Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886

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Army officer, lawyer, and geologist, of Cleveland, Ohio.

From the description of Papers, 1827-1897. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 18446173

Soldier, lawyer, geologist, and historian who resided in Cleveland, Ohio.

From the description of Papers, 1806-1909 / Charles Whittlesey. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 19898834

From the description of Charles Whittlesey papers, 1806-1909 [microform]. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 46947320

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Charles Whittlesey

Colonel Charles Whittlesey (1808-1886) was an economic geologist whose financial success and longevity permitted him to devote large amounts of time and energy to diverse intellectual activities in such fields as geology, archaeology, and history. The considerable breadth of his scientific purview was exhibited at an early age. Born in Southington, Connecticut on October 4, 1808, he began school at the age of four, and moved with his parents to Tallmadge, Ohio, at age five. His father's extensive interests in coal mining undoubtedly helped to initiate the boy's lifelong interest in geology.

Family influence, as well as scholastic ability, successfully furthered Charles Whittlesey's education. His uncle, United States Congressman Elisha Whittlesey, stimulated his interest in history and, more importantly, secured for him an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, the leading school for training in the natural sciences. As a cadet, he met William W. Mather, who encouraged his interest in geology, while Whittlesey himself continued to study meteorology.

Following his graduation in 1831, Lieutenant Whittlesey served in the Black Hawk war and saw for the first time the Michigan and Wisconsin copper region which was subsequently to play an important role in his life. While stationed at Green Bay, Whittlesey turned his attention to a serious study of Great Lakes water levels. Eventually, Whittlesey grew impatient with his military career, besieged his uncle for aid in preferment, and resigned in 1832 to open a law office in Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout his life Whittlesey would harbor the belief that his talents were insufficiently recognized by others, an opinion substantially justified and periodically reinforced during his long career.

In 1837, Whittlesey was selected by his friend William W. Mather, state geologist for Ohio, to a "topographer" for the Geological Survey of Ohio.His field books during this period indicate that his widely ranging interests were already well established: geology, local history, archaeology, antiquities, topography, meteorology, geography, and Great Lakes limnology. When the Ohio state legislature prematurely ended the Ohio survey, much of Whittlesey's work remained unpublished. He shrewdly utilized the knowledge gained during the survey by investing in valuable coal lands in Jackson County and, later, in the rich Hocking Valley coal field. His archaeological surveys were continued with the help of Joseph Sullivant and were eventually incorporated in Squier and Davis' Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley . It must have seemed incredible to Whittlesey that E. G. Squier published a preliminary study without acknowledging his work. A sharp letter from Whittlesey quickly put things right, and Squier and Davis' important study contains a tribute to Whittlesey's efforts. Though extremely sensitive to criticism from others, Whittlesey himself was outspoken and uncompromising throughout his life whenever he believed that his work was not appreciated sufficiently.

Whittlesey joined the Miami Exporting Company in speculating in land around Cincinnati during the 1840s. This enterprise culminated in his agricultural survey of Hamilton County. Much of this remains unpublished, a fact that Whittlesey regretted for many years. Actually, despite the impressive quality and the staggering quantity of his scientific output, Whittlesey was rarely able to complete any of the large-scale projects, such as the archaeological survey of Ohio, that he envisioned as a young man.

From 1845 until the outbreak of the Civil War, Whittlesey was engaged in geological field work in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, both as a public servant and as a private individual. He began by working for a private company and explored the copper lands of Michigan. After government employment in a survey of the Upper Mississippi and Lake Superior region, Whittlesey served as agent for various private mining interests in the copper region of Lake Superior, notably at Eagle River, Wisconsin. Once again, his work on the Wisconsin survey remained partially unpublished because of governmental curtailments; but Whittlesey eventually published much of the data himself in various journals and reports.

Active field work in the wilds of the Lake Superior region did not preclude other intellectual pursuits. In the 1850s Whittlesey published a major work on aboriginal copper mining, significant studies in Pleistocene geology, work on Great Lakes water levels, translation of numerous French manuscripts relating to the early exploration of the old Northwest, and continued studies on the geology of Ohio. Nor did it preclude marriage to Mrs. Mary (Lyon) Morgan in 1858. Mrs. Whittlesey, to judge from correspondence in this collection, did not enjoy life in the Lake Superior district.

