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Mordecai Morris White
OHIO has been especially honored in the character and
career of her active men of industry. In every section have been found men born to leadership in various vocations, men who have dominated because of superior
intelligence, natural endowment, and force of character. These reflections are suggested by the career of one who forged his way to the front ranks of the favored few, and who, by a strong inherent force and superior business ability, directed and controlled by judgment of a high order, stood for several decades one of the leading men of the southern part of the State. No citizen of Cincinnati achieved more honorable mention or occupied a more conspicuous place in business circles than Morris White, whose earthly career is ended, but whose influence still pervades the lives of men, the good which he did having been too far-reaching to be measured in metes and bounds. Success is methodical and consecutive and though the rise of Mr. White may have seemed unusually rapid, it will be found that his success was attained by the same normal methods and means—determined application of mental and physical resources along a rightly defined line. To offer in a work of this province an adequate resume of the career of this good man would be impossible, but, with others of those who have conserved the civic and commercial progress of Cincinnati and this section of Ohio, we may well note the more salient points that marked his life and labors.
M. M. White was descended from sterling old Quaker stock and in him were exemplified to a notable degree those qualities which characterized the founders of that noble religious band. The White family is of English origin, the emigrant ancestor having come to this country sometime in the first half of the seventeenth century. They first settled in Virginia, where, on July 4, 1649, Henry White obtained two hundred acres of land "lying in Blackwater, upon the eastern branch, poynting up to Upper Chipoaks, in the county of James Cittie." In 1663, he obtained a patent for two hundred additional acres on the south side of the Carolina River, and a few years later eighteen hundred acres in the country of Accomak; he also, together with Peter Gill, received a grant of a thousand acres in Charles City County. About 1663, because of the guarantee of full religious liberty in "the country lying south of Virginia," and having known much of persecution because of their conscientious religious principles, many Quakers, the Whites among them, moved southward to the province of Carolina, where they felt they could live their lives in Christian liberty and the pursuit of peace. Among these ancestors of Morris White who settled in the Carolina colony, some were slave owners and his great-great-grandfather, Thomas White, owned extensive plantations and many slaves in Perquimans County, North Carolina. He was a man of enterprise and in 1720 he erected a flouring mill near Belvedere. He died in 1761, leaving his estate to a number of heirs.
The lineage of the grandmother and great-grandmother was of distinguished families; one, Francis Toms, was a member of the Provincial Council of North Carolina and was prominent in other official relations in the early history of the province. The subject's father, John T. White, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, January 17, 1801, and his death occurred at Raysville, Indiana, July 31, 1879. He married into an early and noted colonial family, the Morris, whose lineage is also traced back to English origin; his wife, Susan Morris, was born in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, August 18, 1809. John T. White and Susan Morris were married on February 22,1829, and on the third day of the following February the subject of this sketch was born. That same year, 1830, the family removed from North Carolina to Washington County, Indiana, where the young mother died on August 14,1833, having given birth to another son, Francis Toms White.
Thus early deprived of a mother's love and directing care, the young lads were surrounded by conditions none too pleasant or favorable, for, their father spending much of his time in his native State, they were put to board with whoever would promise to look after their needs. It may be safely presumed that they received no unnecessary favors and that their childhood years were none too happy. In 1840, their father took them back to North Carolina and placed them with their maternal grandfather, Mordecai Morris, for whom Mr. White was named and who main-tained his home in the old-style luxury of southern plantation life. In 1.845, Mr. White and his brother again came to Indiana, and in February of the following year Mordecai Morris died, leaving his large estate to the two grandsons and a step-grandmother. As a part of their share of the estate, the boys secured two thou-sand four hundred acres of land in northern Indiana, as well as the old ancestral plantation in North Carolina, which the boys held until after the Civil War.
