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WHITTLESEY, ELISHA

WHITTLESEY, ELISHA (19 Oct. 1783-7 Jan. 1863), lawyer and politician, was born in Litchfield County, Conn., son of John and Mary Beale Whittlesey. He studied in Danbury, where his older brother, Matthew, practiced law; moved to Canfield, Ohio; and was soon appointed prosecuting attorney for the WESTERN RESERVE, serving from 1807-23, except during the WAR OF 1812 when he was private secretary to Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison. As a lawyer, Whittlesey was the senior partner with Eben Newton in the area's best-known partnership, the proprietor of a 1-room law school, and an early leader of the Ohio bar. He was a circuit lawyer specializing in land cases. As a businessman, Whittlesey earned a small fortune by slow, steady work, basically handling eastern capital invested in Ohio lands and holding stock in Ohio banks. He lost a considerable sum in the Panic of 1837. Whittlesey's elective career began in 1820 with 2 terms in the Ohio general assembly. He served in Congress, first as a Natl. Republican, then as a Whig, from 1823-38, nicknamed "watchdog of the Treasury," a recognized example of official integrity in government. As a party leader, Whittlesey was a conciliator in party rivalries. Active in the American Colonization Society, he believed expatriation was the answer to slavery. After 1848, Whittlesey served the Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Lincoln administrations as comptroller of the Treasury. He married Polly Mygatt on 5 Jan. 1806. They had 10 children: Royal F. Lewis, John, Harriet, Anna Maria, George Beale, Lucy, William Wallace, Elisha Mygatt, Comfort Starr, and Granville. Whittlesey died in Washington, D.C., and was buried in Canfield, Ohio.


Elisha Whittlesey Papers, WRHS.