The Whealtons of Chincoteague and Western Maryland College, circa 1890:
by Richard H. Smith, Jr.
(The Following Article appeared in Maryland Beachcomber, June 19, 2004)
The Whealtons of Chincoteague and Western Maryland College, circa 1890:
A few months ago I ran across the name of William (Will) Aydelotte Whealton, M.D. in an old Western Maryland College (WMC) catalog listing of graduates (class of 1893). Western Maryland, renamed McDaniel College in 2002, is a private liberal arts college founded in 1867 in Westminster, Maryland. Until 1976, it was affiliated with the Methodist Protestant (MP now part of United Methodist) Church.
Will Whealton's name caught my eye because his hometown was listed as Chincoteague. Kirk Mariner's "Once Upon An Island" describes a dozen or so Whealtons, a family that dates back many generations on the Island in a complicated and confusing family tree. Their lives were intertwined with the history of the Island; J.A.M. Whealton played a major role in keeping the Island in the Union during the Civil War, D.J. Whealton, famed for the "Big Store" and the Whealton Oyster Company, was the Island's first millionaire, and J. B. Whealton built the causeway that links the Island to the mainland and bears his name. Where does Will Whealton fit into this history and was he related to two other Whealton's, Hallie and Indiana, who a few years after him graduated from the same College?
Searches of the Census Records for the Islands and calls to several, very patient Whealtons on the Island and the Shore helped answer these questions. Will's father was Joshua W. Whealton (1846 -1925), a farmer and co-founder of "the Big Store." He and his and brother D.J. belonged to the fourth generation of Whealtons on the Island, their ancestors date back to the mid 1600's in America. Joshua married Nancy C. Lewis (1850 -1921) of Camden, Jew Jersey and together they raised six children to adulthood: Ansley L. (1871 - ?), Louis N. (1872 - 1951), William A.(1878-1926), Indiana R. (1879 -1908), Hallie M. (1881 - 1965), and Harold J. (1884 - 1951). Records and letters in the WMC archives eventually yielded up the fact that all 6 children attended WMC and had some rather interesting times while there (details omitted)! Through conversations with descendants on the Shore and study of other sources, a picture of their lives after they left the College is beginning to take shape.
Ansley, perhaps with a bit too much Island pony still in him, attended WMC for four years ('88-'92), but did not graduate. His wife, on the other hand (Edna Boulden, WMC '93), did graduate, and together they had three children, Cahle, Frank, and Phyllis. In addition to raising a family with his bride, Ansley went on to a successful career as a hotelier and an importer in Philadelphia.
Louis graduated from WMC in 1892 and then proceeded to obtain a PhD in history from Johns Hopkins Univ. (1895) and a law degree from the Univ. of Maryland (1897). He then moved first to New York City, then to Long Beach, California where he practiced law and served as mayor for two years (1914 -1915). He died there in 1951. Louis and his wife, Mary Annieta, had one child, Rowland.
Will, the starting point of this quest, earned an MD degree from the Univ. of Pennsylvania in 1899. He spent six years (1902 - 1908) working as surgeon for the Darien Gold Mining Co. when that firm reopened the famed Cana mine in Columbia, South America. Upon returning to home, he worked with a ship building firm and had the distinction of sailing as part of the medical staff on the maiden run of the battleship Oklahoma in 1916. He opened a private medical practice in Chincoteague in 1918, but the next year relocated to Atlantic City, New Jersey where he spent the rest of his life. Will was married twice, the second time to Louise Dowling-Peters in 1906. They had no children.
Indiana (not to be confused with her sister of the same name, who died at age 2 in 1871) returned home to the Island after graduation in 1898. She is reported to have been an accomplished artist, did not marry, and died young in 1908. Unfortunately, little else is known of her life.
On the Island today, Hallie is perhaps the best known of her siblings. Following graduation from WMC in 1898 with her sister, she briefly studied at Leland Stanford College (Stanford University) in California and at Columbia College (University) in New York before returning to the Island to teach in the "up the island" school in 1901. In 1909 she married the Reverend James D. Smith, a Methodist Protestant minister on the Island and moved with him to Philadelphia where he earned an MD degree from Jefferson Medical School in 1914. When he established his practice in Camden, New Jersey, she helped him manage his office and traveled extensively abroad throughout her life. That picture of her on a camel in Egypt is a mainstay of books on Chincoteague. Shortly before her death, she sold (practically gave) her old, 85 acre homestead to the City of Chincoteague for the construction of the new high school, which stands today on Main Street. When she died, she left a sizable endowment to that school to benefit the education of its students and she is buried in the small Whealton Burial Grounds south of the school football field. Hallie Whealton Smith Drive is named in honor of her undying concern for the welfare of the children of her Island home.
Least known is the youngest Whealton, Harold. He attended preparatory school at the College for only one year (1900), then set out on the road to adventure. He reputedly befriended the Mexican rebel, Pancho Villa, and definitely visited Alaska in 1906, before settling down and working as a mining engineer in Tuscon, Arizona in 1920. He and his wife Eileen, who hailed from Minnesota, apparently had no children.
The lives of these six Whealton children reflect a pattern of life on the Island at the end of the 19th Century, a pattern in many ways similar to the one we see today. While raised in a quiet farming and oystering community, many islanders recognized that education was the key to the future and made every effort to give that opportunity to their children; theirs were among the first schools on the Shore. Religion was also a central part of their lives, and thus all of the Whealton children were sent to a fledgling, Methodist-affiliated college despite it being far from home. The Whealtons thought it important that college mirror the moral and spiritual values of their home, and the local MP minister, B.P. Truitt, played an important role in selecting the right college. For their part, the Whealton children were fascinated by the advantages and adventures of the world that college showed them and they eagerly moved into that world and made their mark upon it. Hallie, however, best illustrates the truth that they never forgot their loved ones and their roots in the sands of Chincoteague Island.
[The author, Rick Smith, is Chair of the Chemistry Department at McDaniel College and, with his wife, owns a future retirement home "down the island." He is compiling a history of the entire Whealton family of Chincoteague and would welcome information, recollections, or pictures anyone might wish to share. He can be contacted at McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster, MD 21157; 410-857-2491; firstname.lastname@example.org].
Copyright 2004 by Richard H. Smith, Jr. All rights reserved by the Author. Do not reproduce by any means for any purpose without written permission from the Author. For personal use only.Web Page Copyright 2004 by Barbara Cox. Page updated July 28, 2004
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