a tree-rific journey into family history

Add White: on a collision course with destiny

If my ancestor had not been killed by another driver, then I probably would not be here today to write this great blog!

Add White, my great-grandfather, was born around 1901 in Morgan County, Alabama. He was the youngest child born to the union of Henry P. White (1867-1944) and Virginia Black White (1865-1902). His mother died shortly after his birth, and his father then married Hulday F. Gullion Whisenant. On one census, Add’s name is given as Adner White. He married Martha Ann Brown, and they had eight children. Working as a sharecropper, Add and his family spent several years in Louisiana before making their way to Jefferson County, Arkansas in the early 1940s.

The inclusion of a Bible in this picture may indicate the importance of their Christian faith to my great-grandparents, Add and Mattie Brown White. They were part of the Pentecostal movement, and a trip to church would lead to Add White’s death in 1942.

On his way to a Sunday evening church service on November 1, 1942, Add White’s wagon was struck by a truck in Sherrill, Arkansas. He and two mules were killed, and three other persons were injured. I often joke that he was behind the times still driving a wagon when others were in trucks, but I imagine many poorer folks did not have automobiles in 1942 rural Arkansas. Oral tradition suggests the truck’s driver, Walter Coggins, was intoxicated although this has not been verified. (He would not be my only ancestor to be supposedly killed by a drunk driver. My great-great grandfather, Cassius M. Omans (1869-1924) was hit by a reportedly-intoxicated driver while building a road in New York. The driver was indicted for manslaughter, but the jury was not convinced.)  I have also heard that Add reportedly threw his youngest son off the wagon to save his life. I suppose the rest of the family walked to church that evening. Add White is buried in an unknown grave at Mulberry Cemetery in England, Arkansas.

The local paper gave a detailed account. Click to enlarge.

As so often it is with family history, the tragedy shaped future events in a way that otherwise would not have occurred. Left alone to care for the family, my great-grandmother married William Oliver Martin (1888-1980) and eventually the family moved to California. Once there, my grandmother met my grandfather, and this led to my father and ultimately to me. So if it were not for the unfortunate demise of Add White, I almost certainly would not exist.

This picture sums up Sherrill, Arkansas. I imagine the landscape hasn’t changed much since my ancestor died on their street 70 years ago.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Corder. I found his site by searching for Sherrill, Arkansas images, and he has some great Arkansas pictures.)


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8 thoughts on “Add White: on a collision course with destiny

  1. Keith Welch on said:

    My name is Keith Welch, and Add White was my great grandfather as well. My paternal grandmother, Mary Ruth White Welch, was born in Alabama in 1922 to Add and Mary White. The family left Alabama and traveled to Brownsville, TX as migrant workers. Eventually they moved to northeast Louisiana, near Oak Grove, Louisiana, where my grandmother met and married Alton Leroy Welch, Sr. Mattie lived in Pine Bluff, AR after the death of Mr. Martin until she had a stroke while visiting my grandmother in Pioneer, LA. She was put in a nursing home in Oak Grove, LA where she died a few years later.
    I have a copy of the same picture of my great grandparents that you have posted on this site. I know that Mattie was very religious and was a Pentecostal. My grandmothers younger brother Buddy was in the wagon when it was hit. He was either thrown from the wagon by the impact or by Mr. White, not sure which.

    • Thank you for your comments! I am always excited to hear from cousins and learn anything I can about our heritage. I have some others posts here related to Mattie Brown’s Childress and Brown lineages. Please let me know if I can be of any help to you!

    • Charlotte on said:

      Grandma was not born to Add and Mary White. Mama spelled grandpa’s name with one “d” although I notice that the newspaper spelled it Add. Grandma’s name was not Mary. Her name was Martha Ann Brown, but everyone called her Mattie. Grandma was not Pentecostal. She was Assembly of God. Buddy was not in the wagon when Grandpa White was killed. Gene, their youngest son was in the wagon with his dad. The newspaper misspelled his name. They spelled it Jean, but that is wrong. He was thrown out of the wagon which saved his life.

  2. Keith Welch on said:

    Opps, Mattie lived in England, AR, not Pine Bluff.

  3. Charlotte on said:

    Grandma did live in Pine Bluff at one time.

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