Josiah White and His White's Iowa Manual Labor Institute


In the fall of 1850 a Pennsylvania Quaker, Josiah White, the founder of the famous Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company with his daughter Rebecca left Pennsylvania and visited the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends. He and his daughter made numerous stops during this trip in September and October 1850. Josiah in October presented his plan for the schools. He wanted to fund somewhere in the West a manual training school where "poor children, white, colored and Indian" might receive a religious education in accordance with the teachings of the Friends. After returning home he became ill and died 14 November 1850. He is buried in Eastern Burial Grounds also called Arch Street Burial Grounds/Mulberry Street Meeting House Burial Grounds in Philadelphia but in *1866/76 they say his remains were re-buried at the Southwestern Burial Grounds in Upper Darby, PA. His wife died 4 April 1855 and is buried beside him. I found a drawing of the burial grounds with their names and dates on it. * date of transfer hard to read on the listing.


cut from burial map for Arch Street Burial Grounds

Josiah was born either 4 Mar 1781 or 4 May 1781 at Mount Holly, New Jersey. He was the son of John and Rebecca Haines White. His grandfather and father operated a store and a fulling mill. His grandfather died in 1780/81 and his father died in 1785. His mother continued to operate the mill. Josiah's two older brothers soon had the property bequest to them but both died in 1796 and young Josiah was apprenticed to a hardware business at age 15. He ran a hardware store for several years and married Catherine Ridgeway in March 1805. She died two years later. A distraught young man sold the store. He married Elizabeth White, on 6 Sept 1810, in Philadelphia and soon became a known business man. Some of his successes besides Lehigh Coal were the construction of America's second railroad line in 1827, construction of the Delaware Canal in 1834 an the successful smelting of iron in 1840. He had three sons: Josiah, born 1815 and who died in 1820; John Christopher who was born in 1812 and who died in 1822 and Solomon who was born in 1813 and who died in 1832. He had two daughters: his daughter Hannah who married Richard Richardson in 1842 (but no children) and Rebecca who never married. His daughters often traveled with him on his numerous trips.

I wonder if the deaths of his three sons; his memories of life after his father died, when he was four; and what it felt like when he was apprenticed, when he was fifteen, helped him decide to use some of his wealth to help others. He was wealthy and he could not leave a legacy for his sons and he had no grandchildren. Why not help those who were living through childhood events similar to what he had experienced, by starting homes for children in need, in Indiana and Iowa.

White family tree

White's Residential and Family Services in Indiana is in operation today and seems to have had a less rocky road than the institution built in Iowa. I believe it is locate at Wabash, Indiana.

I believe that the White's Iowa Manual Labor Institute may have had a more rocky road as it was controlled for ca 14 years by Indiana Yearly Meeting, which was about 500 miles away. The 1440 acres of land purchase in 1851 was a single track of land in the northwest corner of Lee County in sections 13, 14, 23 and 24 of Cedar Township. This was about ten to fifteen miles from Salem and I do not think when Iowa Yearly Meeting was formed in 1863 they understood or shared Josiah White's vision. Where the main building stood is marked in a red x, but labeled in black. Where the current farm house that belongs to the Institute stands is marked and labeled in red on the below map.

map 1916

This is the land owned in 1916 by White's Labor Institute; add totals of 320 + 640 +160 and 320 and you get 1440 acres.

Today that total acres owned is between 500-600 acres.

Indiana Yearly Meeting appointed a board of trustees, with Joseph D. Hoag as president to look after the interests of the school. His report for years 1853-1854 says that 500 acres of prairie sod has been broken and enclosed and an orchard of ca 700 apple trees have been set out near the site of the future building. They were going to rent out five, eighty acre farms by March 1, 1855 but with crop failures and the panic of 1857 they had few if any renters and soon depleted their fund. In 1864 Indiana Yearly Meeting asked the newly formed Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends to take over the project. A new board of trustees now took control. From funds collected by the former trustees a two-story brick school was constructed 67' x 35 1/2' in 1866. There were no funds to put on the roof and when asked Iowa Yearly Meeting was more concerned in the erection of the new $16,000 Yearly Meeting House than helping White's Institute.

