Biography of Col. Issac White (1889)
To the Knox County Historical Society,
Memoir of Colonel Isaac White, of Knox County, Indiana
Naturally the advent of an enterprising man - handsome, brave, well-bred, and full of spirit, such as young White was at this time -was calculated to create some little excitement in any village of a sparsely settled country; and so it did at Vincennes. He won his way at once to the hearts of everybody whose goodwill was worth having. Not only was he welcomed by the elders of the village, but he was a special favorite with the young ladies. In Mrs. Hayden's unpublished notes, before referred to, the following statement occurs regarding the family of Judge George Leech, then living at Vincennes, and particularly of his eldest daughter, Sallie, who soon became young White's wife, Mrs. Hayden's statement is substantially a repetition of the artless recital of her mother, formerly Miss Amy Leech, a sister of Sallie, and the wife of Hon. John Marshall, for many years the President of the Bank of Illinois at Shawneetown:
"The eldest daughter, Sallie," Mrs. Hayden says, "was now approaching a marriageable age, and her beauty and loveliness of manner attracted the attention and won the affections of a young Virginian, who had recently moved to their vicinity, Mr. Isaac White. Like the natives of his State, he had a courtly, aristocratic bearing, which some of the country people, in their inaccurate dialect, called pompous. He was quite a beau, and considered the best prize in the matrimonial field at that time. But while he rode with, and visited, and went to the simply merry-makings of the day with ______ ______ and other gay and dashing girls, it was not from among them that he cared to selected a wife. * * * He required in the one who should be the companion of a lifetime the tender graces of a truer womanhood. * * * Many were surprised that this modest unassuming girl should have won the love of so gallant a young man, or that, with his aspirations, he should have been willing to marry a poor girl. It was the source of gratification to the parents that their sweet wild-wood blossom had made so excellent a match, and they accordingly set to work to do the best they possibly could in the momentous affair."
Mrs. Hayden says further:
"A wedding dinner was prepared, to which most all the people of the surrounding country were invited; but mother smilingly added, when narrating this (alluding to the smallness of the population), that the guests were not very numerous after all. I do not know who officiated, but presume Judge Decker, because when my mother was married, a few years later, grandfather with to have him perform the ceremony; but she refused, preferring her own father, who was then a judge of probate."
The gentleman, Judge George Leech, into whose family Isaac White thus entered, had emigrated to Vincennes from Louisville, Kentucky, with his brother Francis and other relatives and friends, in the year 1784, and they had all selected homesteads in Knox County; but after a three-years sojourn, and owning to Indian depredations and barbarities (Judge Leech having his house burned over his head by them), they all, with the exception of Francis Leech, who had died, moved back to Louisville. Nine years later, in 1796, Judge Leech again emigrated to Vincennes; but the governor of the Northwest Territory refused him permission to reoccupy the land on which he had formerly lived, although it was still vacant, and he was therefore compelled to occupy the land which ad belonged to his brother. Afterwards, when General Wm. Henry Harrison was appointed governor of Indiana Territory, Judge Leech was granted 100 acres more, and this tract, which he gave as a marriage present to his daughter, and which is now a part of what is known as the White-Hall Farm in Knox County, was the nucleus of a very considerable estate, which Col White acquired after his marriage.
Like all pioneers in a new county, Isaac White and his wife had plenty of hardships to encounter; but they had also the sympathy and friendship of their neighbors - characteristics that are so often met among people who have left the comforts of civilization to brave the privations of new life in the forest or on the prairie. An illustration of the friendly help which the settlers in a new country are so ready to give one another when necessary is shown in the fact that on one occasion when the home of the Whites was burned to the ground, their friends and neighbors from all parts of the country, with one accord "pitched in," to use the vernacular of the West, and in a few weeks reared them a larger, more substantial, and altogether more comfortable home (of hewn logs, be it understood) than the one that had been burned. In this house the eldest child of the young couple, George W. L. White, was born; here they gravely struggled year after year for the advancement of their earthly interests, not forgetting their spiritual ones; and here they enjoyed that happiness which, whether in the log-house or in the palace, can come only form love and the exercise of virtue and industry. They were reckoned among the best people of the Territory, and their friendliness of character, charity, and public spirit were conspicuous traits. Among others, they became friends of Governor Harrison and his family, and the friendship thus begun was transmitted to their children.