Morris White's mind turned to serious things early in life and in 1847 he became a student in Earlham College at Richmond, Indiana, a well-known Quaker institution, and there he pursued his studies, taking the full course and graduating in 1850. He supplemented this training by taking a thorough commercial course in Cincinnati. In the spring of 1851, planning out his own course, Mr. White went to Philadelphia and obtained a situa-tion with the mercantile house of Wood, Bacon & Company, at a salary of fifty dollars a year. During the two years and nine months that he held this position, two things concerning him are worthy of note—first, he obtained a thorough and practical in-sight and training in the business methods of that day and ab-sorbed the influences and principles which gave bent to his future business character, and, secondly, he gained an excellent reputa-tion as a young man of unusual clear-headedness and persistent energy. However, the business with which he was connected offered no favorable opening for him and, being ambitious to get a definite start for himself, he began to make preparations to return to the old North Carolina plantation, but before carrying his plans into execution Wood, Bacon & Company asked him to take a trip to the West in the interest of the house. During this trip it happened that while in Cincinnati, Ohio, waiting the departure of a steamboat, he strolled up street and called upon A. H. Wells, an old friend of his father, who was a wholesale grocer. Mr. Wells was just then looking for a partner possessed of capital, and the result of the acquaintance thus formed was that a partnership was arranged by correspondence, and on the first of July, 1853, Mr. White and his brother, F. T. White, became members of the firm of A. H. Wells & Company, at Cincinnati. Six months later the firm name was changed to Wells, White & Company, and in August, 1853, Mr. White moved to Cincinnati and became actively engaged in the business of the concern. In 1859, Mr. Wells retired from business, White Brothers & Company becoming successors to the old business and firm name.
A slight digression is made in the narrative at this point in order to narrate one of the most characteristic acts of Mr. White's life and one entirely in harmony with his life in other respects. Early in 1854, he returned to North Carolina, to attend to the business matters of the plantation, a part of which consisted in hiring out the negroes for the following year, the two brothers receiving the proceeds of their labor. It was probably the influence of his Quaker education that begot in Mr. White the higher impulses of right and duty which he owed to his negroes and convincing him of the inconsistency of holding them in bondage. When in 1855, he again visited the plantation his conscientious motives forced him to act and he set about making arrangements for taking the negroes to a northern free State. Such a movement was compassed with many difficulties, but, determined to carry out his policy, Mr. White took every legal step necessary to avoid interference by officers of the law or others and started north with his company. He met with some difficulties and some temptations, among the latter being an offer of ten thousand dollars in gold at Baltimore for his "gang," but he successfully ran the gauntlet and finally got his charges onto free Indiana soil. He located the negroes at Raysville, about one hundred miles from Cincinnati, where he rented two houses, furnishing them with the necessary articles for comfort, and interested himself in finding employment for the men. In many ways in after years he assisted these people, returning to them, as nearly as he could, the actual profits which he had received from their hired labor during their years of servitude.
The wholesale grocery firm of White Brothers & Company became, in the course of time, one of the most prominent and successful mercantile houses in Cincinnati. In the meantime, Mr. White had become interested in the banking business, having formed a partnership with John H. Hewson, under the firm name of Hewson, White & Company. Mr. White and his brother furnishing more than two-thirds of the capital, while Mr. Hewson furnished the practical banking experience. Because of the increasing financial interests which now increasingly demanded their at-tention, the White brothers, in May, 1874, closed out their whole-sale grocery house after a successful and prosperous career of more than two decades. The firm of Hewson, White & Company, private bankers, was dissolved in 1872, after a very successful career of more than ten years, and the business was transferred to the Fourth National Bank of Cincinnati, of which Morris, White was elected a director in 1871, and Mr. Hewson, cashier. In August, 1872, Mr. Hewson retired and Mr. White became cashier of the Fourth National, retaining that position until December, 1875, when he was elected the president. For forty-five years he was the guiding spirit of this well-known and influential insti-tution, but in the year 1908, when seventy-eight years of age, he retired from the presidency and became chairman of the board of directors. Mr. White was also a stockholder in many other banks of Cincinnati, and during his active years it is said authoritatively that no one man in this city wielded so large an influence in finan-cial circles as did he. Early in his career he devoted himself as-siduously to the study of financial questions and thus became thor-oughly informed on everything which in any way related to bank-ing and its connections with business affairs. He thought deeply and weighed all measures with great care. His opinions were positive and strong. His mental endowments and reasoning powers were of a high order and his business judgment was con-sidered of exceptional value among his associates and business acquaintances, he being always listened to with deference.
