Oliver J White 1830-1909
Posted By: Geo Clinton (email)
Date: 1/16/2016 at 11:44:46
Jefferson Bee - February 24, 1909 - The startling news was heralded shortly before noon Sunday that 0.J. White had passed away. Old friends and neighbors without number took up the pilgrimage to his home near the school building, only there to have a sad confirmation of the word of death.
Mr. White had been troubled more or less for several years with a heart and stomach trouble. Saturday night he was taken quite ill with stomach pains, but restoratives were applied, and hot applications, and the spell seemed to pass away. Sunday morning he arose as usual, ate some breakfast, smoked a cigar, and was out and about the yard. About 8:30 the pain returned, this time higher up, and the family physician. Dr. Hoyt, was summoned.
Mr. White was sitting in his arm chair, suffering considerably, the pain being very intense at times. Dr. Hoyt arrived shortly before ten o'clock and administered medicines, but Mr. White passed away within a few minutes after the doctor's arrival. The story of Mr. White's younger years reads like a romance to those of tender age.
Oliver J. White, one of the pioneers of Greene county, was born in the town of Sandisfíeld, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, in 1830. At the age of seventeen years he ran away from home and went to New York, where he tried to enlist for the Mexican war, but being too young and too small was rejected, and, therefore, he shipped abroad the whaling vessel Mary, at the port of Nantucket, Massachusetts.
The first landing the vessel made was at the island of Juan Fernandez, in the Pacific ocean, an island made famous by being the residence of Robinson Crusoe. The vessel was five and one-half months in reaching that island. The second landing was made at Callao, near Lima, Peru. At Peru he ran away from the vessel, but remained at Callao about three months. He worked at shoemaking a part of the time, a trade he had already worked at for some time previous. A portion of the time he was in the employment of vessels in the harbor.
When he left Callao he shipped aboard an American whaler called the Leónidas. With this vessel he cruised around the coast of South America, spending about three weeks on Albemarle island, one of the Galapagus cluster, then cruised off the coast of California, down the coast of Peru, and put into Africa. Here the crew mutinied. After the difficulty was settled the vessel resumed its cruising, visiting Easter island, at that time inhabited by cannibals; thence to Juan Fernandes and other islands; thence to Valparaiso, Chile, where he again ran away, remaining at the latter place about three weeks.
He left the vessel because he felt that he had seen enough of the world for one trip. The whaling vessel of Uncas lay in the harbor about to return to New Bedford, but the crew being full he could not ship as a hand, and had no money to pay his passage home. So he stowed away in the "hold," only one sailor being cognizant of his presence on board. When he made his appearance on deck after the vessel was under way, the captain was very angry or at least pretended to be, and threatened to put him aboard the first vessel they met, and send him back, or else put him off on some island. But Mr. White soon gained his favor by taking a hand at the watch, and, in time, reached New Bedford.
He remained at home about two years, and then took passage on a merchant vessel for Australia, and was 154 days in reaching his destination, stopping at Pernambuco, in Brazil. His next landing was at Cape Town, on the southern extremity of the coast of Africa, where the vessel remained three weeks taking on supplies. Their next landing was at Melbourne, Australia.
Soon after reaching that point Mr. White joined a party for the mines 125 miles in the country. The cost of living at Bendigo, the mining town, was too great for his resources, then he returned to Melbourne and commenced working at his trade. He is said to have been the first journeyman peg shoemaker who ever worked in Australia. He worked there about eight months and then returned to the mines, where he remained about two years and then went back to Melbourne.
At this time the excitement attending the finding of gold in large quantities in the Amazon region of South America reached Australia, and Mr. White decided to join the rush to that country. He accordingly shipped aboard a merchant vessel for Callao. On the voyage to Callao he was robbed of all he had made in Australia which was no small sum. This left him poor but did not courage him from trying to make more. He found that the gold report was gotten up by vessel owners to catch the passenger traffic across the ocean, and, consequently he was obliged to resume his trade as a means of support.
He was soon attacked by that dread scourge yellow fever. He became reduced very low but finally recovered and soon after took passage on board a British steamer, went to Panama, crossed the isthmus, and thence to New York and safe at home. His intention was to return to Peru, but his friends prevailed upon him to abandon the project, and he, accordingly, went to work at his trade in North Adams, Massachusetts.
Two years later, in 1856, he came to Linn county, Iowa, having a sister living in Marion, in that county. In the fall of 1857 he came to Jefferson, and was the first shoemaker and the first boot and shoe merchant in Jefferson.
In 1860 he purchased eighty acres in Hardin township, later adding to this tract, and improving it in a fine way, taking special interest in fruit raising. The large orchard he planted is mostly alive today. Mr. White also acquired ownership of the two lots upon which is now situated the L.J. Grisier stores. Two frame buildings were upon these lots, one occupied for many years by Frank Thompson as a jewelry store, and one by O.O. Jay with drugs. Mr. White also had his shop in a part of one of these buildings.
In 1893 he removed the old structures and erected the Columbian block. These were occupied by Ed. Caughlin, with a grocery store, also a restaurant, and one or two other renters, including the furniture store of W.S. Day & Co. The heavy financial crash of 1893 seriously affected Mr. White, for he had gone in debt quite heavily for building. Hoping for better times he continued to pay interest and taxes, finally selling his farm to help clear up deficiencies.
About 1900 he was compelled to relinquish ownership of the Columbian block, the price paid being such as to leave him little or nothing for his years of hard labor and effort. This misfortune crushed his ambitions and he retired from business, only so far as he continued with a shoe shop at the residence.
Mr. White was married here in 1861 to Sarah Ann Stiles, a daughter of "Uncle Joby" Stiles, long years a resident of Jefferson. To the union were born six children, Volney, Grant, Fred, Elsie, Osa and Harley. Volney died in infancy, while Osa departed this life not many years ago. Grant now lives in Seattle, while Fred is a resident of Florida.
Mr. White's father was a native of Litchfield, Connecticut, who was a direct descendant of Peregrine White, the first child born in the old Plymouth colony, in Massachusetts. O.J. White's early education was under the auspices of the "Calvinistic dogmas", his father belonging to the Baptist school of the close communion sort, and very devoted to the church.
As a matter of duty the father endeavored to impress upon the mind of his son the strict observance of the same. "But," as Mr. White used to express it, "the development of brain in the region of veneration and surrounding faculties, created in me a spirit of inquiry which led me into the belief that man was a creature governed by natural law. I came into the world by the laws of nature, and will go out in the same manner. All the allegiance I owe to a Supreme Being is to obey as near as possible the laws of nature, ignoring the idea of a personal God, taking the broad ground of Pantheism, believing that religion is a true reverence of nature, and worship to be obedience to or of the natural law."
One of Mr. White's dreams was to erect a building in Jefferson for the purpose of public worship of any creed, the place to be open to either infidel or Christian, as the opportunity came about. Mr. White was one of the oldest Masons in Greene county, if not in the State. His funeral was held under the auspices of this lodge this afternoon at 2 o'clock, his old neighbor, Gillum S. Toliver delivering an address to the assembled friends at the home.
Tenderly bearing the body of their deceased friend and brother the march to the cemetery was taken up, where all that was mortal of O.J. White was consigned to Mother Earth. Ritualistic rites of the order marked this closing scene, with P.O. Brown as master of ceremonies.
Greene Obituaries maintained by Cheryl Siebrass.
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