NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. - Three generations of Whitins gathered recently at Alternatives’ Whitin Mill for a family reunion recently.
This was the first Whitin reunion of the century and the first in Whitinsville in about 50 years. Attending were members of the seventh, eighth and ninth generations directly descended from Paul Whitin and Betsey Fletcher Whitin.
There were 66 attendees from 11 states and the District of Columbia. Family members came from as far as California to attend.
The family enjoyed guided tours of the Whitinsville Historic District by National Park Service Ranger Kevin Klyberg, visits to the Whitinsville Social Library, Village Congregational Church, Memorial Hall and the Whitin plots in Pine Grove Cemetery.
The group also toured Paul Whitin’s original mill, now part of Alternatives’ Whitin Mill
complex. The 1826 brick mill and the adjacent forge are where Paul Whitin began to build
the Whitin Empire which would play such an enormous role in the history of Northbridge, the Blackstone River Valley and the industrial history of America.
“Having so many members of the Whitin family here where everything began was an enormous thrill for all of us at Alternatives,” said Dennis Rice, executive director of Alternatives. “The preservation of that history was very important to us during the restoration. Seeing the family’s appreciation of that was very gratifying.”
Harry T. Whitin, who organized the reunion said, “The restored mill gave us an excellent
opportunity to focus the reunion and to expose my generation and the younger generations to the history of their ancestors. The Whitin family played a major role in the industrial revolution and somehow that got lost over the years. The National Park Service and the restoration work of Alternatives helped lend perspective to the family history.”
Perhaps more important was the opportunity for family members to visit and catch up on family happenings as well as stories of the family history. “It’s great to hear all the stories,” said Henry A. Truslow of Pennsylvania, “and probably some of them are true!”
“How wonderful it is to see so many generations together. How proud Paul and Rebecca
(Whitin) would be,” said Heidi Auchincloss McKee, speaking about her great-grandparents.
The group also saw a preview of a new documentary film about the Whitins being made by filmmaker Heather Riley, viewed an exhibit of early family photography from Alternatives’ collection and heard plans for a Whitin museum in the 1826 mill.
“For the first time in half a century we had a diverse group of Whitin descendants gather in Whitinsville. We came from three generations and the chance to share family history and explore roots was unmatched in my memory,” said Harry T. Whitin, a seventh generation descendant of Paul and Betsy Whitin. “It was a terrific, eye-opening event.”
Alternatives helps individuals with disabilities build meaningful lives in the community – lives that include real homes, real jobs and real relationships. Last year, Alternatives provided services to over 1,200 people in 55 residential, employment and day programs throughout Central Massachusetts.
For more information about Alternatives, call 508-234-6232 or visit www.alternativesnet.org.