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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


MRS. SUSAN DURGIN WHITNEY. There is no name better known in Petaluma than Whitney, for in all philanthropic movements Mrs. Whitney has ever been found among the leaders. She was born in Jackson, N. H., March 28, 1832, the daughter of Otis Eastman, who was likewise a native of New Hampshire, having been born in Conway, April 15, 1806. His wife was Florella Merrill, a native of the same place and of English ancestry. Her father, Enoch Merrill, was born in Conway and represented a family that came from England and settled in Massachusetts in 1636, during the early history of this country. There he married Sarah Merrill, who was born in New Hampshire and died in Minnesota, at Kingston, aged seventy-three years.

On the paternal side Mrs. Whitney comes from Welsh stock; her grandfather, Abiather Eastman, born in Conway, N. H., served in the war of 1812 and died in service. His widow, Susan (Durgin) Eastman, was also a native of New Hampshire. At the death of her husband she was left with six children to rear and with no means at her command. This meant that as soon as each one was old enough he would have to shoulder the burden of life and assist in supporting the younger members of the family. Otis Eastman was bound out to a relative from the age of seven until he was fourteen, at which time he began as a farm hand, working about the neighborhood at from $8 to $10 a month. He cleared a farm in Jackson and later went to Aroostook county, Me., where he improved another farm and about 1870 he located in Kingston, Meeker county, Minn. When he was eighty-five years of age he came to California and made his home with his daughter, Mrs. Whitney, in Petaluma, and he passed away on November 12, 1905, aged ninety-nine years. He was a Jacksonian Democrat until Fremont’s time, and thereafter voted the Republican ticket, and was a Methodist.

To the union of Mr. and Mrs. Eastman eight children were born, seven of whom grew to maturity, viz.: Susan Durgin, of this review; Rufus Merrill, who served in the Civil war in the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry and is now residing at Hammond, La.; Enoch Merrill, a soldier in a Minnesota regiment and now a resident of Litchfield, Minn.; Flora, who died at the age of twenty-three years; George, who served in the Civil war, enlisting in a Maine regiment at the age of nineteen years and now a resident of Ft. Fairfield, Me.; Ellen who died at the age of fourteen years; and Charles M., residing at Fortuna, Humboldt county, Cal.

Susan Durgin Whitney was reared in Aroostook county, Me, from 1843, and her education was obtained in the subscription schools of that location and period. She was married February 1, 1850, to Albion Paris Whitney, whose sketch appears on another page of this work and whose family is mentioned therein. Mrs. Whitney moved to Minnesota in 1856 and in the fall of 1861 brought her four children via the Isthmus of Panama to California, arriving in San Francisco December 15th and since that date has made her home in Petaluma. Since the death of Mr. Whitney she has continued to look after the business interests that engrossed his time, having been made executrix of the estate and carried out his wishes to the letter. She resides at the family home, No. 320 Sixth street. She has a substantial income and is able to contribute liberally toward charitable movements and to promote enterprises for the upbuilding of Petaluma, in which her husband and herself have ever been deeply interested. Mrs. Whitney has been active in all movements that would better the condition of the citizens and has been conscientious in all things. She believes in not letting her right hand know what her left hand does and of the Eastern Star Chapter and of the Episcopal Church. She likes to mingle with her many friends and to relieve suffering wherever she may find it. Such characters as Mrs. Whitney’s are well worthy of emulation by the rising generations.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011