James Whittle (State Senator 1861-1863) was the son of a prosperous and well-known family in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Upon his graduation from Hampden-Sydney College, he came to bustling Pittsylvania Courthouse (now Chatham) to establish a law practice in the early 1830's. Whittle married a local girl, Mary Coles. They lived at the property now known as The Columns on South Main Street in Chatham. Mary Coles Whittle died after the birth of their daughter Mary.
Whittle then married his cousin Cornelia Skipwith of Mecklenburg County. They built and lived at Eldon, just east of Chatham. Cornelia died after the birth of their daughter Matoaka.
James Whittle was active in a number of business enterprises, perhaps most notably the promotion and finance of a railroad from Lynchburg to Danville. (That railroad eventually became a portion of the main line of the Southern Railway, now the Norfolk and Southern.) In 1875, as the railroad was being completed, Whittle built the Sims-Mitchell House for his daughter Matoaka and her husband William E. Sims, at a location across the tracks and just up the hill from the original Chatham station. (The next rail stop north of Chatham, Whittles Station, is named for James Whittle.)
At his death, Whittle owned significant portions of Chatham and adjacent land on the west side of town along the railroad, and over 5,000 acres of land in Pittsylvania County including his beloved Eldon.
Anecdotes from the period indicate that James Whittle was highly reputed for his honor, integrity, and Christian devotion. His marker in the Chatham Burial Park is inscribed, "I know that my Redeemer liveth."
This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.
Copyright © 1999–2006 Patricia B. Mitchell.