Charles Wells' Home Page -- Northeastern Ohio shape note home page

A Chronological History
of the Life of
Benjamin Franklin White

compiled by

Donald Stephen Clarke
1784 South Deshon Road
Lithonia, GA 30058

Basic Data

BORN: September 20, 1800
DIED: December 5, 1879
FATHER: Robert White
MOTHER: Mildred Whitehead
MARRIED: Thurza Melvina Golightly December 30, 1825
BORN: October 13, 1805
DIED: September 2, 1878


(1) September 20, 1800: Benjamin Franklin White was born near Cross Keys in Union County, South Carolina.

(2) November 30, 1807: Ben's mother dies.

(3) c.1805 - 1815: Ben had little formal education; only three sessions of school after the laying by of the crops.

(4) c.1812 - 1814: Ben served as a fifer in the War of 1812.

(5) 1824: Ben began teaching music.

(6) Ben was a member of the Missionary Baptist denomination, but attended services of the various denominations in the areas in which he lived.

(7) December 30, 1825: Ben married Thurza Melvina Golightly the daughter of David Golightly and Nancy Ogburn.

(8) 1826: William Decatur White born to Thurza and Ben.

(8') October 1828: David Patillo White born to Thurza and Ben.

(9) April 14, 1831: Robert H. and Mary Caroline (Carrie) White were born to Thurza and Ben.

(10) 1835: Ben White's brother-in-law, William Walker (by his marriage to Amey Golightly, Thurza's sister), published the "Southern Harmony" fasola songbook. Ben White helped William Walker with this book but wasn't given any credit in the book for his work resulting in that the two men never again spoke to each other.

(11) November 22, 1835: Nancy Ogburn White was born to Thurza and Ben.

(12) May 1842: Ben White and his family moved to Harris County, Georgia, by covered wagon.

(13) 1843: Thurza Melvina White was born to Thurza and Ben.

(14) February 23, 1843: Ben takes a mortgage on 95 acres of land in land lot 324 in the 21st district of Harris county, Georgia, near Whitesville.

(15) November 21, 1843: Ben's father dies. [He was 100 years old --CW]

(16) 1840's: Ben taught music and the Hamilton Female Institute in Harris County along with other pursuits.

(17) 1843-1844: Ben edited a weekly newspaper in Hamilton, Harris County which had a music section in which fasola songs were printed. The songs became so popular that in 1844 the songs from 13 issues of the newspaper were clipped out and pinned together to make the first "Sacred Harp" songbook by Ben White and Elisha J. King.

(18) c. April, 1844: The "Sacred Harp" was sent to T. K. and P. G. Collins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to be printed in book form for Benjamin F. White and Elisha J. King.

(19) August 31, 1844: Ben White's co-author of the "Sacred Harp", Elisha J. King, died at age 23.

(20) October 23, 1844: Columbus (Georgia) Enquirer announces the publication of the "Sacred Harp".

(21) January 1, 1845: Benjamin Franklin White, Jr., was born to Thurza and Ben.

(22) 1845: The first "Sacred Harp" singing conventionwas held at Long Cane in Troup County, Georgia. Benjamin Hill, later U. S. Senator from Georgia and for whom Ben Hill County, Georgia, was named, gave a speech at this convention and stated that it was his opinion that the "Sacred Harp" would be around for a long time.

(23) 1845: The Southern Musical Convention, was formed at Huntersville in Upson County, Georgia, with Ben White as President.

(24) January 22, 1847: James Landrum White was born to Thurza and Ben.

(25) November 10, 1848: Martha America White was born to Thurza and Ben.

(26) 1850: First revision of the "Sacred Harp" by a committee of the Southern Musical Convention consisting of B. F. White, Joel King, Leonard P. Breedlove, A. Ogletree, S. R. Pennick, J. R. Turner, R. F. M. Mann and E. L. King.

(27) January 1852: The weekly newspaper, The Organ, was started in Hamilton, Georgia by the authority of the Southern Musical Convention with B. F. White as Superintendent.

