Monday, April 10, 2006

The story of one immigrant family

His name was Thomas White and he came to America looking for a new life. We don't know where he was born nor when. We don't know who his family was. He left them behind. He started showing up in records in Weymouth, Ma. in 1635. No one knows what his wife's name was, when he arrived, or where, what ship he came on, or under whose authority or command.

But he came to the new world to make a life for himself and his family. He begins to show up in town records in 1635. These records begin to show him as a productive member of society. He was a surveyor and became a leading citizen in town. His sons likewise became productive and leading members of the society they adopted and that in turn adopted them.

It is believed he was born around 1599 but he was undocumented and this date is pulled from a record in which he stated his age as 60 in 1659. He died in Weymouth in August, 1679. He had been made a freeman and later a Captain of the local militia. He had served as a Selectman for the town and was so highly esteemed an immigrant that he was elected as a Deputy from the town to the General Court (equivalent of the colony legislature) in 1637, and again in 1657 and 1670.

It is believed that his eldest children were born in another land but his youngest son Ebenezer was born in his adopted country America in 1648. Ebenezer like his father served well in the town of Weymouth, admitted a freeman in 1674, commissioned a Lieutenant of the Weymouth Company, serving as a Selectman for the town in 1690, according to the available records "a man of integrity and worth and a respected and useful citizen." He served in the expedition to Canada against the French and the Indians, in King Williams War (1690-1). He died a fairly wealthy man in August 1703.

His eldest son Rev. Ebenezer White was a graduate of Harvard University receiving a Master of Arts in 1692. He went on to serve as Pastor of the church at Southampton, LI, NY where he own son later served.

Lt. Ebenezer's third son Samuel was likewise a leading citizen of Weymouth. His son Ezekiel removed his family to the wilds of western Massachusetts in 1777. All of his sons and sons-in-law served in the Continental Army during the revolutionary war. It appears all of them served during the pivotal battles of Saratoga. At least one of those sons, David, wintered with George Washington at Valley Forge.

After the war David White moved his family to the wild country of western New York being one of the first settlers there. His was the first European-American death there 2 years later. His wife Martha Cottle raised their family there later remarrying. All of their sons served their nation in the War of 1812. Two sons became Doctors, a son-in-law a Judge, the eldest son was a Brigadier General and co-founder of later became Sylvania, Ohio. The youngest boys, twins Orin and Orpheus, age 14, served as drummer and fifer under the eldest brother during the war.

Dr. William White can be found in records of early western New York as the first Doctor or as building the first mill and similar tasks. His son Arthur married Hannah Warner and raised their family in and around the Buffalo area. Their nephew, Glenn Scoby Warner, was trained as a lawyer but became a football coach instead. Because he was older then the other lads at college they decided to call him "Pop" and the name stuck.

Later generations of this immigrant family served in World War's I and II. One was a famous stained glass artist whose work graces many a church and whose murals are seen as some of the best works of the depression era WPA. Others went into the ministry and served their nation during the civil rights movement.

This typical American family began with an undocumented immigrant family that came from an unknown place at an unknown time aboard an unknown ship arriving in unknown place and appearing in records as productive and eventually leading members of their new community. They went on to help build this nation in the small ways. Not as Presidents and Senators but as Doctor's, lawyers, military men, teachers, builders, etc.

This family merged in recent generations with the Clock or Klock family. A Dutch family that similarly began to show up in records around 1635 in what was then New Amsterdam. Abraham Martensen Klock settled near what is now Wall Street. He was a craftsman and spent time on contract at Ft. Orange (now Albany).

The most recent immigrant ancestor in this family was a young Irish lad, David Carson Patrick. He too arrived at an unknown time, in an unknown place, by an unknown method. He simply shows up in records the middle of Iowa after the civil war. The family story is that he arrived alone at the age of 11 from Ireland near the end of the potato famine but this is unconfirmed. One of his daughters married a Clock, the son of a civil war veteran, whose daughter then married a White. That White's maternal grandfather was one Ezekiel Silas Sampson, another civil war veteran, Judge, and 2 term congressman.

And we haven't even discussed the Quaker ancestors on my Mother's side of the family that came to America looking for religious freedom.

So here we have a brief outline of only half of a typical immigrant family in America. Every member of Congress has a similar one. Some of them argue immigrant families ought to be sent back where they came from. Where do I go? Which part of me is sent to Ireland? And which part to England? Which to Holland? Scotland? Wales? France?

There is no crisis. There are issues that need addressing. As with my own immigrant ancestors there are economic and religious problems that need to be solved.

For them the solution was to leave their homelands and families behind and come to America. Today is no different because no one is discussing how to solve the economic and religious problems in the modern day immigrants homelands. In typical fashion though we look narrowly at the issue with a punitive eye, politicians bluster and say nothing worth hearing, and we all miss any opportunity to create real solutions to the real problems.


Bradford White said...

An immigrant story I can relate to, as I too am a descendent of Thomas White. I agree with your summary conclusions- to look for the root problems of immigration rather than simple minded political talking points. Our corporate and political systems create the circumstances that force immigration by their exploitation, here and abroad- by valuing profit over people; corporate over human rights; stock price over living wages; resource monetizing over environmental protection. We can't solve this without considering our impact beyond our shores and honestly looking deep within our culture and finding systemic global and sustainable humanitarian solutions.

Bradford White- Parsonsfield, ME

Ryan Lightbody said...

Hello, I am also a descendent of Thomas White, and I have a primary source documentation of the White family history written by Elmer Montague White from Hartford Connecticut in July of 1936. She and others at the N.E Historical Society in Boston pieced together the family history all the way from 1635-1925. All of my information is accurate with the information that you have posted.