HON. JONATHAN WHITE, for sixty years a member of the Plymouth county bar and a citizen of note in what is now Brockton, Plymouth Co., Mass., was born Aug. 22, 1819, in that part of Randolph called East Randolph (now Holbrook), Norfolk Co., Mass., son of Jonathan and Abigail (Holbrook) White. The Whites have lived in this section of Massachusetts from the time of the earliest settlements, and the members of the family in every generation have upheld the honorable name. Mr. White’s lineage from the immigrant ancestor follows:
Thomas White, probably from England, was in Weymouth as early as 1635, a member of the church there. He was admitted a freeman of Massachusetts Colony March 3, 1635-36. His name appears upon the earliest records of Weymouth. He was many years one of the selectmen of the town, and was often chosen on important committees. He was in command of a military company and was representative in the General Court in 1637, 1640, 1657 and 1670. His age is stated in a deposition in 1659 as about sixty years. His will was proved Aug. 28, 1679. His children living at date of his will were:
- Joseph (married Lydia Rogers);
- Hannah (married Capt. John Baxter); Samuel, born in 1642 (married Mary Dyer);
- Thomas; and
- Ebenezer, born in 1648 (married Hannah Phillips).
Thomas White (2), born in Weymouth, married Mary, daughter of Matthew Pratt, and settled in Braintree. He was made a freeman in 1681, and had a high social position. He died April 11, 1706. His will was proved May 16, 1706. His children were: Thomas married Mehetabel Adams; Mary married Thomas Holbrook; Samuel, born Sept. 19, 1676; Joseph, and Ebenezer, born in 1683.
Joseph White, of Braintree, married. Dec. 6, 1704, Sarah Bailey, daughter of Thomas and Ruth (Porter) Bailey. He lived in that part of Braintree that became Randolph, and later the town of Holbrook. His house occupied the present site of the Congregational church. He died in 1740. His children were:
- Joseph, born Oct. 1, 1706;
- Benjamin, born March 18, 1709;
- John, born Feb. 28, 1710;
- Sarah, born Feb. 17, 1712;
- Daniel, born April 18, 1714;
- Benjamin (2), born July 7, 1716;
- David, born Aug. 12, 1719;
- Sarah (2), born Jan. 12, 1720-21;
- Hannah, born Jan. 28, 1723-24; and
- Mary, born June 11, 1727.
Capt. John White, born Feb. 28, 1710, in East Randolph, married in 1748, Ruth, born Dec. 1, 1729, daughter of David and Dorothy (Blanchard) Thayer. He passed his life in what became East Randolph, engaged in agricultural pursuits. He died in June, 1789. He had fourteen children.
Caleb White, son of Capt. John, was born March 17, 1762, in East Randolph, where he was a large landowner and engaged in farming. He was one of the most prominent men of the day in his district. He died in that town Nov. 7, 1828, aged sixty-six years. He married Mehitable Randall, of East Randolph, and their children were: Jonathan, who is mentioned below; Luther, who was engaged in farming in East Randolph (now Holbrook), where he died; and Elipha, a Congregational minister, who removed to South Carolina, where he died.
Capt. Jonathan White, son of Caleb, was born March 4, 1791, in East Randolph (now Holbrook), Mass., where he died March 28, 1879, aged eighty-eight years. For many years he successfully followed shoe manufacturing in his native town, where he also was extensively engaged in agricultural pursuits, taking great pride in the cultivation of his land, and in his orchards. He was one of the earliest shoe manufacturers anywhere in this section. In early life he was a captain in the militia and was ever afterward familiarly known to both old and young by his military title. In political faith he was an old-line Whig until the formation of the Republican party, when he became a stanch supporter of its principles, although he never aspired to nor cared for public office. Rugged in constitution and of an industrious nature, he continued active in the conduct of his business affairs until within a few years of his death, when on account of failing health he was compelled to relinquish his interest in affairs generally. In manner he was reserved and dignified, though kindly and affable, and of an even, quiet temperament, never making use of profane or harsh words under even the most trying circumstances.
Captain White married (first) Betsey Jane Wales, of Holbrook, and they had one daughter, Betsey Jane, who married Luther French. Captain White’s (second) marriage was to Abigail Holbrook, daughter of Deacon Elisha and Sarah (Thayer) Holbrook, of Braintree, Mass. She died at the advanced age of over ninety years. To this union were born six children, as follows:
- Eliza Ann, who married Samuel Vining, of Weymouth, died in Holbrook;
- Jonathan is mentioned below;
- Sallie married (first) Luther French, of East Randolph, and (second) John Adams, of Holbrook, where she died;
- Adoniram went in 1859 to California, where he conducted a ranch for several years, finally returning to Holbrook, where he was engaged in shoe manufacturing, and where he died;
- Caleb settled in California, where he was very successfully engaged in ranching until his death, which occurred in 1905;
- Helen married Lemuel S. Whitcomb, of Holbrook, where he was engaged in shoe manufacturing and where she now resides, a widow.
Jonathan White, son of Capt. Jonathan, received his elementary education in the common schools and various academies and prepared for college at Phillips Andover Academy, which he entered in 1837, graduating from that institution in 1840 at the head of his class. The same year he entered Yale, whence he was graduated in 1844 with second honors in a class of over one hundred. He was urged to enter the ministry or to prepare for teaching and go back to Yale as an instructor, his attainments having attracted favorable notice there. In the fall of 1844 he took up the study of law at Harvard, where he remained two years, also pursuing his law studies in the office of Richard H. Dana, of Boston, for one year. He was admitted to the bar at Boston in August, 1847, and after spending two years there settled in North Bridgewater (now Brockton), opening an office in a small building of his own, where the Arcade now stands. For a number of years he practiced alone, later forming an association with the late Charles W. Sumner, under the firm name of White & Sumner. In 1890 he formed a partnership with the late Warren Goddard, becoming senior member of the firm of White & Goddard.
Though over seventy years of age at the time he entered into this partnership he continued in active practice for about four years, retiring in 1894 on account of failure in the faculty of hearing. In 1875 he had removed into his own business block, at Main street and Maple avenue.
Much might be said concerning Mr. White’s career as a lawyer. His services of a public nature, which began almost with his residence in North Bridgewater, speak for his ability and the confidence he won among all classes. That faith in his intention and its fulfillment had its inception in honorable and conscientious service which gained him the good will of his clients as well as their belief in his powers, a trust which he justified in every responsibility ever intrusted to him. He built up a very large general practice, in spite of the fact that for years his activity in public affairs would have precluded anything else in the life of an average worker, and his work was consistently indicative of the high personal and professional standards he has ever maintained.
Mr. White is still interested in town affairs. In his professional capacity he served frequently as town counsel for a long time previous to the incorporation of the city, and he was the first city solicitor of Brockton, resigning from that office in 1883. His knowledge of municipal law made his services very valuable to the community in those positions and has been demonstrated upon a number of occasions when his opinion has been asked, both in his work as a public official and in his private functions. In important matters he was frequently consulted by neighboring towns and corporations and by individuals to obtain his legal opinion, which everywhere was recognized as entitled to great consideration; and by both bench and bar he was regarded as a sound and logical thinker and terse and effective writer and speaker.
On March 19, 1851, Mr. White was appointed a justice of the peace, and on March 15, 1859, a justice of the peace and quorum throughout the Commonwealth. In 1867 he served as town auditor, and in 1868 as selectman. When the public library project was opened, in 1857, he was appointed one of the committee of nine who were to find a home for the library and establish rules and regulations. The authority given to this committee was later revoked and the matter was in abeyance for a time, but after the Civil war, in 1867, another committee of nine was appointed for the same work, and Mr. White was again a member. His wide knowledge of literature and wisdom in discerning the taste of the patrons, as well as his judgment in such matters, made him a valuable worker always for the library, and his long service as trustee showed how completely the people trusted him and how highly he regarded their confidence. He was chairman of the library committee for several years.
