Chaplain John Brown White

Chaplain John Brown WhiteJohn Brown White was born on March 10, 1810 in Bow, New Hampshire. His parents were David and Betsey (Carter) White. David White was a colonel in the War of 1812. Chaplain John Brown White joined the 117th Volunteer Infantry to fulfill the position left by Chaplain John D. Gillham who was forced to resign due to poor health.  Based on several letters and journal entries it is told that Chaplain White baptised several members of the regiment in the Montgomery river.

Before joining the McKendree Regiment, White studied law and was admitted to the bar in Greenville, Illinois. He earned his master’s degree from Brown University in 1835. He was elected judge of probate in 1837. In 1838, he accepted an invitation from President Dr. Samuel Wait of Wake Forest College to join the faculty as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. He later became President of Wake Forest College in 1848 when William Hooper resigned from the position. At Wake Forest, White became ordained by the Baptist Church in January of 1849.There was speculation that White was at odds with members of the Wake Forest Board of Trustees due to his abolitionist beliefs. He shocked other faculty members with a letter of resignation and eventually left Wake Forest in 1853.

Following a brief position as president of a girl’s seminary in Brownsville, Tennessee, White would later become the co-founder of the all-women’s school Almiria College, which later was renamed Greenville College. White was the president of Almira College at the time of his enlistment in the 117th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathon Merriam, who was married to White’s daughter, Lucie, was especially pushed for White’s appointment as Chaplain. White was nursed back to health by a rebel family in Alabama when he became ill.

After the Civil War, White created a women’s school in Alton. He then returned to continue as president of Almira College until 1878. White married Mary Powers Merriam on April 5, 1838. and had seven children, John Conant, Annie Elizabeth, Emily, Lucy Carter, William Henry, Mary Brown, and Juliet Poers. Mary died in 1855.  He remarried Elizabeth Richardson Wright on August 5, 1857. Chaplain John Brown White died on Feb. 12, 1887 and is buried in Montrose Cemetery in Greenville, Illinois.