A striking evidence of this friendship of the Governor is shown in his appointment of Mr. White as Agent of the United States at the Salt Works on Saline Creek, in Illinois, contiguous to the present village of Equality, in Gallatin County. The following is a copy of this appointment:
Among the persons employed by Isaac White, in his capacity of Government agent of these salt works was John Marshall, a man of the most sterling character, and who afterwards, as a banker, acquired a great reputation both in Indiana and Illinois. In the following year their connection became closer still- Marshall having married Mrs. White's younger sister, Amy Leech. The following reference to this interesting event occurs in Mrs. Hayden's notes, before mentioned:
Mrs. Hayden has unconsciously fallen into a slight anachronism in referring here to Isaac White as "Colonel." He had not as yet reached that honor, but have had, a little more than a month before, been appointed a captain in the Knox County militia, as the following copy of his commission will show:
"William Henry Harrison, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Indiana Territory, to Isaac white, Esq., of the County of Knox, Greeting:
How long the Salt-Works Agency lasted cannot be stated: it is presumed not very long, however, for, from the papers now in the hands of Colonel White's descendants, it would seem probably that, under a statute of the United States then in existence - the act of Congress of March 3, 1803 - which authorized the leasing of Salt Springs belonging to the Government, Col. White had in 1807 acquire a private interest in the Salt Works, which he held until shortly before his death, finally disposing of it, with other business interests, to Wilkes, Taylor & Col., and returning to Vincennes. As lessee of the Springs, he acquired considerable wealth, the manufacture of salt being quite lucrative, and the celebrated Kanawha salt springs in Virginia not being then discovered so that the Illinois Works supplied the whole Territory.
While residing at these Salt Works Colonel White had two daughters born to him - Harriet Grandison, on June 12, 1808, and Juliet Greenville, on July 30, 1810. While there, also, he was appointed a colonel, probably in the militia of Illinois Territory, which was organized under the act of Congress of February 3, 1809. The commission of Colonel White is unfortunately lost, but the evidence of his having received it is conclusive, and, indeed, undisputed.
An incident occurred some time after his appointment as colonel which shows at once the tenderness of the love he bore to his family and his coolness and courage. It seem that, unlike most Virginians of that age, he was morally opposed to dueling; but, like many men of the present day, he felt that occasions may arise when that mode of settling grievances is alone possible. Such an occasion actually arose in his life, and the preparations he made to meet it are partly told in the following letter to his wife, written a day or two after a brief visit to his family, who were then at Vincennes:
"United States Saline, May, 23, 1811.
The meeting which Col. White speaks of in the above letter actually took place, according to agreement between the parties, at a place now called Union Springs, in Kentucky, opposite Shawneetown; but the result of it was rather different from what he expected. Both parties were on time; but when the seconds finally announced that the weapons selected were horse-pistols and the distance six feet, the challenging party protest that such an arrangement was murderous, and gave no chance for life on either side. Colonel White's friends and himself, however, were determined, and insisted on the arrangement, when the challenger left the field, whole in body, and no doubt less included to offer challenges thereafter.
It will be noticed in the letter of Colonel White, and also in his will, which is hereto appended, that he speaks of his slaves, and advises his wife to purchase others - a circumstance that at first blush appears a little singular, in view of the fact that, by the celebrated ordinance of 1787, slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, was forever prohibited in the Northwest Territory, or in any Territories or States to be formed out of it. It is an historical fact, however, that notwithstanding this great law, which is an enduring monument to the wisdom and humanity of the legislative body that enacted it, slavery continued to exist in the Northwest Territory, and especially in Indiana, for many years. Indeed, we find from Dillon's History of Indiana that the first legislative convention called by Governor Harrison in 1802 was mainly for the purpose of petitioning Congress to revoke the ordinance of 1787 so far as it related to slavery - a petition which no doubt was fully approved of by the Governor, but which, after an able report from the illustrious Jno. Randolph, of Virginia, against it, was emphatically denied. Even when it became impossible, as it did afterwards, to enforce slavery n Indiana, many Negroes were held under indenture for long terms of years, which practically amounted to slavery, and many, from mere habit, or by their own consent continued substantially in that condition. One of these latter cases Colonel White refers to in his letter.
Shortly after Colonel White's sale of his interest in the Illinois Salt works and his return to Vincennes, he had been initiated and passed as an apprentice and fellow-craft mason in the Masonic Lodge at Vincennes, then under the jurisdicti5on of the Grant Lodge of Kentucky, and on the 18th of September, 1811, he was raised to the degree of a Master Mason by his friend, the celebrated Colonel Jo. Daviess, Grand Master of Kentucky, who had come to Vincennes to offer his services to Gen. Harrison, in an expected campaign against the confederation of Indians which Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, were industriously endeavoring to form as a means of preventing the further advance of white settlements. The troubles arising out of the machinations of these two chiefs had then reached a point when active measures by the Territorial authorities became imperative, and Harrison, determining that an invasion of the Indian country was necessary, was busy with his preparations therefore. In the force that was to be raised for this expedition, Colonel White had earnestly requested to have his regiment included, or at least as much of it as could be readily made available; but Gen. Harrison, felling that, with the regular troops he had ordered to Vincennes, enough militia was already on hand to serve his purposes, and indeed not being certain that any severe fighting would be necessary, felt compelled to decline the request. Colonel White was not the man, however, to give up, for this reason, his determination to take part in the expedition. With the consent of his friend Col. Daviess, he enrolled himself as a private in the battalion of dragoons which Harrison had placed under that officer's command, and when the expedition started, on the 26th of September - eight days after he had been made a Master Mason - White accompanied it.