As early as 1883, Mr. White became an active worker in the American Bankers' Association, being elected, that year, a mem-ber of the executive council. He served on that body until 1892, when he was elected vice president of that body, and the following year was elected president of the association. The same year he was also honored by being elected president of the Ohio State Bankers' Association. For a number of years Mr. White served as president of the Cincinnati Clearing House and in many ways he contributed to the advancement of the business interests of the community which was honored by his citizenship.
In 1913, because of the excessive heat of the summer, Mr_ White rapidly failed in health, and on September 30, at his be-loved home on Mt. Auburn, Cincinnati, this good man passed from the scenes of earthly activities to a higher and broader field of action. His remains now lie in beautiful Spring Grove ceme-tery.
Mr. White was a manly man in every sense, "standing four square to every wind that blew," and ever commanding the un-reserved confidence of all who knew him. A man of broad views of men and things, he was liberal and spontaneous in his support of all things which to him seemed to be for the general good of mankind. He gave liberally of his means to many institutions, including the Art Museum in Eden Park, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the School of Technology, the Children's Home, Union Bethel,
and to Earlham. College, which was to him the dearest of all these institutions, he gave one hundred thousand dollars as an endowment fund. Of that college he served for many years on the executive committee and was president of the board of finance of the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends. Politically, Mr. White was a life-long supporter of the Republican party, though never a seeker after honors or preferment of any kind for himself.
On November 3, 1858, Morris White was united in marriage with Hannah Amelia Coffin, daughter of Elijah Coffin, deceased, who, during his active years, was a widely known and influential banker of Indiana. To Air. and Mrs. White were born four children all daughters; namely, Frances Amelia, the wife of John Gates, of Cincinnati; Alice Mary, the wife of Theodore W. Cramp, of Philadelphia; Susan Morris, wife of Clarence Price, of New York, and Helen Lawson, wife of George D. Eustis, of Cincinnati. A man of simple habits and domestic in his tastes, Mr. White found his greatest enjoyment in his home, where the spirit of genuine old-time hospitality was ever in evidence. His career was dignified and manly and his success was measured by its usefulness, for during his long and active life his influence made for the progress and upbuilding of the community which had been honored by his residence. Mr. White was a great friend of young men and started many a young man off right in life. There was in him a weight of character, a native sagacity, a far-seeing judgment and a fidelity of purpose that commanded the respect of all, and because of his sterling traits of character his memory is to-day honored by all knew him.
As an evidence of this deep regard in which Mr. White was held by his associates, the following resolutions are here incorporated:
By the Board of Directors of the Fourth National Bank, Cincinnati: "In the fullness of years, after a long life of good works, our friend and fellow director, Mordecai Morris White, has been called to his final reward. He was a director in this bank since 1871; its president from December, 1875, to January, 1908, and thereafter the chairman of the board until the time of his death, September 30, 1913. Mr. White considered the success of this bank his life work, and with zeal and fidelity, coupled with his strong personality, he developed its business. The public recognized that he was a man of high moral character, possessed of a most acute business intelligence, whose fairness and ability entitled him to the unusual confidence of the business community which he enjoyed."
"He combined with kindness of heart, a strong sense of justice and an accurate knowledge of human nature, so that as a banker he was able to give that necessary first aid to many who, without his help, might never have obtained a foothold in the business world. Be it therefore"
"Resolved, By the directors of the Fourth National Bank, that the foregoing be adopted as an expression of their appreciation of Mr. White, and that, in token thereof, this resolution be engrossed upon the minutes of this meeting and a copy sent to his family."
