John Barber White, biography c. 1905
[American Lumberman magazine]
  Source: American Lumberman. The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States, First Series. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1905. pp. 359-362. Original courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Texas Transportation Archive
John B. White

Some sage has declared that a man's education begins a hundred years before he is born. Taking this as a premise in the case of John Barber White, of Kansas City, Missouri, the training of the man in his particular calling should have placed him by this time in the highest class of lumbermen. And it has. As lumbermen, his Massachusetts ancestors two hundred years ago opened the way for the vast army of their kind now operating in the United States. While America was as yet an untouched timber land these embryo lumbermen and soldiers, keen, quick witted, hardy, hacking pathways through the woods and felling trees for colonial needs, recognized and seized upon the wealth which nature dispensed so generously. One of these Whites, with practical wisdom which has borne rich fruit in his descendants, built in 1639 a saw mill at Salem, Massachusetts, which was the first ever erected in eastern New England.

While clearing the land these vigorous architects of the young civilization were fighting for their homes. John Barber White's great-great-grandfather, with the virile, peremptory disposition of his race to take the lead, headed a regiment in the Colonial Wars and fought bravely in the battle of Lake George. With the next generation comparative peace reigned, and Josiah White, the colonel's son, suiting his occupation to the needs of the time, returned to his family's other hereditary employment and built and operated a saw mill at Leominster, Massachusetts. Still standing at Leominster are a dam and a house that he erected in 1751. Josiah White's nine sturdy sons all fought in the Revolutionary War with that indomitable spirit and fixedness of purpose which characterized the colonial soldiers, and which wrenched the colonies from the British.

Among these sons was Luke White, who had a son named John. John White was a school teacher for several years, but the old, inherited tendency took possession of him and he also entered the saw mill business. He operated a mill in Ulster county, New York, and a saw and veneer works in Chautauqua county, the same state. Later he owned a saw mill near Union City, in Erie county, Pennsylvania. To him was born an only son, John Barber White.

John Barber White is the latest representative of the family to follow the inherited inclination. He was born in Chautauqua county, New York, December 8, 1847, and was but five years old at the time of his father's death. The boy was given a common school education, supplemented by a course at Jamestown Academy. Later he taught school during the winter and worked upon the farm in the summer.

In 1868-9, m partnership with two brothers named Jenner, he purchased a tract of about two hundred acres of pine land near Youngsville, Pennsylvania. They boarded themselves in the woods, cut their own logs and had them sawed at a neighboring mill. In 1870 Mr. White purchased the brothers' interests and became associated with R. A. Kinnear, of Youngsville, in the ownership of a lumber yard at Brady, a second yard being established at Petrolia, all in Pennsylvania. These interests were sold in 1874 and Mr. White moved to Tidioute, where he bought the " Arcade" mill, also opening a yard at Scrubgrass, Pennsylvania. Here he broke away from family traditions and assisted in establishing the Warren County News, a weekly paper at Tidioute which was independent in politics. He afterwards bought all of the stock and sold it to C. E. White, and then returned to his first love.

In 1876 Mr. White moved to Youngsville and bought a stave, heading and shingle mill at Irvineton. He had always been and is now a Republican, but in 1878 he was nominated by the Democratic and Greenback parties for the state legislature, and elected. During his six years' residence in Youngsville he was president of the Board of Education.

In 1880 he made a trip westward for the Grandins and others of Tidioute, purchasing more than 200,000 acres of pine timber land, organizing the Missouri Lumber & Mining Company and becoming a stockholder in and the manager of the company. E. B. and J. L. Grandin, Capt. H. H. Cumings and the late Jahu and L. L. Hunter were heavily interested in the concern. Mr. White has since been continuously its manager and a director, and for several years lately its president.

This company has a capital and surplus of more than $1,000,000. It first started a planing mill at Mill Spring, Missouri, in 1881, and built the first saw mill at Grandin, Missouri, in 1887. Mr. White lived at the mills at Grandin and served as postmaster there for four years. At this point the company employs eight hundred men and produces 70,000,000 feet of lumber annually. It owns forty miles of logging railroad, with two hundred cars and six locomotives, and enough timber to keep the plant in operation for at least eight years.

Mr. White has been a leader in southern pine development. He was the organizer and first president of the Missouri & Arkansas Lumber Association, which was the first yellow pine organization in the country and one which owed its inception to the personal efforts of Mr. White. In 1890 he was elected president of the Southern Lumber Manufacturers' Association and was twice reflected. He is still a director. He is an officer in a large number of companies, being president of the Forest Lumber Company, of Kansas City, owning a line of retail yards; president of the Louisiana Central Lumber Company, of Clarks, Louisiana, which has a capital and surplus of $1,200,000; secretary and one of the directors of the Louisiana Long-Leaf Lumber Company, with a capital and surplus of over $1,000,000 and owning mills at Fisher and Victoria, Louisiana; secretary, treasurer and general manager of the Louisiana Lumber & Land Exchange Company, of Kansas City, which is the selling agency for the Missouri Lumber & Mining Company, the Ozark Land & Lumber Company, of Winona, Missouri, the Cordz-Fisher Lumber Company, of Birch Tree, Missouri, the Louisiana Long-Leaf Lumber Company and the Louisiana Central Lumber Company, having a combined annual product of 250,000,000 feet of lumber, and president of the Reynolds Land Company, owning several thousand acres of hardwood timber in Butler county, Missouri. He is also president of the Bank of Poplar Bluff, at Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and a director in the New England Bank of Kansas City.

In the social and intellectual life of his state, and we might say of his country, Mr. White is no less prominent than he is in the business and financial world. He is deputy governor general of the general society for the state of Missouri of the Society of Colonial Wars, and is one of the Board of Managers of the Sons of the Revolution of the state of Missouri. He is a member of the Historical Society of the State of Virginia, and a member and one of the vice presidents of the Historical Society of the State of Ohio.

In appearance Mr. White is tall and imposing, with the military bearing resulting from a long line of soldierly ancestry. In this case the character fits the stature of the man, for Mr. White combines within himself mental and moral traits that are as big as they are admirable. The lessons of industry and hardihood learned in his boyhood have served as a basis upon which to rear a substantial after life. Although Mr. White has never seen military service, the impress left upon him by the Whites who have gone before is so indelibly stamped upon his nature that he seems to wear by right the title of "Captain," by which he is generally known. It fits him, also, because he is a born commander, though the strict discipline which he enforces is tempered by justice and by a native humor that relieves its asperity.

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections and contributions of new material.