An affecting incident in connection with the enlistment of Colonel White was an exchange of swords between him and Colonel Daviess - an exchange to which Fate gave an awful solemnity when, afterwards, on the field of Tippecanoe, the weapon of White was found buckled on the belt of Daviess, and the sword of Daviess was held in the iron grip of his friend.
It will be remembered that the expedition of General Harrison, which culminated in the victory of Tippecanoe, left Vincennes on the 26th of September, 1811, and that on the afternoon of the 6th of November following the little army encamped on the banks of Burnet's Creek, seven miles north of the present city of Lafayette, and a short distance from the Prophet's town, where a large body of Indians were supposed to be on the war-path. The battle began early on the morning of the 7th by a sudden attack of the Indians on that portion of the camp were Daviess and his battalion were stationed. Part of the fire of the Indians, proceeding from a clump of trees some distance in front, was do deadly that Daviess was ordered to dislodge them, which, at the head of a detachment of twenty picked men from his force, hw at once proceeded gallantly to do; but, unhappily, his ardor was too great, and the little force with him, which included Colonel White, was driven back, Daviess and his friend both being mortally wounded they died upon the battle-field and were buried side by side - the temporary inequali6ty of rank, of which the noble nature of both men had hardly suffered them to be conscious, being thus forever removed. The exact spot where these two gallant men were slain is shown upon the plan of the battle on the next page.
At a public installation of the officers of a Masonic Lodge at Evansville many year ago, Hon. John Law, in a closing address to the Lodge, made the following reference to the death of these two brave men, which, though inaccurate in its statement that Daviess came to Vincennes in command of a corps of mounted Kentucky rangers, and that Colonel White commanded a regiment at the battle Tippecanoe, is sufficiently interesting to quote in this place:
Lieutenant George Leech, the brother-in-law of Colonel White, and who was a participant of the battle, is also authority for the statement that Daviess and White were buried side by side, under an oak tree which he had marked, but which an inability to revisit the battle-ground had afterwards prevented him from permanently identifying.
Colonel White was in the 36th year of his age when he died. He was widely known, and universally beloved. Liberal and charitable - not the least bit penurious or avaricious - he yet amassed a considerable fortune for that day, his lands amounting to several thousand acres in extent, and his personal property being not insignificant. His character was without reproach - treachery and cowardice, deceit, and all forms of meanness, being hateful to him. A loving husband and father, a kind ad steadfast friend, a good and enterprising citizens, and a patriotic can gallant soldier - he, like hundreds of others of the pioneers of Indiana, who settled within her boarders to hew their way to fame and fortune, has left a name which should not be permitted to be soon forgotten. This, indeed, is not likely to happen; for two great States - Indiana and Illinois - in order to perpetuate his memory, have, as will appear from the historical notices below, given his name to two prosperous counties within their respective borders.
He left a widow, who in 1816 married again, he second husband being Samuel Marshall, the brother of John Marshall; but she died three years after, in 1819. He also left three children - George Washington Leech White, afterwards a prominent citizens of Indiana, who, by commission from Governor Coles, of Illinois, served as lieutenant-colonel and aide-de-camp to Major-General Willis Hargrave in the Black-Hawk War [Note: The author has the wrong governor at this point.]; Harriet Grandison White, who married Mr. Albert Gallatin Sloo, at White Hall farm, in Knox County; and Juliet Greenville White, who married Mr. James Huffman. From Colonel White's son, who married Miss Eliza Griffin Fauntleroy, of Kentucky, are descended Colonel George Fauntleroy White, now a citizen of Knox County (who has participated in two wards, the Mexican War and the late War of the Rebellion), and Dr. Isaac T. White, for many years a prominent citizens of Evansville, Indiana. From the eldest daughter of Colonel White are descended, among others, Major A. G. Sloo, now clerk of the Knox County Circuit Court, his brother Thos. Sloo, a citizen of the same county, and his sisters. Sarah E. Sloo, who married Col. Francis E. McIlvaine, Mary Frances Sloo, who married her cousin, col. Geo. F. White, before mentioned, Juliet White Sloo, who married Hon. R. J. Corwine, and Harriet White Sloo, who is still unmarried - the father of all these being Colonel Albert G. Sloo, who in his day, as a man of immense enterprise ad at one time of great wealth, was known from one end of the United States to the other.
