Robert White and the Sutherlin Land Around Leemont Cemetery in Danville, Virginia

         In 1945, at the end of World War II, my family moved back to their house they built on Washington Street in 1927.  They rented the house since they moved to Blairs in 1939.  Julian Burton and family lived in the house part of the time.  Next door was Grandma Jones and daughter Florence’s family.  Across Perry’s spring branch from where I was raised, on the eastern side of Claiborne Street, was the White Farm.  I later found many early records about the first White to settle there in 1833.  Robert White, who was born in 1788 in New Jersey, married Mary about 1817.  Their first son William Mortimer White was born in 1818 and died in 1887. 

            In June of 1820, Robert White was living in Pittsylvania County, Virginia in the area of Danville.  At that time Danville was a small village of about 400 people.  The leaders of the town may have recruited Robert to teach in a school here.  In June and September of 1820, Robert signed a deed of trust in favor of prominent men of Danville for a loan of $160.50. Named as principals and witnesses are James Lanier (who later in 1833 became Danville’s first mayor), Samuel D. Rawlings, Robert Ross, William Linn, Nathan Carol, and others.   The property included one mahogany sideboard, a mahogany bureau, bedstead & furniture, a mahogany candle stand, a parcel of glass tumblers & decanters, one mahogany dining table, a parcel of books.  a cow & calf, and three hogs.  This list probably included he brought to this county from up north. 

            There were no public schools in Virginia until 1870.  In 1829, Robert White was said to have conducted a mixed school for girls and boys (another source records the school as a male school) at the southwest corner of Spring and Union Streets. A slanting plank extended the whole length of the small school room as a writing desk for scholars.  A tall bench on each side and the length of the room served as seats, and the boy who got the seat where the rough wooden legs protruded through the slab five or six inches was the most uncomfortably seated. 

            “Mr. White’s rules were like the laws of the Medes and Persians, unchangeable, and the little boy or the big boy who violated a rule was invariably (as the old man called it) flogged; and a boy who was flogged at school was afraid to tell it at home for fear of another flogging from his father.”  (Milloway’s Guide).

            Another school was the Danville Male Academy, managed by a board of trustees with Robert B. Gillian as principal.  This two-story brick building was about fifty yards in front of the gate of the Grove Street Cemetery.  The building was about 20 feet square with one room down and one upstairs.  The Male Academy paid Mr. Levi Holbrook $1,000 a year to teach in the school. 

            Female schools included Miss Ann Benedict’s academy on Wilson Street and George W. Dames Academy at the corner of Jefferson and Loyal Streets.

            In 1833, Robert White bought land in north of the Dan River on what is now Claiborne Street.  Robert White paid $100 for 10 acres from James S. Sutherlin and Nathaniel Sutherlin of the first part (agent for Adam Sutherlin).  Capt. Adam Sutherlin’s father George Sutherlin who lived where Piedmont Mall is now located, obtained the land in 1798 and gave the 365-acre tract to his son.  The ten-acre tract was then one mile from the Dan River at Danville.  Adjoining property owners in 1833 were Worsham and Dickerson.  The White farm was owned by the family until it was subdivided in 1935 more than a hundred years later. 

            1850 census: 

                        Robert White 62 male (b 1788) Teacher 

                        Mary H. (A in will) White 50 female (b 1800) 

                        Henry S. White 18 male (b 1832) 

                        Mary E. White 15 female (b 1835) 

                        William M. White 32 male Tailor (b 1818) Oldest son. (William M. White came to Pittsylvania Court in March of 1857 to report the death of Robert White stating that he was “age 69 and born in New Jersey in 1789”  (I have in my notes that he was born in Monmouth, New Jersey on 17 Oct 1788) 

                        //Avery T. White 30 female (b 1820) wife of Wm. M.// 

                        James T. White 6 male (b 1844) 

                        Edward C. White 4 male (b 1846) 

                        Mary A. White 2 female (b 1848)

Living nearby: Robert C. White 25 male  (b 1825) Tailor  (Robert C. White was 24 on 10 Feb. 1849 when he married 21 year old Elvira Butler.  In 1860, the family sold the 1833 ten-acre family tract to Robert C. White for $628.25.  In 1872, Robert C. White sold the same land his nephew James T. White (1845-1935), son of William Mortimer White.)  

                        Elvira T. White 22 female (b 1828) 

                        Mary A. E. White 1 female (b 1849)

            Robert White’s will was written on 28 April 1855 and probated 20 April 1857.  His wife Mary M. is listed along with children (1) Mary E. (2) James (3) Nathaniel (Nathan C.) (4) Martha A. and  (5) Samuel. 

            Robert (b 1788), William M. (b 1818) and James T. White (b 845) are three generations, all of which are buried in the “Old White Burial Ground” on North Ave. near Claiborne Street.  In his will written in 1855, Robert stated that several graves were then located where reserved one-half acre for the burial ground.  Large trees, sunken graves, a few field stones and periwinkle remain on the back of the lot on North Avenue. 

             “Mortimer” lived on the Franklin Turnpike (now North Main Street) near or adjacent to the White farm. In 1892, Mortimer is listed at a Clerk for W. C. White (guns, etc.) at 207 Main Street downtown.  W. C. White, who was a lock and gunsmith, also lived on North Main Street. 

            South, east and adjacent to the 10-acre tract mentioned above was a 336 acre tract owned by George S. Sutherlin (1796-1856).  In 1860, heirs sold this land to Matthew B. Hodnett (b 1811-1883).  Hodnett married Narcissa Adeline Sutherlin (1820-1888).  Narcissa’s brother was Maj. William T. Sutherlin (1822-1893) whose house is called the “Last Confederate Capitol.”  A brother Nathaniel Gwinn Sutherlin, who was born in 1836 and died in 1843, is buried in Leemont Cemetery near the Lee Mausoleum.  Another brother, George H. Sutherlin of Co E., 38th Va. Regt. who died in Richmond on Dec 13, 1861, along with there parents are buried nearby.  The family cemetery was usually near the home place.   It is certain that George Sanders Sutherlin (1796-1856) owned the property where Leemont Cemetery is now located.  It is probably that the Sutherlin home was near the graveyard where Nathaniel was buried in 1843.  George S. Sutherlin inherited the land from his father Thomas Sutherlin who was born about 1754 and died in 1819.   Thomas and his family may be buried there as well. 

In 1860, William M. White is a tailor age 42 with wife Avy age 41.  

Children are    James T age 15, 

                        Edward C. 13, 

                        William C. 9 and 

                        Eliza J. 5.  

“Next door” on the census roll is Robert White 36 with wife Elouisa 32 and daughter Mary E.A. 10.       

James T. White’s daughter Esther married Nathaniel Guill and they had sons Edwin and Paul.  Before he died Ed Guill, who sold and repaired motorcycles, gave me a copy of the family land on Claiborne Street in Danville.  James T. White had brothers Robert and William who were for a time in business together.  Robert ended up with the shop where he was a gunsmith and locksmith.  They sold guns, roller skates and toys.  Booth-White Sports Shop was operating when I was a kid buying model airplanes.  My wife had her first job there at 65 cents per hour as part of her business classes at George Washington High School.  Ed’s brother Paul Guill lived most of his life in Baltimore where he worked in an airplane factory.  After he retired he came back and built a house on part of his old home tract where he was born.  Paul has an interesting Native American tomahawk that came from the White farm.  

Map of White Land

website: http://www.rdricketts.com

Contact: dan@rdricketts.com

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