The great and prosperous commonwealth of Iowa had as sterling and heroic a band of pioneers as can be claimed by any other state in the Union, and those who aided in laying broad and deep the founda- tions upon which has been reared the magnificant superstructure of material prosperity and enlightened and worthy citizenship well merit a place on the pages of history, in order that a perpetual record may be left concerning their labors and personalities. The distinction of being one of the honored pioneers of Keokuk County belongs to the gentleman whose name initiates this paragraph, and it was his to contribute his quota to the development of the resources of this section and to attain a definate success through his efforts in connection with the great basic industry of agriculture. He has passed the psalmist's span of three score years and ten, and while retaining exceptional mental and physical vigor, has practically retired from the more onerous duties and cares of active business, enjoying the dignified repose, which is the just reward of his years of ceaseless toil and endeaver. He has a pleasant home in the village of Ioka, which is where he has the confidence and esteemed of all who know him, while his memory forms a connecting link between the early pioneer days of the state and those of the present, as the glorious twentieth century rolls into the cycle of the ages.
Pertiller Whitson was born in White County, Tennessee, on the 18th of July, 1828, being a son of Reuben Whitson, who likewise was born in that state. The latter was reared to manhood and followed the vocation of farming until 1841, when he became numbered among the pioneer settlers of Iowa, locating on a tract of government land in Keokuk County, and here he and his sons gave themselves to the task of reclaiming the land and placing it under cultivation. In 1843 he disposed of the farm, which was located in Jackson TWP, and there- upon effected the purchase of a tract of two hundred acres lying one- half mile west of his original place. This farm also was placed under effective cultivation and good improvement of a permanent nature were made on the same. He later passed one year on another farm in this township and on May 1, 1854, he died in the village of Fairfield, where he had made his home less than one year. In the state of Kentucky Reuben Whitson was united in marriage to Miss Mary Bray, a native of that state, and of this union ten children were born, namely: Nancy, James, Richard, and Jerry, who are deceased: Pertiller, the subject of this sketch; Andrew; Elizabeth; Reuben,Jr., is dead; William; and John Calvin, who is deceased. All except the younger three of the children were born in Tennessee, the latter having been born after the removal of the parents to Iowa. The father of our subject was a Whig in his political proclivities and both he and his wife were members of the Separatist Baptist Church, and the former assisted in the erection of the first church of that domination in Keokuk County. The mother of our subject died in 1878.
Pertiller Whitson, the immediate subject of this review, was a youth of about sixteen years at the time when the family came to Iowa, and thus he has passed the major portion of his life in this state, his early educational didcipline having been completed in the district schools of Keokuk County, while he continued to assist his father in his farming operations until he had attained his legal majority, when he gave inception to his independant career by locating upon a farm of forty acres in Jackson TWP., clearing and improving the place and showing marked discrimination and energy in his labors, through which he bought his farm under an excellant state of productivity. He there continued to maintain his home for a period of five years, at the expiration of which he took up his residence in Fairfield, where he was engaged in the teaming business for the ensuing two years. He then went to Lucas County, where he remained for a time, after which he settled in Jefferson County, where he was sucessfully engaged in farming for a period of twelve years. Mr. Whitson then disposed of his interests in that locality and returned to Keokuk County and purchased a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Jackson TWP. This he developed into one of the valuable places of the county, making excellant improvements and bringing the land under a fine state of cultivation. He continued to give his attention to diversified farming until 1891, when he retired, taking up residence in Ioka, where he has a pleasant home.
In the year 1849 was solemnizes the marriage of Mr. Whitson to Miss Arida Bussell, who was born and reared in Tennessee, being a daughter of George Bussell. Of this union three daughters were born: Elizabeth S. , Glathie E.( deceased) and Mary Jane. Mrs. Whitson was summoned to eternal rest in 1854, and in 1858 our subject was united in marriage to Miss Nancy Brown, who was born in Ohio, and was there reared and educated. Her father, Thomas Brown, removed thence to Iowa in the early days and became one of the pioneer settlers of Keokuk County, where he passes the remainder of his life. Mr. and Mrs. Whitson are the parents of three children; Sarah A., Elizabeth A. and Nancy A.
In politics Mr.Whitson accords allegiance to the Democratic party, and his religious faith is that of the Missionary Baptist Church, of which he and his wife are both zealous and consistant members. He aided materially in the erection of the church edifice in Ioka and is incumbent of the office of deacon, taking an active part in the advancement of the spiritual and temporal work of the church. He has ever shown a deep interest in all that makes for the well-being of the community and has been known as a progressive and public spirited citizen of the county where so many years of his life have been passed and where he is known and honored for his sterling worth of character. Such are the men who have been the founders and builders of this great commonwealth, and Mr. Whitson is eminently entitled to representation in this compilation.
Copied by Dianne Underwood from "GENEALOGICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY OF KEOKUK COUNTY"