William & Axey White

(Pasquotank County)

Featured Characters – Divided Allegiances

William & Axey White

William and Axey White

Courtesy of K. Paul Johnson

In 1783, William Twine White’s Quaker great-grandfather faced a stiff fine and penalty for illegally freeing his slaves.  His great-grandson did not hold similar views.  By the time of William T. White’s birth in 1824, few Quakers lived in Pasquotank County.  So many left for the West during the early nineteenth century that the meeting house at Little Creek was “laid down” in 1854.  The few Quaker families that remained converted to other faiths.  The Whites became Methodists.  William T. White’s father owned eight slaves, which he inherited upon Thomas White’s death in 1839.  Those slaves earned William T. White a healthy living; the 1860 Census estimated his total worth at $18,309. 

Despite his age, thirty-eight, White enlisted in 1862 in the reorganized 17th North Carolina Infantry.  However, he never reported for duty.  Instead, White joined John T. Elliot’s band of Confederate guerrillas.  As the commissary officer, White used his property to store food and supplies for the partisan rangers.  On his raid through northeastern North Carolina, Union General Edward A. Wild heard about White’s involvement with the guerrillas.  He ordered his black troops to burn White’s house.  White himself hid with the other Confederate partisans in Pasquotank County’s woods and swamps, leaving his wife, Axey, to face the Union troops alone.  In a 1932 interview, White’s daughter recalled her mother frantically throwing things out windows as the house went up in flames.  Although Governor Vance ordered Elliot’s men to leave the region, White did not follow them.  Returning home, he rebuilt his family’s lives.  By 1870, his hard work made White worth about $4,000 more than his 1860 income.  William and Axey were part of the founding members of Mt. Hermon Methodist Church in Pasquotank County. William died in 1897 and Axey followed in 1900.