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Fred White of Sumner County, Tennessee
What Can We Learn from His Obituary?
Obituary of Fred White, Sumner County, TN
Researched and submitted by Kathleen Hill
Field Editor, USF Africana Heritage Project

Obituary of FRED WHITE
(Thursday, April 8, 1909)
Uncle Fred White

Uncle Fred White, one of the few remaining old time darkies, died last Saturday at his home near Bransford. Before the war he belonged to Harry White of this county. Some years after the war closed Uncle Fred bought a farm of (page torn) acres on which he lived until his death. He was 86 years old and is survived by his aged wife. Both he and his wife have always enjoyed the highest respect of both white and colored people.

It would appear that the phrase “old time darkies” was a euphemism for an individual who had been a Slave.


Fred White was born October 1819 in Tennessee. According to Census records his father was born in Tennessee and his mother was born in North Carolina. At the time of his death he was living near the town of Bransford, which is in the northeastern section of Sumner County, TN, near the border line with Macon County, TN.

Fred White’s obituary refers to a farm he bought some time after “the War”. It would appear that he bought this farm before the 1870 Census because on this Census he owned real estate valued at $600 and had personal property valued at $360.

Fred’s wife was listed as Jane age 40 on the 1870 Census, and as A. J. age 49 on the 1880 Census. The 1900 Census lists her as Jane and gives her birth date as July 1824. Her slave/maiden was SENTER, (according to the 1917 death certificate of her son Wilson). She was born in TN and her parents were both born in NC. (Jane’s exact former owners are not proven to this author but see below for information about the Senter family who owned slaves in Sumner County.) The 1870 Census gives Fred’s age as 50 and lists him as Black, but the 1880 Census shows him as 62 and Mulatto.

The 1870 and 1880 Census show Fred and Jane as the parents of six children, four of whom were born into slavery. The sons and daughters listed these Census years were: July/Judy born about 1852, Wilson born about 1856 to 1858, Tyree born about 1860, Malvenia (Mally) born about 1863, Howard born 1868, and Wesley D. born about 1874.

It doesn’t appear that any children the ages of July/Judy, Wilson, and Tyree were living on the plantations of Harry or Sarah White on the 1860 Slave Schedule. They, and their mother, may have been living with another Slave owner.
On the 1900 Census, it is noted that Jane was the mother of 12 children with only 4 still living at that time. How tragic for Jane! She spent half of her life as a Slave and then had to endure the agony of losing 8 children. It is not known how many of these lost children were actually fathered by Fred, nor how many of them were born into slavery.

Jane's Children

Three of the four children who did survive into adulthood were sons Wilson, Howard and Tyree. This author cannot find son Wesley after 1880. The fourth surviving child may have been a married daughter.

The 1880 Census shows son Wilson living in the household of his parents as a widower with a daughter named Melvina J., age 3.

The 1900 Census of Sumner County shows Fred’s household as consisting of:
1. Fred, 80, born October 1819, married 58 years, TN TN TN
2. Jane, 75, born July 1824, mother of 12 children with only 4 living, TN TN TN
3. Son Wilson, age unreadable, born November 185?, a widower working as a farmer
4. A granddaughter (Wilson’s daughter) named Mallie P. born January 1891
5. A niece named Julia Butts born January 1883
6. A nephew named Andrew Butts born February 1887.

Son Tyree White is found in Davidson County on the 1910 Census. He was a mechanic. He is shown as nine years into his 2nd marriage. His entry shows “unknown” for the birthplace of both parents.

Tyree’s 2nd wife was Burnetta Miller, age 35, TN TN TN. They married December 27, 1900 in Davidson County, TN. Burnetta was the mother of 3 children with 2 living. The living daughters of Tyree and Burnetta were Ophelia born about 1904, and Bernetta age 7 months.

Son Wilson White died of tuberculosis September 1, 1917, in Sumner County, TN. On his death certificate his birth date is shown as October 1, 1858. The informant was his brother Howard White of Bethpage, Sumner County. Wilson’s father is listed as Fred White and his mother’s maiden name is shown as SENTER. Wilson was married at the time of his death but his wife’s name is not on his death certificate. He was buried at Bledsoe cemetery.

Howard White is found on the 1920 and 1930 Census of District 11 in Sumner County. He is shown with his much younger 2nd wife, Orlie/Onlie who was born about 1890 in TN. The 1920 Census shows that he had at least one son, James H. White, born 1899, from his 1st marriage. Howard and Orlie are shown with the following children: Lula Mai born about 1916, Laurence born about 1917, Harding born about 1921, Crawford born about 1923, Lummie (dau) born about 1928, and Mattie born 1930.

Current Sumner County records do not show a burial place for Fred, Jane, or their children (other than Wilson) who were mentioned in this article. No death certificate could be found for Fred or Jane White and Jane’s date of death is unknown to this author.


The 1860 Slave Schedule shows Harry White and his mother as owners of 14 Slaves. They were the only slave owners named White in their District. The 1870 Census of District 13 in Sumner County list 13 “Colored or Mulatto” individuals, living in 4 households. Seven of these individuals were the family of Fred White.

