Caddo Parish Genealogy, Louisiana Genealogy

The Mystery of John White


My great grandparents Willie White Hayes and Isabel Young with 5 of their grandchildren, my father & siblings; l/r – Ruby (my father), Earnestine, David, Claude, Myrtle, and baby Dorothy on Isabel’s shoulder. Mira, Caddo Parish, Louisiana 1931

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I decided to start this blog with my 2g-grandfather John White, born around 1842 in Louisiana. His parents and any confirmed siblings are currently unknown. The only records for John is the 1870 Caddo Parish census, and a death certificate of his son that names him. John White died before 1880 so I have very little to go on with him. Our family lore had named most of the children he had with his only known wife Jane Hill. These children were confirmed in census records.

John White is the grandfather of my paternal grandmother, Willie Lee Hayes-Tyson. Grandmother got the Hayes name from her father Willie White Hayes, the last child of John White and Jane Hill. The family lore is that John White died when Willie was very young and Willie ended up being raised by an uncle, Mr. Hayes. We do not know the first name of this Mr. Hayes. He may be a Samuel Hayes that is living close to John White in the 1870 census listed with a wife Rose. I’m told that Mr. Hayes married the aunt of Willie and that we were not related to the Hayes family. I’m unsure of this and have no family information as of yet for Samuel and Rose Hayes to connect them.

1870 Caddo ward 7 census showing John and Jane White with children; Elvira, Peggy, and Frank

1870 Caddo Parish ward 7 census showing John and Jane White with children; Elvira, Peggy, and Frank

John White married Jane Hill possibly very close to the end of the Civil War. Their first known child Elvira was born around 1865. This hints that John and Jane may have lived on the same plantation as slaves or close by. The 1870 Caddo Parish ward 7 census shows John White and family, listing John as a farmer. This ward 7 is the Belcher area of Caddo Parish. The census shows that John could not read or write and his personal estate value was $100. The 1870 census didn’t ask the birthplace of parents so I missed seeing what John would have listed there. They added that question in the 1880 census.

The 1880 Caddo census shows Jane now widowed living with her children; Peggy, John, Willie, and Bethanie. Our family lore named a child Bertha and I assume it was Bethanie. The age listed for Willie in the 1880 census was really off, an obvious case of wrong enumeration. My great grandfather was born in 1875, we have his family bible with the date of his birth and the census listed him at 14 yrs. old. Elvira and Frank are not listed and may have died or not living in the home with Jane. Family lore also says that John White and Jane Hill had seven children and my great grandfather Willie was #7.

from the bible of Willie (White) Hayes, listing his birth date of Dec 10, 1875

from the bible of Willie (White) Hayes, listing his birth date of Dec 10, 1875

Caddo Parish started issuing death certificates in 1911 so there is no death certificate for John White nor have I found a marriage certificate for John and Jane. I’ve combed through newspaper announcements and other local sources and have still come up cold. The only clue I’ve found for John White’s death is from the U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885. It listed a negro John White that was shot and killed in Nov. 1879 in Caddo Parish. It listed him as born in Texas, married, a farmer, and 27 years old. Not quite a fit with the birth place of Texas and the age doesn’t match up. The John White in my tree should be born in Louisiana and around 37 years old at that time.

This was a brutal era in Caddo Parish and across the southern states. Caddo was nick named “Bloody Caddo” due to the constant killings of blacks after Emancipation. From the years 1865-1876 Caddo Parish had 566 homicides making Caddo the most violent parish in the state. Some of these killings against blacks were politically motivated, any black that dared vote Republican would end up dead. I wonder if John White was among these killings. You can read and download the PDF; Bloody Caddo: White Violence Against Blacks in a Louisiana Parish 1865-1876, written by Gilles Vandal on my website.

