikingly preeminent. But there were other qualities I should wish to name. His devotion to details was a strong point in all his office work, for an accurate knowledge of the subject in hand, so that praise or blame should fall only where it was merited, formed the basis of his fairness. Be knew to the minutest detail whereof he spoke and wrote. Be was industrious to the extreme. I never took my seat in the morning without passing a long table in the outer office which had this true legend connected with it. In the early days when struggle and self-sacrifice were prime factors in carrying on the Society's work, Secretary Whipple burnt his candle at both ends, sometimes even writing in his office till one or two o'clock in the morning; then, wrapping himself in a blanket, he would throw himself upon this table for a few hours' sleep, rising and resuming work by four or five o'clock. Even when I knew him it was difficult to get ahead of him in the morning, for he always was very early at his desk, working through the day, hardly taking time for a hasty luncheon. Vacation or respite was not in all his thought. In his letter dictation there was a sort of balance as if he were weighing what he was saying. Persistency was also a strong characteristic. Sensitiveness to what was right and wrong made him all his life such an intense champion of human rights and freedom. His judgments were never quick, but when once his opinions were formed they were so clear to his own mind and so reasonable that they carried conviction to other minds. This wellbalanced judgment, together with his dignity, candor, and noble bearing, made him a strong force when he visited Washington for conferences with the government on Indian or educational affairs. All these stern virtues commanded respect. I should be unjust to him, and to myself, if I did not add the more genial virtues of simplicity, generosity, and kindliness. Though always busy, he was ever ready to help others when he could. Be so tempered his fervor with simplicity, his strength with modesty, his profound thoughtfulness with kindheartedness that no one felt the severity. He was kindness itself. If he had the quality of humor, he did not have time to indulge it, his life was given so intensely to more serious things. The nearest approach to humor that I recall is that when in looking over a letter that he had himself written, which did not quite suit him for accuracy, he said to me in a very severe tone, "When you make such a blunder as that, I wish you would do it in your own handwriting." But as his assistant I have no remembrance of a single unjust or unkind remark. On the contrary, he was always appreciative of work done, and thoughtful of the comfort and well-being of those with whom he was associated. When death suddenly called him after thirty years in the secretaryship, and he left us, it was a well-beloved friend who had gone, and he bequeathed a great inspiration for others to carry on the work he had so well begun and in which he was a pioneer.

The Rev. George Whipple's New York Times obituary read in part:

Rev. George Whipple D.D. a well-known Congregational clergyman, a resident of Brooklyn and Secretary of the American Missionary Association, died at his residence 233 Clinton Avenue Brooklyn, on Friday evening in the seventy-second year of his age. Dr. Whipple was born in Albany, in this State, on June 4 1803. He pursued his early studies in the common schools where he resided, and afterwards became a student at Lane Theological Seminary, from which institution he was graduated. After being ordained a Congregational clergyman he received the appointment of Professor in Oberland College at Oberland Ohio, which position he held during several years . . .

© 1999 George Carroll Whipple, III. All rights reserved.