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    ANCESTRY AND EARLY LIFE

    I was born in Palmyra, Somerset County, Maine, August 4th, 1821. Bloomfield, Me., which now forms a part of Skowhegan, was the birthplace of my father, Deacon John White. At the age of twenty-one he commenced life in the new township of Palmyra. At that time there were but twenty acres of trees felled on his land. The old farm is situated on the west side of a body of water which is called, as seen upon the large map of Somerset County, White’s Pond. On this farm he lived and labored fifty-one years. He has since spent one year and a half in Ohio, and seven years at Battle Creek, Michigan, where he now resides.LIFIN 9.1

    My father descended from one of the Pilgrims who came to America in the ship May Flower, and landed upon Plymouth Rock, December, 1620. On board that ship was the father of Peregrine White, who wore a pair of silver knee-buckles, such as may be seen in the picture of the venerable signers of the Declaration of Independence.LIFIN 9.2

    The knee-buckles worn by this man were afterward given to his son, Peregrine White, who was born on the passage to this country, with the request that they should be handed down in this line of the White family to the eldest son of each successive generation, whose name should be called John. My father had those buckles thirty years. They were as familiar to me in my boyhood days as the buttons upon my coat. He gave them to my brother John, who has passed them down to his son John, a young man of eighteen years.LIFIN 9.3

    My father possessed from his youth great physical strength, and activity of body and mind. With his own hands he cleared the heavy timber from his land. This revealed stones in the soil, which his own hands removed and placed into stone fence, to prepare the way for the plow. He toiled on for more than half a century, till the rock-bound soil was literally worn out, and much of the old farm lost its power to produce crops. At the age of seventy-four he left it and sought rest in the more congenial climate of the West.LIFIN 10.1

    His religious experience, of more than sixty years, has been marked with firmness and zeal, and yet with freedom from that bigotry which prevents investigation and advancement, and shuts out love for all who seek to worship God in spirit and in truth.LIFIN 10.2

    At the age of twenty-one he was sprinkled, and joined the Congregational church, but never felt satisfied that in being sprinkled he had received Christian baptism. Several years later, a Baptist minister came into that new part of the State and taught immersion. My father was immersed and became a Baptist deacon. Still later he embraced the views held by the Christian denomination, which were more liberal and scriptural than those of the Calvinistic Baptists of those days, and communed with that people. The Baptists called a special meeting. The minister and many of the church members were present. The minister invited several to open the meeting with prayer, but each in his turn wished to be excused. He waited. Finally, my father opened the meeting. They then excluded him for communing with the Christians. The minister made an effort to have some one close the meeting. No one moved. My father closed their meeting with prayer, and left them with feelings of love and tenderness. He soon joined the Christian church, and served them as deacon nearly forty years. During this entire period he was present at every conference meeting held by the church, excepting one, which, according to their custom, was held on Saturday afternoon of every fourth week.LIFIN 10.3

    As early as 1842 my father read with deep interest the lectures of William Miller upon the second coming of Christ. He has ever since that time cherished faith in the leading points of the advent doctrine. In 1860, with my good mother, he embraced the Sabbath, and dwells upon the evidences of the Bible Sabbath with clearness and much pleasure.LIFIN 11.1

    My mother is a granddaughter of Dr. Samuel Shephard, one of the first and most eminent Baptist ministers of New England. She possessed great firmness of constitution, a good mind, and a most amiable disposition. Her entire religious experience, for more than sixty years, has been marked with a meek and quiet spirit, devotion to the cause of Christ, and a consistent walk and godly conversation.LIFIN 11.2

    My venerable parents have reached the good old age of more than fourscore years. They keep house alone, and enjoy as much of life as their advanced age will allow. Yet each year visibly brings them nearer the grave. God grant that as they are being gently lowered to its embrace, they may sweetly ripen for immortality, to be given at the soon coming of Christ.LIFIN 11.3

    In my father’s family I stood in the center of nine children, four above me and four below me. But this family chain is now much worn, and nearly half its links are broken. The four above me in years, all live. All below me sleep. Time, toil and care have made their unmistakable impress on the remaining five.LIFIN 12.1