With a debt now of nearly $3,200 and no funds to complete the building the trustees went to the state legislature and in 1868 a bill was introduced to establish a home for juvenile offenders and the White's Institute trustees rented the property to the state for a period of ten year. The main building was soon finished and the property now was controlled by the state and it became the Boy's Training School.

1st White's Institute

This is the building completed 1866-68. The steps remain today.


March 6, 2009.

The original steps, next to a 1933 brick house built on the old stone foundation.

The Boy's Training School lasted until 1873 when the state moved it to a more central location in the state, Eldora in Hardin County, where the state built a new facility. Then the state opened a girls' school with L. D. Lewelling, Quaker of Salem, as the new Superintendent. In 1878 the girls department of the State Reform School was transferred to a location one mile west of Mt. Pleasant and in 1880 was moved to Mitchellville. The White's Institute property was then returned to Iowa Yearly Meeting and the trustees of White's Institute in a very run down condition. During the year 1879-1880 about a mile of new barbed wire fence and some five hundred rods of hedge fence, which had not been trimmed in years, were trimmed and an orchard of one hundred and fifty apple trees, thirty cherry trees and fifty grape vines were planted. Debts were paid off and Iowa Yearly Meeting said they planed to start a school on a small scale in accordance with the founder's wishes. Mr. and Mrs. Miles who ran the Training School for Indian Children at West Branch asked to lease 480 acres with school building and barn and soon the property were full of Indian children. In 1886, Mr. Miles reported to IYM there were seventy-five Indians and thirteen white children enrolled at the school. Of this number forty-eight had been accepted into membership of the Society of Friends. Shortly after this on May 27, 1887 fire destroyed the main building. After the fire of 1887 all but three Indian children were moved to Haskell, the government Indian school at Lawrence, Kansas. Isaac N. Miles and wife took charge of the twelve white children remaining in a small frame building on the farm and they continued the school. The struggle began again.  

Indian's at White's Institute

transporting to church

Transportation before cars. They would travel to Chestnut Hill Meeting/church and when it closed to Salem Meeting/church for worship.

(Above picture from Quakerdale History "1851-2001 150 Years of Caring".)

In the fall of 1888 a new two-story building was opened.

Whites institute buildings

Note that the older classroom building is still there on the right side in 1888.

New dorm building just completed in 1888, on the left side.

(Above picture from Quakerdale History "1851-2001 150 Years of Caring".)

(The above picture is from Marjorie Brown's collection. Believe building that burned in 1929.)

white's Institute

There was twelve children in 1888 and twenty-five in 1896.

This is the group of orphans and staff members in 1897 or 1898 or 1899. Edwin and Ida Hough were Superintendent and Matron.

He was John Huff/Hough's son.

Student numbers declined until in 1903 they decided to use the farm money to send children to other schools. There was a law suit filled in September 1904 that made the trustees and IYM take notice as they were being sued over not carrying out the stipulations of the will of Josiah White. A trial in 1908 supported the law suit's claim that farm income could not be used to support children in other institutions and in 1908 James Bruff a prominent Quaker attorney was able to begin turning around the Institute. 38 students were enrolled during the year of 1912-1913. It continued to function as Home and School for Boys and Girls and it appeared Josiah's hopes and dreams had all been realized. Then the main building burned in 1929.

Summarized from Burlington Hawkeye - January 28, 1929

"The main building of White's Institute, ... which was used as a dormitory for 25 orphaned children, was totally destroyed by fire here tonight, the loss being estimated at $25,000.00.

The blaze, which is thought to have started from a defective flue was discovered about 6 o'clock by one of the orphan boys, William Hanson, who was going out to skate and saw the smoke coming out of the roof. ...

