Charlotte White (1775?-1861), born to a Wampanoag Native American and a former slave, connected with the Native American and African American communities, worked for poor relief, and practiced folk medicine and midwifery during her lifetime in Westport. She was buried with her family near their home on what is now Charlotte White Road.
Westport’s Charlotte White (1775?-1861) was born in 1775 or 1776 to Elizabeth David, a Wampanoag Native American, and Zip White, a former slave. She was connected to Native American and African American communities, slavery, poor relief, folk medicine and midwifery during her lifetime.
Charlotte’s sister Jane married John Cuffe, brother to the prominent abolitionist Paul Cuffe. Charlotte’s name was not pronounced then as we would pronounce it now. Town records show that it was listed phonetically as “Charlotty.”
Town records also show her to be involved in poor relief before the almshouse was established. These records also show her to be a healer, midwife and poet. She is listed many times as being paid for services of caring for people in Westport. She was paid for keeping one Amy Jeffrey in 1812. The following year she was paid $34.24 for continuing to keep Miss Jeffrey plus an additional $13.43 for additional poor relief. In 1816, she was reimbursed for keeping Henro Pero, a Black child, for two weeks and two days. She also received $42.86 for making clothes for him. In 1818 and 1819 Charlotte took in both Debra Pero and her young son and was paid for “nursing and doctoring” them for 14 weeks. The listings confirm her as being a “healer,” one who is knowledgeable in the use of various herbs. She was a “best customer” at the Manchester Store in Adamsville, where she sold a product that she had concocted. It was a mixture of food coloring, herbs and rum which was popular with the Temperance Society people of Westport and Adamsville as a medicine. At that time the Temperance pledge meant total abstinence from alcohol but “medicine” was okay.
Charlotte died on June 17, 1861, of a “lung fever,” probably pneumonia. She was buried with her family near their home on what is now Charlotte White Road.
She had some basic education or at least exposure to literature because she did try writing poetry. In 1798 at age 23 she wrote:
Charlotte White is my name
New England is my nation
Westport is my dwelling place
Heaven is my salvation.
When this you see
Though far from me
Your distance be.
Guy, Martha, and Tony Conners, Westport Historical Society
Westport Public Library