Judge Thomas White was born in Battle Abbey, Hastings, England to an aristocratic Roman Catholic family in 1799. He came to the United States with his parents and studied law in Philadelphia. He took a position caring for the legal concerns of absentee landlords in Indiana County in 1820 and was known as the "best land lawyer in Pennsylvania." He joined the Episcopal Church to marry his wife, Catherine McConnell White in 1824. They had four children: Richard (1826), Alexander (1828), Juliet (1830) and Henry Lloyd ("Harry") (1833). Judge White was elected to the Indiana Borough Council in 1823, 1824-7, 1830, 1840 and 1854.
In 1836, Thomas was appointed a trustee of the Indiana Female Seminary and Judge of the 10th Judicial District by Anti-Masonic Governor Ritner. In 1843, White Township was organized and named in White's honor. In 1845, White freed fugitive slave Anthony Hollingsworth, setting a precedent followed on the floor of Congress. White's stone gatehouse (at right) was said to be a refuge for fugitive slaves and White was said to have brought Samuel Williams, a well-known local—and fugitive slave—to Indiana County via Armagh.
White was involved in bringing the railroad to Indiana County from 1846-1852. In 1854 he entered into a law partnership with his nephew Titian Coffey. Coffey later became acting Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln, and was probably co-author of the Emancipation Proclamation.
From 1853-1854, White was President of the Indiana Academy Trustees. In 1854, he also became involved in the organization of the Episcopal Church. The following year, White became a member of the new a Republican Party and also became involved in the Indiana County Agricultural Association. White had business interests in the Conemaugh Furnace, the Loop Furnace and the Indiana County Strawboard Mill.
In 1853, White's only daughter Juliet died at the age of 23. She was found to have secretly married a stone mason named Coulter. In 1861 White was appointed to the national Peace Convention, an attempt to prevent the Civil War. When the war started he was a Lincoln man, and gave patriotic speeches and became involved in Soldiers' Relief. In 1862, he became President of the Indiana Mutual Fire Insurance Company and in 1864 Director of the First National Bank of Indiana.
In 1865, White's eldest son, Colonel Richard White, died of pulmonary arthritis. A year later, Thomas White died of "paralysis" (most likely a stroke) at the age of 67.
See the Thomas White Chronology for a timeline of Judge White's life.
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