All of the orphan children were taken from the building without injury ..."

It was then decided to move White's Iowa Manual Labor Institute to near New Providence and it became Quakerdale. Land was sold in Lee county to raise money to purchase 600 acres of land in Hardin County - Quakerdale. The land and white house remaining in Lee County, are listed on the current property tax records, as owned by White's Iowa Manual Labor Institute, mailing address New Providence, Iowa. Today Quakerdale operates in several locations in Iowa. Land south of Houghton was purchased by Joseph J. Denning and in 1945 he platted it into 19 lots.

If you look at the map above you will see the formation of a town Houghton on the south edge of section 12 and the north edge of section 13. Here is it's beginning. From Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy. Salem Monthly Meeting, Iowa: Huff = 6-27-1846 Elizabeth and daughters Anne, Martha and Huldah, received from Springfield MM, Indiana, certificate dated 5-6-1846. Isaiah born 11-5-1812 and died 7-26-1849, age 36 years 8 months and 21 days and was buried at Salem South Cemetery. Hough = 6-27-1846 Isaiah and wife Elizabeth and children Anna, Martha, John and Huldah, received on certificate from Springfield MM, dated 5-16-1845. (Interesting in Indiana HEQG for Springfield MM - Isaiah goes by the name Hough. Isaiah and Elizabeth Marshall were married 11-25-1830 at Flat Rock per these Quaker records.)

Isaiah Huff had purchased from a Mr. Benedict 320 acres of un-improved land in Section 12, Cedar township, Lee County, Iowa, in 1847. His son John ended up buying his siblings share of the property after Isaac died without a will. John was disowned in 1857 for marriage out if unity, but in May 1861 he and his wife Mary and children Edwin and Ida Martha request membership at Salem, Iowa. In 1874 he donated the right-of way across his farm to the railroad. The station on his farm was named Houghton. He built the first general store on the west side of the station. In 1881 he started the first post office. At some time he changed his name from Huff to Hough. He and his wife are buried in the Friends cemetery at Salem, Iowa. It appears the Huff family also attended Chestnut Hill Quaker Meeting. as on 3-30-1878 Elizabeth and Mary had their membership moved from Chestnut Hill to Salem Meeting, Iowa. This in found on page 203 , Volume II of Hinshaw's EQG. Elizabeth died at her daughter, Mary Wagner home, in Nebraska. The Salem Quaker records show Mary Wagner moving to Triumph Meeting Nebraska in 1895. (So the town of Houghton was begun by a Quaker.)


After the fire of 1929, part of the land was sold and the grandparents of the current owner built a brick house

on the old stone foundation of the schoolhouse, with bricks from White's Institute.

The foundation walls are very thick and the present owner says the basement is a good storm shelter.

Picture taken March 6, 2009

Articles read and summarized from were:

The Quakers of Iowa by Louis Thomas Jones, 1914, Part IV - Benevolent and Educational Enterprises, III - White's Iowa Manual Labor Institute.

The White's Story A Rich Heritage

Article from History of Wabash County, Indiana by Clarkson W. WessnerLewis 1914

Houghton, Iowa 1881-1981, articles on White's Iowa Manual Labor Institute and on the Huff family

Article on White's Institute from Place of Peace, Memories of Salem, Iowa 1835-1996

Quaker information on Huff/Hough from Volume VII, Iowa, Hinshaw's EQG Salem MM, pages 143-144 and Volume II, Chestnut Hill MM, page 203.

Quaker information on Josiah's family from Salem MM N J, Burlington MM N J and Philadelphia MM PA from Volume II HEQG. Dates of birth and death and burial place for Josiah White, mostly from Quaker records but some from

Compiled by Jean Hallowell Leeper 2013; contributed to Henry County IAGenWeb, 11 Mar 2022.


Were They Quakers Index   ***  Henry County IAGenWeb