Louis T. Block, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 1913.
Tilden R. French,
Reuben A. Holden.
Action of the Board of Directors of The Union Savings Bank and Trust Company at their meeting held October 6, 1913.
"No community is ever so rich in citizens of high worth that it can afford to lose any of them, but we cannot fail to realize that in the death of our warm friend and fellow-director, Mr. Mordecai Morris White, we touch the finished circle of a well-rounded, completed life. We, his friends and business associates, unite with his family in the sorrow of his departure, and rejoice with them in the good name he has left them as a lasting heritage. As a mark of respect we have ordered this minute to be engrossed in our records."
By the Board of Directors of the Little Miami Railroad Com-pany:
"By the death of Mr. M. M. White, the Little Miami Rail-road Company has lost a true and faithful friend and advisor. Born in February, 1830, he was ever active. In the wholesale grocery business under the firm name of White & Brother from 1853 to 1872; vice president and cashier of the Fourth National Bank from 1872 to 1876, president from 1876 to 1908, and chair-man of the board from 1908 to 1913, in which year he died on September 30."
His long mercantile and banking experience made him a valued member of many boards, including that of this railroad. He became a director in January, 1896, and held the position until his death, acting on various committees as occasion made advisable.
"It is the desire of this board to
signify its appreciation of his services and to convey its sympathy
to his family. The secretary is hereby instructed to spread this
resolution on the minutes, devoting a page to the purpose, and to
send a copy to his family. "
C. L. Harrison,
Charles P. Taft.
By the Directors of the Cincinnati Equitable Insurance Com-pany:
"The Cincinnati Equitable Insurance Company has recently suffered a loss in the death of Mr. M. M. White, of Cincinnati, Ohio, a member of the board of directors of this company. He was born in the month of February, 1830, and died in our city on September 30, 1913. He became a member of the board of directors of this company on October 6, 1902, and gave to it his
devoted services the rest of his life. He was a prominent and influential citizen of Cincinnati, well-known and greatly esteemed. At the time of his decease, he was the chairman of the board of directors of the Fourth National Bank, of which he had been the president for many years, a member of the board of directors of the Union Savings Bank and Trust Company, and filled other positions of responsibility and importance in this community, in addition to being a director of our company. His counsel and advice in public and private affairs was constantly sought, and no one was better or more favorably known in this community. He was a man of high character, and was greatly appreciated by his many personal friends. His devotion to the interests of this company was always greatly appreciated, and the members of our board who were associated with him for many years will always lament the loss that we have sustained. Other companies, with which he was associated, have eulogized his personal merits, but it remains only for the members of this company to give expression now on the minutes of our board of their great esteem for him."
"The secretary is hereby instructed to send a copy of this testimonial to the family with the assurance of our sincere sym-
pathy in their bereavement."
Frank J. Jones,
Charles P. Taft,
A. Clifford Shinkle.
P. W. Huntington, President of the Huntington National Bank, of Columbus, Ohio, in a letter to the officials of the Fourth National Bank of Cincinnati, after expressing his great admiration of Mr. White's character as a business man, uttered the following beautiful testimonials:
"But admirable as the character of Mr. White was, in many particulars, on the business side of it, there was a much brighter and better side which adorned it. This was found in his domestic life, which was pure, bright, and confiding; and in his Christian faith, which was the ever brightening crown of his maturer years. The religious element in the life of Mr. White was a controlling force, and not a sentiment. It added greatly to the strength of his character, and upheld him, not only in emergencies and at stated times, but in the daily labors of life. Under its inspiration he helped to establish and maintain Sunday schools, supported churches, and contributed, liberally and systematically, to benevolent and educational enterprises, especially to those of the Quaker denomination."
"He has gone from us forever. All
of his that is mortal reposes, on the spot selected by himself,
among the lights and shadows of your beautiful cemetery. His memory
is embalmed in the hearts of many friends, and his spirit has
returned to the bosom of his Father."
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds