FRANKLIN H. WHITNEY (DECEASED), ATLANTIC.
There is one man in ten thousand, who is a typical pioneer--a hewer of civilization from the rough stone--as well as an organizer and developer of modern enterprises, a finished artist of today. Rugged strength and legitimate finesse are seldom united in one personality. Franklin H. Whitney was the man of ten thousand, for he was both the stanch pioneer and the modern man of affairs--strong, enterprising, broad minded, an honored prophet of a bright future for the communities which he founded and developed, overflowing with physical and mental energy and richly endowed with practical abilities, and altogether one of the most inspiring and many-sided characters of supreme usefulness which the State of Iowa has produced.
Although the city of Atlantic was the center of Mr. Whitney's many enterprises when he was at the height of his activities, he had already achieved much for the good of Cass county before he became identified with its affairs. Born in the town of Mexico, Oswego county, N. Y., on the 10th of February, 1832, he was a son of John Whitney, a native of Washington, that State. The father was a farmer during his life and also a pioneer of Cass county, in which he passed his last years, his wife (Nancy Huntington) having died in Oswego county before his departure for the West.
F. H. Whitney spent his early life in Oswego county, not only receiving a good academic education at Mexico, but learning the surveyor's profession. In 1856 he came to Iowa, stopping for a short time in Adair county, and in March of that year settled permanently in Cass county. In the following year he commenced the practical application of his profession by laying out the town of Whitneyville on a portion of his purchase of 249 acres. During the succeeding five years he engaged in farming, disposed of some of his Whitneyville lots and followed his profession, both in behalf of the county and for private parties. He served as county surveyor in 1863-5, and materially extended his reputation and his knowledge of the physical possibilities of the country.
In 1862 Mr. Whitney removed to Lewis and published the "Cass County Gazette" for eight months, even in that field and short period earning far more than a local reputation for the promptness and completeness with which he supplied its readers with the stirring war news of the time. Thereafter until January, 1864, he acted as an agent of the Emigrant Company, and followed his profession. At the conclusion of his term as county surveyor, in 1865, he opened a hotel at Lewis, but his career as a landlord was cut short by fire in the following January. He then moved upon a farm about a mile from town, but in the fall of 1866 ventured again into the hotel business by purchasing the Rand House, of Lewis. This he operated until the spring of 1868, when he disposed of the property, entered into partnership with Isaac Dickerson, and opened a land office in Lewis chiefly for the handling of non-resident lands in Cass county.
In September, 1868, Messrs. Whitney and Dickerson dissolved partnership, at Lewis, having, in association with John Keyes, purchased land of various individuals on the present site of Atlantic. In October Mr. Whitney surveyed and platted Atlantic, and also assisted in the survey of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad, which was then being constructed. He negotiated with John P. Cook and B. F. Allen, connected with the railroad company, for the location of the depot, after which the Atlantic Town Company was organized, with F. H. Whitney, Andrew Crawford, C. C. Merriman, B. F. Allen and John P. Cook as shareholders.
But the new town was not at once launched into history, as it now appears upon the map. There was a clash as to names between the town company and the railroad engineer. Mr. Allen, a Des Moines banker interested in both the town and the railroad, was especially anxious to have the place called Atlantic; not so the civil engineer of the railroad named Johnson, who made the plat of the town at Des Moines and placed on it the legend "Avoca." But Mr. Whitney was dispatched post haste to the higher authorities at that city, and, although before his return several of the town merchants displayed Avoca signs, he succeeded in perpetuating the name Atlantic.
Although Mr. Whitney owned but a one-sixth interest in the Atlantic Town Company he was chosen its general manager, and thereafter, as expressed by a writer twenty years ago, did more than any ten men in its development and the general advancement of Cass county. In addition to his real estate transactions he conducted a small banking business in 1869.
The pioneer bank in Atlantic had already been established earlier in the year by Messrs. Loring & Bennett, who soon built up a large and remunerative business and became men of influence in the community; but their financial ability was evidently devoid of moral backbone, for in December, 1870, they absconded with the funds of their bank--it is supposed to South America.
In the early part of 1871 Frank H. Whitney & Company opened a bank as successors to Loring & Bennett, but later in the year it was reorganized as the First National Bank of Atlantic, with Mr. Whitney as president; John P. Gerberich, cashier; F. H. Whiney [sic Whitney], Isaac Dickerson, Charles Kelly, Wilkins Warwick and S. J. Applegate, directors. This organization was continued until 1876, when the charter was relinquished, and it became once more a private bank under the name of the Bank of Atlantic, with Mr. Whitney as proprietor. This institution continued for many years, and on the coming of age of James G. Whitney, one of his two sons, the latter was made a partner in the business. Under the ownership and firm name of F. H. Whitney & Son, the Bank of Atlantic became one of the prominent banks of southwestern Iowa.
Mr. Whitney's real estate investments had now extended from Cass into adjoining counties, and even to Birmingham, Kansas City and Omaha; in fact, they were so extended that he was unable to devote that personal and detailed care to them which might have made him a very wealthy man. As it was, his wealth was estimated in the 'eighties at from $300,000 to $500,000.
Upon the death of Mr. Whitney, in 1894, the Bank of Atlantic was discontinued, and the son, James G. Whitney, was appointed by its creditors to adjust its affairs, and under his able management the indebtedness (with six percent interest) was paid in full. Thus have the good name and the substantial fame of the founder of Atlantic, and one of the most notable characters produced by Cass county, been upheld by the younger generation of the family.
Although the deceased was eccentric in many ways, and pre-eminently a man of worldly affairs, he was generous and unostentatiously charitable.
Franklin H. Whitney was married February 10, 1861, at Mexico, his birthplace in New York, to Ella Graham, a daughter of Cornelius Graham. He was living at Whitneyville, Cass county, at the time, but returned to his native State to secure his bride, whom he soon after brought to Iowa. Two children were born to this union--James G., in 1864, and Thomas H., in 1878, the former being the cashier and the latter the assistant cashier of the Citizens' Savings Bank, the successor of the banking house of F. H. Whitney & Son.
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pp. 543-545.
See Chapt. IV, County Government and Legislators, Franklin H. Whitney.
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pg. 70.
As to Franklin H. Whitney, the younger of the cousins, one of the great Town Builders of the West, this history is full of his name, and a special biography of him will be found in the skethc of Atlantic, with whose development he was so closely identified up ot the time of his death..
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pg. 186.
The next and third settlement within the borders of the township was by Frank H. Whitney, who, in these days, seemed almost omnipresent. Mr. Whitney appeared in this locality in January, 1858, and began the erection of a log cabin, which, after its completion, was occupied for some time by his father, John. In March of that year he broke some land, and raised quite a fine crop of corn from the sod--undoubtedly the first grown in the township..
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pg. 198.