Yorkshire Chess History
Channing Wood Whitman
Channing Wood Whitman was a United States Consular Agent who worked, lived and died in Huddersfield, squeezing a little chess on the way.
Channing Wood’s parents were Henry C Whitman (born 1818, Massachusetts, USA) and Elizabeth C (or K, so probably standing for C/Katherine) Whitman (née King, 1821/22, New Hampshire, USA). He couple appear to have had only two children, both born in the US state of Ohio, very probably in Cincinatti:
Henry’s date and place of birth were given in his burial record (which had his middle initial mistyped as “W”). Channing’s date of birth is implied by census returns, and by his age when starting college, as being 1845/46 in most cases and 1846/47 in one, which is to say he was born in 1846. Further, at the foot of his US passport application (q.v), he was stated to be 23 years and 6 months old as at 11/02/1870, which fixes his date of birth more-exactly as Jul/Aug 1846. It is a little odd, therefore, that at the top of the form he has signed the statement: “I, C. W. Whitman, do swear that I was born on or about the 24th day of August 1847; that I am a resident of Cincinatti, Ohio, and loyal citizen of the Unites States, and about to travel abroad.” A certain John Kebler signed below to certify that, as far as he knew, .this was correct. We have the man’s sworn word that he was born in 1847, but all other independent evidence says it was 1846, which is here taken to be true. The man can probably be trusted on the day and month of his birth!
Channing’s place of birth is likely to have been Lancaster, Ohio.
The 1850 US census found the Whitman parents and two sons, and two servants, at Lancaster, Fairfield County, State of Ohio. Father, Henry C. Whitman, was by occupation a judge. Henry was 5 and Channing (whose first name was recorded without the “h”) was 3.
The 1860 US census found the family still at Lancaster, Fairfield, Ohio, but now with only one servant. The father’s occupation was more precisely described as “Judge of Court of C. P.”, the initials standing perhaps for “Criminal Prosecution”. Henry was now 15 and Channing 14. The apparent inconsistency in Channing’s age is explained by the US census being conducted in August, slightly before, exactly on, or slightly after, his birthday, this varying from year to year.
Both Henry Medill Whitman and Channing Wood Whitman were educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, USA. They started there in 1862, when Henry was 17 and Channing was 16, at which time their homes were in Cincinatti, Ohio. The Phillips Exeter Academy produced catalogues of its “officers” (i.e. staff members) and students for a given year, and the boys names were listed there.
Both boys went to Harvard University in 1868. Channing Wood Whitman proved to be one of Harvard’s best oarsmen of the day, and he was due to row for Harvard in an international rowing match between Harvard and Oxford. However, he sustained an injury to his knee which meant he was unable to row in that match.
1883 was the centenary of the Phillips Exeter Academy, and the Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Phillips Exeter Academy 1783-1883 carried a full list of students, past and present, with limited details of what had happened to past students, noting things like university attended, degree obtained, job secured, and, were appropriate, year of death. From this centenary publication we find that Henry Medill Whitman died in 1869, without even taking his degree. He died on 16/08/1869 as a result of “brain fever” (meningitis?). His place of death was given in his burial record as “Cor. Richmond & Cutter”, which may mean something to somebody in the know. He was buried on 17/06/1869 a family grave at Spring Grove Cemetery, Hamilton County, Ohio, in a plot described as Garden LN, Section 84, lot 90, space 1. The plot was owned by his father.
On a happier note the 1883 Catalogue recorded that Channing had got his A.M. (= M.A.) at Harvard, and become a US Consul in Huddersfield, England.
Channing applied for a US passport, as mentioned above, on 11/02/1870, and duly arrived in Liverpool, and presumably travelled thence to Huddersfield by train. Besides the inconsistently stated date of birth and age, the passport application listed certain physical attributes:
The Huddersfield Directory and Year Book dated 1870 listed William Haigh as the agent at the United States Consular Office, which was at Union Bank Court, New Street, Huddersfield. It was presumably from William Haigh, therefore, that Channing Wood Whitman took over.
Channing Wood Whitman married in March 1871. The marriage was registered in the second quarter of 1871. His wife was an American lady called Mary Wilson Eeles (born 1851, USA), but whether he brought her with him when he initially travelled to England from the States or whether she followed a little later isn’t clear. Her surname suffers various misspellings and mis-transcriptions, but “Eeles” seems to be the correct spelling.
The bride’s parents were George E. Eeles, a physician born 1814/15, and Lucretia W. Eeles, born 1815/16 in the State of Massachusetts, USA. This couple had at least four children, all born in the State of Ohio:
The 1860 US census ound parents and first three children living at Lithopolis, Fairfield County, State of Ohio, USA. Mary was then eight. The enumeration date was 18/06/1860. Combining this with her age at death we deduce she was born from 19/06/1851 to 18/09/1851. The 1870 US census found mother and three youngest children living at Deerfield, Franklin county, State of Ohio, USA.
Channing Wood Whitman and his wife lived at first at Brockholes, near the railway station. The couple had a son, Henry Whitman, born 18/02/1872 at Huddersfield. Unfortunately the mother died in childbirth. The death of Mary Wilson Whitham on 18/02/1872, at Huddersfield, was recorded in the death registrations of Deerfield. The entry didn’t mention that Huddersfield was in England. Her age was given as 20 years and 5 months. In this country the registration of her death gave her age as 20.
