Bouck White

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Bouck White
Bouck White circa 1915-1916
Bouck White circa 1915-1916
Born(1874-10-20)October 20, 1874
Middleburgh, New York
DiedJanuary 7, 1951(1951-01-07) (aged 76)
Menands, New York
OccupationNovelist, minister, political activist, potter
Notable worksQuo Vaditis (1903), The Book of Daniel Drew (1910), The Call of the Carpenter (1911), The Mixing (1913), The Carpenter and the Rich Man (1914), and Letters from Prison (1915).

Charles Browning "Bouck" White (October 20, 1874[1] – January 7, 1951[2]) was a Congregational minister, an American socialist, a Jesusist, an author, a potter, and a recluse.


Early years[edit]

Charles Browning White, known to family and friends as Bouck White, was born at Middleburgh, Schoharie County, New York, the son of Charles Addison and Mary (Bouck) White.[3][4] White used Middleburgh as background in his book The Mixing (1913) and described the thinly-veiled residents as, "degenerative Dutchmen."[5] Middleburgh residents sued and retorted that White was "a male child born some years ago in the village, whose early stupidity gave no indication of his future precocity."[6]


After graduating from Middleburgh High School, he entered Harvard College in 1894, studied journalism, and graduated in 1896 (A.B.).[7] He worked as a reporter for the Springfield Republican, received his "call," and attended Boston Theological Seminary.[3] In 1902 he graduated from Union Theological Seminary of New York City.[7] and worked as a minister in the Ramapo Mountains near West Point. He published his first book, Quo vaditis?: A call to the old moralities in 1903. A typical selection shows that, from the beginning, he was against the money-making spirit in the land. "I have seen a People crazed with new-got riches, a drunk-headed People, a People giddied with great possessions. A wildness was upon them, but it was not a wildness for the desirables of life."[8]

After a year at Ramapo he became pastor of the Congregational Church of the Thousand Islands at Clayton, New York the next three years.[9] White was ordained a Congregational minister in 1904.[10] He then accepted the position of head of the Men's Social Service department in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, where he remained until he was dismissed in 1913.[9]

Socialist Activities[edit]

While at Holy Trinity, White worked on several books. The Book of Daniel Drew (1910) was "A Study in the Psychology of Wall Street. A fascinating story of the mental evasions and feats of ethical juggling of one hopelessly caught in the system."[5] The 1937 movie, "The Toast of New York" starring Cary Grant, Edward Arnold, and Frances Farmer was based on this book and is currently available on DVD.[15] The Call of the Carpenter (1911), which portrayed Jesus of Nazareth as a workingman, agitator, and social revolutionist, went too far and caused his dismissal from Holy Trinity.[9] White formed his own church, "The Church of the Social Revolution," and Eugene V. Debs observed that White was "the only Christian minister" in New York.[11] In The Carpenter and the Rich Man (1914) "Bouck White shows in vivid and absorbing fashion Jesus as the leader of the great proletarian surge of his time. The immorality of being rich when other people are poor, is the keynote of this book, and the author bases it on the message of the Carpenter as found in the parables."[9]

A member of the Socialist Party of America until he was removed because of his religious beliefs, White appeared (May 10, 1914) at a service of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church,[12] to which the Rockefeller family belonged, in order to discuss the question, "Did Jesus teach the immorality of being rich?". He was arrested on the charge of disorderly conduct and three days later he was sentenced to six months on Blackwells Island. Because of his success at converting the workhouse prisoners there to Socialism, he was transferred to the more isolated Queens County Jail. Upton Sinclair had a letter published in The New York Times urging White's followers to work for his release, and referred to "Bouck White as 'Jesus,' to the Magistrate who convicted him as 'Pilate,' to the Calvary Baptist Church as 'the temple,'....[13][14]


After he was released, he published Letters from Prison (1915) which contained his creed:

I believe in God, the Master most mighty, stirrer-up of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus the Carpenter of Nazareth, who was born of proletarian Mary, toiled at the work bench, descended into labor's hell, suffered under Roman tyranny at the hands of Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. The Power not ourselves which makes for freedom, he rose again from the dead to be lord of the democratic advance, sworn foe of stagnancy, maker of folk upheavals. I believe in work, the self-respecting toiler, the holiness of beauty, freeborn producers, the communion of comrades, the resurrection of workers, and the industrial commonwealth, the cooperative kingdom eternal."[9]

