Nathaniel White

The ancestors of Nathaniel White were among the hardy pioneers who settled New England two hundred and fifty years ago, William White, the founder of the family in this country, having come from England and landed at Ipswich, Mass., in 1635. The descendants of William were among the earliest settlers of northern New Hampshire.

Nathaniel White, the subject of this sketch, the oldest child of Samuel and Sarah (Freeman) White, was born in Lancaster, February 7, 1811. His childhood was passed under a tender mother's care; and to her strict religious training he was indebted for the noble character which led him untainted amid the temptations of youth, and unspotted through a long career of usefulness. At home were those principles of integrity, honesty, temperance, philanthropy, and generosity inculcated which led to a long life rounded by Christian virtues, adorned by humanitarian graces, and free from vices.

At the age of fourteen he went into the employ of a merchant of Lunenburg, Vt., with whom he remained about one year, when he accepted employment with Gen. John Wilson, of Lancaster, who was just entering upon his duties as landlord of the Columbian hotel in Concord. His parents more readily consented to his taking this step on account of the many noble qualities of Mrs. Wilson. To her care he was intrusted by his solicitous mother. In the employ of Gen. Wilson, Nathaniel White commenced life in Concord at the foot of the ladder. He arrived in Concord, August 25, 1826, with one shilling in his pocket. For five years, or until he came of age, he continued at the Columbian, rendering a strict account of his wages to his father, and saving the dimes and quarters which came as perquisites, until by his twenty-first birthday he had a fund of two hundred and fifty dollars.

In 1832 he made his first business venture, negotiating the first and last business loan of his life, and purchased a part interest in the stage route between Concord and Hanover, and occupying the "box" himself for a few years. In one year he was free from debt. Soon after, he bought into the stage route between Concord and Lowell. In 1838, in company with Capt. William Walker, he initiated the express business, making three trips weekly to Boston, and personally attending to the delivery of packages, goods, or money, and other business intrusted to him. He was ever punctual; he never forgot. In 1842, upon the opening of the Concord Railroad, he was one of the original partners of the express company which was then organized to deliver goods throughout New Hampshire and Canada. The company, under various names, has continued in successful operation to the present day; and to Nathaniel White's business capacity has it been greatly indebted for its remarkable financial success.

In 1846, Mr. White purchased his farm, and has cultivated it since that date. It lies in the southwestern section of the city, two miles from the state-house, and embraces over four hundred acres of land. For his adopted home he ever felt and evinced a strong attachment, and to him Concord owes much of her material prosperity and outward adornment. Beautiful structures have been raised through his instrumentality, which render the capitol and the State-House park such attractive features of the city.

In 1852 he made his first step in political life, being chosen by the Whigs and Free-soilers to represent Concord in the state legislature. He was an Abolitionist from the start; a member of the Anti-Slavery society from its inception. His hospitable home was the refuge of many a hunted slave,—a veritable station on the under-ground railroad, where welcome, care, food, and money were freely bestowed, and the refugees were sent on their way rejoicing. The attic of his house and the hay-mows of his stable were the havens of rest for the persecuted black men.

In all works of charity and philanthropy, Mr. White was foremost or prominent. He was deeply interested in the establishment of the New Hampshire Asylum for the Insane and the State Reform School; in the Orphans' Home, at Franklin, which he liberally endowed; and the Home for the Aged, in Concord, which was his special care. The Reform club of Concord, though not an eleemosynary institution, received substantial benefits from his generosity; and to him, in a great measure, it owed its very existence during the reaction which followed the first enthusiasm.

Besides his extensive interest in the express company, his farm,—which is one of the most highly cultivated in the state,—his charming summer retreat on the borders of Lake Sunapee, and his real estate in Concord, he was interested in real estate in Chicago, in hotel property in the mountain districts, in railroad corporations, in banks, in manufacturing establishments, and in shipping. He was a director in the Manchester & Lawrence, the Franconia & Profile House, and the Mount Washington railroads, and in the National State Capital Bank; a trustee of the Loan and Trust Savings Bank of Concord; also of the Reform School, Home for the Aged, and Orphans' Home, and other private and public trusts.

In 1875, Nathaniel White was candidate for governor, of the Prohibition party; and he had a vast number of friends in the Republican party, with which he was most closely identified, who wished to secure his nomination for the highest honor within the gift of a state, by the Republican party. In 1876 he was sent as a delegate to the Cincinnati convention, which nominated Mr. Hayes for president. During the summer of 1880, he was placed by his party at the head of the list of candidates for presidential electors. With all these honors thrust upon him, Nathaniel White was not a politician, although firm in his own political convictions. The office sought the man, and not the man the office.

Nathaniel White was blessed in his marriage relations. His history is incomplete without a narration of the perfect union, complete confidence, and mutual trust and assistance between him and his wife, during a married life of nearly half a century. November 1, 1836, he was married, by Rev. Hubert Bartlett, of Laconia, to Armenia S., daughter of John Aldrich, of Boscawen, who survives him. Mrs. Armenia S. White is of good old Quaker stock, descending, in the sixth generation, from Moses Aldrich, a Quaker preacher who emigrated to this country in the seventeenth century and settled in Rhode Island: and on the maternal side, from Edward Dotey, a pilgrim who landed in the Mayflower. She was born November 1, 1817, in Mendon, Mass., her parents removing from Rhode Island at the time of their marriage. In 1830, she went with her parents to Boscawen, where she lived until her marriage. Mrs. White has been her husband's companion and helper in every good work.

Their children are John A. White, Armenia E. White, wife of Horatio Hobbs, Lizzie H. White, Nathaniel White, Jr., and Benjamin C. White, who survive. They lost two children,—Annie Frances and Seldon F.; and adopted one,—Hattie S., wife of Dr. D. P. Dearborn, of Brattleborough, Vt.

In early life Mr. White joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He belonged to no other secret society. Anti-slavery societies, temperance societies, charitable and benevolent societies, woman suffrage and equal rights societies, and the Universalist society,—in all of these both husband and wife were deeply and equally interested. During the first four years of their married life, on account of Mr. White's occupation, they boarded; for eight years they lived on Warren street; since 1848, until the death of Mr. White, in their residence on School street. Here they have meted out generous and refined hospitality to the humble slave, the unfortunate, and to the most illustrious guests who have honored Concord by their visits.

Nathaniel White died Saturday, October 2, 1880, having nearly completed the allotted span of three score years and ten. He was stricken down suddenly, although, with his usual business foresight, he seems to have been prepared for the change.

Among the tributes to his worth which were called out by his death was a letter by Hon. H. P. Rolfe, which presents a just and fair estimate of his character, as follows:—

"I remember Mr. White even before you became acquainted with him. I can see him now, as in the early morn, in the dim light before the dawn of day, he drove up over the frozen hills of Boscawen, through the drifting snows, buffeting the bleak winds, and standing erect upon the footboard of his sleigh, with his six frost-covered steeds well in hand. I remember him as in the late afternoon or early evening he went dashing down those fearfully steep hills, called "Choate and Gerrish hills," with his Concord "coach and six," loaded down with sixteen and eighteen passengers, and no break to resist the fearful pressure upon a single pair of wheel-horses. He then had the same quiet, reserved manners that marked the man all through his long, busy, and useful life. There was no noise, no brag, no bluster, no profanity, no tobacco, no rum! He was mild in speech, pleasant in address, gentle in conduct, quiet in action, diligent in business, constant in season and out, and faithful to all his trusts; and every thing he did came fully up to the measure of his responsibility.
'His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man."'
"The wealth he possessed, and which he distributed with such a generous hand, came from no ancestral estates. He made his wealth, and he made himself, and he was emphatically 'the architect of his own fortune.' He honored his father and his mother, and his days were lengthened in the land; and if he had lived till the 17th day of February, 1881, he would have filled up the number of days which the Psalmist has assigned to manly life. His example in youth, in manhood, and in mature age is a valuable legacy to the young man who shall try to imitate it.

"To his wife and children he has left a memory as fragrant as devotion, tenderness, and love could make; and in the hearts of his other kindred he has planted a grateful remembrance, which will find a habitation there as long as their lives shall last. The beauty, gentleness and sweetness of his domestic life were only appreciated by those who saw him at home, in the bosom of his family, and partook of his genial hospitality.

'Wife, children, and neighbor may mourn at his knell;
He was lover and friend of his country as well.'
"It will not be out of place to insert here the language of a learned and gifted gentleman who knew Mr. White, having formed an acquaintance with him before the days of railroads, while he was driving on his route between Concord and Hanover. I refer to Prof. Edwin D. Sanborn, of Dartmouth College, who used frequently to ride on the outside of the coach with Mr. White. The following sketch was published in the Lebanon Free Press in 1859, and was part of an article entitled, 'Good Habits the Best Capital of the Young':—

