The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Waite, John Leman

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WAITE, John Leman, publisher, b. in Ravenna, Portage County, Ohio, 29 Aug., 1840, son of John and Martha Amelia (Clark) Waite. The ancestry of the family is traced in England to the Norman conquest, when several Waytes were found among the retainers of the barons. The earliest source of the name found in British records was Ralf de Waiet, who married Emma, sister of Roger, Earl of Hereford, cousin of the Conqueror, and to whom, in 1075, William gave the earldom, city, and castle of Norwich. Ricardus Le Waytte, of County Warwick, who was in 1315 escheator of counties Berkshire, Wilts, Oxford, Bedford, and Bucks, was a lineal descendant of Ralf. Thereafter the name was written Wayte almost exclusively until others of the name came to New England, when the spelling Wait or Waite was used instead. Three brothers, Richard, Gamaliel, and Thomas, emigrated to America from North Wales, arriving in Boston in 1634. They were cousins of John Wayte, member of Parliament, and one of the judges who signed the warrant for the execution of Charles I. Richard became marshal of the colony, Gamaliel remained in Boston, and Thomas settled in Rhode Island. The third son of the latter was Benjamin Wait (1644-1704) a famous Colonial soldier and scout whose heroic exploits fill many pages of the historical records of Massachusetts as well as being widely celebrated in New England fiction and verse. He lived first at Hadley, then at Hatfield, Mass.; was engaged in various Indian wars, and was slain in battle between the colonists and the French and Indians at Deerfield in 1704. Several generations of the family remained at Hatfield, Whately, and vicinity, various members serving in the Colonial wars and the War of the Revolution. Each of the successive descendants of Benjamin Waite in the line of descent ending with John L. Waite, bore the name of John. Benjamin's son, John (1680-1774), born and died at Hatfield, Mass., was like his father, a commander in many military excursions, and was present in the fight at Deerfield, when his father was slain. He married Mary Frary. Their son, John (1703-76), married Mary Belden; their son, John (1743-1801), served in the War of the Revolution, and died at Norwich, N. Y.; his son, John (1777-1863), and his wife, Abigail Cranston, lived at Norwich and Oaks Corners, N. Y., and Chesterfield, Mich. He served in the War of 1812. Their son, John Waite, of the seventh generation (1810-94), was a farmer and afterward followed the cooper's trade at Oaks Corners, N. Y.; and, later, removing to Ravenna, Ohio, he engaged in the marble business, and contracting. In 1867 he removed to Burlington, Ia., where he first conducted a commission business and later returned to farming. His wife, Amelia Clark, was the daughter of Ephriham and Amelia (Sperry) Clark, who were among the earliest emigrants from Connecticut to the Western Reserve. John L. Waite attended the public schools of Ravenna, afterward taking courses in a private academy and a business college in Chicago. In 1857 he entered the employ of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and was an operator at Lebanon and Cleveland, Ohio, and in Chicago, Ill., advancing first to the position of office manager, and then to the superintendency of the Burlington and Missouri River telegraph line in 1863. In 1869 he severed his connection with the telegraph company, and, after six months devoted to mercantile business, went into newspaper work, his original choice and ambition for his life career. His first connection with newspaper publication was as city editor of the Burlington “Hawk-Eye,” of which he became associate editor in 1875, and later, managing editor, as successor of Robert J. Burdette, who resigned, in 1876, to enter the lecture field. Mr. Waite continued in this association until 1882, when he resigned to become postmaster of Burlington, under appointment by Prosident Arthur. On 27 July, 1885, he assumed the management of the “Hawk-Eye” as editor, publisher, and principal owner. Again in 1898, through the appointment of President McKinley, he was made postmaster, and served through the two subsequent terms, through appointment by President Roosevelt, his entire service covering a total of four terms as postmaster, thus breaking the reeord in Iowa for length of service in the list of first-class offices. In 1907-O8 he was president of the National Association of Postmasters of First-Class Offices. Although extremely retiring in disposition and always averse to exploiting his own personality, few men are better known throughout the State of Towa and the Middle West, or have exercised a wider influence as a leader of public opinion. He is a stanch Republican, and his efforts have been an effective force in guiding the interests of the party in his State. His editorials have placed him among the distinguished journalists of the day. His conduct of the post office was based upon the simple rule of efficiency and highest service to the community; and his ambition for the “Hawk-Eye” has been to maintain the high standard always synonymous with the name of the paper, at the same time keeping it clean and useful. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and believes firmly that one of the first principles of religion is to make this world a comfortable and happy place for men to live in. He has followed that belief in his various public utterances and activities, and in his practical philanthropy which has been far-reaching and resultant in its effects. Mr. Waite married 21 Sept., 1864, Letitia Caroline, daughter of Thomas M. Williams, of Burlington, Ia. She was for years the editor of the woman's department of the “Hawk-Eye,” and the author of a booklet on religious topics, entitled, “The Thorn Road.” There are three living children: Clay Milton Waite; Jessie Benning Waite, who married William Henry Davidson, managing editor of the “Hawk-Eye,” and Lola Waite.