Peter Thacher.

A sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 online

. (page 45 of 51)
Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 45 of 51)
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to the perilous enterprise. Of a fearless yet cautious tem-
perament; with an astute perception, and a determined
will, their Patriarchal Leader seldom failed of compassing
the desired end, in working for the common weal of his
pioneer community. Forewarned of the proverbial craft
and treachery of the nomadic races, among whom he and
his family and followers had driven their stakes and made
their homes, he sought to conciliate their good will by
frankness and fair dealing, and by unaffected assurance of
friendship for the well-being of their tribes, oft-times
accompaning these professions by kindly personal offices,
and with gifts judiciously distributed to their women and
little ones. Yet a latent incredulity seems to have clouded
the mind of a leading Chief of the Confederacy as to the
sincerity of the friendly asseverations of these white intru-


ders on his and his people's imprescriptible hunting grounds.
And at one of his frequent visits to the family of the
Patriarch of the pale faces, this Chief asked to be allowed
the favor of carrying an interesting little girl, grand-daugh-
ter of Judge White, home to his " squaws " at their tribal
wigwams, as they would be delighted to see and handle so
beautiful an object of nature's handiwork, &c. Divining
the crafty purpose of the Chief, who thus sought so precious
a hostage as a living test of the good faith of the " White "
Chief's protestations of friendly regards towards the natives
of the forest, the Judge quickly decided that the child
should go. The mother was, of course, frantic at the bare
idea of her tender offspring being carried off by savages. And
the father of the child, Joseph White, son of the Judge,
protested that the shock would either be the death of his
wife, or drive her into lunacy. Yet the Judge was firm in
his purpose, and told his son that the child must go. And
as the Patriarchal authority of that day was rather despotic
than temporizing, it was intimated to his son that he should
lock-up his wife, — " lock her up, Jo., lock her up, until the
child is brought back," — was the irrevocable order : The
child was accordingly carried off by the Chief, who pledged
his word to bring her back on the morrow. The deep agony,
the frantic grief of the mother, meanwhile, can be better
imagined than described. It was a night of painful anxiety
to her and her husband. And most of the following day
wore away without bringing relief to their racking doubts,
whether their child would ever be restored to them alive !
In fine, it was not until the sun in its westerly declination had
neared the horizon, that the Chief, with a retinue of male
and female attendants, were discerned wending their way
hitherward along the forest trails, in all the dignity of their


wonted aboriginal stride, with the beautiful little "waif"
perched high on the Chief's shoulders, deek'd out in all the
primitive adornments of feathers and wampum, its brilliant
Indian trappings glittering in the setting sun's rays as the
band of natives neared the opening of the white settlement.
And soon the precious pledge was safely restored by the
evidently elated Chieftain, into the arms of its over-joyed
mother, whose heart for more than twenty-four hours had
been cruelly lacerated by agitating fears lest her first-born,
and the cherished object of her love, might have been
utterly lost to her and its family.

If, peradventure, there should be those who may look upon
the narration of this interesting episode in the early border
life of WhitestoAvn, as too strongly spiced with romance to
be true, the narrator can testify to its absolute verity. He
well recollects, though quite juvenile at the time, listening
to the recitals by his senior relatives, actors in those scenes,
within the family circle and elsewhere, to that among other
thrilling Indian adventures. And the little " pale faced "
cherub, the heroine of this eventful scrap of history, was
Susan White, elder sister of Capt. Henry White, lately
deceased, and sister of Mrs. Abigail Wilcox, now living in
this village. She was reared up in this place, as an intelli-
gent and attractive young lady, and was always an object of
special interest among the settlers. In due time she inter-
married with Capt. Nathaniel Ells, a respectable and
very worthy citizen of Whitesboro, and bore him one son,
Calvin Ells. They lived and prospered here during the
lifetime of Capt. Ells; and some years after his decease,
Mrs. Ells and her son removed to Ottowa, in Illinois, where
they lived many years, and where she died at rather an
advanced age. The " Ells House "' in this village, is now


the property of Col. H. P. Potter. It has been partially
rebuilt, modernized and improved by him, and he has made
quite a fine and imposing mansion of it.