Whittlesey enlisted in the Union Army at the very outbreak of the civil War and served in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He was in charge of constructing the defenses for Cincinnati at Covington, Kentucky; had a horse shot from under him at Scarey's Run, West Virginia; and was engaged in the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh. His resignation in 1862 appears to have been related to personal illness and the health of his wife, but he may also have been frustrated, as before, by his failure to advance within the service.

Beginning in march 1863 and continuing through the remainder of the Civil War, Whittlesey explored the mineral wealth of the Lake Superior region, particularly in Ashland County, Wisconsin. The results of his work are embodied in a series of reports to various mining companies that were brief and privately printed by himself. Whittlesey was never able to synthesize this material into a more complete report on the geology of the Wisconsin copper district.

Whittlesey returned to Cleveland in 1865, pursued his lifelong interest in history and, in 1867, published his history of Cleveland, a project originally begun in 1843. As a published historian, Whittlesey attracted considerable local recognition as an authority and had an active role in the formation of the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1867. Whittlesey was the Society's first president and retained that position until his death. His work for the Society can, in part, be traced in the list of Society Tracts written by him, though some of his most important achievements are not reflected therein, notably acquisition of the St. Clair papers by the State of Ohio and publication of the Margry papers.

In 1869 Whittlesey published his Contributions to the Geology of Ohio which coincided with the establishment of the Second Ohio Geological Survey and must have been at least an unconscious bid to head the survey for which he had lobbied. However, that office went to Whittlesey's chief rival, john S. Newberry, who had the grace to offer Whittlesey the next highest post, and offer that Whittlesey could not bring himself to accept. Instead, Whittlesey nursed a grudge, took considerable delight in criticizing the Newberry survey, and contributed to the demise of the survey in 1878.

During his last twenty years, while Whittlesey continued his interest in geology, particularly his lucrative coal lands in Perry County, he also devoted much time and effort to the study of archaeology and history. His description of the Cuyahoga Valley earthworks and his careful study of the spate of alleged Hebraic inscriptions from Ohio mounds, along with his efforts to organize the 1876 Ohio centennial exhibition, were his most outstanding archaeological achievements during the latter part of his life. His contributions to historical literature include numerous short Tracts on the War of 1812, reminiscences of his own Civil War experiences, and studies of the early French explorations of the Great Lakes region. Whittlesey also contributed to historical scholarship by using his political influence to persuade the Ohio legislature to purchase the privately owned St. Clair papers and to convince the United States Congress to aid in the publication of Pierre Margry's collection of French colonial documents.

In his last years, Whittlesey was preoccupied with religious and philosophical subjects. His last publication was a series of articles defending "theism" against Haeckel's materialistic "Dynamical Sociology." these were written while Whittlesey was bedridden with rheumatism and related disorders, a month before his death on October 17, 1886.

From the guide to the Charles Whittlesey Papers, Series II, 1827-1897, (Western Reserve Historical Society)

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Charles Whittlesey

Colonel Charles Whittlesey (1808-1886) was an economic geologist whose financial success and longevity permitted him to devote large amounts of time and energy to diverse intellectual activities in such fields as geology, archaeology, and history. The considerable breadth of his scientific purview was exhibited at an early age. Born in Southington, Connecticut on October 4, 1808, he began school at the age of four, and moved with his parents to Tallmadge, Ohio, at age five. His father's extensive interests in coal mining undoubtedly helped to initiate the boy's lifelong interest in geology.

Family influence, as well as scholastic ability, successfully furthered Charles Whittlesey's education. His uncle, United States Congressman Elisha Whittlesey, stimulated his interest in history and, more importantly, secured for him an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, the leading school for training in the natural sciences. As a cadet, he met William W. Mather, who encouraged his interest in geology, while Whittlesey himself continued to study meteorology.

