Milford Flavious Whitaker
Written By: Odessa Mahan Purselley
Two brothers, Alexander and Jabez Whitaker, came to Virginia in the early 1600s. Alexander, called the Apostle of Virginia, was responsible for the religious education of the Indian Princess Pocahontas. He baptized her, and he later performed her marriage ceremony to John Rolfe.
It was a family trait, carried down through the generations, to become preachers and teachers as well as farmers and carpenters.
Our branch of the family was in South Carolina as early as 1805, living near the Indians in the forested coastline. One of the chief towns was about where Walhalla now stands. We made a very enjoyable trip in 1988, tracing their Keowee Trail migration from Walhalla to Seneca, Center, Anderson, and Honea Path, thence from there to Arkansas and Texas,
Hugh Hardy Whitaker was married to Polly Ferry and they had six children. He married a second, Mary, and they had four children. Hugh was a carpenter, and he had three sons who were carpenters. He was the first carpenter in Anderson, South Carolina. With the help of his three sons he built the first church in Anderson, a small log house. It was a Methodist Church and it was the only house of worship within the bounds of the city for many years.
There were no windows in the church and no way to heat it, but the people attended no matter what the weather. If the wind was from the east, they opened the south door for light; if the wind was from the south they opened the east door. A new building of plank was erected in 1843,
David Lorenzo Whitaker, minister, had three sons who were Methodist preachers, His wife was Clarissa Pruitt, a native of Anderson County, All nine of their children were born in Anderson Co. He was a carpenter and farmer as well as a preacher.
My grandfather, Milford Flavious Whitaker, was born March 18,
1851. He married Matilda Ann Martin, daughter of Oliver and Eva
Webb Martin on November 2'3, 1871. He was farming with his father
so he took his bride to live in a one-room house on the farm, A
daughter told this story:
Two weeks after the couple married
they were riding in the buggy one day up the hill from the Congress
River talking as newly-weds about their future. M. F. broke the
news that he felt called to preach. Matilda was very surprised as
she had never thought of being a preacher's wife. Nevertheless,
she supported his efforts always to the best of her ability. Nature had given him a fine mind and he learned fast. He was licensed to preach on October 21, 1872, in the Methodist Episcopal
Four sons and eight daughters were born into the family during the next 24 years, Daughters Eveline, Lee Ila, Francis, Katy, Willie, and Roberta made their family homes in Hood County most of their years.
All of the children were born in South Carolina but the family moved to Texas in 1898, before any of them married. Both parents strived to see that their children got good educations. The older ones received their education in South Carolina, but the two younger daughters, Katy and Roberta, got most of their schooling at the Granbury College. They drove a buggy back and forth to school from Fairview,
Grandfather owned a farm at Fairview where they lived from 1900 to 1913. He and Rev, W, B, Wilson organized a Methodist Church for the community in 1901, Land on which to build the church was given by Mrs. Cynthia Liles. The building was financed by donations, and Mr. Homer Scott with Rev, Whitaker did the carpenter work. The dedication was held in 1903 by Rev. Majors and the Presiding Elder, Dr. Boase.
Along with his farming, Grandfather preached at Fairview, Waco, and Prairie Hill, making the long trips in his buggy. By necessity he spent the week-ends with church families. In 1914 he was asked to return to Mena, Arkansas to preach; so, he sold his farm and moved there. He preached at Mena and the small Acorn Church near town.
Due to the fact that Grandfather was a member of the Masonic Lodge #392 in Granbury he was given a Traveling Certificate dated July 21, 1914 which states that he (M. F. Whitaker) be received and acknowledged by all Free and Accepted Masons wheresoever diepersed. He was given a Certificate, dated February 8, 1916 from Mena, Arkansas to certify that Bro. M. F. Whitaker is an Honorary Member of Dallas Lodge #128 F&AM.
My mother, Roberta, had married Baxter Mahan in 1909, As she was the youngest child, it seems that her family always lived near her parents. Because of that, we children have many loving memories of our grandparents.
Father wasn't making a very good living on the farm in Arkansas so we moved back to Granbury in 1920, and he worked for wages. In a few months Grandfather moved back also. He was unable to farm anymore, so he lived in town, He retired from preaching but he was a faithful and supportive member of the church as long as his health permitted.
He died on a Thursday night at nine o'clock, August 29, 1923, and was buried with Masonic honors in the Granbury Cemetery. The Rev. E. P, Swindall conducted the service, He was survived by his wife, Matilda Ann, ten children, and a number of grandchildren. The obituary for Rev, Whitaker in the Christian Advocate was written by Rev. Lee A. Clark of Granbury. A copy of the respect for Bro. Whitaker was presented to the family by the Masonic Lodge.
Matilda Ann Martin Whitaker lived until June 15, 1932. She was also buried in the Granbury Cemetery.
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