Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area
Dad Disowned Jim White/Job Obtained as Ferry Pilot
By BURTON 0. LUM
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 6 August 1961
There were several families in the Tri-City area by the name of White, but none were relatives of Jim White from Winnipeg, Man. According to local gossip, Jim was the only son of a police officer in Winnipeg. Jim’s father came from Ireland. He had been thoroughly trained in the ancient Irish art of self defense with a black thorn stick or shillelagh. He trained his son in this self defense.
Young Jim soon became the town’s bully. He fell in love with a French Canadian girl named Marie. Jim’s father did not approve of the girl. He told Jim if he married her he would disown him. Jim married the girl. His father disowned him.
Marie’s father was a steamboat captain on the red river of the north. He took the young couple in and secured Jim employment on a steamboat. Jim worked hard on his job. In record time he secured his engineers licenses. It was not long until he became one of the foremost pilots in his vicinity.
With the passing years the stork was quite a frequent visitor. Their oldest child was Ida, born a year after their marriage. A year later William was born, followed closely by Frank, Dora and May.
Marie’s mother died when Marie was very young. Her father’s elderly spinster’s sister came and raised her in the old house. Shortly thereafter her aunt passed away. Jim and Marie appreciated what her father had given them. They enlarged the old house so it could give everyone the accomodations they needed. The father was given quarters where he could do as he wished. He enjoyed his granchildren and visited with his old pals. Jim and Marie had been married eighteen years when her father passed away in his sleep. It was a great shock to them both.
With the old man gone, the house was empty. They could not bear it. Jim telegraphed to one of his old pals who now lived in Pasco. This pal worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad on one of the ferry boats between Kennewick and Pasco. His friend wired back that the pilot and watchman on the ferry “J.M. Nixon” one of the standby ferries of the N.P., was leaving. If He contacted the Northern Pacific, he could secure the position. It paid quite a good salary and gave free quarters on the boat for the pilot and his family.
Jim immediately wired to the proper authorities of the N.P. at Pasco. He secured the position. Jim and Marie took the best cash price they were offered for the old house and bought railroad tickets for the entire family to Pasco.
On their arrival they were met by Jim’s old pal and taken to their new home on the ferry. Their furniture, which had been previously shipped, was already in place thanks to Jim’s friend.
One stateroom was leased to Mr. Welsh, the schoolmaster of Kennewick. Marie and Ida, now seventeen, were going to have their hands full seeing that the younger members of the family did not fall overboard.
Captain C. E. Lum and his wife called on the Whites a few days after their arrival to welcome them to the wild and woolly west and offer their assistance. Jim White spoke with an Irish accent and his wife Marie with a French Canadian one.
Jim was surprised at the speed of the current and the size of the Columbia River. He was very interested in Captain Lum’s experiences as a pilot on the Mississippi and the Columbia. The oldest son, William, of 16 years and called Bill, was not going to follow in the steps of his father. He was going to be a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy. He had bought a pair of cowboy boots on their way west. Upon arriving he completed his outfit with a Stetson hat and bandana for his neck, a blue flannel shirt, a pair of overalls and a pair of leather cowboy chaps. Thus attired he called at Captain Lum’s ranch house to secure a job as a rider on the roundup that would soon begin. Captain Lum asked him if he could ride a horse. Bill said, “Sure, I had a pony in Winnipeg.” Lum told his son, Charley to saddle up a small tame riding horse. Charley held the horse and Bill put his boot in the stirrup and grabbed the horn of the saddle and dragged himself aboard. In doing so he raked the horse’s side with the rowels of his spurs. The horse gave a jump and Bill got his spurs caught in the cinch and lost his reins. It was only with Charley’s strong hands and quick thinking that the horse was quieted until Bill could extract himself. Charlie trained Bill until he was able to go on the round-up. Everyone admired the boy’s courage.
The stork made another visit to Jim and Marie. This time it was a boy. They christened him Montgomery. Monty was their sixth and last child. Dora and May were eventually married and moved to Seattle. The remainder of the family lived for years on the old “J.M. Nixon.”Return to Index of Burton Lum Articles