Of all the participants in this noble frontier incident of
the little girl hostage, no one, of either nationality,
was so fully gratified, none so much benefited thereby,
in fact, as the principal actor in the scene, Judge Hugh
White himself. His policy had triumphed : The Indian
tribes were conciliated, and their lasting friendship towards
the white settlers secured, by this deft turn given to the
Judge's diplomacy. And perhaps no white man who came
early among these " Six Nations " of New York Indians, —
always excepting their pious, philanthropic, and devoted
Christian Missionary, the late Eev. Samuel Kirkland, —
shared their confidence more widely, or exercised a more
civilizing influence over them, then Judge White. His
active sympathies for them, and neighborly offices dispensed
to their tribal households, begat their full and abiding con-
fidence in him, as a man, a neighbor and a counsellor.
And there was but one thing more to be proved, to entitle
him to enfranchisement as an Iroquois by adoption, — and
that was, a solution of the question as to his muscular
fitness for the highest tribal distinction : And as a test of
his manliness in this regard, they challenged him to wres-
tle with their champion athlete. In view of the prestige
he had already won among them, he could not under the
circumstances, do otherwise than accept the "gage" and
the trial came off in due time. The Judge was rather
muscular and compact in frame at early manhood, though
of medium stature : He was ever noted for an unusual
alertness, equally of mind, motion and speech; and to
this faculty, he was maiuly indebted for a victory over his

taller and more agile combatant. Immediately after fairly
clinching, the Judge, by a quick and skillful trip and jerk,
succeeded in " flinging " the Indian ! Thereupon, at a
Grand Council of the Tribes, the "pale faced" victor was
proclaimed "champion," and subsequently chosen and duly
invested as an Iroquois " Chief," with all the rights, immu-
nities and franchises of native Chieftains "to the manor
born," and with the right of perpetual succession in his

Apeopos : Notwithstanding all titles of nobility
were done away with by our sensible Eevolutionary fathers,
yet it was plain to be seen that more or less of American
"republicans" at that day, (with some even in these latter
days) cherished a prurient fancy for searching old English
heealdic records, — peradventure they might light upon
some trace of their claim as a branch of the geneological
family tree of the " Sie Timothy Timkinses," or that of
the "Baeoist Barnabas Bunsbys," etc., etc. And it is
related of the Elder Judge "White, that he always treated
the subject in a sarcastic vein, whenever this proclivity
manifested itself in his presence, among any of his aspiring
kinsfolk and neighbors. And he would frequently amuse
those of the former, most earnest in hunting up evidence
of a heritage in the armorial distinctions of their English
progenitors, by humorously patting them on their backs,
accompanied with a tantalizing promise, of some day him-
self giving form and practical effect to the heraldic honors
and immunities of the Iroquois patent of Nobility with
which he and his offspring had been duly enfranchised in
perpetuity ; — and that, by reason of such enfranchisement,
there courses through the veins of each and every of them
a modicum of the vital fluid with as pure an infusion of


true nobility in it as " all the blood of all the Howards "
could impart! And that time and circumstance might
entitle them to emblazon on their signets the heraldic
emblem of Nature's Nobility, — an inheritance from the
ancient and powerful "Iroquois Confederacy," — a far
more " noble " race of people than those barbaric nomads,
the progenitors of the Normans, the latter of whom, after
desolating and partially repeopling Britain, founded there
what is to this day boastfully called the " proudest of the
English Orders of Nobility."

And it was undoubtedly a remembrance of these sallies
of sarcasm, employed by Judge White in laughing his own
progeny and other early settlers out of any hankering they
may have had after heraldic honors, that suggested to some
of the municipal fathers of Whitesboro to get up a Cor-
porate Seal for the Village, with a design emblamatic of
the " tournament " between Judge White and the Young
Iroquois Champion Wrestler to be engraved on it. That
quaint armorial design is still blazoned on the official seal
of Whitesboro.

And should there still linger any one within this baili-
Avick, covetous of possessing a " Coat of Arms " from the
Book of Heraldry in England, the above information may
be suggestive to him or them, whether it might not be more
convenient and more patriotic to apply for the " article "
(copy of the design) at the office of the Clerk of the
municipal council of Whitesboro.

