Students of Nova Scotian History freely acknowledge their indebtedness not only to the discerning and foresight of successive governments of Nova Scotia in preserving their public records but also to those historically-minded Nova Scotian families who have kept their family papers, both public and private, first as an act of prudence, curiosity, or family pride, but finally for the enlightenment of posterity. This calendar of the White Family Collection has been printed to make available for students one of the most varied and valuable private collections that has yet come to our knowledge.
The collection began with the varied activities of Captain Gideon White, the founder of the family in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, and also one of the founders of that romantic loyalist town, was continued by his immediate descendants both as makers and preservers of history, and completed by Thomas Howland White, Esq., who realized fully its historical value and presented it to the Public Archives of Nova Scotia in 1938. Captain Gideon was born in Plymouth, Mass., in 1752. He visited Nova Scotia on a trading voyage at the beginning of the American Revolution but was captured and imprisoned by the Revolutionists in his native town. Later he served for seven years as captain on the British side and came to Shelburne in 1784, where he married and founded one of the few loyalist families that have persisted in Shelburne to this day. As merchant and farmer he took an active part in the public life of both the town and province, as a magistrate, member of the legislature, deputy naval officer, officer in the militia, etc. He died at the age of eighty-one, survived by six of his nine children. His sons, Cornelius and Thomas Howland, lived and died in Shelburne and both added to the collection started by their father. From Thomas Howland the collection passed to his son, Nathaniel, and from him it descended to Thomas Howland White, Esq., who now lives in Shelburne, and, possessed of a keen historic sense, has devoted much time to augmenting the collection from various members of the family and other sources. The collection contains relatively little material subsequent to 1840 but is particularly valuable for the period between the American Revolution and that date. It comprises family, business, and official correspondence of the White family and connection, including bills, receipts, orders, licenses, powers of attorney, ships’ papers, insurance policies, election papers and newspaper clippings as well as the letters; official records made by Gideon White as magistrate, militia officer, firewarden and tax collector in Shelburne; accounts and records kept by Gideon White and Miles White, and others who were in business in Shelburne and Halifax; diaries, journals and personal accounts of Gideon and Cornelius White and others, and a few copies of important papers, the originals of which still remain in possession of Thomas Howland White, Esq.
From this brief summary and the calendar itself it should be apparent that this collection, which fills fifteen portfolio volumes, in addition to two account books, will enable the novelist or literary historian to clothe with flesh and blood the skeleton histories of the loyalist town of Shelburne, hitherto made from official documents or tradition; and as they use this rare collection, they cannot fail to be grateful to the White family for their part in both the making and preserving of history.