Monday, April 23, 2012

The Mysterious Mr. White

My great grandmother, Shirlie, was a widow when she married Ulpian Johnson on 27 Apr 1909 in Washburn, McLean Co., ND.  For many years we had a photo of her and first husband and the only name that we knew him by was Mr. White.   Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot more about him now!

Shirlie moved to North Dakota probably sometime after 1900.  While she isn’t recorded in the 1900 census with her father, I suspect that she is working out of the house and I’ve never been able to locate her.  She married Charles A. White on 11 Nov 1903 in Washburn, McLean Co., ND.  She must have become pregnant right away, because her son George was born on 9 Jul 1904 in Washburn.  Shirlie’s second son was born 6 Aug 1906.  Eight months later, Shirlie was left a widow.  Her husband, Charles, had been out fighting a prairie fire and died a several days later of smoke inhalation.  A kind researcher back in North Dakota found his obituary for me.

Charles A White Dead.  
Charles A While was born at Muskegon Michigan on Feb. 10, 1870. Died April 29th, 1907. He leaves a wife and two children living near Washburn, and an aged father and mother, two sisters, and one brother at Muskegon, to mourn the loss of a loving husband and father, a dutiful son, and an affectionate brother.  The cause of his death was from the effect of inhaling smoke and fires from a prairie fire he was helping to fight on the 23rd of April, 1907, and had not been well since.  His wife had been and got medicine for him and as it had no effect on him he thought he would go and see the doctor, he had gone about five miles and fell out of the buggy just in front of Mr. Wiese house, Mr. Wiese seen him fall and went to him, he never spoke, was unconscious and never rallied, and lived about town minutes after they got him in the house. His remains were taken to his wife’s fathers Mr W.L.Pope and funeral services were held there at ten O'clock May 1. His remains were laid to rest in the Svedrup cemetery followed by a large concourse for friends. The funeral sermon was preached by Rev Ehlers of the M.E.Church of Washburn.

I found it interesting that he was buried at Sverdrup Cemetery and that there is no stone that has been found for him.  Shirlie’s mother, Nancy Ann Marie Lyons Pope had been buried there in 1906.  It leads me to believe that Charles was running the farm on the land that her father had which is close by in the region.  About two years later, Shirlie married an old bachelor who was already 40 years old to her 28 years.  Once again, Shirlie became pregnant and had a daughter on January 27, 1910.  Another daughter (Nancy Mae Johnson) followed on 9 Mar 1912 and then my grandfather, Frank Stewart Johnson on 10 Oct 1914, a daughter who was stillborn in 1919 and finally Audrey Ruth b. 22 Jan 1923. 

George White
Shirlie’s oldest two sons have always been kind of a mystery to me.  My father remembers both of them well as George, the oldest, came out to live near Potlatch.  Elmer ended up working for the railroad and marrying a Jewish widow.  Neither one had children.  My grandmother had very little to say that was positive about George.  Evidently he was someone who disliked women in general, and probably her in particular.  I’m not even real sure that he was impressed with his nieces…but he loved his brother and my father.  He had very little patience or understanding for women in general.  George also had a problem with drinking.  One night he stopped alongside the road to relieve himself and was struck by a car and killed immediately in 1962.  Elmer lived for long while after that – passing away in 1984.  We were shocked to find out that after his wife, Lucy, had died, he had remarried. 

Elmer & Lucy White
I’ve heard from the Johnson side of the family that Shirlie wasn’t terribly bright – I have my doubts about that because of the way she took care of her family and held them together and how everything fell apart after her death.  There is no doubt that her older two sons were not very intelligent…in fact they could be considered to be somewhat “slow”.  It is interesting though to note that while my grandmother didn’t want much to do with George – she was quite fond of Elmer.  My father remembers that it was a big occasion for the family to take off in the car and go to Spokane to meet Elmer for a visit.  As he worked for the railroad, he could travel very cheaply. 

I’ve never really ever made progress on getting further information on Charles A. White.   The White surname is probably as hard to research as the Johnson surname.  For most of my life, Charles was simply known as Mr. White and I must say it was gratifying to finally learn his name.