These stirring incidents, as marking the daring and
adroit initial policy of Judge White, in boldly planting a
feeble colony in the midst of a formidable confederacy of
savages, so recently beligerent towards the American
whites, served to impress them with a deep respect for the


genius, the masculine qualities, and the imagined magic
power of the White Chieftan. Ancl this reverence of the
native towards Judge White was retained and perpetuated
up to the day of his death by his uniform kindly and dig-
nified bearing towards them, and a punctilious observance
of the rules of honor and honesty in all his bargains and
dealings with them.

From the foregoing narration it will be seen that the
original settlement of Whitestown had an auspicious
beginning ; and Judge White, the proprietary leader and
founder, and the master spirit of that day and region,
enjoyed the rare felicity of living to see his pioneer enter-
prise prosper beyond all his anticipations, and his new
" Settlement " to flourish and expand in population and
wealth with a rapidity hitherto unprecedented in the new
world. At the period of his first coming here, in 1784-'85,
the locality of Whitestown was in Herkimer county ; and
Hugh White's first appointment as Magistrate and Judge
was for the western frontier settlements of that county : But
when Oneida was organized, in 1798, he was among the first,
in conjunction with Jedediah Sanger and others, to be
appointed a Justice and Judge of this new county.

The eclat which this notably successful colony soon
attained throughout the Old States at the East, coupled
with fabulous recitals of the fertility of the soil of the new
found "Eden," stirred up the latent Yankee enterprise to a
degree never before witnessed among the Puritan race in
America, and impelled them by thousands very soon to fol-
low in the foot-steps of Judge White and his little band of
axe-men. And as the fear of Indian massacre was now
allayed, by the Judge's happy solution of the at one time
impending fresh Indian war, and the way was thereby


opened up for a peaceful migration of eastern emigrants,
the roads and trails from the Hudson Eiver westward liter-
erally swarmed with mostly able-bodied men, seeking lands
and homes in the "Whitestown" country, then embracing
all the area westward of its locality to the Niagara Eiver
and Lake Erie. Whitestown being the gate-way of
eastern emigration westward, Judge White and his early
pioneer followers, by whose daring, and toil, and privation,
that gate was so cleverly opened, proved themselves friends
indeed to all industrious new comers and emigrants. They
were the practical philanthropists of that day and region,
and the true benefactors of all those who then made for-
tunes and prosperous homes in Western New York.

And as the Law and Gospel and the Healing Art, are
necessary concomitants of civilized associations of men,
members of those professions naturally followed close upon
the • heels of the first pioneers in driving their stakes at
Whitestown, and at other opening settlements beyond.
And as the first Court organized west of Herkimer was
• established in this Town, young men of ability, of enter-
prise, and practical talent in the legal profession, were
attracted hither as soon as a sufficiently normal condition of
society had been attained among the settlers to afford them
a reasonable prospect of business, — the two foremost of
whom were Thomas R. Gold and Jonas Piatt. About the
same time, or very soon thereafter, Eev. Bethuel Dodd and
Dr. Elizur Moseley, and Wm. G. Tracey, (the merchant,)
also came and located here. The earliest accretions of this
community, being thus constituted of the outcropping of
the best material at the east, — comprising talent, enterprise
and youthful energy, so well adapted to the transforming
of masses of men in a semi-abnormal condition into culti-


vatecl. and refined society. Whitesboro soon grew to be
the most prominent Judical point west of Albany. And
within a comparatively brief period, there was found con-
centrated here a galaxy of forensic talent, unsurpassed out-
side the commercial and the political capitals of the State.
And as the honored names of Rev. Bethuel Dodd, Dr.
Elizur Moseley, Hon. Messrs. Thomas R. Gold, Jonas Piatt,
Win G. Tracey, Arthur Breese, Theodore Sill, Henry R.
Storrs, Fortune C. White, Francis Granger, William C.
Noyce, S. Newton Dexter, Thomas H. Flandreau, and
others, have passed into history, and are inscribed on the
rolls of fame as brilliant orators and high-toned professional
and business gentlemen of their day, it may here be ap-
propriately averred, that the Society of Whitesboro, to
which such men and their accomplished families gave tone
and character, possessed a prestige for polish and refinement
all over the Union. But the substantial charms of that
Old School gentility, with its rational and enobling enjoy-
ments, have passed away in both form and substance, from
our own favored locality, and it is feared, from elsewhere in
this day and generation. And those estimable and revered
Ladies, Mrs. Harriet Frost, widow of the late Rev. John
Frost, and daughter of the late eminent lawyer and states-
man, Thomas R. Gould, and Mrs. Elizabeth Flandreau,
widow of the late brilliant member of the bar in New
York City and Whitesboro. Thomas H. Flandreau, and
sister of the former commander of the United States
armies, Gen. Alexander Macomb, — are the sole living repre-
sentatives among us of that noble class of ladies whose
cultured minds and manners lent such a charm to the
society of Whitesboro, in those better days of this our
Republic of liberty and law, and undefiled Religion.


