Mr. John White, President of the John White Bank.
The name of the gentleman who heads this article owned one of the oldest landmarks of the island, and is revered by every inhabitant of Key West. He was born on the 26th day of December, 1813, in Belmont, Maine, and received his education in the same place, never having "rubbed his elbows against a college wall." Yet, before he was scarcely out of his teens he was in charge of a small school, which he taught with credit to himself and profit to his pupils. However, his health failed him, and he was advised by his physicians to come South, and to this fact Key West owes her good fortune in having secured him as a citizen.
In 1842 Mr. White landed in Key West, more dead than alive, from lung and throat trouble. It is said by the older residents of the city, who remembered him as he then looked, that no one who saw and conversed with him believed that he could possibly live more than three months; but Mr. White came to Key West to live, not to die; and, having an indomitable will, and never-ceasing energy, he applied his whole force to the one end, to recover his health, in which, as the sequel will show, he succeeded most admirably.
First he would repair himself to one of the beaches, and turn his back to the sun and bake it, drinking in, at the same time, great draughts of the salubrious salt sea breezes. This he did from day to day, until he had so far recovered that he felt able to employ himself at work; and for several years he devoted his time to the hardest work he could perform.
In 1848 he began the mercantile business, and continued alone until 1864, when he entered into co-partnership with Mr. G. W. Ferguson, and continued business under the name of White & Ferguson until 1868, when Ferguson withdrew. Mr. White continued the business alone until 1872, when he again entered into co-partnership with Ferguson, and continued with him until 1880. During all these years, John White continued to improve in health, and Dame Fortune smiled upon him, until gradually he was forced into the banking business, owing to the fact that there was not a regular banking house on the island at that time.
In 1881 he invited Mr. Jas. A. Waddell, a gentleman of much experience and undoubted ability and integrity, to assist him in the banking business, which he had then begun in earnest, under the name of the "John White Bank," and continued the business until 1886, when he sold out his entire banking and real estate interests, to Waddell, who has continued the business in a manner that has gained for him a most enviable reputation as a financier of the highest type; and at the same time gaining the love and respect of the poor and the confidence of the rich.
|Adapted from an article that appeared in the Trade Edition of The Daily Equator - Democrat, published in Key West, Florida, March 1889|