The following notices concerning Colonel White will perhaps give some further idea of his standing at the time of his death:
From the Indiana Gazetteer of 1849, page 106.- "Battle of Tippecanoe." - "Among the slain, who were much lamented, were Maj. Daviess and Col. Owen, of Ky.; Capt. Spencer, and his lieutenants, McMahan and Berry; Capt. Warrick and Col. White; then superintendent of the United States Salines lands, near Shawneetown; and Thos. Randolph, Esq., former Attorney-General of the Territory. The two latter served merely as privates on this occasion."
From Dillon's History of Indiana, page 471.-"At the Battle of Tippecanoe the loss of the army under the command of General Harrison amounted to 37 killed in the action, and 151 wounded, of which number 25 afterwards died of their wounds. Colonel Joseph Hamilton Daviess, * * * and Colonel Isaac White, were among those who were killed or mortally wounded in the battle."
From General Harrison's letter to the Indiana House of Representatives, quoted at page 477 of Dillon's History of Indiana.-"I cannot believe that you have the smallest tincture of that disposition, which certainly elsewhere prevails, to disparage the conduct of the militia, and to deprive them of their share of the laurels which have been so dearly purchased by the blood of some of our best and bravest citizens. Lo! I can never suppose that it was your intention to insult the shades of Spencer, McMahan, and Berry, by treating with contempt the corps which their deaths have contributed to immortalize; nor will I believe that a Daviess, a White, a Randolph and a Mahan have been so soon forgotten, or that the corps to which they belonged, and which faithfully performed its duty, was deemed unworthy of your notice. The omission was certainly occasioned by a mistake; but it is a mistake by which, if not rectified, the feelings of a whole country, and part of another, now abounding with widows and orphans, the unhappy consequences of the late action, will be wounded and insulted."
From the Indiana Gazetteer of 1849, p. 433.-"White County, Indiana, organize din 1834, was named in honor of Col. Isaac white, of Gallatin County, Illinois, who volunteered his services as a private in the Tippecanoe campaign, and fell at the side of Major Daviess in the battle."
From the Black Hawk and Mexican War Record, prepared and published under authority of the 32d General Assembly, by Isaac H. Elliott, Adjutant-General of the State of Illinois, page 320.-" The Prophet's attack on General Harrison with a force of over 700 men, under cover of darkness, and his ultimate defeat and flight, with a serious loss of killed and wounded is a part of the history of country which concerns us only, as our Illinois troops participated in the victory. This battle, which took place on the 6th day of November, 1811, cost the lives of 37 killed outright and 25 mortally wounded, who afterwards died, and these were the very flower of the young settlers of Indiana and Illinois Territories. Among the killed in the battle was Captain Isaac White-for whom White county (Illinois) was afterwards named- who commanded a company of Illinois troops raised in Saline County, of which we possess no roll. Here also fell a Major Joe Daviess, whose name is also perpetuated in the county of that name; and of the others whose names are not recorded-nor have they been perpetuated-we can only say they did their duty bravely, and the sacrifice of their own lives saved those of hundreds of women and children who might otherwise have fallen ready victims to the cruelty of the vicious savages."
From an address delivered by Jno. Lagow, Esq., an honorable and respected citizen of seventy years' standing, at the Old Setters' Meeting at Vincennes, May 30, 1878.-"I have seen Tecumseh often, and his brother, the Prophet. They were shrewd Indians. I knew many of the men that fought at the battle of Tippecanoe who were badly wounded; for instance, old Tom White, a very clever old gentleman. He was shot through the breast and had a silk handkerchief drawn through it frequently to cleanse it before it healed. He got well and lived many years after. * * * He, too, was the man who killed Popendick, a very bad Indian at Fort Harrison, who had threatened his life if he ever saw him outside of the fort."
Mr. Lagow further said; "Tom White's brother, Colonel Isaac White, a very brave and noble man, the father of George W. L. White, and father-in-law of the late Albert G. Sloo, Esq., was killed in the battle of Tippecanoe."
Letter of Judge Jno. Law to Isaac T. White, dated July 19, 1867.-
"Evansville, Ind., July 19, 1867.
The following is a copy of a will of Colonel White, which, giving as it does, some indication of the extent of his possessions, and conveying indirect information concerning the existence of slavery in Indiana, is of both personal and historical interest. In connection with this will there are two circumstances, who which special attention may not inappropriate be called: The first is that it was written by Colonel White himself, which, considering its lawyer-like accuracy and precision, gives some idea of his education and business intelligence; the second is that it was written on the same day as was the letter to his wife, hereinbefore quoted-a fact which, remembering that he was on the eve of a duel, that he had every reason to believe would result fatally to himself, show his coolness and perfect self-possession:
George Fauntleroy White (grandson of Col. Isaac White). 1889. Sketch of the Life of Colonel Isaac White, of Vincennes, Indiana. Killed at the Battle of Tippecanoe, November 7, 1811. Washington: Gibson Bros., Printers and Bookbinders.
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