Following his graduation in 1831, Lieutenant Whittlesey served in the Black Hawk war and saw for the first time the Michigan and Wisconsin copper region which was subsequently to play an important role in his life. While stationed at Green Bay, Whittlesey turned his attention to a serious study of Great Lakes water levels. Eventually, Whittlesey grew impatient with his military career, besieged his uncle for aid in preferment, and resigned in 1832 to open a law office in Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout his life Whittlesey would harbor the belief that his talents were insufficiently recognized by others, an opinion substantially justified and periodically reinforced during his long career.

In 1837, Whittlesey was selected by his friend William W. Mather, state geologist for Ohio, to a "topographer" for the Geological Survey of Ohio.His field books during this period indicate that his widely ranging interests were already well established: geology, local history, archaeology, antiquities, topography, meteorology, geography, and Great Lakes limnology. When the Ohio state legislature prematurely ended the Ohio survey, much of Whittlesey's work remained unpublished. He shrewdly utilized the knowledge gained during the survey by investing in valuable coal lands in Jackson County and, later, in the rich Hocking Valley coal field. His archaeological surveys were continued with the help of Joseph Sullivant and were eventually incorporated in Squier and Davis' Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. It must have seemed incredible to Whittlesey that E. G. Squier published a preliminary study without acknowledging his work. A sharp letter from Whittlesey quickly put things right, and Squier and Davis' important study contains a tribute to Whittlesey's efforts. Though extremely sensitive to criticism from others, Whittlesey himself was outspoken and uncompromising throughout his life whenever he believed that his work was not appreciated sufficiently.

Whittlesey joined the Miami Exporting Company in speculating in land around Cincinnati during the 1840s. This enterprise culminated in his agricultural survey of Hamilton County. Much of this remains unpublished, a fact that Whittlesey regretted for many years. Actually, despite the impressive quality and the staggering quantity of his scientific output, Whittlesey was rarely able to complete any of the large-scale projects, such as the archaeological survey of Ohio, that he envisioned as a young man.

From 1845 until the outbreak of the Civil War, Whittlesey was engaged in geological field work in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, both as a public servant and as a private individual. He began by working for a private company and explored the copper lands of Michigan. After government employment in a survey of the Upper Mississippi and Lake Superior region, Whittlesey served as agent for various private mining interests in the copper region of Lake Superior, notably at Eagle River, Wisconsin. Once again, his work on the Wisconsin survey remained partially unpublished because of governmental curtailments; but Whittlesey eventually published much of the data himself in various journals and reports.

Active field work in the wilds of the Lake Superior region did not preclude other intellectual pursuits. In the 1850s Whittlesey published a major work on aboriginal copper mining, significant studies in Pleistocene geology, work on Great Lakes water levels, translation of numerous French manuscripts relating to the early exploration of the old Northwest, and continued studies on the geology of Ohio. Nor did it preclude marriage to Mrs. Mary (Lyon) Morgan in 1858. Mrs. Whittlesey, to judge from correspondence in this collection, did not enjoy life in the Lake Superior district.

Whittlesey enlisted in the Union Army at the very outbreak of the civil War and served in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He was in charge of constructing the defenses for Cincinnati at Covington, Kentucky; had a horse shot from under him at Scarey's Run, West Virginia; and was engaged in the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh. His resignation in 1862 appears to have been related to personal illness and the health of his wife, but he may also have been frustrated, as before, by his failure to advance within the service.

Beginning in march 1863 and continuing through the remainder of the Civil War, Whittlesey explored the mineral wealth of the Lake Superior region, particularly in Ashland County, Wisconsin. The results of his work are embodied in a series of reports to various mining companies that were brief and privately printed by himself. Whittlesey was never able to synthesize this material into a more complete report on the geology of the Wisconsin copper district.

Whittlesey returned to Cleveland in 1865, pursued his lifelong interest in history and, in 1867, published his history of Cleveland, a project originally begun in 1843. As a published historian, Whittlesey attracted considerable local recognition as an authority and had an active role in the formation of the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1867. Whittlesey was the Society's first president and retained that position until his death. His work for the Society can, in part, be traced in the list of Society Tracts written by him, though some of his most important achievements are not reflected therein, notably acquisition of the St. Clair papers by the State of Ohio and publication of the Margry papers.

