Henry L. WHITE, for many years an honored and respected representative of the farming interests of Hennepin township, Putnam county, now practically living retired, has passed the eightieth milestone on life's journey. He was born at Norton, Bristol county, Massachusetts, March 17, 1826, his parents being Hiram P. and Mary (CARPENTER) WHITE. The family comes of English ancestry and the line can be traced back to Peregrine WHITE, the first white child born in America. The grandfather of our subject was a major of the Revolutionary war and did valiant service in behalf of the cause of independence.
Hiram P. WHITE belonged to a family that for many years was closely associated with the foundry business and he was also thus engaged in the east together with the work of manufacturing combs. When a boy of seventeen years he desired to come to Illinois with a friend, a Mr. WISWALL, but parental authority intervened and the opportunity of seeking a home in the Prairie state did not again present itself until after his marriage, when he brought his family to Illinois in 1833. He shipped his goods from Providence, Rhode Island, by way of New Orleans to Jacksonville, Illinois, where Mr. WISWALL was then living, but the goods did not arrive for a year and a half, having been detained at St. Louis, Missouri, from which place they were forwarded to Hennepin. Mr. WISWALL advised Mr. WHITE to come to Putnam county, where he had a friend, Mr. LEEPER, living, so after a brief stay in Jacksonville Mr. WHITE visited Mr. LEEPER, who was residing in the vicinity of Hennepin and within two miles of the present home farm of Henry L. WHITE. The village at that time contained only two frame houses. A week previous to Mr. WHITE's arrival William FAIRFIELD had come to Putnam county from Massachusetts, and as his wife was homesick, he sent for Mr. WHITE and his family. The two gentlemen took up claims together, buying land from Mr. PATTERSON, whose home stood on the present site of the residence of our subject. There had been four or five acres broken on the place, which was said to be the first plowing done in the county. A log cabin, which had no floor during the entire winter of 1833-4, was built, and as the household goods did not arrive the WHITE family were not very comfortably situated through that first winter. Prairie chickens constituted their principal meat and they dried the breasts for summer use, while their bread was largely made of corn. Mr. WHITE's cash capital on his arrival in this county consisted of but twelve dollars, and during the first year the family endured many privations and hardships incident to life on the frontier. In the following year, however, a crop was raised and its sale enabled them to do away with many of the difficulties of a frontier existence. In later years the family were enabled to enjoy the comforts and many of the luxuries of life, Mr. WHITE prospering in his undertakings. He passed away April 1, 1870, on the anniversary of his birth, which occurred on the 1st of April, 1800, while his wife survived for about five years. They had traveled life's journey together for more than a half century, and they were most hospitable people, never turning any one away who asked for food or shelter. One night sixteen persons were sleeping in their log cabin when a man on horseback rode up and asked to stay all night. He was made welcome and slept on the floor with his saddle for a pillow.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. WHITE were born but two sons, the elder being Hiram W. WHITE, who was three years the senior of Henry L. and who died in Streator, Illinois, about three years ago. The parents were both active and prominent workers in the Methodist Episcopal church, and in their cabin in 1834 a class was formed, consisting of three other members Dr. RICHEY and wife, who lived at Florid, and Miss Betsy CARPENTER, a half-sister of Mrs. WHITE, who lived with her and later became the wife of John P. HAYS. For about two years services were held at the WHITE cabin, at the end of which time a church was erected in Hennepin, to which Mr. WHITE was a liberal contributor, and during his entire life he continued to serve as class-leader and steward. His early political allegiance was given the whig party and he joined the republican party on its organization and was called upon to serve as school commissioner and coroner.
Henry L. WHITE was a lad of seven summers when he accompanied his parents on their emigration to what was then the far west. The Black Hawk war had occurred only the year before and the Indians still lingered in some sections of the state, while much of the land was still unclaimed and uncultivated. The experiences of the pioneer soon became familiar to him and he remained upon the home farm after attaining his majority, while his brother owned land in Granville township, but for twenty years they carried on operations in partnership. In connection with general farming they also engaged in threshing and reaping, owning one of the first reapers brought to the county. Later the brother sold out and removed to Putnam, while subsequently he became a resident of Streator. Mr. WHITE added eighty acres to the old homestead and now owns a valuable tract of land of one hundred and sixty-five acres, which is under a high state of cultivation and is well improved with substantial buildings. Upon this farm he still resides, and his niece and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. F. P. HAMM, reside with him, the former operating the farm, while Mrs. HAMM acts as housekeeper. For a quarter of a century Mr. WHITE has been interested in the lumber and coal business at Hennepin, becoming connected with George C. REED in this enterprise under the firm style of White & Reed, the junior partner being the active manager of the business.
When about thirty years of age Mr. WHITE was married to Miss Fannie A. WHITE, a cousin, and a native of Norton, Massachusetts, who came to Putnam county in 1849. Two daughters were born to them, Cora and Carrie, but both died in childhood, and Mrs. WHITE passed away June 15, 1896. She was a member of the Congregational church and was greatly interested in various church activities, so that her death proved a great loss to the church and the community as well as to her husband, with whom she had so long traveled life's journey happily.
Since the organization of the republican party Mr. WHITE has been one of its stanch champions and has frequently attended its conventions. For eight years he served as coroner and for three years was supervisor in his township. He, too, belongs to the Congregational church of Hennepin, in which he served for twenty-five years as treasurer. His life has indeed been an exemplification of the Christian spirit, and there is probably not a more temperate man in every way in the county. He has never used liquor nor tobacco and for many years has used neither tea nor coffee. As a man he has endeavored to follow the golden rule, being thoroughly reliable in his business affairs and often tempering the attitude of justice with that of mercy. Those qualities which work for righteous living and for the development of upright character have long been manifest in his career, and now, in the evening of his days, he can look back over the past without regret, being one of the most respected and venerable citizens of Putnam county.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.