My great grandfather Willie White Hayes died in 1936 and his death certificate didn’t list his father, only his mother Jane. So I ordered the death certificate for the other son John White Jr. and his did list both parents. It also confirmed a half-brother Rev. Alonzo Martin who signed the certificate as his brother. This death certificate and the 1870 census are the only records I have for John White. I’ve found no records for him in the Freedmen’s Bureau Records, land, tax, marriage, or military.

death certificate for John White Jr. naming parents John White and Jane Hill

death certificate for John White Jr. naming parents John White and Jane Hill

I believe John White may have come off the plantation of Reuben White, a large slave owner in Caddo Parish. Reuben White had a plantation called Rush Island Plantation which was near Shreveport. Reuben White was one of the early settlers of Caddo Parish and is listed in Caddo’s first census of 1840. This census shows Reuben owning 19 slaves. By 1860 he was Caddo’s largest slave owner listed in the slave schedules with 162 slaves and a few males and females that match the age for John and Jane.

There is no family lore of what plantation John or Jane lived on or them being the descendants of a slave owner. I’ve yet to see any list of Reuben White’s slaves or family papers. I do have records of many slaves that he bought or sold which are recorded in the book No Land Only Slaves Vol 3, covering slave records for Caddo Parish. None of these records name a John or Jane that match.

My aunt Earnestine would stay at times with her grandparents Willie & Isabel Hayes. Earnestine has a remarkable memory and is known in the family as “The Hall of Records”. She recalls vivid details of events and names of almost everyone that came to their house. She will tell what they were wearing and what the weather was like that day. She told me that her grandfather Willie told her that his father John was born in Caddo Parish around the time Caddo was incorporated which was 1838-39. Earnestine, as well as the rest of the family always say the White and Hill side of the family lived around Belcher and Dixie. Some also lived in Bossier Parish around Plain Dealing.

My grandmother “Mother Willie” knew some of these relatives but since her passing in 2000 at 98 yrs. old we have lost contact with them. There is one person in particular that I’m still working on trying to connect, Rev. Morris Austin of Shreveport. His picture hangs on the wall of my aunt Lottie’s (Sug) house, and I had asked her who he was. She says he’s a relative on the White side of the family but doesn’t remember the connections. I called Morris Austin, now in his 80’s and we had a good long talk about the family. He was glad that I’m doing this research and told me that he is related to us on the White side but doesn’t know the ancestors name. He recalled a great grandmother Jane Bradford which is a good clue as there have been other marriages between the Bradford & White family. I bet Mother Willie could tell me this one.

The six known children of John White and Jane Hill were; Elvira, Peggy, Frank, Bethanie, John Jr., and Willie. Peggy married William House; John Jr. married Minnie Lee; and Willie married Isabel Young. At a family reunion in 1999 I met the son of John White Jr. named Reuben Glassell White. That name Reuben definitely stirs my curiosity. When I met him I didn’t have this information yet or would have asked him about that name, and he passed away in 2002.

The pedigree charts for John White and Jane Hill are here at my website –

There is a few possible relatives of John White that always seemed to be living close by, either to John in the 187o census or to Jane in later census records. Joe White, Daniel White, Johanna White, Alex White, and Solomon Martin are all people that lived close by.

Joe White was born around 1820 possibly in South Carolina (his census records are conflicting). Joe lived close by in 1870 and 1880. In the 1900 census he is living next to Jane who is now married to Adkins Martin. Living with Joe White is the father of Adkins Martin, Solomon Martin, born about 1839 in South Carolina. He is listed as the brother to the head of household, which was Joe White. Solomon may have been the brother of Joe’s wife Sarah, I’m not sure of her maiden name. I’ve seen another Caddo researcher naming her as Sarah Miles but I don’t know if that’s correct.

Adkins Martin is the father of one of Jane’s other known sons, Rev. Alonzo Martin, and another possible son named Eli Martin. After John White died Jane had more children, the ones known to the family were; Lawson Harris, Alonzo Martin, Arana Collins, and one Aunt Earnestine calls “Uncle Baby” who I think was Eli Martin.

So goes The Mystery of John White. This story will continue with my blog on my 2g-grandmother Jane Hill. Thanks for reading…..


Mark Tyson