(28) 1852: The Chattahoochee Musical Convention was formed at Macedonia Church in Coweta County, Georgia in part to protest the Southern Musical Convention's use of fasola books other than the "Sacred Harp". B. F. White was also a member of this convention.

(29) 1855: The Alabama and the East Texas musical conventions were formed.

(30) March 22, 1856: Ben White joined the Mountain Creek Baptist Church. (Changed name to Whitesville Baptist, now Midway Baptist).

(31) 1858: Ben White, Clerk of the Inferior Court of Harris County.

(32) 1859: Second revision of the "Sacred Harp" by a committee consisting of B. F. White, E. T. Pound, J. P Reese, R. F. BAll, A. Ogletree, J. T. Edmonds and A. S. Webster.

(33) 1861-65: Too old to serve, B. F. White helped raise several companies of soldiers from Harris County. (The title Major B. F. White had come from militia service before the war.)

(34) April 18, 1865: Union troops attacked and burned the buildings on the south side of the town sqaure in Hamilton, Georgia. (Ben White for a while lived in the old Dr. Gibbs house on the northeast corner of the square.)

(35) 1865: Ben White was the mayor of Hamilton, Georgia.

(36) 1869: Third revision of the "Sacred Harp" by a committee consisting of B. F. White, E. T. Pound, J. P. Reese, R. F. Ball, A. Ogletree, J. T. Edmonds, T. Waller and A. S. Webster.

(37) c.1865-1870: Ben White moved to DeKalb County, Georgia, near what is now Bouldercrest Road and Interstate 285 with Thurza and their younger children and their daughter Nancy and her husband Theodore H. Byrd and their children.

(38) c. 1872: Ben and Thurza were living near Covington Highway (US 278) and Miller Road near their daughter Martha who had recently married a widower, E. H. Clarke.

(39) September 2, 1878: Thurza Melvina Golightly White dies. SHe was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.

(40) November 28, 1879: Ben White is injured from a fall on Spring Street in Atlanta, apparently near No. 6 Spring Street where his taughter Mary "Carrie" Adair, widow of William Adair, lived.

(41) December 5, 1879: Ben White dies from the injuries he received in the fall on November 28, 1879. In his last days Ben reflected on his life and summed it up in this statement: "The end has come and I am ready". Near the end Ben sang his last "Sacred Harp" song "Sounding Joy". Those who witnessed it said he sang the song "plainly and distinctly". Ben was also buried at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.

(42) 1979: Ben White's descendants and the "Sacred Harp" singers erected a memorial tombstone on his grave. The stone is topped with an opened book with the words "Sacred Harp" incised upon it.


B. F. White tombstone 1, 41.

Isaac Murphy letters 1, 2, 15

"White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands" by Jackson 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 23, 27, 28, 29, 33, 35, 39, 40, 41, 42

1859 U. S. Census, Harris County, Georgia 8, 9, 11, 13, 21, 24, 25

"The Sacred Harp" 5, 18, 40

Harris County history by Barfield 5, 16, 20, 27, 30, 31, 34, 35

Robert H. White tombstone and obituary 9

Nancy O. White (Byrd) tombstone 11

Nancy O. White (Byrd) Confederate Widows Pension 12

Mrs. T. H. Tennent letter (Nancy's granddaughter) 12, 16

Harris County deeds 14

Robert White Sr. tombstone and obituary 15

J. L. White interview in July 11, 1920 Atlanta Journal Magazine 16, 17, 22

"The Sacred Harp. A Tradition and its Music" by Buell Cobb 19, 20, 26, 27, 28, 29 32, 36, 39

B. F. White, Jr., tombstone 21

J. L. White tombstone 24

Martha A. White (Clarke) tombstone 25

Pearl Clarke Fortune, Bible 25

1870 U. S. Census, DeKalb County, Georgia 37

DeKalb County deeds 38

Thurza M. G. White tombstone 39

B. F. White obituary 40, 41

Elizabeth Bobo, Bible (Robert's daughter) 15

"Story of the Sacred Harp" by Jackson, 23, 28

Charles Wells' Home Page -- Northeastern Ohio shape note home page