Henderson County, Kentucky


Submitted by Netta Mullin
Featured in The Legacy, Vol. VI, No. 2, June 1995

A trip through the streets of downtown Henderson during the period prior to World War I, and between the two wars, would be enlightening to present-day residents, Black and White.

Starting at the river and going up Second Street, the businesses between Water and Main Streets were predominately Black-owned and operated. On the south side, in the middle of the block, was GAINES Funeral Home, with a room above for band practice (the band W. C. HANDY had initiated); on the north side were two buildings owned by the U.B.F. and the Benevolent Lodges. These housed a barbershop, saloon, restaurant and two dance halls, all patronized by Blacks. On August 4th of each year, the halls were filled for this was celebrated as "Emancipation Day."

Going east on Second Street, between Elm and Green, the wanderer found another Black owned building. Purchased by Dr. William WILSON, H. F. JONES and Peter CABELL, it provided a drug store on the first floor, with offices on the second for a dentist, two insurance men, two doctors and a private clubroom.

The first pharmacist was Atwood CABELL (whose brothers Delmo and Roger, followed the same trade in Providence, Bowling Green, Evansville and Louisville) and later a woman pharmacist, Lillian AUSTIN. Some of the Black doctors in Henderson, not necessarily in order, included: Doctors O'NEAL, ARMISTEAD, WILSON, WESTON, DAVIE, GOWDY, WATSON, DOWNEY, BEAM, PETTIT, GLASS and HOUSE. Dentists were: Doctors GLOVE, IRVINE, SMITH and MASON.

Another center for Black trade was is the vicinity of Alves and Dixon Streets. Here were groceries operated by WOOLFOLK (Fellows) and WARE, a meat market by LANGLEY and, in later years, the drug store. Scattered over town were other groceries operated by REEDER, McCLURE, Aaron and George CABELL. Aaron CABELL bought the large estate of Jacob HELD and HELD's Park became CABELL's Park.

Returning to downtown Henderson, the stroller found the Black barbershops which catered to white trade. The first was F. B. DOXEY who opened shop on the west side of Main Street, about three doors from First Street. Soon Ben TAYLOR and Dallas LONGLY started barbering in the adjoining building (south). If the visitor were lucky, he might find Ben TAYLOR working on a part for his man-made railroad train. When he stopped to clip a customer's hair, he handed the part to his shoeshine boy, