Colonel Frank Charles White was born on December 12, 1856, in Stillman Valley, Illinois, to Joshua and Lucy Ann (Brown) White. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1880. Soon after graduation, White worked for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. In 1882, he moved to the Dakota Territory, although his reasons for doing so are unclear. According to the book Barnes County History, White departed for North Dakota at his father's request to look after land he had acquired near Valley City; Clement Lounsberry’s North Dakota History and People reports that White moved to North Dakota to look after land he himself had purchased. Nevertheless, while White was in Valley City he met Elsie Hadley, a native of Indiana who was a math teacher at Valley City State Normal School. The couple were married on September 19, 1894, in Indianapolis. The couple had one son, Edwin.
White's interests soon turned toward politics, and in 1890 he was elected to represent District 15 in the North Dakota House of Representatives. He served only one term before being elected to the State Senate in 1892. He was re-elected in 1896, but resigned from this post to become a commissioned major of the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry, Spanish-American War.
White arrived in the Philippines on July 30, 1898, participating in the capture of Manila on August 13. Throughout his service in the war, White participated in over twenty engagements, was a highly respected leader, and was awarded the Silver Star for bravery during combat.
White returned to the United States in 1899, and purchased land near Litchville. In 1900, he opened a real estate and insurance office. That same year, he received the Republican nomination for Governor, and was victorious in the fall election.
Under White's two-term governorship, many needed reforms were implemented. A large amount of the school funds were not drawing interest, and White decided to invest the money in bonds and farm loans, earning interest in the lump sum. It was during his administration that North Dakota's first state bonds were redeemed. In fact, through his sound financial maneuvering, a $223,000 state deficit was eliminated.
In January 1905, however, White decided to retire from political office to return to private business. He organized the Middlewest Fire Insurance Company and served as its president until 1913, when the company merged with Twin City Fire Insurance Company. In 1914, White organized the Middlewest Loan & Trust Company and was its president until America's entry into World War I.
With the advent of World War I, White was commissioned once more, this time at the rank of colonel. He commanded the Second North Dakota National Guard Regiment, which later merged into the 41st Infantry Division. In 1918, he was sent to France, but due to his age he was not assigned to combat duty.
When the war ended, White returned to take up his position in Middlewest Loan & Trust Company. His career in politics was not finished, though, for in 1921 White was named United States Treasurer at the request of President Warren G. Harding. When Calvin Coolidge became President in 1924, he was asked to remain in the position. He resigned in May 1928 to become president of Southern Mortgage Guaranty Corporation at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Elsie White died on July 13, 1925, in Washington, DC. Colonel Frank White died in Washington, D.C. on March 23, 1940. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
Open for inspection under the rules and regulations of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections.
Beginning in October 2021 and ending in February 2022, this collection has been loaned to the State Historical Society of North Dakota under the Memorandum of Agreement for the Loan of Manuscript and Archival Materials.
The Frank White Papers date from 1886-1940, and consist primarily of correspondence, in the form of personal letters to and from Frank and Elsie White, as well as their son, Edwin. There is correspondence from Frank White to his wife during his service in the Philippines, 1898-1899. There is a small amount of political correspondence, especially when White was seeking the office of United States Treasurer.
Also included in the collection are business and financial records, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook, a memory book, two guest books, and several diaries. One diary was kept by Elsie White from 1899-1902, while a second diary was kept by A.E. Nickerson of Wilmington, Ohio, from 1862-1863. Nickerson’s connection with Frank or Elsie White is unknown. A third diary is unidentified, but dates from 1934.