The Huddersfield Directory and Year Book dated 1873 listed Channing Wood Whitman, agent to the Consulate of the United States, resident at Brockholes, but fairly soon after his wife’s death he moved to Huddersfield.
He took a second wife, Mary England, daughter of William Paul England (born 25/05/1808, Huddersfield, baptised 22/06/1808,St.Peter’s, Huddersfield) and Caroline England (born 1814/15, Birmingham). The marriage was registered in the third quarter of 1872. There were no children from this second marriage.
The Englands had at least four children, all born in Huddersfield:
The 1861 census found the England parents and five children living at Bay Hall, Far Town, Huddersfield. Father William was apparently a drug and drysaltery merchant. The children, including 11-year-old Mary, were scholars.
Mary’s ages in the 1861 census and when arriving in New York in 1885 narrow her date of birth to the period 08/04/1849 to 19/10/1849.
The 1871 census found the England parents still at Bay Hall, but now (02/04/1871) only one of the children, Fredrick, still listed with them.
Channing Wood Whitman undertook a number of trips back to the United States, as evidenced by the passenger lists of those arriving at New York. In each case he travelled out from Liverpool, via Queenstown, Ireland. On 28/09/1874, aged “29” (really 28), he arrived aboard the Oceanic. On 16/10/1876, aged 30, he arrived aboard the Germanic. On 19/10/1885, aged 39, he arrived aboard the Britannic. On the latter occasion he was accompanied by Mrs. Whitman, his wife, whose age was given as 36.
The Huddersfield Directory and Year Book dated 1879 listed Channing Wood Whitman as agent to the consulate of the United States, which now had its offices at 22 Estate Buildings, Railway Street, Huddersfield. That building appears now to have been demolished, being very roughly where now stands a slightly larger than life statue of former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
Kelly’s 1881 directory of the West Riding listed Channing Wood Whitman as consular agent for the United States of America, the Consular Agency being located still at 22 Estate Buildings, Railway Street, Huddersfield, with his residence at Leeches, Longwood, Huddersfield.
The Huddersfield & District Postal Directory dated 1884 listed Charles Wood Whitman at the United State Consulate , Yorkshire Bank Buildings, Market Place, with his home now at 69 New North Road, Huddersfield. New North Road was where so many Huddersfield chess club members resided before finally moving further up the road to Edgerton Cemetery. John Watkinson lived at the time at 84 New North Road, on the other side of the road, a little further along.
69 New North Road bore the name Claremont Cottage, and was on Bradley Lane, which turns off New North Road between numbers 65 and 71. The two residences on it were incorporated into the numbering sequence of the odd numbers of New North Road. Thus “Claremont Cottage, Bradley Lane” was the same as “69 New North Road”. (Click here for a picture of the house.)
Slater’s Huddersfield directory of 1887 repeated the information in the 1884 directory.
It may be that his status was latterly upgraded from consular agent to consul.
Besides playing chess, he latterly took up lawn tennis. (Today there is a tennis club off New North Road, near to where he lived.)
In 1889, Channing’s father, Judge Henry C Whitman, died, aged 71. He had got erysipelas and pneumonia, and died 20/08/1889, at “S. E. Cor. Richmond & Cutter Sts”. He was buried in space 2 of the plot in which his son, Channing’s brother, had been buried twenty years earlier. Channing had to make a trip to the States to sort out his father’s estate. After he’d returned he fell ill with typhoid fever, believed to have been contracted on board ship. He seemed to respond to medical treatment, but then experienced a relapse, with bowel haemorrhaging and peritonitis setting in, leading to death.
Channing Wood Whitman died, aged 43, at his home, Claremont Cottage, 69 New North Road, Huddersfield, on 15/02/1890. Administration of his estate was granted to Mary England Whitman, his widow. His effects totalled £7,379 7s 11d.
Entry no. 9048 in the Edgerton Cemetery burial register records that Channing Wood Whitman, aged 43, American Consul, of Claremont Cottage, Huddersfield, was interred in a family grave (no. 197, unconsecrated section 9) at Edgerton Cemetery on 18/02/1890 by G. E. Allen.
The grave was no. 197, in unconsecrated section 9, but no evidence of the grave is now identifiable. However, there are some headstones lying face down in that section, and one of those may belong to the Whitman grave.
An obituary, which reads rather as though it was written by John Watkinson, appeared in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Monday, 17/02/1800, on page 4.
The status of the Huddersfield US Consular Office seems to has been upgraded after Channing Wood Whitman’s death, as Slater’s Huddersfield directory dated 1890-91 listed W. P. Smyth, consul, and D. J. Bailey, vice and deputy; the consular agent had been replaced by a full-blown consul, seemingly, and a vice-cum-deputy consul.
He played for Yorkshire in the first match billed as “Yorkshire v Lancashire”, which was played at the West Yorkshire Chess Association’s annual meeting held at the Victoria Hotel, Bradford, on Saturday 20/05/1871.
He attended the West Yorkshire Chess Association’s annual meetings of 1871, 1873, and 1874.
He played against Joseph Henry Blackburne in a blindfold simultaneous display given by Blackburne in Sheffield on 19/02/1873, and won.
C. W. Whitman himself had a reputation for skill at playing blindfold [Huddersfield College Magazine (Vol. 1, page 134)].
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information