Naturally he was interested in the question of public education, to which many years of his best efforts were given, with such results that his name is regarded as the synonym of all that stands for progress in public education. His work in connection with the establishment of the high school was particularly notable. The first efforts toward that end were made in 1849, and though renewed from year to year nothing definite was done until 1864, when a committee was appointed, including Mr. White, to consider what measures the town should take in the matter. They reported May 30, 1864, in favor of establishing a public high school, which up to the present has taken precedence of all the academic schools in the city. In 1866 the building formerly occupied by the private academy of S. D. Hunt was secured and leased, but in 1871 the high school was moved to a central location on School street, and later to the Whitman building, on Main street. These changes were made necessary by the growth of the school, and Mr. White was very active in accomplishing them as well as other movements necessary to keep the public schools up to modern standards. His interest in the welfare of the high school was continuous, and he made frequent visits to the school, keeping himself well informed on the studies pursued, the methods adopted, the textbooks and appliances. His interest in the scientific branches was shown by his presentation to the school of a fine microscope, with specimens for class use, etc. Mr. White became a member of the town school committee in 1869. in which year it was voted to abolish school districts, a movement in which he took an active part, as well as in the erection of larger buildings, the grading of pupils, and other important changes which have since proved very beneficial. The appreciation with which the pupils regard Mr. White’s services may be judged from the action of the high school alumni, who in 1902 secured a fine portrait of him for the high school building, where it hangs in a conspicuous place. He was on the school committee in all about twenty years, and for several years served as chairman.
Aside from his services to the municipality Mr. White has taken an interest in the wider affairs of the people, in 1864 and 1866 representing the town in the General Court, and in 1869, 1877, 1878 and 1879 in the State Senate. His activity in the discussion and settlement of various questions of especial interest to his constituents placed him among the most respected members of the Assembly, and during his last three years in the State Senate he was a member of the committee on Judiciary, the last year serving as chairman of that body. His political sentiment has always been in favor of the Republican party, in which his standing as a counselor and worker is very high.
Mr. White’s professional reputation is an enviable one. He is esteemed among the members of the legal fraternity as only a lawyer well versed in the tenets of his profession could be. His practice was always extensive, and he has been widely known in the courts, having conducted many cases to successful issue before the Superior and Supreme courts. His literary attainments and interest in science, his polished English and ability as a speaker, his honest convictions and unequivocal position on all questions, have made him a citizen whose standing in the community is that of a gentleman whose acquirements and accomplishments are a credit and a benefit to his fellow men at all times. He has never lost his taste and love for reading, enjoying the best in the old literature and keeping well informed on modern happenings and science, as well as the effect of modern ideas and progress upon the profession to which all his active years were devoted. His principal diversion for over twenty years has been the study of vegetable histology, and his beautiful microscope, a large and powerful instrument, has afforded him much pleasure during his leisure hours. In this connection he has made a few zoological experiments, but plant life has chiefly occupied his attention. Until a few years ago Mr. White was accustomed to take long walks, and he still enjoys his daily stroll, though he is past ninety. The ninetieth anniversary of his birth was celebrated by a dinner at the home of his sister, Mrs. Whitcomb, of Holbrook, and on that occasion he remarked: “I want to live to be as old as Methuselah; I am enjoying good health, spend much time in the open air and keep in touch with events nearly as closely as I did years ago.” Longevity is a family characteristic. Mr. White upon his removal to North Bridgewater became a member of the First Congregational Church and Parish in that place, and thereafter was an active and influential member and an habitual attendant at the church, till, in late years, his difficulty in hearing led to a discontinuance of the habit.
On May 4, 1848, Mr. White married Nancy M. Adams, of Holbrook, daughter of John and Mehitable (Faxon) Adams. She died March 26, 1883, in Brockton, the mother of four daughters, namely:
- Alice A. married William Keith, of Brockton, and has two children, Alice and Bessie;
- Mary died in 1856;
- Annie H. and
- Winnifred F. are at home.
The family residence is at No. 14 Maple avenue.
- Thomas Holbrooke came from England with his family, and settled in the northern part of Weymouth, on tide water, a locality which has long borne the name of “Old Spain.”
- Capt. John Holbrook, born in 1617, married (second) Elizabeth; lived in the north part of Weymouth.
- Samuel Holbrook, born about 1654; lived in Weymouth; married (second) Lydia.
- Deacon John Holbrook, born April 29, 1690, in Weymouth, married Sarah; settled in Braintree.
- Col. John Holbrook, born June 20, 1745, in Braintree, married Aug. 30, 1766, Anna Wild, born in August, 1749; lived in South Braintree.
- Elisha Holbrook, born Aug. 21, 1775, married in 1793 Sarah Thayer, born Sept. 24, 1776; inherited the homestead and was a deacon in the church in Randolph.