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James Wharmby, Logan County

James Wharmby (b. 1871) was the indentured boy of Mr. Chenoweth of Atlanta, Illinois. He wrote his first letter to the Asylum in 1887, four years after he was sent to Illinois. He was attending school and proudly stated that he was "studying Ray's New Higher Arithmetic and am further advanced than anyone in the school of my age." He reported that it was very dry that year and that water had to be carried from Atlanta. Mr. Chenoweth wrote a glowing report of James: "On very short notice he can get up before and make a speech, sing a song or make a declamation as creditably as any of the boys." On the other hand, when James wrote a letter at the age of 20, he said that he had not been at school for two years (and obviously wanted to) and that he planned to work through the year until September and then go to business college. He was having to do all the work around the farm because Mr. Chenoweth was ill.

In 1892 James wrote the story of his childhood -- his father died when he was young and "although my mother was quite kind and affectionate, I was led astray by the street boys, and became so reckless she was compelled to place me in the asylum, where I stayed for four months and was then sent out to Illinois." He stayed with Mr. Chenoweth for nine years, and upon reaching adulthood, hired himself out for $20 a month. He regretted this decision and often wished he had stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Chenoweth. He returned to New York City as a delegate for the YPSCE in 1892. James was able to see his mother again, who recognized him immediately, although she had never seen him since he was twelve years old. The dirt and grime of New York City made such a disagreeable impression on him that he gladly returned to Illinois and was attending business college in Quincy, Illinois in 1892.

James next appeared in the 1900 census in Chicago, where he was boarding with a family and working as a bookkeeper to a portrait company. In 1920 he was living in Oklahoma City and working as an accountant. He was single and living in a boarding house. He had accomplished his goal of completing an education that fulfilled his promise as a young scholar in Logan County.

James was one of five children, it appears, his father an English immigrant and his mother from Virginia (as confirmed in the 1920 census). James senior was listed as book dealer in 1870 and a paper ruler in 1880. James and Alice had five children. Their oldest, George, joined the navy and their first daughter, Angeline, married and lived in New York all her life. James, their second born, was the only child listed with the NYJA. No trace remains of the two youngest children and no death dates could be determined for the parents.


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