John F. Whiting

Biographies | John Whiting

Mr. John F. Whiting built a log cabin on the lake shore near the junction of the present Holt and Lake Roads in 1811. Later he married the daughter of Cornelius Westfall.

As a wedding gift for his daughter and her husband, Mr. Westfall purchased land, part of the present Webster Park, from John Hornby on January 12, 1814. The Whitings lived on the land, and in 1819, it was deeded outright to them.

During the War of 1812, the British shelled the area and cannonballs and grape shot have been plowed up on the tract in recent years. Old residents tell of hearing their parents and grandparents talk about sitting on the hill in front of the pavilion and watching the British gunboats pass by.

In about 1835, John Whiting built an elaborate house on the hill. This home was known far and wide for its hospitality. Travelers always tarried there. In prosperous times three servants were employed to care for guests because 20 to 30 diners were not unusual. A section of this house remains as the south part of the “White House Lodge” in the Park.

Whiting operated a sawmill which was located on Sawmill Creek, now Mill Creek, opposite the entrance to the lake shore. He also had a tannery which was on the south side of Lake Road opposite the Creek Bend shelter.

Twice a year John Whiting yoked his oxen, put a rocking chair in the ox-cart for his wife, and started on the journey to Phelps (the nearest shopping center) to buy groceries. With goading, the oxen would “pull leather” and made the trip in two days each way.

The difficulties of pioneer life were relieved by an occasional humorous incident. It seems that Sawmill Creek was a haven for smugglers and the clipper ship, “Brady,” carried a cargo of Canadian brandy. On one occasion, the smugglers had loaded their ship too heavily to make the creek entrance. So in the dead of night they ” borrowed” a span of Whiting’s oxen from the pasture to drag the load up the creek. Next morning when feeding his stock, Mr. Whiting found a five-gallon demijohn of brandy in his oat bin, a present from the smugglers.

On reaching the pasture land, on the flats opposite the present beach parking station, Whiting found a broken ox-yoke, apparently the work of the smugglers. A few days later a stranger came along and inquired whether he had a broken ox-yoke which he would loan. Without a word, he loaned the damaged yoke. Next morning he found a brand new one at his doorstep!

On the death of John Whiting June 23, 1861, the land went to his six sons, Jacob, John, Jonas, Charles F., Joel, and Albert and to his daughter Harriet. pg 274-276

In the late 1850s the first or Center Church was badly in need of repairs. Since the membership had increased from both Webster and West Webster, it was decided to have two separate churches which would be more accessible to the members rather than to make extensive repairs to the old building. As a result, new churches were dedicated in both Webster village and West Webster in 1860 during the pastorate of Reverend Luther Northway.

The village church, costing $8,000, was dedicated in the autumn of 1860 by Reverend Benoni I. Ives. Trustees at the time were A. M. Staats, Harman J. Curtice, H. N. Andrew, Ezra B. Potter, Safford F. Mason, Edward B. Collins, E. K. Boughton, and James Welch.

For the construction of the church, Mr. John Whiting donated 30 timbers 60 feet long and a foot square, from his woods on the south part of the present Donald Shoemaker farm. The minister, trustees, and other men of the parish helped with sawing and chopping down the trees, but Mr. Whiting insisted that he, his foreman, and sons would do the hauling of the timber with their three yoke of oxen and two teams of horses. pg 74

Dunn, Esther, Webster Through the Years, Webster Town Board, Webster, NY, 1970, pgs 74, 274-276

Updated Information

John Fielding Whiting was born in 1789 to Jonas Whiting and Lydia Fielding. The Whitings lived in New Cornwall, Orange County, New York in 1790. John was the oldest of eight children. By 1810, Jonas Whiting and his family had moved to Phelps, Ontario, New York.

On December 5, 1813, John F. Whiting married Catherine Westfall in Phelps, New York. The 1820 census indicated that they lived in Penfield, New York. Webster was part of Penfield at that time.

John and Catherine Whiting had seven children; Jacob {1822-1876}, Jonas {1824- 1899}, Harriet {1826-1874}, Albert {1828-1887}, John {1833-1910}, Charles {1837- 1912}, and Joel {1839-1863}. John’s wife Catherine died in 1839.

John remarried, his second wife was named Malinda Ann, surname unknown at this time. The 1840 Federal Census indicates a female between 30 and 39 was living with the family. Malinda was named in the 1850 and 1860 Federal Census.

John Whiting was a successful farmer. The 1860 Federal Census indicates that John owned 255 acres of land valued at $12,738. He owned horses, milk cows, cattle, sheep, and swine. He had several bushels of a variety of crops; rye, corn, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, barley, buckwheat, and hay.

John died on June 23, 1861 in Webster, New York. In his will, John left his beloved wife, Malinda, her rightful dower portion of his estate. He left his seven children the remainder of the property. John is buried with his first wife Catherine, in the Webster Union Cemetery in the Whiting Family Burial Plot.

  • Sources:
  • Fred Q. Bowman, 10,000 Vital Records of Wester New York 1809-1850, Baltimore MD, USA; Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985. p248.
  • Find a Grave, John Fielding Whiting, accessed 2020.
  •, accessed 2020.
  • Thomas Gaffney, “Webster Through the Years,” Webster Herald, September 20, 1956, p10.