Hoist. Hugh White, of Waterford, by reason of whose
demise this historical memoir has been written, was a
worthy descendant of his namesake and illustrious prototype
the founder of Whitestown. The primeval forests of this
region were heavily timbered, and the reduction of them
to arable fields was a primary duty, an absolute necessity
in fact, imposed upon the early settlers. And the intensity
of the toil of the farmers of that day, in working out a
subsistence in a wilderness country, is almost inconceivable
by the most of the tillers of the soil in these latter days of
labor-saving machinery. But the habits of hard toil, and
of rigid economy of time, which they brought with them
from the stony hills of Connecticut, well adapted them to
their new labors and trials in the wilderness. All, or nearly
all, of the first settlers, were necessarily farmers, (or were
obliged to become such) subduers of the forests, and all
were practical land-laborers, hard workers from sun-rise to
sun-set : And as every head of a family required the labor
of all its male minors of suitable age, year in and year out,
with the exception of about three months in mid-winter,
when farm-work is usually slack, very few of the farmers'
sons of that day enjoyed more than one quarter's schooling
per annum : And it is believed that Hugh White, (of
Waterford,) partook of the benefits of common-school in-
struction to that extent, at least. Of the sixteen contempora-
neous male cousins who bore the name of White, and
grew up to manhood, only three, to-wit, Fortune, Canvass
and Philo, enjoyed any better opportunities for early educa-
tion than Hugh, — and neither of the three ever passed
through a full collegiate course : So that the remark of
the New York Tribune, that Hugh White's "early education
was neglected" was inexact, at least. His elder brother


Canvass White, had passed through a partial course of
collegiate education, manifesting an especial aptness in the
department of mathematics : And when that gigantic
enterprise of internal improvement, the Erie Canal, was
projected by DeWitt Clinton, and provided for by the State,
Judge Wright, of Some, and Canvass White, of Whitesboro,
were among the first of the State Engineers appointed to
survey and superintend the construction of that great
work. The latter attained a high reputation as a Civil
Engineer, on divers other and later works : And it was
Canvass White, in fact, who was first employed to make a
topographical reconnoissance for, and first suggested the
project of the New York Croton Water AYorks, — which
proved, at a later day and under other auspices, a magnifi-
cent success.

The younger brother, Hugh, it is known, was retained at
home on his father's farm, getting snatches of a quarter's
schooling each winter, until near his majority in 1819. It
was then that he commenced a continuous routine of in-
struction, principally by the counsel and encouragement of
his brother Canvass, preparatory to his entry on a full classi-
cal and scientific course in Hamilton college. And as he
graduated at that institution in 1823, after the customary
four years' probation there, it would seem that he could
have had scarcely one year's preparation for college after his
farm-labors ceased. These facts and circumstances go to
disprove the Tribune's implied neglect of Mr. White's ele-
mentary instruction.

After completing his collegiate course he made choice of
the " Law " as a profession ; and was fitted for the bar, after
the usual routine of legal studies, in the office of Col. Charles
G-. Haines, of New York city. But a proclivity for " busi-


ness" in another line, led him to accept an invitation from
his brother Canvass to associate with him in operations con-
nected with the construction of the Erie Canal, then in pro-
cess of successful completion, and of which Canvass White
was, as already stated, one of the original and prominent
Engineers. The latter had invented a water-lime cement,
which attained a high reputation, for use in the construction
of canal locks, and other hydraulic works : And it was in a
business association with his brother Canvass, some two or
three years after his graduation at Hamilton college, that
Hugh White took charge of an establishment at Chittenango
for the manufacture of that then newly invented and favor-
ite water-proof cement. In this sphere, it was, that his
aptness for business and his administrative tact and talent
in the management of large operations, and in controlling
men and shaping measures, were first prominently developed.
And it was in the never-flagging use of these high qualities
that fortune and fame eventually crowned his earthly labors.