In 1869 Whittlesey published his Contributions to the Geology of Ohio which coincided with the establishment of the Second Ohio Geological Survey and must have been at least an unconscious bid to head the survey for which he had lobbied. However, that office went to Whittlesey's chief rival, john S. Newberry, who had the grace to offer Whittlesey the next highest post, and offer that Whittlesey could not bring himself to accept. Instead, Whittlesey nursed a grudge, took considerable delight in criticizing the Newberry survey, and contributed to the demise of the survey in 1878.

During his last twenty years, while Whittlesey continued his interest in geology, particularly his lucrative coal lands in Perry County, he also devoted much time and effort to the study of archaeology and history. His description of the Cuyahoga Valley earthworks and his careful study of the spate of alleged Hebraic inscriptions from Ohio mounds, along with his efforts to organize the 1876 Ohio centennial exhibition, were his most outstanding archaeological achievements during the latter part of his life. His contributions to historical literature include numerous short Tracts on the War of 1812, reminiscences of his own Civil War experiences, and studies of the early French explorations of the Great Lakes region. Whittlesey also contributed to historical scholarship by using his political influence to persuade the Ohio legislature to purchase the privately owned St. Clair papers and to convince the United States Congress to aid in the publication of Pierre Margry's collection of French colonial documents.

In his last years, Whittlesey was preoccupied with religious and philosophical subjects. His last publication was a series of articles defending "theism" against Haeckel's materialistic "Dynamical Sociology." these were written while Whittlesey was bedridden with rheumatism and related disorders, a month before his death on October 17, 1886.

