Portrait courtesy of the Whitford family at Rootsweb.
Hailing from a state that hasn't been featured here since November 2014, Nebraska state representative Amanzel DeForest Whitford is the newest addition to the Strangest Names In American Political History. While Whitford's brief tenure in the Nebraska legislature is the primary reason he's profiled today, I can't help but point out his connection to my home county of Chautauqua, New York, where Whitford's family resided early in his childhood.
One of eleven children born to Nathaniel and Rebecca (Brown) Whitford, Amanzel DeForest Whitford's birth occurred in Warren County, Pennsylvania on October 23, 1846. Shortly following Amanzel's birth the Whitford family removed to Chautauqua County, New York and settled in the town of North Harmony. They continued to reside here until 1854, whereafter they relocated to Waverly, Michigan. It is presumed that Whitford received his education in that town, and he was still a resident of Waverly when he enlisted for service in the Civil War in December 1863.
Joining the ranks of Co. A of the Michigan Volunteer Infantry's 13th Regiment, Whitford later was stationed in Tennessee and here contracted both measles and mumps, necessitating four months of bed confinement. Following this period of recuperation, Whitford's company joined Gen. William T. Sherman in his "March to the Sea" and on July 25, 1865 he and fellow soldiers were mustered out of service.
After leaving the army Amanzel Whitford returned to his family in Waverly. They continued to reside there until about 1871 (or 1873, depending on the source) when they removed to Dixon County, Nebraska. In October 1880 he married to Mary Emily Allen (1861-1922), to whom he was wed until his death. Their four-decade-long union saw the births of twelve children, who are listed as follows in order of birth: Matthew (born 1881), Ruth (1883-1957), Mary (1885-1977), Sarah (died in infancy in 1886), Eva (1888-1967). Alma (died in infancy in 1890), Arthur DeForest (1891-1975), Faye (born 1892), John (died in infancy in 1895), William McKinley (1896-1898), Ruby (1898-1985) and Alice (1901-1944).
Described in the 1896 History of Dixon County as "a prosperous farmer of Springbank", Whitford is recorded as being the owner of a 240-acre farm located south of Allen, Nebraska. In 1888 he was elected as Dixon County's representative to the Nebraska State legislature and in February 1889 received a small write-up on his service in the Omaha Bee. In this brief snippet, the Bee relates Whitford's early life in Pennsylvania and New York and further notes that:
"Mr. Whitford is another quiet member, but his vote may always be relied upon by friends of wise and economical legislation."
From the Omaha Bee, February 18, 1889.
Amanzel Whitford served just one term in the house (1889-1891) and afterward returned to private life at his home in Dixon County. In the early 1900s he and his family pulled up stakes once again and this time relocated to Wisconsin. Settling in Washburn County, Whitford resided here until his death at age 74 on February 28, 1921. His wife Mary survived her husband by only a year, dying in 1922. Both were later interred at the Shell Lake Cemetery in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.
Curiously, Whitford's gravestone records his name as "DeForest A. Whitford". This is presumed to be an error on the part of the carver, as all other documents (including the Omaha Bee and the History of Dixon County) record him either by the initials "A.D." or under the name Amanzel. This is further strengthened by the 1860 U.S. Census, which records him as a 13-year-old residing in Waverly, Michigan under the name "Amanzel D. Whitford", .