Eliphalet Whittlesey was born in New Britain, Hartford county, Connecticut, May 14,1821. His father, David Whittlesey, was a farmer, school teacher, representative in the state legislature, school superintendent, a man of public spirit and of stern integrity. His mother, Rebecca (Smalley) Whittlesey, was the daughter of Reverend John Smalley, one of the ablest divines in New England. His grandfather, Eliphalet Whittlesey, born July 2,1748, a soldier in the American Revolution, was the son of Eliphalet Whittlesey, born May 10,1714, a captain in the Colonial army in the French and Indian wars, and grandson of John Whittlesey, a member of the general assembly and a brave soldier in the early Indian wars.
Eliphalet, of the fourth generation from John the immigrant, was brought up on his father's farm, the manual labor incident to which made him a strong healthy boy and a vigorous man. As a youth he was fond of mathematics and ambitious to acquire a college education. To this end, he partially supported himself by work on the farm and by teaching music in which he was proficient. He was prepared for college at the academy in New Britain and was graduated at Yale A.B., 1842, receiving his master's degree in 1847. He was a teacher in Greensboro and Mobile, Alabama, 1842-46; a student in divinity at Yale 1847-50, and at Andover, 1850-51. He was pastor of Central Congregational church, Bath, Maine, 1851-61; professor of rhetoric and oratory Bowdoin college, 1861-64; assistant adjutant general and judge advocate on staff of General Oliver O. Howard and assistant commissioner and adjutant, Bureau of Freedmen; professor of rhetoric and English literature, Howard university, Washington, District of Columbia, 1867-74, assistant secretary of the board of Indian Commissioners of the United States from January 1, 1875, to 1881, and secretary of the board, 1881-99. He is a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; a member of the National Geographic Society; a companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States; a comrade of the Grand Army of the Republic and a member of the National Forestry Association. His advice to young men is to adopt the motto on the Whittlesey coat of arms, Animo et Fide; and the influences that proved of the greatest help in his lifetime were those of home and contact with public men in Washington, "especially with Senator Dawes."
He was married October 31, 1854, to Augusta, daughter of George F. and Hannah Patten of Bath, Maine; and of their five children three are living in 1906, and with their children were present at the "Golden Wedding" anniversary of General and Mrs. Whittlesey, October 31,1904.
General Whittlesey received the honorary degree of D.D. from Howard university in 1882; and that of LL.D. from Yale university in 1902. His long and useful life has included four years as a teacher in the South, ten years as a preacher of the Gospel, ten years as a college professor, five years in the United States army, and over twenty-six years in the civil service of the United States as an advocate and defender of the rights of the Indian to a home, to education, to protection from his greatest enemies (intoxicating liquor and the post trader) and to instruction and pastoral care from christian missionaries.
The action of the Board of Indian Commissioners in accepting in 1899 his resignation as secretary expresses their sense of the value of his services to the Indians.