    My remaining brothers are both ministers, one of the M.E. Church, of Ohio, the other of the regular Baptist, of Vermont. Two sisters live in Maine. One brother is supposed to have lost his life by the Indians, in returning from California. Another sleeps beside a sister in Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, N.Y., while another brother, who died at the age of three years, rests in the old burying-ground in Palmyra, Maine.LIFIN 12.2

    My parents say I was an extremely feeble child. And, what added greatly to my difficulties, and cut off their hopes of my life, when less than three years old, I had what the doctors called worm fever, resulting in fits, which turned my eyes and nearly destroyed my sight. I am reported to have been extremely cross-eyed - not naturally, but from affection of the nerves, - a feeble, nervous, partially-blind boy. These are sufficient reasons why I could not enjoy the common advantages of school. And not until I was sixteen years old, when my health and strength greatly improved, and my eyes became quite natural, could I read a single verse in the Testament without resting my eyes. I felt keenly the fact that I was behind my school-mates in education. And with the poor advantages of those times I could do but little toward making up the almost total loss of ten years. I grew rapidly, and at eighteen was ahead of my years in size and strength. This added to my embarrassment as I entered the Academy at St. Albans, Me., at the age of nineteen. I could not then work a simple problem in single rule of three, and I could not tell a verb from an adverb or an adjective, and was deficient in the other common branches. My friends advised me to turn my attention to farming, and not think of seeking for an education. But I could not take their advice.LIFIN 12.3

    At the close of the term of twelve weeks, I received from the preceptor, C.F. Allen, a certificate of my qualifications to teach the common branches, and the winter following taught school. This required close study eighteen hours of each twenty-four. A victory was gained. Much of my time previous to this I had viewed myself as nearly worthless in the world, and regretted my existence. But now I was beginning to hope that I had powers to become a man. No privation nor hardship formed an obstacle in my way. My father gave me my time at nineteen, and a suit of clothes. All I asked of my parents in addition to this was three dollars to pay my tuition, and six days’ rations of bread to take with me each Monday morning for three months, as I should walk five miles to the school.LIFIN 13.1

    At the close of my first term of school-teaching I again attended school at St. Albans five weeks, then shouldered my pack and walked to the Penobscot river, forty miles, to offer myself as a raw hand in a saw mill. In the mill I cut my ankle, which resulted in permanent weakness and occasional painful lameness in my left foot. For twenty-six years I have been unable to bear my weight upon my left heel.LIFIN 13.2

    At the end of four months I returned home. I had lost much time in consequence of the severe wound in my ankle joint, and after paying my board during the time lost, I had but thirty dollars and a scanty amount of worn clothing. In order to be qualified to teach a school where I could get first-class wages, it was necessary for me to attend school. I therefore immediately packed up my books and humble apparel for the school at Reedfield, Me., then favorably known as being under the control and support of the Episcopal Methodists. During that term my object was to thoroughly qualify myself to teach the common branches. Besides these, I took up Natural Philosophy, Algebra, and Latin. At the close of that term I had conquered all the Arithmetics within my reach, was regarded as a good grammarian, was prepared to teach penmanship, and was told by my preceptor that I could fit for college in one year.LIFIN 13.3

    My thirst for education increased, and my plans were laid to take a college course and pay my way, if labor, economy, and study would accomplish it. I had but little else to thank but God and my own energies for what advancement I had made. At Reedfield I wore old clothes, while my class-mates wore new, and lived three months on corn-meal pudding prepared by myself, and a few raw apples, while they enjoyed the conveniences and luxuries of the boarding house.LIFIN 14.1

    With the close of this term, also closed my school studies. I have attended high school, in all, twenty-nine weeks, and the entire cost of tuition, books, and board, has not exceeded fifty dollars. My apology for being so definite in this part of my narrative, is a desire to help those young men who wish to obtain an education while suffering under the unfriendly influences of poverty and pride. A poor boy may obtain an education by calling to his aid industry, economy, and application to his books. Such an one will prize his education, and be likely to make a good use of it. While the young man who looks to his father’s purse, puts on fine clothes, spends much of his time in fashionable calls, and acts the part of the spendthrift, will not get a thorough education, and will probably make a poor use of what he does obtain.LIFIN 14.2

    The following winter, covering a part of 1840 and 1841, I taught a large school, and also gave lessons in penmanship in two districts. And with my winter’s earnings in my pocket, I returned home with a firm purpose to pursue my studies.LIFIN 15.1

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