Silhouette: John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892)

John Greenleaf Whittier, son of John Whittier and Abigail Hussey Whittier, was born December 17, 1807 near Haverhill.  The poet’s paternal great grandmother was Sarah Greenleaf, of Newbury, third cousins to my direct ancestors, James Coffin and Sarah Greenleaf who shared great-great grandparents were Edmund Greenleaf, and also Tristram Coffin . The lines of descent as follows:

Edmund Greenleaf married Sarah More, and their son, Stephen Greenleaf, married Elizabeth, daughter of Tristram Coffin and Dionis (Stevens). The son of Stephen Greenleaf and Elizabeth (Coffin), Tristram Greenleaf, born in 1667—married Margaret Piper in 1689. Tristram Greenleaf’s son, Nathaniel Greenleaf, born in 1691, had a daughter Sarah, born March 5, 1721 who married Joseph Whittier, 2d, the grandfather of John Greenleaf Whittier.

John became an avid reader in his boyhood and was influenced to become a poet by the writings of Robert Burns.  He was a prolific writer, and some of his poems were published by William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the “Newburyport Free Press” which launched his literary career in 1826.  He attended the Haverhill Academy in 1827 and two years later became editor of “The American Manufacturer” in Boston.  He was successful in many journalistic ventures and became nationally famous for his abolitionist poems.  His staunch anti-slavery stand resulted from his Quaker heritage.  In 1836 he moved his mother and sister, Elizabeth Hussey Whittier to Amesbury, Massachusetts.  He died in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire September 7, 1892 following a paralytic stroke. He was buried in Amesbury, Massachusetts.  He did not marry.



“… I love the vanished past – I love to listen when
The legend of its stirring times is told by aged men –
The hunter’s tale of forest deeds – his struggle with the storm –
His struggle with the savage bear, and cougar’s fearful form.

I love the spell that lendeth to each old familiar stream
The dimness and incoherence of some mysterious dream,
That linketh supernatural things to native hill and glen
and blendeth with the present view a glimpse of what has been.”
– John Greenleaf Whittier

More about John Greenleaf Whittier’s connection to our family and the Greenleaf genealogy >>


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