Thomas White

Thomas White was a revolution soldier in America that was born in Kilkenny on the 19th of March 1739.

On the 16th of December 1773, 342 chests of tea were thrown into Boston Harbour in what became known as the Boston Tea Party. Those involved were of various nationalities, including Irish. One of those Irishmen was Thomas White, born in Kilkenny on the 19th of March 1739.

 

When Thomas left Ireland for Philadelphia in 1771, it is clear that he brought his resentment for the British with him as only three years later, he found himself aboard a British tea ship pouring the contents over the side in an act of protest.

 

The event was a public protest against the British imposed 'Tea Act 1773' which granted the British 'East India Company' a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies. Thomas amongst others disguised themselves as Native Americans, boarded ships belonging to the 'East India Company' and dumped the entire shipment of 46 tons overboard. They were cheered on by huge crowds of onlookers as the tea emptied into the harbour.

 

It was a public display of resistance against the British and rallied support from across the colonies. The British responded by imposing even heavier charges escalating tensions. This culminated in the American Revolution (1765-1783) in which Thomas would fight under the command of George Washington.

 

White attended the same masonic lodge as Washington. After the closing of business at the lodge, Washington would unveil and discuss his secret war plans to them, and no-one else. Unfortunately, papers pertaining to Thomas White's service under Washington were burnt by the British and as a result, we can only speculate as to what Thomas White's exact role and contributions might have been during this time. He served until 1782 and three of his sons would later serve. Of these three sons, only one returned home, with another drowning out on duty and the last, Ezekiel, dying of dysentery after being captured.

He was 15 years older than his wife Elizabeth Jones, the mother of their 21 children, of which a number died young. They had moved to Boston shortly after their marriage in Philadelphia.

 

In 1803, he moved with his family to Broad Top City, Pennsylvania where he would later die on the 13th of September 1820. He was buried at Evans Cemetery, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. On the 4th of July 1899, Independence Day, a monument (bottom) was unveiled above his grave. There was a large turnout and the event even featured a parade.​

 

The poster for the event (middle below) reads:


"This is the first and will be the last exercise of this kind held in this part of the state, and all descendants of Thomas White, all patriotic orders, citizens and people are cordially invited to attend, and if by nothing more than your presence, do honor to the memory of the brave and patriotic hero of the Boston Tea Party and Revolutionary fame. On this the Nation's natal day rekindle the torch of liberty and love of country."

 

Thomas White is still remembered in America today. In 1973, 200 years after the Boston Tea Party, the 'Thomas White Historical Association' erected a Pennsylvania Historical Highway Marker (below) near his gravesite in his honour. 2023 will mark 250 years since the event and it would be great if something was done to mark the Thomas White connection here in Kilkenny.

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