Biography of Hugh White
Oneida County, NY Biographies

Hugh White, the pioneer settler of Whitestown, was the fifth in descent from Elder John White above mentioned; he was born in Middletown, Connecticut. January 25, 1833, and married Mary Clark of the same town, by whom he had ten children, two daughters dying in infancy, and his five sons and two daughters came with him and settled Whitestown. Hugh White served during the Revolutionary war as a quartermaster, and in that capacity, with the self sacrificing devotion of the many heroes in that first struggle of the country for national independence, expended his fortune for the maintenance of the army, receiving in its place continental paper money that became worthless in his possession.

At the close of the Revolutionary war he joined in the purchase of Sadaquada Patent with Zephaniah Platt, Ezra L'Hommedieu, Melanchton Smith and General William Floyd, the last being one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Mr. White was sent to make the preliminary settlement and survey of the new purchase. The trip was made from Albany up the Mohawk river in flat bottom boats, which were propelled by means of poles. When they reached German Flats, a few miles east of Utica, where there was a small clearing, they halted long enough to plough the ground and plant corn, and then proceeded up the river until they reached the mouth of the Sauquoit creek, where they landed and a cleating was at once started from the mouth of the creek, toward the present site of the Whitestown village square; that fall they returned to German Flats and harvested the corn which they had planted in the springtime, and the following spring Mr. White and his sons were joined by their wives and families, and the settlement of Whitestown was completed.

The legislature, by an act passed March 7, 1788, among other things, created the town of Whitestown in the county of Montgomery. This town was laid out on a magnificent scale; its boundary was a straight line crossing the river a short distance below Genesee street bridge at a log house then standing there, and running thence due north to the river St. Lawrence, and also due south to a small stream near Pennsylvania, and down that stream to the Permsylvania line, all parts of the state lying west of that line constituting the town of Whitestown. It contained more than twelve million acres of land, the navigable waters of the Mohawk, the Delaware, the Susquehanna and the Ohio rivers, the Salt Springs of Onondaga, the chain of the Finger lakes and the Oswego river, the entire valley of the Genesee, with its upper and lower falls, and also the grand cataract of the Niagara. Its frontage of great lakes and rivers was not short of four hundred miles in length. After the arrival of the judge's family, and his children and their families, he purchased of William Floyd his interest in the Sadaquada Pent, the various interests having been allotted to the partners in the enterprise by lot, and General Floyd's portion being that on the east side of the Sauquoit creek where is now situated the village of Yorkville and New York Mills. The price paid for this land by Mr. White was three pipes of wine, which was sent to the general at his house in Western, a short distance from Rome, but the general having no bottles in which to place the wine at that time, sent to England and had the bottles blown with his initials and the date, and some of these bottles are now in possession of the descendants of the general in the old mansion at Western.

At the time of Hugh White's arrival the Indian complications on the frontier were in a very delicate condition, the Indians having been under large pay from the English, and hostility focused against the settlers during the entire war. It needed a peculiar strength to gain their friendship and trust. Hugh White was a fearless, yet cautious leader, and exerted a powerful and wholesome influence upon the entire community. He was especially a firm friend of the Indians who had possessions on all sides for miles around, it being the home of the Six Nations, and the Iroquois confederacy. Forewarned of the craft and treachery of these tribes, he sought to conciliate their good will by frankness and fair dealing, and by unaffected assurances of friendship for the well being of their tribes, ofttimes accompanying these professions by kindly offices and with gifts judiciously distributed to their women and little ones. Yet a latent incredulity seems to have clouded the leading chief of the confederacy, Han Yerry, as to the sincerity of these friendly advances, and on one of his frequent visits to the family of the patriot of the Pale Faces, this chief asked to be allowed the favor of carrying an interesting little girl, a granddaughter of Judge White's, home to his squaws at their tribal wigwam as they would be delighted to see and handle the papoose of the Pale Faces. Defining that the crafty purpose of the chief was to obtain a hostage as a pledge of the good favor of the Whites' friendly regard toward the natives of the forest, the judge decided that the child should go; the mother, was, of course, frantic at the bare idea of her tender offspring being carried off by the savages, and the father of the child, Joseph white, son of the judge, protested that the shock would be either the death of his wife or drive her into lunacy, but the judge was firm in his purpose, and told his son that the child must go, and it was intimated to his son that he should lock up his wife until the child be brought back. The child was carefully carried off by the chief who pledged his word to bring her back on the morrow. The grief of the mother can be better imagined than described, and it was a night of anxiety to her and her husband, and most of the following day wore away without bringing relief to their doubts whether the child would ever be restored to them alive. It was not until the sun was on its western decline and near the horizon setting across the pathway leading over the bluff from Oriskany that the chief with a retinue of chiefs and squaws, were discovered wending their way along the forest trails in all their native dignity, and with them the beautiful little waif perched high on the chief's shoulders decked out in all the splendor of barbaric feathers and wampum, and thus decked the little hostage was safely restored by the elated chieftain to its mother. The heroine of this adventure afterwards married Captain Ells of Whitestown.

This policy of Judge White's triumphed, and he and his neighbors ever afterwards enjoyed the unswerving friendship of the Indians whose deeds of kindness to the settlers are matters of history. It was this incident that gained for the white people the entire confidence of their untutored neighbors, and perhaps no white man who lived among the Six Nations at this time shared their confidence more widely or exercised a more civilizing influence over them than Judge White. His active sympathies for them and neighborly offices dispensed to their tribal households, begot their full confidence in him as a man, a neighbor and a counselor.

There was one other incident, however, that perhaps entitled him to the above influence more than his implicit trust and confidence in the fairness of the Indian dealings, and this was the solution of a question as to his muscular fitness for their highest tribal distinction; and as a test of his manliness in this regard they challenged him on one occasion to wrestle with their champion athlete. In view of his prestige, he could not do otherwise than accept the challenge, and the trial came off in due time. The judge was past fifty six years of age and had been quite an athlete in his youth, but of late years had not had his hand in at trips, and besides he was inclined to be corpulent, weighing about two hundred and fifty pounds, though nearly six feet in height He was ever noted, however, for his alertness of mind and motion, and to this he was mainly indebted to a victory over his more agile combatant. Immediately after they had fairly clinched, the judge by a quick and skilful trip, succeeded in throwing the Indian. As he saw him falling, in order to prevent the necessity of ever making another trial of his powers or of receiving any new challenges, he managed to fall with his whole weight upon the Indian which drove all of the breath out of the poor fellow's body, and it was some moments before he could get up; at length he slowly arose, shrugged his shoulders with an emphatic, "Ugh! You good fellow, too much." The judge was never called on again for a test of his strength. The Oneida Indians were so pleased with his prowess, that at the suggestion of Skenandoah, Han Yerry and another Indian, called Good Peter, they, together with other chieftains, appeared at the residence of the judge, and with much pomp and mystery, he was duly adopted into the Oneida tribe of Indians, with all the rights of perpetual succession. One of the Oneida customs was their annual visit to Oneida lake and Fish creek for the tribal catch of Salmon; this Judge White attended on one occasion after his adoption to the tribe, and ever after that during his life a portion of the catch was set aside and sent him on account of his tribal privileges.

Hugh White was not a seeker of public position, but he was appointed justice of the peace; afterwards the governor appointed him one of the judges of the county, and he served several years as such judge with approbation and honor.

The town that he founded was the gateway to what was known as the garden lands of New York state, and the prominence of Judge White soon drew around him in the village the leading clergymen, lawyers and merchants, and it was well recognized for years that the bar of the town of Whitestown was the most distinguished bar west of Albany. Judge White was the master spirit of Whitestown, and at one period there were living no less than fifty five grandchildren of this Whitestown pioneer. He having apportioned his land into seven farms, five for his sons and two for his sons in law, dividing them in distances from his own home at the east end of the Whitestown Green according to the age of the child to whom they were given. He retained the title of these farms in himself until his death. They were located on what is now known as Hart's Hill He died on the 16th of April, 1812, and was buried in the Whitestown cemetery on an eminence overlooking the Mohawk Valley, and the town of his settlement; the following is the inscription from his tombstone:

"Here sleep the remains of
Who was born 5th Feb. 1733, at Middletown,
in Connecticut, and died April 16, 1812.
In the year 1784 he removed to Sadaquada,
now Whitestown, where he was the first white
inhabitant in the State of New York west of the
German settlement on the Mohawk.
He was distinguished for energy
and decision of character, and may be justly regarded
as a patriot who led the children of New England
into the wilderness.
As a magistrate, a citizen and a marl,
his character for truth and integrity was proverbial."

A hundred years after Judge White's settlement in Whitestown, the advent was deemed so important by the Oneida Historical Society that they erected in Junes, 1884, on the village green, a granite shaft to commemorate the first settlement of Whitestown by Hugh White and family.

The generation succeeding the pioneer's children were so occupied in overcoming the crudities of the wilderness that it does not become necessary for us, to take up their history with any particularity until the succeeding generation, when we find five grandsons of the pioneer worthy of especial mention in the county; one of them, the Hon. Hugh White.

White family members in Oneida County
White Family
White, Canvass
White, De Lancey P.
White, Fortune C.
White, Henry D.
White, Hugh
White, Hugh, Hon.
White, Moses T.
White, Philo
White, William M.
White, William P.
Young, William C.

History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912

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