As the completion of the Erie Canal lessened the demand
in that region for Canvass White's water-cement — although
it continued in high repute wherever hydraulic architecture
was in demand — Hugh White removed the works for its
manufacture from Chittenango to the town of Waterford,
Saratoga county, N. Y., which point afforded greater facili-
ties of water-power, and of ready transit of the fabric to all
parts of the world. His main business being thus centered
at Cohoes, Mr. White removed his family thither in 1830,
and which has ever since continued as their residence, where
its honored head has so recently ended his days, and gone
clown to the tomb at the mature age of 72.

Although Mr. White went into the manufacture of water-
lime cement at the initial point of his business life, con-


tinuing in it at Cohoes, at Kondout, and perhaps elsewhere,
something like a quarter of a century, and the foundation
of his fortune was based thereon, yet he engaged, mean-
while, in other manufacturing enterprises, — took and exe-
cuted large public and private contracts, and engaged some-
what extensively in agricultural pursuits during pretty
much the entire period of his after life. And although his
plans ran the hazard of all human schemes of worldly gain,
and his business operations were attended with somewhat
varied success, yet his average accumulations were large,
until he amassed an estate valued at $300,000.

Me. White was married, in the 30th year of his age, to
Miss Maeia Mills Mansfield, daughter of Wm. P. Mans-
field, Esq., of Kent, Connecticut. She was a lady of educa-
tion and refinement, possessing the attractions of person, of
mind and temperament which lend a charm to social life,
aud which, with her, in later years, ripened into those marital
virtues and matronly graces which constituted her an ex-
emplar as a wife, a mother, a sister, a warr-i-hearted friend
and patron of all her kindred and associates. She still
survives, to mourn the loss of her honored husband, and
will continue to reside in their fine and commodious mansion
at Waterford, where the family always dispensed a munifi-
cent hospitality, alike to relatives, and friends, and visitors.
The birth of seven children blessed her marital union with
Mr. White, two sons and five daughters ; three of these died
in infancy, two others were grown up ere their demise — one
of whom intermarried with Mr. William Mies, Jr., of Indi-
ana, but died without issue : So that only two, a son and a
daughter, survive their father.

The son, William Mansfield White, Esq., now of Liv-
ingston county, N. Y., is a most worthy offspring of his


honored sire, inheriting his manly form and stature, with his
gifts of mind, his sternness of moral sentiment, and the
generosity of his nature. He is an alumnus of Hamilton
college : He adopted agriculture from choice, as a profession,
occupying and tilling a plantation of fourteen hundred
acres, owned by him in the county of his residence : And
he is ever ready to lend the benefit of his personal services,
his cultivated mind and ample means, for the encourage-
ment of all laudable institutions and objects, and the further-
ance of all feasible enterprises for positive improvements
within the sphere of his influence. He intermarried, eight
years since, with an accomplished and gifted young lady of
Jefferson county, Miss Anna Pierrepont, daughter of
Wm, C. Pierrepont, Esq., of Pierrepont Manor, who has
already borne him five living pledges of the happy union
of their hearts and their hands. And he is still in the early
prime of life, though in the meridian of usefulness — a
Christian gentleman and scholar, a noble representative of
his race and lineage.

The surviving daughter, Mrs. Isabel Niles, intermarried
with W. W. Niles, Esq., a respectable lawyer, of large prac-
tice, in the city of New York, but who, with his wife and
family (five or six children), reside in their own mansion at
Fordham, in Westchester county. Mrs. Niles is an esti-
mable and intelligent lady, an affectionate and exemplary
wife and mother, and ever a genial associate among her
relatives and friends.

Hon. Hugh White, of Waterford, bore an unblemished
reputation through life, and won an honorable distinction
as a legislator and a public man. Though zealous and per-
sistent in pursuit of a purpose, he was yet dispassionate in
the manner of attaining it. Frank and patriotic in his

Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 45 of 51)