'I know a gentleman, now residing at the capital of New Hampshire, who, at the early age of fourteen, left the paternal roof to become a clerk in a store. Thirty years ago every store was a grog-shop. From that business he entered a hotel in a large town, where liquor was also sold. The inference would be, with most persons, that such positions were very unfavorable to temperate habits. Ruin is almost inevitable to a young man thus exposed and tempted. In the case alluded to, the lad served his apprenticeship, and saved both his money and character. He never, in a single instance, tasted liquor, or used tobacco, or handled cards or dice. He passed from the hotel to the stageman's box. He drove a coach from Concord to Hanover ten years, I think. Before the building of railroads this was one of the most exposed routes in the state. The day's journey was long, the roads were bad, and the cold was often intense. It was the common practice of stagemen to fortify themselves against the cold by large and frequent potations. They soon lost health and character. They were a short-lived race because of their intemperance. But the subject of my story was true to his principles. In cold and heat he abstained. He resisted all solicitations, and offended nobody. He was trusted by all, suspected by none. He was universally popular, always intelligent. He was both a good companion and an honest agent. He never forgot a commission, never violated a trust. He saved his wages, and supported his parents, who needed his aid. Multitudes who had occasion to travel that weary road, still remember with gratitude the pleasant speech, agreeable deportment, and excellent habits of this accomplished stageman. When the railroad took the place of the old mail-coaches, the trusted and confidential agent and owner of "the old line" was employed upon the new mode of locomotion. He soon entered into the express business, which has been constantly increasing in extent of space and in quantity of packages from the first journey of the iron horse till this hour. The honest stageman became the confidential agent of thousands who had messages or property to be conveyed over the road. With the increase of business came increase of wealth. He was no lover of lucre. Though born in humble circumstances, and trained to habits of rigid economy, he had an eye for improvements, and a heart for practical beneficence. He acquired property easily, and he gave liberally. Aged parents and needy relatives shared his liberality. He cared for the friends who were bound to him by the ties of blood first, and then for such acquaintances as needed his ready aid. From the penniless boy, without education, he has become a thrifty man of business, bestowing thousands of his hard-earned treasures upon objects of charity of his own choice. How valuable is a character thus formed and matured! Through all his varied life he has never tasted ardent spirits, or used tobacco in any form. He ascribes all his success in life to his early determination to be both temperate and honest. Such an example deserves commendation and imitation.'

"These lines were written in 1859; and more than a score of years of usefulness, of duties, of benevolence, of affection, and of honor have since filled up and rounded off a life into the completeness of manhood. When he was removed from earth, death claimed a dutiful son, a tender and loving husband, an affectionate father, a devoted brother, and a constant friend.

"Since I came to this city, death has been constantly busy in our midst. None of us who have lived here these thirty years but have witnessed its ravages, snatching from many of us our dearest treasures. He has gathered to himself many of the gifted and the good, whose memories are still fragrant; but the sincere tributes to the memory of Nathaniel White have never been equaled, I fear never will be. No person in New Hampshire has ever had the happy combination of means and disposition to bestow such noble charities as he. I feel myself privileged, after forty years of constant friendship, to unite my tears of sorrow and sympathy with those of his bereaved family and afflicted friends, and to lay a laurel upon the freshly made grave which covers one of earth's true noblemen.

"How well he filled up all the days of his years with love for and duty to his family, his kindred, and his friends; to the poor, to the downtrodden, to the slave, and to all the unfortunate of earth! He claimed no right or privilege for himself, in the wide domain of nature, that he did not want others to enjoy. Hence he insisted always that the nation should immediately strike the shackles from the slave, and let the oppressed go free. Never himself under the thraldom of rum and tobacco, he wished everybody else to be free from it. He exercised the largest liberty himself, and enjoyed perfect freedom of thought and action in religious, political, and other matters; and he desired every man and woman to do the same. Hence, when he arranged his worldly matters, he gave the ownership and sole control of his business affairs into the hands of his wife, with whom he had walked life's journey, thereby giving signal proof of his sincerity that the wife is the equal of the husband in the sight of God, and should be in the love, esteem, and regard of man. He often said that the wife, in the event of the husband's death, should maintain the same rights and the same relation to the family that the husband would if the wife were taken away. In his will he made her responsible to no court or other tribunal. She was only required to make proof of his will, in order that the ownership of all his property should vest in her. In all this he recognized the rights of womanhood as well as the rights of manhood. In this way he gave proof of his belief that the twain, man and wife, are one flesh.

"The Centennial Home for the Aged was the apple of his eye; and yet he made no large bequests to it himself, having perfect assurance that the wife, who had borne life's burdens with him, and shared his devotion to this noble benevolence, would be equally the author of her own charities and the almoner of his. As a business man and a citizen, his reputation ripened by integrity. It was beautified by sincere sympathy for the poor and the downtrodden; it was embellished by his generous charities; and it was endeared by his gentle and winning manners. When his final summons came, he had filled out a life of rare usefulness and of singular success.

"Mr. White was fifty-four years a resident of Concord. In every thing that made for her welfare he was always the foremost citizen. Many others did nobly, but he exceeded them all. In a single matter that vitally affected the city of Concord, in which the writer was engaged, and in which liberal expenditures were needed, he contributed more than all the others combined; and I make mention of this because the people of Concord should know of his liberality, about which he rarely ever spoke and never boasted.

"In all his aspirations to make himself an honorable name, and to do good to his kindred, his friends, his country, and his race, Mr. White was most fortunate and happy in that he had the early suggestion, the prompt encouragement, the ready co-operation, and the ardent sympathy of her who for nearly half a century kept his home constantly blooming with the sweet-scented flowers of affection.

"Farewell, noble spirit!

'Thou 'rt buried in light:
God speed unto heaven, lost star of our night!'
We dismiss thee, not to the tomb of forgetfulness and death, but to a blessed memory, an unclouded fame, and to a limitless life."