Notes for NANCY MCCLURE WHITMAN:
Daughter of ? and ?.
Born: Unknown in Unknown.
Died: After 1869 in Unknown.
Married: Andrew Jackson Whitman Unknown in Unknown.
In the early 1860's Andrew worked as a carpenter and lived with his wife, the former Nancy McClure, and their two children, "Jimmy" and "Georgy," at 105 Park Avenue in Brooklyn, not far from the residence of Mrs. Whitman.
On May 28, 1862, Andrew Jackson Whitman became a three-months soldier in the Union cause, which seemed to worsen by the battle. "Bunkum" was the family name for Andrew who returned home after the three months service. Plagued by alcoholism and a tubercular cough, which finally took his life in 1863, and by an emotionally unstable wife, who joined the ranks of Brooklyn's wartime streetwalkers after her husband's death, Andrew probably sought out military life because he could not get steady work at the Brooklyn shipyard.
Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had written Walt Whitman that "Nancy was wandering the streets as a prostitute and leaving her children to beg when she drank up her profits." She had been pregnant when Andrew died in 1863; that child would be run over by a brewery wagon in 1868. Earlier, in 1865, an older son Jimmie, was, in the words of his paternal grandmother "certainly gong to destruction".
Her street walking ultimately led to the birth of illegitimate twins.
Nancy may have been Andrew's common-law wife, as there is no known record of their marriage. A month before Andrew finally died from his throat ailment, on December 3, 1863, Mother Whitman described her son's wife as "about the lazeyest and dirtiest woman i ever want to see....shes as ugly as she is dirty i dont wonder he [Andrew] used to drink." And recalling the day of Andrew's death, she reported: "nance went to bed when she came out in the morning she brought such a smell that Jeffy got sick and had to come home [from Andrew's house after] being up all night." Andrew left his wife pregnant, and in the spring of 1864 she gave birth to a child later referred to as "Andrew Whitman." He was run over and killed by a brewery wagon in 1868, not long after Mother Whitman had told Walt that Nancy had given birth to "twins one dead." Evidently, Nancy became a streetwalker after Andrew's death (if not before) and sent her children into the streets to beg. Mrs. Whitman urged Walt to write to James Cornwell, a justice in the Brooklyn police court, asking him to make Nancy's children wards of the city. There is no evidence, however, that Whitman ever acted upon his mother's request. Nancy and her children are not mentioned again by either Walt or his mother in their extant letters except on the occasion of young Andrew Whitman's fatal accident. Newspaper accounts of the child's death suggest that Nancy at this time was living with another man. Both the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the Daily Union of September 2, 1868, state that the child's body was taken to "the residence of his parents, No. 151 Navy Street." The Brooklyn directory for 1868-69, however, gives Nancy's adddress as "Johnston St. near Raymond," and no one named Whitman is listed in the same directory as living at the address stated in the newspaper articles. Whatever became of Nancy after this time is uncertain, but one of Andrew's sons—probably Jimmy—may have visited the George Whitman home in Camden in 1879.