James D. Whitley, Logan & Menard County
James D. Whitley wrote a letter to the Asylum in 1880 when he was an adult, encouraging the children of the Asylum to come West.
His mother died in a cholera epidemic in 1849, when James was just 5 years old. His father remarried and being dissatisfied with his treatment, James ran away from home and lived on the street for some time. He finally presented himself at the magistrate court and asked to be sent West. He was sent to Atlanta, in Logan County in 1857. James had lost an eye as a child and none of the farmers were willing to take him, until William King arrived at the selection event late and was satisfied to take James home with him.
James was taken home on the back of Mr. King's horse, and having never ridden a horse before, he fell off many times on that bitterly cold evening. His attempts at being a farmhand were so pathetic, that Mr. King had many a laugh at his ineptitude. He was eventually trusted with much of the farm management because Mr. King was "constitutionally opposed to hard work, rode about, trading in stock."
His education was not advancing and when he did go to school, the other boys would abuse him, because of his missing eye. Mr. King advised him to whip the other boys in a fight and so win their respect. Although he gave this useful advice, and James had no further trouble with the boys, that year was the only year that James attended school, his work load was so heavy. James studied alone, furthering his education through reading.
In 1862 Mr. King consented to release James, so that he could join the army and fight in the Civil War. After six months in the army, James was assigned to medical duty and eventually was serving as Acting Regimental Steward in the Pine Bluff Hospital. He was recommended for a commission as an Assistant Surgeon, but the war being at an end, no further commissions were made. After the war James entered the Rush Medical College and received his diploma after two years study.
He married Emma C. Haynes and had two children, Ida and Albert, by the time he wrote this letter. He lived in Petersburg as an adult and although he met his family again in New York, he enigmatically said "Our meeting can be better imagined than described on paper." He married two more times, to Elizabeth Watkins and then Sarah Virginia Degge. He died at the age of 70 in Petersburg on December 13, 1914. He was survived by two sons, James Delafort Whitley and Langdon Degge Whitley.