Biography of William T. Whitaker
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William T. Whitaker, owner of the Pryor Bottling Works at Pryor, was born in Andrews, North Carolina, on the 14th of February, 1854, a son of Stephen and Elizabeth (Taylor) Whitaker, both natives of that state. The mother was of Cherokee descent and their marriage occurred before their removal to Indian Territory. For many years the father was engaged in the land business, also in farming, and he achieved substantial success.
William T Whitaker’s education was mostly self acquired and at an early age he started out into the world on his own account. In 1871 he located in Tahlequah but after living there four years he returned to his native state, where he was married. Subsequently he again removed to Indian Territory and took up residence in Muskogee, when that now thriving community was scarcely a town. In 1881 he established a carpentry and building business and one year later moved to Chouteau, where he remained until 1887. In that year he came to Pryor, where there were but three houses at that time, and for some twenty years he followed the mercantile business, becoming one of the leading merchants in the surrounding country. Later he became the owner of the Pryor Bottling Works, in the operation of which he is still active. Mr. Whitaker is one of Pryor’s representative citizens and he has always taken a prominent and active part in charitable and philanthropic movements. In addition to his own family Mr. Whitaker reared a number of orphan children and in 1897 established an Orphan’s Home, which institution he maintained at his own expense until 1906, when the United States government made an appropriation for the Indian children that were under his care. After the burning of the Cherokee Indian Orphanage at Salina in 1937, offered his home and aid and to care for the children from that place. In 1908 the Orphange became a state institution and Mr. Whitaker retired from active management. He had made a provision in his will to the effect that if statehood was not attained before his death, the institution, with forty acres, was to be turned over as soon as statehood became a reality. He has outlived that provision, however. The state has added several new buildings and more grounds to the original site and new school and hospital buildings. There are some three hundred children in the Orphanage at the present time. Mr. Whitaker is now trying to get an appropriation for swimming pools to be built for the boys and girls. While he was in charge of the institution he obtained homes for a number of the children, many of whom have become prominent citizens in various sections of Oklahoma and the United States. He has devoted the greater part of his life and wealth to charity and he is one of Oklahoma’s best beloved citizens.
At Turtletown, North Carolina, on the 25th of April, 1875, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Whitaker to Miss Stacy L. Hood. Her father was killed during the Civil war, when she was but a child. The following children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker : James E., who married Miss Myrtle Ellis ; W. J., a well know physician of Pryor: Emma, the wife, of Geo. W. Collipriest; a resident of Nebraska ; Maggie, who is the wife of James R. Lawson of Muskogee; Ora, the wife of Don Morris of Breckenridge, Texas ; Charles, living in Missouri; Claude, a resident of Tulsa; and Clarence and Edna May. All are living. Mrs. Whitaker died at Pryor in 1919.
Since attaining his majority Mr. Whitaker has given his political allegiance to the democratic party and the principles for which it stands. Although he has never taken an active part in political affairs he has always recognized the duties and responsibilities as well as the privileges of citizenship, and his aid may always be counted upon in the furtherance of any movement for public development and improvement. His religious faith is that of the C. P. church, to the support of which he is a generous contributor. Pryor is indeed fortunate in having Mr. Whitaker for a citizen.