Whitehorne and Ennis families correspondence, 1821 – 1884

Historical Note
Samuel Whitehorne:

Samuel Whitehorne was born ca. 1779 and died in Newport, Rhode Island, on March 22, 1844, at age 65. He married Elizabeth Rathbone on August 24, 1802. Together they had four children, Elizabeth Whitehorne Ennis, Caroline Whitehorne, Mary Rathbone, and Harriet Whitehorne Bartlett.    
He and his brother John Whitehorne were prosperous merchants and shipping magnates. Together they were involved in several businesses including a distillery, an iron foundry, and a bank. During his early professional career Whitehorne achieved great success and J. & S. Whitehorne were considered among “the principal store and shop keepers, whose places of business were either on the wharves, or on Thames Street.” In 1843 Whitehorne’s fortune took a turn for the worse as he was forced to file for bankruptcy on March 18. His credit had been over overextended when two of his ships were lost at sea which eventually resulted in a loss of $10,000. Four days after filing for bankruptcy Whitehorne suddenly died. The Newport Mercury on March 30, 1844, wrote, “It is in consolation to his friends to feel that a life of exemplary virtue and religious faith, has made his death a transition to a happier world.” To settle his debts the Newport Mercury announced a public auction of his belongings on October 26, 1844. His house was sold to Jesse Chase.  
Whitehorne was an active member of the parish at Trinity Church where he created a permanent fund for the benefit of the poor of the church. He and his brother John were also founders of the Zion Church, the Second Episcopal Parish in Newport organized in 1833.

Eliza Whitehorne Ennis:

Daughter of Samuel Whitehorne and Elizabeth Rathbone, Eliza Whitehorne Ennis was born on December 29, 1803. She married William Ennis, Esq., on April 9, 1832. Together the couple had two children, Caroline Whitehorne Ennis born June 11, 1836, and William Ennis, Esq., born December 26, 1841.

William Ennis, Esq.:

Son of William and Eliza Whitehorne Ennis, William Ennis was born on December 26, 1841, in Newport, Rhode Island. His family has been associated with Newport for generations as his father, William Ennis, was an attorney in the area, and his paternal grandfather, who was also named William, was a Rhode Island officer during the American Revolution. His maternal grandfather was Samuel Whitehorne, a prosperous merchant and shipping businessman who was involved with several commercial enterprises such as a distillery, an iron foundry and a bank until his bankruptcy in 1843.

In 1860 Ennis was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy from Newport and graduated in 1864 as a lieutenant. After receiving his education, Ennis was assigned to the Fourth Artillery Regiment on June 13, 1864, and he fought in the American Civil War. He fought with distinction in the battle of Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee, and was given the honor being named first lieutenant in 1864. Later that year he earned the rank of captain. 

After the Civil War, Ennis went on to be a military aide to General John M. Fields who was Secretary of War during President Andrew Jackson's administration. His military career continued as he played a role in Perce's Campaign and the campaign against the Ballock Indians. Ennis also fought in the Spanish-American War, then made his way to be stationed in both Saint Louis and Honolulu. While stationed at St. Louis, Missouri, he married Andrine Pierce, daughter of Andrew Pierce of Boston, who made his money in the railroad industry. He then ended his career as the commander of Fort Adams.  

Ennis was a member of the Newport Reading Room and was a trustee of Long Wharf. At age 91 he suffered a hip injury while stepping into an automobile and although he recovered from the injury, he passed away shortly after in 1938. His funeral service was held at Trinity Church where he was given full military honors with a firing squad to salute the Newport native. 

  • New England Historic Genealogical Registrar Vol. 146, 175.  
  • Newport Mercury, October 7, 1938.
  • Newport Mercury, March 30, 1844, Vol. 83 No. 4, 275. 
Scope and Content
This collection contains approximately 43 letters written by members of the Whitehorne and Ennis  family. These correspondences reveal family dynamics, address political appointments, and provide insights regarding the American Civil War.   The collection includes letters written between Eliza Whitehorne Ennis and Samuel Whitehorne highlighting their close relationship. Eliza often confides in her father writing him letters on topics ranging from fashion, suitors, social gatherings, town gossip, and literature. These letters give insight into the life of a wealthy young female living in the early nineteenth century.    Other highlights include correspondences written by William Ennis to his mother, Eliza Whitehorne Ennis. The bulk of these letters are written in 1864. While William often writes about life in the army, one letter, with its original envelope, discusses the battles occurring in Nashville in great detail.   Also included in this collection are approximately 30 recommendation letters written on behalf of William Ennis, recommending him for the position of Paymaster of the Army.