The Whitmore family in early Washtenaw County

Article submitted by Jacob Donner, Northfield Historical Society, March 24, 2015; originally published in the Whitmore Lake Press in 1966, written by Clare Rorabacher.

Settlers Luke and Phebe Whitmore

On April 1st in the year 1825, Luke H. Whitmore and Phebe Whitmore, his wife, purchased 400 acres of land in Pittsfield Township. The price was $1.25 per acre.

One 80-[acre lot] was in Section 2 of Pittsfield Township, where the Whitmore Cemetery is located. This cemetery contains slightly over nine-tenths of an acre. One 80-[acre lot] was in Section 10, and three 80-[acre lots] in Section 11. On May 19, 1838, he granted permission to 21 of his neighbors the privilege of using this cemetery. (see Editor’s note below)

Luke H. Whitmore and his wife, Phebe, came to Michigan in the spring of 1825 from a small town in New York State by the name of Seneca. This is in Ontario County.

Their family, which included Hannah Coning, a niece of Whitmore; Emily, a grown daughter; Ezra, Alfred, Egbert, Charlotte and Luke, Jr., all children of the Whitmores, located on lands in Pittsfield Township. Emily, aged 18 years and 4 months, died on September 11, 1825, and was the first white adult to die in Washtenaw County. Charlotte Whitmore married Daniel Terhune and left this vicinity.

 The naming of Whitmore Lake

Jonathan P. Stratton, who owned 80 acres in Section 32, Ann Arbor Township, and the only surveyor in Washtenaw County at that time, along with Luke H. Whitmore, had been out “prospecting,” the term used by old settlers to mean land looking.

On their way home, the pair were passing near the lake just as it was becoming dark, so they decided to pitch their tent on its bank. In the morning when they were ready to leave, Stratton proposed to Whitmore that they name the lake Whitmore Lake. The lake was then placed on the maps with that name.

Church, census and other records of the Whitmore family

In August of 1826, the first church to organize in Ann Arbor was the Presbyterian Church. The meeting was held in a log structure, which was located on the northwest corner of Main and Ann Streets. It was furnished with crude benches probably made of logs. It was built by John Allen in 1825 and used for a school. Miss Monroe was the teacher.

The members to join the church that day were: Israel Branch, Mercy Branch, Simeon Mills, Clarissa Mills, Bethuel Farrand, Deborah Farrand, Richard Lord, Roswell Parsons, Agnes Parsons, Harriet Parsons, James Allen, Elizabeth Allen (John Allen’s parents), Mrs. Monroe, Temperance Roberts, Ann Isabella Allen (John Allen’s wife), Phebe Whitmore, and Mrs. Fanny Camp. Seventeen were the total enrolled.

Ezra Whitmore, Luke’s oldest boy, was supervisor of Pittsfield Township in 1845-1846-1847.

On October 26, 1848, Ezra, age 33, married Caroline A. Sanford, age 27.

In the census of 1850 of Washtenaw County, Michigan, the following were listed as members of the Whitmore family:

  • Luke Whitmore, age 77, born Conn.
  • Phebe Whitmore, age 68, born Mass.
  • Ezra W. Whitmore, age 34, born N. Y.
  • Caroline Whitmore, age 28, born N. Y.
  • Wells Whitmore, age 10 mos., born Mich.
  • Luke Whitmore, Jr., age 27, born N. Y.
  • Addice Randall, age 20, born N. Y.
  • Caroline Newton, age 15, born England.

Wells, the son of Ezra Whitmore, the boy of 10 months in the 1850 census, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1875. He took a literary course.

Phebe Whitmore’s maiden name was Randall. She came from a large family.

Luke H. Whitmore was the first Washtenaw County treasurer. The years were 1827 to 1829.

At a meeting of the Pioneer Society held on April 13, 1874, in the Fireman’s Hall in Ann Arbor, Ezra Whitmore read a paper on the early history of Pittsfield Township.

The Whitmore Cemetery

In May of 1955 an attempt was made to remove the bodies from this Historical Cemetery by a large building organization. The Sarah Caswell Angell Chapter of Ann Arbor, the Ypsilanti Chapter of Ypsilanti, both Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Washtenaw County, and others, were successful in stopping this action and saving this Cemetery.

This Cemetery is in the City of Ann Arbor now and is being cared for by the City.

The Sarah Caswell Angell Chapter and the Ypsilanti Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution deserve a large part of the credit for holding services at this Cemetery on May 30th every year in all kinds of weather.



History of Washtenaw County, Charles C. Chapman and Co., Chicago, Illinois. Pub. 1881.

Historical Atlas of Washtenaw County, Everts and Stewart, Chicago, Illinois. Pub. 1874.

Original Land Records, Register of Deeds office, Washtenaw County Building.

This article, by Clare Rorabacher, of Whitmore Lake, Michigan, has been accepted by Michigan Historical Collections, Rackham Building, Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Editor’s note

The “Whitmore Cemetery” written of in this story is no more. Although the exact location of the cemetery has been lost, and its headstones displaced, the headstone of Emily Whitmore, the first settler to die in Washtenaw County, was moved to Terhune Pioneer Cemetery. This can be found on Terhune Road, just north of Brandywine Drive and Packard Road in Ann Arbor.

You can learn more about this cemetery in a February 2009 Ann Arbor Observer story, and in a wiki article, which notes that the original cemetery is shown on a plat map from 1856, noted ‘GrYd’. (

You can also find information on the City of Ann Arbor website, although this page suggests that the Terhune Pioneer Cemetery is the same as the original Whitmore Cemetery.

Map showing 1856 plat map with freeway and current road names added. Just to the right of US 23 near Packard Rd., you can see Whitmore Cemetery (“GrYd”) circled on the original plat map. (The cemetery headstones have been moved to a new location to the west of the freeway, now called the Terhune Pioneer Cemetery)


Mary Christianson

Mary Christianson is a writer, editor and graphic designer, living and enjoying life in Whitmore Lake. She enjoys learning about money-saving household tips and starting a small home vegetable garden. What she loves most, though, is getting to know her neighbors and talking up the small community newsletter that is starting to take shape on this website and in the quarterly print edition!

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1 Comment

  1. very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it

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