Biography of Judge Henry Hodges Whitfield
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Judge Henry Hodges Whitfield was born April 11, 1826, and died January 28, 1886.
The Whitfields from whom the subject of this sketch is descended came originally from Lancashire, England. William Whitfield, in the early part of the eighteenth century, settled in Nansewood County, Virginia, and in 1713 married Elizabeth Goodman of Yates County, North Carolina. This couple had four sons and six daughters. The sons were: William, Matthew, Luke, and Constantine. Matthew and Luke married Misses Warren, from the Pee Dee section of South Carolina. Luke Whitfield moved to Craven County, South Carolina, and later lived in Marlborough County, in that state. He had a son named William, who was granted land in Marlborough County in 1812, according to original papers now in the hands of his Pulaski County descendants. From similar sources it is known that William’s son, George B. Whitfield, lived in Marlborough District, South Carolina, as late as 1821. Two years later George B. Whitfield moved to Putnam County, Georgia, where his son, Henry Hodges Whitfield, was born April 11, 1826.
In 1826, George B. Whitfield moved to Houston County, Georgia, and in 1833 to Henry County, Georgia, and thence to Lowndes County, Alabama, where he died in 1839. He and his father and grandfather were extensive land and slave owners.
Two of George B. Whitfield’s sons moved to Pulaski County, Georgia, in early life,. the exact year not being recalled. These two sons were William S. Whitfield and a younger brother, Henry Hodges Whitfield. The elder of these two sons was a brilliant lawyer. He was in the General Assembly from Pulaski in 1836, 1839, and 1840, and was in 1839 a delegate to a convention to amend the Constitution of Georgia, his colleagues from Pulaski being A. C. Bostwick and James M. Bracewell. A daughter of William S. Whitfield married Dr. S. W. Taylor, and at her death left two daughters, both of whom are now living. William S. Whitfield died October 29, 1847, and the tomb above his dust in Orange Hill Cemetery contains these words:
I f nature prick thee. drop a tear;
1 f neither move thee, turn away,
For Whitfield’s honored dust lies here.”
Henry H. Whitfield was identified with the mercantile interests of the community in the 1850’s. On August 4, 1853, he married Elizabeth Pipkin, and a son, George W. Whitfield, was born of the union. George W. Whitfield at one time was tax receiver of Pulaski County and lived in Midway District, where he married Miss K. C. Daniel, daughter of D. C. Daniel. Mrs. Elizabeth Whitfield died May 30, 1856, and on January 19, 1859, Henry H. Whitfield married Mary Willcox Daniel, daughter of James and Elizabeth Daniel. Elizabeth Daniel was the daughter of John and Polly Lea Willcox, which brought the Whitfields in close blood kin to the Willcox clan so numerous in Wilcox, Telfair, and Dodge Counties.
Of this marriage, ten children were born. Two, Charles Henry and Nelia Bell, died in infancy, while those surviving his death on January 28, 1886, were : Elizabeth, John James, Josephine, Letitia, DeWitt Clinton, Augustus Bryant, Mary Lee, and Henry Hodges, Jr.
Letitia married Howell Cobb White, and one daughter, Mary Emma, came to this union, and Mary Emma, marrying Charlie Fitzgerald, gave birth to one son, Charles Howell. Mary Lee married Dr. J. P. Doster, and a son, William DeWitt Doster, survived her death at his birth. DeWitt Clinton married Eva Allen, and Henry H., Jr., married Birtie Manne, and a daughter, Sarah, and a son, Henry III, came of the union. Sarah married Morris Lee, giving birth to a son. Henry H. III married Lois Burch.
On the formation of the Pulaski Grays, Company K, Forty-ninth Georgia, Judge Whitfield was made first lieutenant, and was promoted to captain on March 22, 1862, upon the election of the original captain, Seaborn M. Manning, to the lieutenant colonelcy of the regiment. Captain Whitfield’s first battle was at Seven Pines, and after the battles around Richmond he was compelled because of illness to resign. He was stricken desperately, his wife meeting him on the homeward journey and nursing him. His health being partially restored, he took over the well-known tanyard property and made leather, to be converted into shoes for the Confederate soldiers. Later, when, on August 6, 1863, Company F, Twentysecond Battalion of Georgia Cavalry. was formed, he again entered the service as first lieutenant.
He was appointed Justice of the Inferior Court by Governor Joseph E. Brown, and the family is still in possession of his commission issued from the State Capitol at Milledgeville and dated January 23, 1865.
Among other interesting historic relics possessed is a written deposit slip for $9,000 in the “Planters Bank Agency,” signed by O. C. Horne, and dated September 10, 1859.
He served as judge of the County Court eight years, an office not often given any one other than a lawyer, and while holding this position was vested with the control of county affairs as its governing authority, a position with the same duties as that now held by his son, J. J. Whitfield, as sole commissioner of roads and revenues of the county.
To him was given the honor of supervising the construction of the steel bridge across the Ocmulgee River that replaced the ancient ferry. At the May term of the 1879 grand jury, the following citizens were appointed a committee to act with Judge Whitfield on the matter: J. H. Pate, John Henry, R. T. Bembry, and J. J. Kinchen. The grand jury of the November term said: “We endorse Judge Whitfield’s actions in the way he is carrying on the river bridge, and he continue to use his discretion as to how the work shall be completed.”
During his life he had served as treasurer of his county, mayor of Hawkinsville, and at his death, which came suddenly on the night of January 28, 1886, he was serving as postmaster of Hawkinsville under commission from President Grover Cleveland. He was a member of Mount Hope Lodge, F. & A. M., No. 9.
Judge Whitfield’s main hobby was his flowers. He took a great interest in his front yard, which became indeed a show place in Hawkinsville. He spent many leisure moments among his shrubs and blossoms, and possessing a wide knowledge on that subject and a great love for it, he made an outstanding success of his flower yard. How many sick rooms have been brightened with the flowers from that garden, and how often they have beautified the House of God! Judge Whitfield filled many positions of trust and confidence, and to the performance of his official duties he brought a sound and conservative judgment; but the artistic temperament was his, too, and the outlet to this was his passion for flowers.
Careful research in the Public Library of New York discloses, and from other information it is established, that the family possessed a coat of arms, which, as described in the records, is “a shield of black and silver, with a golden stag rising from a castellated crown, showing that the coat of arms was no doubt granted because of some notable assistance given in a military way, such as storming a castle, whose turrets are indicated in that type crown.”
This coat of arms has been reproduced, and children and grandchildren of the late Henry H. Whitfield are proud possessors of them, and the confident belief of the worthwhile standing of their ancestors in good of England.