From the guide to the Charles Whittlesey Papers, 1769-1889, (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. Ru 60: Meteorological Project, 1849 1875.
referencedIn Flagg, S. Griswold. S. Griswold Flagg collection, 1825-1938 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Papers, 1845-1900 (inclusive), 1853-1886 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Whittlesey, Charles. Letter, 1880 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886. Historical and archaeological map of Ohio / by Col. Charles Whittlesey ; prepared at the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, Columbus, Ohio, by Thomas Mathew. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Wisconsin Historical Society. Increase A. Lapham Papers.
referencedIn E.G. Squier papers, 1809-1888 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. Ru 33: Office Of The Secretary, Outgoing Corres..
referencedIn Jared Sparks collection of American manuscripts, 1582-1843. Houghton Library
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. Ru 52: Assistant Secretary, Incoming Correspondenc.
referencedIn Charles Sumner correspondence, 1829-1874. Houghton Library
creatorOf Atwater, Amzi, 1776-1850. Manuscripts relating to the early history of the Connecticut Western Reserve, 1795-1869 [microform]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn S. Griswold Flagg collection, 1825-1938 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Atwater, Amzi, 1776-1850. Manuscripts relating to the early history of the Connecticut Western Reserve, 1795-1869. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn Salisbury, James Henry, 1823-1905. Papers, 1862-1869. American Antiquarian Society
referencedIn Charles Eliot Norton papers, ca.1845-1908. Houghton Library
creatorOf Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886. Papers, 1827-1897. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn SIA RU000026, Smithsonian Institution Office of the Secretary, Correspondence, 1863-1879 Smithsonian Institution Archives
creatorOf Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886. Papers 1859-1867. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. William Jones Rhees Collection.
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. Ru 7062: Fielding B. Meek Papers.
creatorOf Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886. Papers, 1870-1880. University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886. Papers, 1806-1909 / Charles Whittlesey. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn American Philosophical Society. John Peter Lesley Papers.
referencedIn Houghton Library printed book provenance file, R-Z, and unidentified. Houghton Library
referencedIn Curtis, Samuel Ryan, 1805-1866. Letters, 1837-1858. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Lapham, Increase Allen, 1811-1875. Increase A. Lapham papers, 1825-1930. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Vance, Joseph, 1786-1852. Papers 1808-1838. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf Garfield, James A. (James Abram), 1831-1881. Papers, 1857-1936. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Charles Whittlesey Papers, Series II, 1827-1897 Western Reserve Historical Society
creatorOf Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886. Charles Whittlesey papers, 1806-1909 [microform]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn National Archives And Records Administration. Rg 27: Weather Bureau.
creatorOf Charles Whittlesey Papers, 1769-1889 Western Reserve Historical Society
referencedIn James Henry Coffin Papers, 1848-1884 Smithsonian Institution Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, Edward. person
associatedWith Adams, Edward. person
associatedWith Andrews, Elisha Benjamin, 1844-1917. person
correspondedWith Baird, Spencer F. person
associatedWith Baldwin, C. C. person
associatedWith Bigelow, Horatio. person
associatedWith Crerar Manuscript Collection (University of Chicago. Library) corporateBody
associatedWith Curtis, Samuel Ryan, 1805-1866. person
correspondedWith Cutting, H. A. person
correspondedWith Dodge, Charles R. person
associatedWith Eagle River Mining Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Eagle River Mining Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Egypt corporateBody
associatedWith Flagg, S. Griswold. person
associatedWith Flagg, S. Griswold. person
correspondedWith Force, M. F. (Manning Ferguson), 1824-1899 person
associatedWith French, Clinton. person
correspondedWith Fuller, A. N. person
associatedWith Garfield, James A. (James Abram), 1831-1881. person
associatedWith Geological Survey of Ohio. corporateBody
associatedWith Geological survey of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota (1848-1849) corporateBody
correspondedWith Green, Henry Woodhull person
correspondedWith Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878 person
associatedWith Houghton Library. person
correspondedWith Howell, Robert person
associatedWith Humboldt Mining Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Humboldt Mining Company. corporateBody
correspondedWith Humphreys, A. A. (General) person
correspondedWith Lapham, Increase Allen person
associatedWith Lapham, Increase Allen, 1811-1875. person
associatedWith Leidy, Joseph person
correspondedWith Lesley, J. Peter person
associatedWith Library Of Congress corporateBody
correspondedWith Martin, D. S. person
associatedWith Mathew, Thomas. person
associatedWith Meade, George Gordon person
correspondedWith Newberry, John Strong person
associatedWith Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908 person
associatedWith Owen, David Dale person
correspondedWith Rau, Charles person
correspondedWith Rhees, William J. person
associatedWith Salisbury, James Henry, 1823-1905. person
correspondedWith Sewell, G. P. person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Spofford, Ainsworth Rand person
correspondedWith Squier, Ephraim George person
associatedWith Sterling, E. (Dr.) person
correspondedWith Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874 person
correspondedWith Underwood, D., Col. person
associatedWith United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 20th (1861-1865) corporateBody
associatedWith University of Chicago. Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Vance, Joseph, 1786-1852. person
associatedWith Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. corporateBody
correspondedWith Whelpley, Thomas person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Asaph. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Asaph. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Eliphalet. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Eliphalet. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Elisha, 1783-1863. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, John. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, John. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Matthew. person
correspondedWith Whittlesey, S. H. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Vesta Hart. person
associatedWith Whittlesey, Vesta Hart. person
correspondedWith Witter, David R. person
correspondedWith Worthen, Amos H. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Ohio
United States
United States
United States
Ohio
United States
Ohio
Wisconsin
Subject
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources
Exchanges Of Publications
Wisconsin--Surveys
Scientific organizations
Ojibwa Indians
Whittlesey, Charles, 1808-1886
Ethnology Archaeology Anthropology
Surveys And Explorations, General
National Museum
Recommendations For Positions
Geology--United States--Surveys
Photography
History--Societies, etc
Indians of North America
Archaeology
Army Engineers
Smithsonian Exchange
Geology--United States
Mounds--Maps
Geology
Chippewa Indians
Civil war
American Assoc. For The Advancement Of Science (+ Aagn Etc.)
Copper mines and mining
Scientific publications
Meteorology
Natural history
Copper mines and mining--United States
Smithsonian Publications
Archaeology--United States
Indians of North America--Maps
Geological surveys
Architecture
Ohio--Surveys
Congress
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1808-10-04

Death 1886-10-18

English

Information

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