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FAMILY: The Wilhoite Family

2000: I finally VISITED the Wilhoite's home region in Virginia. Click HERE for more info.

All of the thousands of Wilhoites/Wilhites (Willits, Wilheits, etc.) in the United States appear to be descendants of Michael Willheit, an Evangelical Lutheran from Schwaigern (in Baden-Wurtemmburg, Germany) who was part of the Germanna colony in Virginia. This group came to the United States in 1717 and, after a number of misadventures, prospered in Viriginia and ultimately all across the United States.

The name may come from the German "Wildness", in which case it would have referred to a perceived character trait in a family member. However, while in Germany, one Wilhite was told, variously, that it meant 'Wild Meadow', 'Keeper of the Wild' (gamekeeper), and that it was the union of two families, the Will's and Heid's.

Although the family seems to have been successful in whatever passed for business at the time (blacksmithing, inn-keeping, farming, etc.), a surprising number have made their mark in the arts:

  • Donald MacRae Wilhoite, Jr., writing as Don Raye, wrote a string of hits, including "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" and " I Remember April".
  • Groucho Marx (in the book "The Grouchophile") tells of being contacted by an 'impresario' named Thomas Wilhite in 1971 only to meet him and discover he was NINETEEN. Still, Groucho hired him to do PR.
  • Lisa Wilhoit, an actress in her teens, appeared on Tom Arnold's short-lived show ("The Tom Show"), but already had a number of fans from "My So-Called Life".
Kathleen Wilhoite merits special mention, if only because any search on the name 'Wilhoite' invariably returns more references to her than to any other individual. A distinguished actress who has appeared on numerous TV shows(including "ER", "Twin Peaks" and "L.A. Law"), she also had some success as a singer.

Wilhoites and the military

The family name can be found in the roster of every major war involving Americans, and certainly many pictures must exist of Wilhoites/Wilhites in uniform.

"Photo came from Woodrow Wilhite who had a ham radio station in the 60's and communicated frequently with an operator on board the ship. The operator sent him the photo." Olwyn Whitehouse
Inscription on cigarette lighter from the USS Wilhoite (DER 397)

This destroyer escort was named for Thomas Mack Wilhoite, who received a Silver Star posthumously for his combat in Operation Torch (the World War II invasion of French North Africa). More info is available on the home page set up by former students of the Thomas Mack Wilhoite High School (later renamed) in Morocco.

Several former shipmates from the USS Wilhoite can also be found on the Web. One memoir on-line includes an account of life on the USS Wilhoite in Vietnam and recounts a battle involving the ship.

Among the Wilhoites who have died in combat is 1LT HENRY O NEIL WILHOITE, who died in Vietnam and is memorialized on the 73rdSAC site.


Schwaigern, the Wilhoite's ancestral town, is on the outskirts of Heilbronn (Baden-Wuerttemberg). Heilbronn was largely bombed out during the war, but apparently a Baroque castle still remains near Schwaigern itself. It also has a thriving wine industry.

The Wilhoite name (with all its variants) appears all across the United States, not only attached to Michael Willheit's innumerable descendants, but to several towns and other locations:

ALABAMA:	Wilhite Cemetery, Morgan County
		Wilhite Cove, Morgan County
		Wilhite Post Office (historical), Morgan County
		Wilhites, (populated place), Morgan County
		Wilhites Hollow, Morgan County

ARIZONA:	Wilhoit, (populated place), Yavapai County
		Wilhoit Spring, Coconino County
		Wilhoit Tank (reservoir), Yavapai County 
ARKANSAS:	Wilhite Branch (stream), Saline County
		Wilhite Cemetery, Montgomery County
		Wilhite Cemetery, Montgomery County
		Wilhite Hollow, Pulaski County 
INDIANA:	Wilhite Cemetery, Montgomery County
		Willhite Cemetery, Montgomery County
		Wilhoit Cemetery, Dubois County 
ILLINOIS:	Willhoit Airport, Macoupin County 
KENTUCKY:	Wilhoit (populated place), Harlan County 
LOUISIANA:	Wilhite (populated place), Union County
		Wilhite Cemetery, Union County 
MISSISSIPPI:	Wilhite Creek, Union County 
MISSOURI:	Wilhite (historical), Boone County
		Wilhite Cemetery, Sullivan County
		Wilhite Cemetery, Texas County
		Wilhite Dam, Pike County
		Wilhite Hollow, Shannon County
		Wilhite School (historical), Sullivan County
		Wilhoit Cemetery, Osage County
		Wilhoit (populated Place), Ozark County 
OKLAHOMA:	Wilhite Cemetery, Kingfisher County 
OREGON:	Wilhoit (populated place), Clackamas County
		Wilhoit Mineral Springs, Clackamas County
		Wilhoit Post Office (historical), Clackamas County 
TENNESSEE:	Wilhoit Subdivision (populated place), Greene County
		Wilhoite Cemetery, Marshall County
		Wilhoite Mills, Marshall County
		Wilhite (populated place), Putnam County
		Wilhite Baptist Church, Putnam County
		Wilhite Church, Sevier County
		Wilhite Creek, Sevier County
		Wilhite School, Putnam County
		Wilhite School (historical), Sevier County		
TEXAS:		Wilhoit Branch (stream), Fannin County 
VIRGINIA:	Wilhoit (populated place, historical), Greene County
		Wilhoit School (historical), Greene County
		Wilhoits Ford (crossing), Greene County

(list compiled by Gary Wilhoite) 

At least one Texan restaurant is named Wilhoite's, for the family members who formerly had a garage at the same location. A copy of their menu WAS on-line but has been removed.


A considerable amount of information is available both about the Wilhoites and about the Germanna colony, whose founding families included the Blankenbakers, the Gaars, the Weavers and the Broyles.

The classic book (besides the Gaar Genealogy) is by Johni Cerny and Gary J. Zimmerman,: BEFORE GERMANNA; 1577-1750; 1990, Lineages, Inc, American Genealogical Lending Library ,Publishers, Bountiful, Utah84011. It apparently has some inaccuracies, though.

Wilheit Descendants

For an excellent run-down of the Wilhoites' early history, see the Peak-Wilhoite home page at

For more extensive genealogical information about Germanna descendants, see the excellent Broyles/Briles Family History Home Page, which is adding information about other Germanna families as well and is to become an overall Germanna page:

A number of other Wilhoite descendants have posted family information on the Web. Forrest Wilhite Budd is one who has posted QUERIES about the Wilhite family.

Mailing Lists and Forums

Rather than list (as I used to) a few forums here, I'm giving a link to George Durman's excellent list of Mailing Lists & Message Boards for the family.

A Wilhite forum exists at

Family Members Mentioned

THIS could be a Web site in itself - the family is very numerous and covers all sides of any religion, political belief or behavior (i.e., some Wilhoites get elected, some get arrested). Some of the links I had have disappeared and I don't have time to find all the others that are undoubtedly out there. But these two surviving items give interesting glimpses:
  • Temperance leader Carrie Nation's memoirs on 'Sister Lucy Wilhoite's Vision'.
  • On 10/6/99, Associated Press reported that Kentucky Deputy Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit, speaking on the removal of the word ``evolution'' from Kentucky educational guidelines, said: ``The word is a lightning rod that creates a diversion from what we're teaching, and we did not want to advocate a particular doctrine or a specific view''

LAST UPDATED November 2004