Biography of Charles S. Whittern
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

CHARLES S. WHITTERN *, who holds the office of grand jury assignment commissioner for Cuyahoga County, is showing in this connection the same loyalty and effective stewardship that have characterized his activities throughout a career of distinct service and usefulness.

Mr. Whittern is a native of Cuyahoga County, he having been born on the parental home farm, on York Road in Parma Township, July 31, 1857. His father, Charles Richard Whittern, was born in Hawley, England, in 1833, a son of Richard Whithorne, who was born and reared in that same district in England and who there remained until 1845, when he came with his family to the United States. This voyage of the Whithorne family was made on a sailing vessel of the type common to that day, and after landing in the port of New York City the family passed a few years in Schoharie County, New York. Removal was then made to Cuyahoga County, where Charles Whithorne, a brother of Richard, had previously established residence, at Newburg. Richard Whithorne* rented a farm in Newburg Township, and there engaged in gardening and minor farm enterprise. There he remained until after the death of his wife, and he passed the closing years of his life in the home of his brother Charles, who had removed to Monroeville, Indiana. Mrs. Whithorne, who was a widow at the time of her marriage to Richard Whithorne, died about the year 1861. Of her second marriage were born two sons, Thomas and Charles Richard.

In England Charles Richard Whithorne attended one of the branches of the Winchcombe Union School, and at the age of eight years he was one of the three most deserving pupils who were each awarded five pounds and a family Bible, the presentation having been made by Lord Ellenborough, who placed his signature on the flyleaf of the Bible presented to Mr. Whitborne, the leaf bearing this signature being now in the possession of Charles S. Whittern. In the State of New York Charles R. Whithorne advanced his education by attending Schoharie Institute, where he fitted himself for service as a teacher. Soon after his arrival in Cuyahoga County he engaged in teaching, and several years later he moved to Kentucky, where he continued his effective pedagogic service. He taught school in the Glen Creek Meetinghouse, near Lawrenceburg, Washington County, that state, and among his pupils was the late Hon. Champ Clark, ex-speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress. Incidentally it may here be noted that Charles R. Whithorne found it expedient to change the original spelling of the family name, Whithorne, to the present form, Whittern, this action on his part having been taken because the original spelling led to popular misspelling and mispronunciation of the patronymic.

Of special interest are the following quotations, taken from the recently published autobiography of Hon. Champ Clark:

"Of Whittern's arithmetic class, one was voted a gold medal by Congress for heroic conduct on the field (Civil war), one was killed fighting valiantly under Quantrell, one was wounded, under Banks, at Mansfield. the Prather twins were killed in a private feud (Levi Coulter, who killed them became a fugitive from justice), and the youngest member became speaker of the House of Representatives.

"While Whittern, being a professional phrenologist, claimed that he could tell what was inside his pupils' heads by feeling the bumps on the outside, luckily he was not possessed of prophetic power, and could not predict their future. Otherwise there would have been some long faces in our little school.

"The best school teacher who ever taught me was this strolling English phrenologist, named Charles R. Whittern, for whose memory I have a profound affection. My father induced him to teach a three months' subscription school in the neighborhood, and, finding that he was a splendid teacher, he and others induced him to teach in that vicinity for more than a year, in fact, until he died. I thought then that he knew everything. I know now that he did not know very much, but what he did know he could teach better than any other man that I ever clapped my eyes on. As between a teacher who knows little, but can incite in his pupils a love of learning, and one who knows a great deal and has not the power to incite a love of learning, I prefer the former. He is far the more valuable of the two. Whittern built up a great reputation for teaching arithmetic, and a lot of grown men came to school. I was a little lad, only ten years old, but I could outfigure any of them, and those bearded men made a great pet of me."

The death of Charles R. Whittern occurred in Kentucky, in the '60's, and there his remains lay at rest. His wife, whose maiden name was Augusta Stroud, was born in Parma Township, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in August, 1840, and she long survived her husband, her death having occurred at Cleveland in 1920, after she had attained to the venerable age of eighty years. Mrs. Whittern was a daughter of Charles Stroud, and the ancestral line is supposed to trace back to Holland Dutch origin. In honor of representatives of this family the Town of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, was named. Charles Stroud became one of the pioneer settlers in Parma Township, Cuyahoga County, where he obtained a tract of timbered land and literally hewed out a farm from the forest wilds. He married Sally Emerson, of English ancestry, and they continued to reside in Parma Township until their deaths.

Charles S. Whittern, of this review, is the youngest of a family of three children. Carrie is the wife of Charles Holmes, of Bloomingdale, Michigan, and Mary, a former school teacher, is the wife of George Geiger, they being residents on the old homestead which was the place of her birth, in Parma Township.

A son of a father who was signally appreciative of the value of education, Charles S. Whittern received in his youth good educational advantages, and in his eighteenth year began teaching in the district schools of his native county. He continued his successful pedagogic activities until 1884, when he assumed the position of deputy county clerk, under the administration of Dr. Henry W. Kitchen. His ability in the handling of the manifold details of the office led to his being retained in service by the two successive county clerks, Harry L. Vail and William R. Coates, and by his appointment, in 1904, to his present office, that of grand jury assignment commissioner, he having continued in official service in his native county for a period of forty years. He is widely known throughout the county and has a circle of friends that is equal to that of his acquaintances. He is a republican in politics, and his wife is an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The year 1883 recorded the marriage of Mr. Whittern and Miss Emma A. Pillars, who was born in Wood County, Ohio, a daughter of John M. and Emeline (McBride) Pillars, the former of whom was born in Pennsylvania, and the latter was of Scotch ancestry. Hon. James Pillars and Hon Isaiah Pillars, brothers of John M., became influential citizens of Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Whittern have two children: Emerson, who has adopted the original spelling of the family name, Whithome, is a talented composer of music, is married and has one son, Cedric V. Miss Hazel Whittern is a graduate nurse and is now (1924) taking a postgraduate course in Columbia University, New York City.

* Both spellings Whittern and Whithorne were used in the book.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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