Simon Witham, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Simon Witham


The learned professions have many disciples who aspire to honor and dignity in their chosen fields, and all with greater or less reason to expect their efforts to be crowned with success. He of whom we have the pleasure of attempting a short biographical sketch is one of the many to woo the fickle goddess of fortune before the bench and bar. Nor does he aspire without cause, for nature has gifted him generously with those qualities that make themselves felt in the legal profession. This honored representative of one of the best old Eastern families was born in Union County, Indiana, March 29, 1824. In the early history of the American colonies, two brothers named Witham, came as English soldiers and took part in the French and Indian Wars. Morris Witham, father of our subject, was born in the State of Maine, on a farm eighteen miles from the ocean, and on the Saco river. His father, James Witham, was an old settler on this farm, but moved with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio, in the very earliest settlement of that city, and here died at an advanced age. Morris Witham came with his father to Cincinnati when nine years of age, and became a scout and hunter for Gen. Harrison. He married Miss Rebecca Billings, of Union County, Indiana, daughter of one of the pioneer Baptist ministers of this State, and twelve children were the fruits of this union: James, Joseph, Alfred, Simon, William, Edward, Hattie, Lydia, Delilah, Mary, Rebecca, and one who died in infancy. All these children were born in Union County, Indiana, whither the father moved soon after marriage; but in 1835 he came to Porter County, Indiana, and settled in Morgan Township, four miles south of Valparaiso, where he was one of the original pioneers. There was no Valparaiso at that time, and he cleared up his land and made a good farm of 160 acres. In 1850 he moved to White County, Indiana, and there died three years later when seventy-six years of age. In politics he was an Old Line Whig, and a man whose word was as good as his bond. Simon Witham, subject of this sketch, was eleven years of age when he came to Porter County, and he was reared amid the rude surroundings of pioneer life, and was well acquainted with many of the old settlers. Of course his educational advantages were limited to the rude log school house of those days, but he was naturally of a studious turn of mind, a great lover of books, especially law books, and became unusually well informed. When young he learned the blacksmith trade at Valparaiso, and followed this for the most part in Tassinong until he enlisted in the army. Mr. Witham was married in Tassinong to Miss Dinah Olive Spencer, daughter of Jesse and Sarah (Tate) Spencer. Her father was born in America, but was of Irish descent. He settled in Pleasant township, this county, in 1845, and here became the owner of a good farm. He was well respected, was postmaster for some time, trustee of the township, and a worthy member of the Baptist church. He was sixty-nine years of age at the time of his death. His children were: Stewart, Benjamin F., Joseph, Robert, Eli, Mary J., Dinah O., Nancy, and Martha. Most of these children settled in Porter County, but many of them have since moved away. They were numbered among the best respected citizens, and several of them are in professional life. To Simon Witham and wife have been born two children: Mary J., and Joseph Spencer. The last of July, 1862, Mr. Witham enlisted at Valparaiso, in Company I, Seventy-third Indiana Volunteers Infantry, and served until October, 1863, when he was discharged on account of wounds received in battle. He was mustered in at South Bend, as duty sergeant, and sent to Louisville with his company. From there they proceeded by rail to Lexington, Kentucky, and marched to the Kentucky River, on the road to Richmond, Kentucky. The command then retreated by forced marches, night and day, to Lexington, and from there back to Louisville. At least one-third of the men were exhausted by the forced marching, and they remained in Louisville a short time to recruit. They then went after Gen. Bragg, to the Cumberland Mountains, East Kentucky, and returned by way of Hall's Gap, making a forced march to Nashville, Tennessee, to head off that General. Five days before they arrived at Nashville, Mr. Witham was taken sick with five other soldiers, with the measles and chronic diarrhea, and were conveyed in an open top wagon without any protection from the pouring rain. As Mr. Witham was broken out with the measles, he became dangerously ill. He remained in a tent at Silver Springs a day and a half, and was here in danger of being killed by ignorant medical attendance. November 12 he was taken to a hospital at Nashville, and was ill until March, 1863. After this he joined his regiment, at Murfreesboro, which, on the 9th of April, 1863, was dispatched with Col. Streight on his famous raid. Shortly before this Mr. Witham was appointed orderly sergeant. His first battle was at Day's Gap, and here he was wounded in the right hip, three inches to the right of the spinal column, the ball passing directly through his body and coming out through the left upper hip bone. The Federals went ahead and left their wounded prisoners, detailing two, one doctor and one nurse, to care for them. With this fearful wound, Sergeant Witham was shortly after carried to the field hospital, but received no treatment, the surgeons saying that he would not live forty minutes, and giving him an extra dose of morphine. He slept in the open field twenty-six hours and remained on the field four days, when he was taken to a farm house, three miles from the battle field. Here he remained six weeks, receiving good care and kind treatment, and was then taken as a prisoner to Huntsville, Alabama, where he was placed in a rebel hospital. He received plenty of food, but little medical attention, and was subsequently removed to the rebel hospital, at Chattanooga, where he was treated kindly. Later though, he was taken to the guard house, and soon transferred to the guard house, at Atlanta, where he received a full dose of prison life. From there he was taken to Libby Prison and remained in the same a short time, for he was too sick with the mumps to use the rations, which consisted of one-fourth of a small loaf of bread and a piece of beef about the size of a man's thumb in the morning, a teacup full of bean soup and a piece of bread for dinner, and nothing for supper. He was transferred from there to Annapolis and paroled. After remaining in this place until the latter part of August, 1863, he was then transferred to Camp Chase, Ohio, and thence home. He was a year in partially recovering from his wound, and still feels the effects of it, it becoming more painful as he becomes older. The bones began to come out of the wound after he returned home, and many fragments, some quite large pieces, came out. His war experience was a rather serious one. Since the war, Mr. Witham has practiced law, has also farmed, and has been engaged in other occupations. In 1866 he bought a farm west of Kouts, and in 1877 he bought his present farm of eighty acres. He was station agent at Kouts, on the Pan Handle Railroad, from 1883 to 1891, and he was Justice of the Peace five terms. At present he is deputy-prosecuting attorney. Mr. Witham has practiced law in the justice courts since 1855, and is well known throughout the county in this profession. Politically, he is a stanch Republican, and socially a Mason and a member of the G. A. R. Mr. and Mrs. Witham have reared a young lady from infancy, Rick Witham, who is a young lady of unusual intelligence and a teacher in the school at Marshall Grove. In his religious views, our subject is liberal. He is a strict temperance man, and a fearless advocate of prohibition.

Source: Goodspeed Brothers. 1894. Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Brothers. 569 p.
Page(s) in Source: 257-260

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


CSS Template by Rambling Soul