For desecrating the national flag, even though he claimed it was part of a religious ceremony and several flags from other countries were burned at the same time as a call for international botherhood, he was again sent to prison in 1916.[15]

Later life[edit]

White left for Europe, to either learn more about pottery-making or as a war correspondent, and married Andree Emilie Simon, a 19-year-old girl he brought back to his primitive home in Marlboro, Ulster County, NY. Because he mistreated her, the local residents tarred and feathered him. The marriage was annulled and White left for Vermont in the summer of 1921.[16] He eventually moved to New Scotland, Albany County, NY in the Helderberg Mountains area, and with the help of two Swedish brothers, he built by hand a primitive castle out of local limestone in the mid 1930s.[17] He referred to his buildings as "Federalburg" and "The Spirit of the Helderbergs," but local residents called it the "Helderberg Castle."

He made a living selling "Bouckware" pottery with a new glazing technique that required no heat. Fire destroyed his living quarters at the castle in 1940, and in 1944 White suffered a stroke that forced him to enter the Home for Aged Men in Menands where he died in 1951.[18]

"Bouck White drifted through the Methodist Episcopal ministry, the Congregational ministry, and a stint as an Episcopalian lay youth worker, before founding the Church of the Social Revolution and exasperating all socialist and ecclesiastical organizations he encountered, before descending into notorious eccentricities in the mountains outside Albany, New York." [19]


  1. ^ U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007.
  2. ^ "Bouck White Dies at 76; 'Hermit of the Helderbergs'." The Enterprise, Altamont, N. Y. January 12, 1951. Web. May 31, 2009 [1]
  3. ^ a b Hayes, John Joseph. "Secretary's Fifth Report By Harvard College (1780- )." Plimpton Press, 1916 [2]
  4. ^ Year: 1880; Census Place: Middleburgh, Schoharie, New York; Roll: T9_931; Family History Film: 1254931; Page: 213.1000; Enumeration District: 189; Image: 0200.
  5. ^ a b White, Bouck "The Mixing: What the Hillport Neighbors Did." Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1913 [3]
  6. ^ "MIDDLEBURG WANTS NOVEL SUPPRESSED; Villagers Say the Rev. Bouck White Libeled Them in 'The Mixing.'." New York Times Archive, January 23, 1914. Web. May 30, 2009 [4]
  7. ^ a b Quinquennial catalogue of the officers and graduates of Harvard university, 1636-1915 Cambridge: Harvard university press, 1915 [5]
  8. ^ White, Buck. "Quo vaditis?: A call to the old moralities." The Civic press, 1903 [6]
  9. ^ a b c d e White, Bouck. "Letters from Prison." Boston: Richard G. Badger. 1915. Web. May 30, 2009 [7]
  10. ^ Gordon, John Steele. 'Businessmen's Autobiographies." American Heritage Magazine May/June 1995: Volume 46, Issue 3. Web. May 30, 2009 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
  11. ^ Goldstein, David, and Martha Moore Avery. "Bolshevism Its Cure." Boston: Boston School of Political Economy. 1915. Web. March 30, 2009 [8]
  12. ^ Bouck White (Oct 26, 1914). "Why I am in prison?". The Independent. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  13. ^ "White is Deified by Upton Sinclair." The New York Times. May 25, 1914. Web. June 1, 2009. [9]
  14. ^
  15. ^ Boxer, Sarah. "Word for Word/The Flag Bulletin;Two Centuries of Burning Flags, A Few Years of Blowing Smoke." The New York Times. December 17, 1995. Web. May 31, 2009. [10]
  16. ^ Mahan, Maryloe. "The First Hundred Years." iUniverse, 2002. Web. May 30, 2009 [11]
  17. ^ Publication Information:Dorn, Jacob H. "Socialism and Christianity in Early 20th Century America." Greenwood Press. Westport, CT. 1998. Page Number: 192. Web. May 30, 2009 [12] Archived 2010-11-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Parry, Marc. "A majestic folly: Not your average abode, Helderberg Castle is in market for a new ruler." Albany Times Union. June 5, 2006. Web. May 30, 2009. [13]
  19. ^ Friesen, Paul H. Review of "Socialism and Christianity in Early 20th Century America." American Society of Church History, 2001. Web. May 30, 2009. [14]

Further reading[edit]

  • Mary E. Kenton, "Christianity, Democracy, and Socialism: Bouck White's Kingdom of Self-Respect," in Jacob H. Dorn (ed.), Socialism and Christianity in Early 20th Century America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

External links[edit]