Notes for WALT WHITMAN, SR:
Son of Jesse and Hannah (Brush) Whitman.
Born: July 14, 1789 in West Hills, Huntington Township, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York.
Died: July 11, 1855 in West Hills, Huntington Township, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York.
Buried: Harleigh Cemetery, Camden, Camden County, New Jersey.
Occupation: Carpenter, home builder, and farmer.
Married: Louisa Van Velsor June 9, 1816 in Oyster Bay Baptist Church, Oyster Bay Township, Nassau County, Long Island, New York.
As Justin Kaplin astutely puts it, "Walter Whitman, Sr. was born on July 14, 1789, the day the Parisians stormed the Bastille, and he believed in resisting much, obeying little. He named three of his six sons for heroes of the Republic and he trained them as radical Democrats, on the side of the farmer, the laborer, the small tradesman, and the 'people'." Walter Whitman was a carpenter, home builder, and farmer who was 34 years old when his second son, Walt Whitman, was born. He was born just after the end of the American Revolution and was always a liberal thinker. He knew and admired Thomas Paine of Virginia. Walt no doubt inherited his impracticality from his father. Walt Whitman wrote, "Father finished his apprenticeship in New York City, and then worked for some three years there. I have heard him speak of boarding steady for three years in New York in one place. He then went up around the Hills, and sough, Long Island, and took contacts at building. He was a first rate carpenter, did solid, substantial, conscientious work. I have hear mother say that he would sometimes lay awake all night planning out some unusually difficult plan in his building arrangement. (The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman, page 24.)
Trained as a carpenter, but struggling to find work, he had taken up farming by the time Walt was born. However, when Walt was just about to turn 4 August 27, 1823, Walter, Sr., moved the family to the growing city of Brooklyn, across from New York City, or "Mannahatta" as Walt would come to call it in his celebratory writings about the city, that was just emerging as the nation's major urban center. Walter Whitman, Sr. was of English stock, and his marriage to Louisa Van Velsor, of Dutch Welsh stock, led to what Walt Whitman always considered a fertile tension in the Whitman children between am ore more smoldering, brooding Puritanical temperament and a sunnier, more outgoing Dutch disposition. Walter Whitman, Sr. was a stern and sometimes hot-tempered man, whom Walt Whitman respected but for whom he never felt a great deal of affection. Walter Whitman may have had a problem with alcoholism, which had doubtless run through the Whitman family line from the time of America's alcoholic eighteenth century. Buckle describes Walter Whitman Sr., as a "large, quiet, serious man, very kind to children and animals, and a good citizen, neighbor and parent" He died at age 65. Walt Whitman described a visit to his father's grave site in 1881, writing "these lines seated on an old grave (doubtless of a century since at least) on the burial hill of the Whitmans of many generations." He surveyed more than fifty Whitman graves, which constituted his entire family history in America, "with its succession of links, from the first settlement down to date, told here - three centuries concentrate on this sterile acre."
(Source: Clay Sigg.)