John being born in 1799 and Joseph in 1808, the two men witnessed a youthful America going through the adventures and growing pains that characterized the fledgling nation in the 1800s. Some of the founding fathers were still living, two or three of them serving as presidents. Major conflicts such as the War of 1812, the war between the states, and the expulsion of native tribes from their respective territories - these events no doubt had come to them in the form of news or even right to their doorsteps. The building of the transcontinental railroad, the California Gold Rush, the end of slavery and subsequent Reconstruction period, even the invention of the light bulb were just a few of the developments that would parallel the timelines of Joseph and John's days on earth.
With humble beginnings, both men were raised in an agrarian economy for which the primary crop was cotton. By 1830, Joseph was living in Greene County, Alabama. He and his wife Margaret Means were building a family. John and his wife Elizabeth Doolittle (1805-1871) settled in the same area shortly thereafter. Records suggest that they were married in Abbeville, SC before moving to Alabama. One source says the couple had a total of twelve children. My research thus far only accounts for eight.
By 1850, John and Joseph had established cotton plantations adjacent to one another in the Union precinct of Greene County. This went on successfully until the Civil War broke out.
Management of the lands under the prevailing circumstances was unsustainable. As a result, both men were reduced to sharecropping as tenant farmers, with their offspring working the fields and picking cotton for the benefit of others.
Feeling the unenviable burden of being a single parent and, one supposes, the need for companionship, Joseph was able to find a helpmate in Sarah Jane Bouchillon. She was the second youngest child of Joseph's friend John. The two were united in marriage on November 1, 1864. Born in 1843, Sarah Jane was nearly thirty-three years Joseph's junior. Five of Joseph's children from his first marriage were older than his new wife. See the marriage record below.
Here's a list of their children. Another account says there were eight, but I cannot confirm that number at this time.
*Interesting side note
The source of a lot of the information I have included above comes from a man named John J. Parker, who wrote a lengthy and well-researched article (over 25 pages) on Joseph White and John Bouchillon. The preponderance of the article focuses on the history of the Bouchillon family and its origins in France.
Mr. Parker is the grandson of Joseph Gray White (see left) and the second great grandson of John Bouchillon. He mentions in passing that his grandfather was very proud of his Irish descent. I had always assumed that our surname 'White' originated out of England or maybe Scotland. But there is evidence of this name coming from Ireland. This will be a question to be considered at another time.
It goes without saying that the aftermath of the Civil War had presented many hardships. In the late 1860s, John and Joseph gathered their families and possessions and headed to Mississippi, eventually taking the Old Natchez Trace in search of new land around the Chickasaw area.
We'll finish things up in the next post.