A brief sketch on Dr. William Thornton Whitsett of Whitsett, Alamance County, North Carolina

Dr. William Thornton Whitsett

I have questioned some of Dr. Whitsett's research on the Whitsett family history; however, I have not questioned his credentials.  Some time ago I received a note from Bob Ingle, a native of Whitsett, N. C. that questioned the source of Dr. Whitsett's PhD.  The last thing I want to do is become embroiled in a controversy that detracts from the purpose of this web site. 

Recently, I received a note from Bonnie Whitsett of Burlington, N. C.  She is the wife of William Daniel Whitsett, grandson of William Thornton Whitsett She had visited my site and was concerned about the questions raised about Dr. Whitsett's credentials.  Her comments (dated 04/07/2008) to me were:

"There was also some question about whether Dr. Whitsett received his PhD from UNC, but I am certain that he did. Possibly one of my husband's cousins has that diploma. Dr. Whitsett's oldest daughter, Lucille Holt, had most of his important papers that were not donated to UNC, and I am sure her son has possession of most of those items. I suspect that Lucille is the one that entered the handwritten notes on some of the information you have. She was the self appointed family historian, and unfortunately passed away about 4-5 years ago.

I do know that Dr. Whitsett traveled all over the to obtain family history. We have personally had Whitsett family from Pennsylvania come by to visit Whitsett, NC, because they were linked to this family.

Our church, Friedens Lutheran Church, has an extensive genealogy, including birth and death dates and cemetery records. You may find some of your answers there.

Dr. Whitsett was a much respected educator in Whitsett and the Guilford County Schools. I am proud to be a part of his family. I hope you understand how proud we are of him and how it bothers us that his credentials are questioned. I would like for you to reconsider your wording on his accuracy and education. It seems that he did lots of research and did it when he had sources alive that we do not have today."

I caution anyone researching their family history about accepting Dr. Whitsett's papers as a primary source as some have done.  By all means use his notes as clues to where you should search and If you are interested in a family mentioned in his papers, verify the information yourself.  This is true of accepting at face value the conclusions of any Whitsett family historian, including myself.  This is difficult with Dr. Whitsett's material because of the lack of source notations; never-the-less, it is important that you do this. Two people using the same source may come away with two different opinions about what it means.  There is nothing wrong with this as long as the source is cited and the differences of opinions explained.  It is impossible to do this if the source is not documented.

WHO’S WHO IN AMERICA editions carried a sketch of the life and work of Dr. Whitsett for twenty years from 1918 to 1929. He was born in Guilford County, North Carolina on August 5, 1866 and died there on March 22, 1934.

William Thornton Whitsett, A.M., PhD was an Author, educator and lecturer. He was born at Whitsett, North Carolina; son of Joseph Bason Whitsett and Mary (Foust) Whitsett. Dr. Whitsett was a descendant of Samuel Whitsett of Orange County, North Carolina. He was educated at Oakdale Academy, North Carolina College, and University of North Carolina. He married Carrie F. Brewer of Salem College, Winston-Salem, N. C., on June 30, 1906. They had four children.

Dr. Whitsett was the founder, 1888, and president until 1918 of Whitsett Institute, a leading boarding school in North Carolina. He was a member of the Guilford county Board of Education 1897-1918 (Chairman 1906-1918). Dr. Whitsett was a trustee of the University of North Carolina 1897-1919. He was also the organizer of North Carolina Association of Academies and Secretary and Treasurer North Carolina Teachers’ Assembly and president from 1905-1906. He was a member of the Poetry Society of America, the Poetry Society of London, Phi Gamma Delta and the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He was a historian for Guilford County, N. C.

William Thornton Whitsett
1866-1934

This picture was probably taken about 1900

William Thornton Whitsett was a poet and author of numerous books and monographs including: Saber and Song; Outlooks on Books; Founders of Church and State; Landmarks and Pioneers; Prophets of the Presbyterian Church; Pioneer Teachers; Life of Captain Peter Summers, Revolutionary Hero; Whitsett Historical Monographs, - Brick Church and the Clapp Family History; Historic Churches of Guilford County; Early Churches of North Carolina; Alamance County, and the Whitesell-Huffman Family History; and various addresses and magazine articles. He also wrote more than a score of histories and sketches of early American families including the Whitsett family which apparently was never published.
Click here to read a complete copy of Dr. Whitsett's uncompleted manuscript
Ronald N. Wall
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07 June 2011