Biography of Nathaniel P. White.


The subject of this review was for many years one of the trio of White brothers whose lives were so closely interwoven with the business interests of Port Huron and whose influence in promoting the city's material prosperity was second to that of none of their contemporaries. Nathaniel P. White was a native of New York, born in Whitestown in the year 1818. His father, Hon. Fortune C. White, was a distinguished lawyer of that state and at one time was judge of the county court of Oneida county, New York. He had large and valuable property interests in Port Huron and other parts of Michigan. It was to look after these holdings that first led his sons to come west, and once here they laid the foundation of ample fortunes and, as stated above, became in due time prominent in the business affairs of this section of the state.

Nathaniel P. White spent his childhood and youth in the town of his birth and was given the best educational advantages the schools of Whitestown afforded. When young his sense of hearing became greatly impaired, the affliction proving to be not only an unpleasant and grievous personal burden, but interfering very materially with his prearranged life plans. In his young manhood he went to sea, but owing to deafness did not long follow that kind of life, giving up his position on the vessel for the purpose of studying dentistry. Becoming proficient in that profession, he followed it for some years in his native state, principally in the cities of Utica, Yonkers, and New York. He and his brother Henry, also a dentist, manufactured the first soft gold for filling teeth, meeting with well merited success. In this as in his former vocation, Mr. White found his continued defective hearing not only a great embarrassment, but a decided hindrance to the successful prosecution of his work, accordingly he abandoned dentistry and, coming to Port Huron, Michigan, became a partner with his brothers J. H. and Edgar White, in the real estate business. He spent his winters in Florida, where he owned a valuable property at Palatka. The prestige of this firm soon became great and the amount of business transacted by it far transcended in volume that done by any other partnership in this section of the state similarly engaged. Nathaniel P. White was a man happily endowed with those faculties which win success and in due time he rose to a position of prominence and influence in the business world. He continued to deal in real estate as long as he lived and by careful and, in the main, successful operations, accumulated a fortune.

Mr. White was married in Albany, New York, to Miss Charlotte J. Henry, a native of Boylston, Saratoga county, New York, and a descendant of one of the oldest and most talented families in that part of New York state. In her youth Mrs. White was given the best educational advantages obtainable and in the course of years she became a lady of true refinement and varied culture. Prior to the Civil War she taught in the South and when the great rebellion was in progress she tendered her services to the government as a nurse. During the trying period between 1861 and 1866 she was unremitting in her attentions and loving ministrations to the wounded and suffering soldiers and with such devotion did she perform her duties that she attracted the favorable notice of President Lincoln, between whom and herself feeling of the warmest personal friendship sprang up. The great President showed her every attention in his power, assisted her in her labors of love and mercy and remained her true and loyal friend until struck down by the assassin's bullet. Mrs. White was her husband's loving companion and true helpmate until death called him away, since which time she has made her home at Palatka, Florida.

Of the personal life of Mr. White much by way of compliment might be said. That he was a man of strong mentality and master judgment goes without saying and that he ever lived so as to make his presence felt for good among those with whom he had business or other relations is cheerfully admitted by all who knew him. His views of men and life were characterized by a broad catholicity and in all that constitutes true manhood and intelligent, upright citizenship he was easily peer of any of his friends and associates.

His daily life and conversation marked the elevated mind and he lived so as to add to, rather than detract from, the luster of the good name for which his family had for so many years been especially distinguished. Fraternally he was a Mason of high degree and he also belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, having been active in his efforts to disseminate the principles of both brotherhoods. Mr. White's life was comparatively uneventful and he lived to a ripe old age, honored and respected by the people of his adopted city, dying on the 2d day of December, 1895, in his eightieth year.

Source: Biographical Memoirs of St. Clair County, Michigan (Logansport, Indiana: B. F. Bowen, 1903): Part II, pp. 279-281.