Sgt. Maj. Edward Allen Conkling
Excerpted from CINCINNATI—THE QUEEN CITY
volume IV pp. 794-797 1788-1912 The S. J. Clark Publishing Co., Chicago, Cincinnati (1912)
Researched by Stephen Williams
EDWARD ALLEN CONKLING - Cincinnati had scarcely emerged from villagehood when Edward Allen Conkling entered upon the scene of earthly activity here and in the years which passed to the time of his death, he was closely associated with events which constitute features in the history of the city. lie was born on Pioneer street, April 18, 1844. His father, Joseph Lindlay Conklin, was a native of Morristown, New Jersey, and for many years was a manufacturer of lard oil in Cincinnati. He made his home in Terrace Park, occupying the handsome resi¬dence that is now being used as a fresh air and outing home for the poor of the city. He was a descendant of a very distinguished New Jersey family and in his life exemplified many of the sterling traits of an honored ancestry. He died at his home in Terrace Park about 1872 when sixty-five years of age. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Margaret Allen, was a native of Ohio although the Allen family also came from New Jersey and was a notable one of Morristown, that state. Her death occurred at Terrace Park in 1856.
Edward Allen Conkling supplemented his public-school education, acquired in Cincinnati, by a commercial course in the school conducted by Professor McGee on Fourth street. He then entered the employ of his father in the lard oil business, where he remained, however, for only a short time, for the Civil war was inaugurated and at the age of seventeen years he enlisted for service in the Forty-eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a private. He remained with his command for two years, attaining the rank of sergeant major. At the close of hostilities he joined his colonel and another officer of the regiment, in the conduct of a wholesale merchandising business at Natchez, Mississippi, where he lived for about three years. He then disposed of his interests there and in 1870 returned to Cincinnati, where he established a lumber business and also began the manufacture of wooden packing boxes. In 1803 he erected a new and far more spacious plant at Dorchester avenue and Reading road which is now operated by his son, but the old firm name of The E. A. Conkling Box Company is still retained. The business grew apace tinder the capable management of its founder who confined his time and attention entirely to the business and became one of the foremost representatives of that line in the Ohio valley. Method and system were manifest throughout his establishment and he was a careful buyer who studied the market and was thus able to make judicious purchases and profitable sales. In his vocabulary there was no such word as fail, for he recognized that energy, determination and resourcefulness will conquer every obstacle.
On the 4th of October, 1865. at Madisonville, Ohio, now a part of Cincin¬nati, Mr. Conkling was united in marriage to Miss Cornelia Whetsel, a daugh¬ter of Henry B. and Sarah (Spellman) Whetsel, of Cincinnati. Her father was for many years a prominent grocer of this city and resided here until his death, which occurred when he had readied the age of eighty-two years. At the be¬ginning of the Civil war he enlisted in the Union army and was with Sherman on his march to the sea. He was a personal friend of both Generals Grant and Sherman and at the time of his enlistment the former commissioned hint quarter¬master. At the time of his discharge he was awarded the rank of major. Louis Whetsel, an uncle of Henry Whetsel, was captured by the Indians when an infant and remained with them until he reached the age of eighteen years. He then entered the service of the government as an Indian scout and at one time in recognition of services rendered, the government granted him the entire tract of land whereon the city of Memphis, Tennessee, is built. Henry Whetsel was a thirty-second degree Mason and established many lodges in the suburbs and vicinity of Cincinnati. He was also an Odd Fellow of high rank and held many offices in that organization. He was deeply interested in matters of public moment and kept thoroughly informed concerning the vital and significant questions of the day. He was one of the few men who, before the war, protected the run-away slaves and assisted in their conveyance to a point across the line of safety, sheltering many of them at his farm which was on the course of their journey. He became the organizer of the Madisonville Building & Loan Association which was one of the first in the state and is still in opera¬tion, being at the present time one of the successful companies of this character operating in Cincinnati. Henry Whetsel was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Spellman, a daughter of Hairy Spellman, of Maryland, who was a close rela¬tive of Sir Henry Spellman, a man of much note. The mother of Mrs. Whetsel belonged to the famous Brandenburg family of Berlin, Germany, in whose honor the Brandenburg gates were named. Mrs. Whetsel, who is now ninety-two years of age, retains all of her faculties in a remarkable degree and is enjoy¬ing excellent health. She resides at Madisonville and from the fact that Mr. Whetsel was always a most active man in politics, although he would never accept office, she takes a keen interest in politics from the position of an observer and is thoroughly posted on the leading questions of the day. Moreover she is a charming conversationalist and delightful entertainer and her memory is stored with many interesting incidents and reminiscences of a long life. Her daughter became the wife of E. A. Conkling and unto them were born four chil¬dren: Florence E., now the wife of Benjamin M. Smith, of Avondale; Blanche C., %vim is the wife of H. N. Lane, also of Avondale; Nellie C., the wife of Frank E. French, of Madisonville; and Edward Allen, who is now president of The E. A. Conkling Box Company and also resides in Avondale.
Edward A. Conklin, whose name stands at the head of this sketch, was a man whose home and family were always first in his thoughts and he always preferred to spend his leisure hours at his own fireside to any other form of pleasure. He was fond of travel and books. He traveled extensively over this continent, visiting nearly every state in the Union, and in 1903 he went abroad, his wife accompanying him as she did in all of his travels. They visited all of the principal cities and countries of the old world, and saw the art treasures, and places of historic and modern interest. They spent fifteen winters in the south, passing the greater part of that time at Palm Beach or at St. Augustine, Florida
In his political views Mr. Conkling was for many years a republican and at one time served ax a director of the Lincoln Club. He was a cousin of the Hon. Roscoe Conkling, senator from New York. In addition to the Lincoln Club he was long a valued member of The Round Table and was interested in all that pertained to the welfare and progress of the city in the various phases of its life. He did not place his membership in any church but was a firm believer in the Christian religion and for many years was a regular attendant at church services. He was intensely interested in archeology and with Profes¬sor Putnam, curator of the Peabody Museum of Boston, and a number of Cin¬cinnatians, who were also interested in the work, made many investigations and discoveries at the old Indian burying ground near Madisonville. His home contains many interesting and remarkable relies gained from those researches. The interests and activities of his life were of a broad and comprehensive char¬acter. His death occurred September 4, 1905. It has been urged that America is given over to the spirit of commercialism and yet the life record of Edward A. Conkling stands in proof to the contrary for while he won merited prosperity in business, he looked at life from a broad standpoint and became associated with many projects and activities for the intellectual, artistic, social and moral development of the city.