Sibling Saturday: Sophie Whitener and Her Son John Newton Whitener

Children of Newton Whitener and Sophia (Whitener) Whitener - (from left) Hazel Whitener, John Whitener, Birdie Caroline Whitener, 1907
Children of Newton Whitener and Sophia (Whitener) Whitener – (from left) Hazel Whitener, John Whitener, Birdie Caroline Whitener, 1907


Siblings often depend on each other throughout their lifetime, especially in previous eras. They would migrate together, work together, pray together, play together, and even raise children together.


Fredericktown, Madison County, Missouri 1904


The story goes that Sophie nee/Whitener Whitener (Yes, her maiden name was Whitener and she was a cousin to her husband.) delivered her last baby in September of 1904.

The child John Newton Whitener was very tiny. There is no recorded birth weight but it is apparent that he was premature. It is said that a small teacup would easily fit over his head.

Sophie was ill and had the premonition that she would not survive. She had also lost three other children that had deceased early in their lives. (This was in addition to five other children that grew to adulthood. It was a total of nine recorded children after her marriage in September 11, 1881.)

It is said that she called for her sister in law, Mary Whitener Sitzes, and gave the baby to her. “Mary, I want you to raise Johnnie. I don’t think you will.” (This was because of the baby’s tiny size- his survival was unlikely.)

John and Mary Whitener Sitzes accepted that challenge. They lived about three miles outside of Marquand, Madison County, Missouri.

On a cold November day in 1904 with heated stones to provide warmth for the child in an open buggie/wagon, John and Mary carried John Whitener from Fredricktown, Missouri, to Marquand, Missouri (15 miles) and then to their home (3 miles further). There they raised John.

Sophia Elizabeth (Whitener) Whitener, 1904
Sophia Elizabeth (Whitener) Whitener, 1904

Sophie Whitener died 14 Nov 1904, two months after John’s birth.

John called Mary and John Sitzes “Mom” and “Dad,” but he knew that Newton Whitener was his biological father.

Newton Frederick Whitener (widower of Sophie) raised his other children but never questioned Sophie’s wish.

John Whitener, 1906
John Whitener, 1906

I believe that my brothers and I owe our very existence to the love the Aunt Mary Sitzes poured out on my dad, John Whitener.

By James Richard Whitener


Notes, Sources, and References:


1) John Newton Whitener was born on 15 Sep 1904, and lived to be 67 years old.

2) Family oral tradition per Ethel Underwood Whitener.

3) Sophie Whitener Find A Grave Memorial :

4) Newton Frederick Whitener Find A Grave Memorial :

5) Mary Whitener Sitzes Find A Grave Memorial :

6) John Sitzes Find A Grave Memorial :

7) 1900 US Federal Census – Madison County, Missouri, for Newton Whitener as head of household.

8) 1910 US Federal Census- Madison County, Missouri, for John Sitzes, head of household, showing John Newton Whitener in the family.

9) Newton Frederick Whitener and Sophie Whitener are both descendants of Henry Whitener Find A grave Memorial:

10) The Whitener Family from 1717 to 1965 – Vol. II – by Virginia Whitener Crowe and Fletcher Standefer Crowe (p. 42).

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