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White, Henry, Jr.

by Thomas E. Terrell, Jr., 1996

1642–3 Aug. 1712

Henry White, Jr., Quaker leader, colonial official, and poet, was born in Isle of Wight County, Va. His father, Henry White, Sr., a cooper, married, first, Elener (surname unknown) and, later, Rebecca Arnold, and it is unclear which was the mother of Henry White, Jr. The younger White also was married twice; by his first wife Mary were daughters Ann (1669), Elizabeth, and Elkanah (1679), and sons Robert (1674), and twins James and John (1676), of whom only Robert and John survived childhood. By his second wife, Damaris Morison, were daughters Mary, Damaris, Content, and Naomy, and sons Henry III, Arnold II, and Isaac.

White, like his father, bought land in North Carolina in 1663; he eventually moved to a plantation along the west side of Little River in Perquimans Precinct at least by 1679, but probably much earlier. In the 1690s he served as a justice on the North Carolina Higher Court as well as in the precinct county court.

Between 1672 and 1679 he was converted to Quakerism and was one of the earliest members of the Little River Preparative Meeting, one of five meetings that made up Pasquotank Monthly Meeting. White served as the monthly meeting's "registrer" (recording clerk), it meeting alternately at his and Caleb Bundy's home until 1707, when the first meetinghouse was built. This structure was erected partly under White's leadership on land next to his plantation. He was active among North Carolina Friends both as organizer and seemingly as lay minister, evidenced by a few extant writings.

White's lasting contribution was a 302-line poem in rhymed couplet and doggerel verse, written in 1698. This seventeenth-century poem is the earliest known literary work of its kind produced in North Carolina. It is an account of the fall of man in the garden of Eden, his restoration through Christ, and "some holsom exhortations for everyone to take notis of."


J. Bryan Grimes, ed., Abstracts of North Carolina Wills (1910).

Guilford College Library (Greensboro), for MS Quaker records.

J. R. B. Hathaway, ed., North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, vols. 1 (July 1900), 2 (April 1901), 3 (January 1903).

William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, vols. 1–4 (1886).

Thomas E. Terrell, Jr., "Some Holsom Exhortation's: Henry White's Seventeenth-Century Southern Religious Narrative in Verse," Early American Literature, vol. 18 (1983).

Additional Resources:

Boddie, John Bennett. 1973. Seventeenth century Isle of Wight County, Virginia; a history of the county of Isle of Wight, Virginia, during the seventeenth century, including abstracts of the county records. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co. (accessed March 22, 2013).

"Pasquotank County | NCpedia." NCpedia home page | NCpedia. (accessed March 22, 2013).

Origin - location: 


I am a descendant of Henry White early settler and Quaker of N.C. And would like to know how and/or where I can obtain a copy of the first poem written in N.C. (sermon), The Fall of Man.
Thank you for your time,
Stephanie Colella

Stephanie — I discovered the poem and wrote the article. Please email me at or call me at 336-378-5412. Tom Terrell

I have some different, as well as additional, information that the author might want to consider. How do I contact him? Thanks.

Do you have any information on an Elizabeth White (b. 1673) who married James Davis (b. 1669) in Pasquotank County? I am trying to figure out her parents? According to many sites it is Henry White, Jr., but this doesn't seem to be the case according to this article.

Hi, thanks for writing!

This article was originally published in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography by the University of North Carolina Press, contact the author through their website:

T. Mike Childs, NCpedia, N.C. Government & Heritage Library.

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