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Bio

Peter White
The Michigan Alumnus 183-184

The Hon. Peter White, one of the
 new Regents of the University, 
 was born in Rome, Oneida Co., 
 New York, Oct. 31, 1830. 


He comes from very old New Eng
land stock, and his grandfather was a
 Revolutionary soldier, engaged in the
 defense of Fort Stanwix, (as Rome 
was then called), against St. Leger in
 1777. The first American flag that
 really flew was, in part, made of his 
grand mother's red flannel petticoat, 
during that memorable and successful
 defense.

Mr. White's father removed to 
Green Bay, Wis., when the lad was 
very small; and the boy struck out for 
himself to Mackinac Island, then a
 very busy fur-trading post, when he
 was only fourteen. Here he worked 
in a store, or assisted on the lake sur
vey, until in 1849, early in the spring, 
 he joined a boat expedition to the 
newly discovered Iron Mountains of 
Lake Superior, and returning from
 the site of the mines to the lake shore, 
became one of the first settlers of Mar
quette. Though on his own responsibility from so early an age, he had
 some additional school opportunities
 at Mackinaw, which he used faithfully; 
he owed one of his most important
 advancements in life to his excellent
 penmanship.

Mr. White began his 
life on Lake Superior as a laborer, 
 doing whatever he was asked to. He
 used axe and hoe, carried a pack, 
 drove oxen, ran an engine, nursed the
 sick in the hospital, was clerk in a
 general store, postmaster before he 
was of age, and soon a merchant on
 his own account. From merchandis
ing Mr. White passed on to the study 
and practice of law. He then estab
lished a bank, now the First National 
Bank of Marquette, assumed intimate
 relations with several important min
ing companies, and built up a large 
fire, life, and marine insurance busi
ness. In all of these departments of 
active life he has made and kept a 
large number of acquaintances. He 
has thoroughly learned every business 
he has ever touched, and may be 
counted expert in all their particulars. 


Mr. White began public life as post-
master. He was not only postmaster, but mail carrier as well. At one time 
he carried the mail with sledge and 
dogs from Green Bay to Marquette
 and return, walking on his snow shoes
 between three and four hundred miles
 with every trip. In 1857 Mr. White
 was a member of the house of repre
sentatives, from the Upper Peninsula. 
 When Marquette County was organized
 he became county clerk and register 
of deeds, and served also as collector 
of the port for many years. As state
 senator he fathered the first effort to
 secure a normal school for Northern
 Michigan, and he obtained the grant
 of lands by the state that secured the 
building of the Duluth & South Shore
 R. R. 


His services to his home city have 
been numerous and of incalculable
 value. As park and cemetery com-
missioner he is chiefly responsible for
 the facts that Marquette has the most 
beautiful cemetery of any small town 
in the state, and a park in many respects unrivalled anywhere. As library
 commissioner, he has been the chief
 mover and principal donor in giving
 Marquette one of the finest of city 
libraries. His zeal for beauty and knowledge has led him to give long 
and gratuitous service on the Mackinac
 park board and the state library commission. But perhaps his principal
 service to Marquette has been in fifty -
three years of continuous activity on 
her school board. The Marquette 
schools are commodious, beautiful, 
 well equipped, and efficient. They
 owe much to Mr. White's public 
spirit.


Mr. White has taken a constant and
 active interest in the University. He 
has been made one of her honorary 
alumni, and his attainments in Ameri
can history, political science, economics, finance, and general literature are
 conspicuous. He is fond of poetry and
 oratory, and has a well-stored mem
ory. He sometimes surprises his 
friends by the recital of pages, 
which he has not looked at for 
many years. He writes clearly and 
fluently, and has a national repu
tation as an interpreter of French
 Canadian dialect. He knows both 
French and Chippewa sufficiently well
 to transact all business with people of 
those races. Mr. White has been prominently identified with the American
 Historical Association, the American
 Bankers' Association, and the Michi
gan Bankers' Association. He has
 been helpful to all religious organiza
tions in his community, but takes a 
particularly lively interest in the Episcopal diocese of Marquette. Had he 
accepted all the fields of honor and 
usefulness, which have been open to 
him, we could add to his titles those
 of federal commissioner and foreign 
minister. 


The fellowship in American history 
has made his name familiar to 
the University. The hall of science 
bears his name at the Northern Normal School. His beautiful and hos
pitable home life can hardly be passed 
over, but were he a childless bachelor, 
 he would still be the father of his city, 
 and the friend of every child.

A final
 point must be made of Mr. White's
 consistent interest in a robust out-of-
door life we have ceased to be satisfied with thoughts that have a "pale
cast.'' We ask men not to forget that
 they have muscles as well as minds. 
 Mr. White never forgets to render due 
observance to the call of the woods. 
Not only has he kept himself well ex
ercised, but he has done great good 
to many young friends by inspiring 
them to wood ranging, canoeing, and 
the expert use of snow shoes. His
 well-knit, athletic frame, and alert
 step, tells the whole story. Good hon
est fun and a fair amount of play have 
sweetened and seasoned his life; and
 made him as much an organizer of 
social as of business forces. Such as 
he is the University may well rejoice 
that he has been numbered among her
 alumni, and look forward to his career
 as Regent with perfect confidence and 
satisfaction. So, then, we present 
him, as he is, the gentleman, the
 scholar, the public-spirited citizen, 
and a large, free pattern of a man.