The other African American households in District 13 in 1870 were:

Living alone, next to household of former Slave owner Harry White, was Virginia White, Black, age 65, born VA
Ned White, 60, born VA, a farmer with real estate valued at $560 and personal property valued at $300; was living with Peggy, 55, born TN. Both are identified as Black.
Fountain White, 50, born NC, a farmer with real estate valued at $150 and personal property valued at $180; was living with Jude/Judy (female), 50, born TN. Both are identified as Mulatto.

By the 1880 Census, Ned, Peggy and Fountain do not appear living in TN. Rachael White, 80, Blind, VA VA VA, is listed as the head of the household that consists of her sister Judy White, 74, VA VA VA, and John White 72, TN VA VA (no relationship noted). Besides the household of Fred White, this is the only other household for African Americans named White this District in 1880.

Both Peggy White and Rachael White were old enough to have been a possible mother to Fred. Of course his parents may have died before 1870, or he may have been purchased away from his parents when he was a child.


There are only 3 African Americans named Centre (Senter) shown on the 1870 Census of Sumner County, TN. They are Matilda 45, Anna 15, and Fanny 10. These female Centre/Senters were living in the African American household headed by Jerry Oglesby 35, and his daughters Evelin Oglesby 19, and Sally Oglesby 11. Also living in the household of Jerry Oglesby were Minerva Winston 45 and Fannie Windsor 95. All members of this household are African American and shown as being born in TN.



Fred White’s owner, Harry White, was born in 1805, in either North Carolina or Virginia. Harry White’s father, Thomas White, was on the 1820 Census of Sumner County, TN, shown as owing 3 Slaves. Harry would have been too young to have been the original owner of Fred White. Fred may have been born to Slaves owned by Harry’s father Thomas, or purchased by the White family when he was young.
Harry White’s parents were Thomas and Sarah (maiden name unknown) White. Census records indicate that Thomas was born in 1775 in either VA or NC, and that Sarah was born in 1785 in either TN or NC. Harry married Mary Jane Thurmond in Sumner County in 1839.

The 1850 Slave Schedule shows Thomas owing six Black slaves: females aged 50, 40, and 1; and males aged 55, 45, and 40. Harry was shown owning seven Black slaves: females aged 35, 7, and 4; and males aged 33, 30, 18, and 1. Thomas died in 1859.

The 1860 Slave Schedule shows Thomas’s widow, Sarah, as the owner of seven Black Slaves: females aged 60, 48, 20, and 19; and males aged 52, 45, and 40. The 1860 Slave Schedule shows Harry owning seven Black Slaves: females aged 50, 45, 16, and 8; and males aged 48, 13, and 12.

In 1860 Sarah White owned real estate valued at $7,000 and person property (which includes the value of her Slaves) at $4,345. Harry White’s real estate was worth $3,000 and his personal property was valued at $4,365. Harry’s land adjoined the land of his parents. Sarah died in 1871 and Harry died in 1884.


There is no proof associating A. J. (Jane) Senter White to a particular Senter owner. But it is possible that she was the daughter, Almira J., of Slave Tabitha and sister of Slave Catherine who were inherited by Susannah Jones SENTER and her husband Mark in 1835.* See article posted on this web site titled “Slaves owned by Mark Senter”. The following is just general information I found about the Senter family slave owners in Sumner County, TN.

Freeman Senter, Sr. was born in VA about 1776, the son of Buckner Senter. He married Elizabeth (Betsy) Colclough in Warren County, NC about 1795. He was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was in Sumner County, TN by 1808. His brother Richard Senter, and his sister Anne and her husband John Durham also came from Warren Co. NC to settle in Sumner Co. TN.

The 1820 Census shows Freeman Senter as the owner of 2 Slaves. The 1850 Slave Schedule shows Freeman Senter as the owner of 1 black male slave age 12.** John Senter was the owner of 1 black male slave age 18. Freeman’s son Mark Senter was in Montgomery County, TN, the owner of three female black slaves ages 20, 2 and 8 months. The 1860 Slave Schedule of Sumner County shows no Senter slave owners.

* 1835 Will of Nancy (Allen Jones) Hanna, filed in Sumner County, TN, “gives” slaves Tabitha and her daughters Catherine and Almira J. to Nancy’s daughter Susannah Jones Senter and son-in-law Mark Senter.

** Freeman Senter, Sr. had two daughters, Patsey and Nancy, who never married. In their joint Will, written November 1851, Patsey and Nancy refer to the “Negro boy James” given to them by their father. James was probably the 12 year old male owned by their father in 1850. See Sumner Co TN Will Book, Volume IV, 1870, Patsey and Nancy Senter.


1909 Obituary, Gallatin News, Sumner Co. TN

1820, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 Census of Sumner County, TN.

1850 and 1870 Census of Montgomery County, TN.

1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules of Sumner and Montgomery Counties, TN.

Death Certificate 245 for Wilson White, September 1, 1917, Sumner County, TN.

On-line resources of Sumner County, TN web sites found at: and

Kathleen Hill

This article may be printed and freely shared for nonprofit purposes, as long as this notice and citation appear with the article:

This article was prepared for The USF Africana Heritage Project ( by Kathleen Hill.


Hill, Kathleen
2004 "Fred White of Sumner County, Tennessee: What Can We Learn from His Obituary?"
The USF Africana Heritage Project,

Copyright 2004 The University of South Florida and The Africana Heritage Project. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. For more information, contact the Africana Heritage Project via e-mail.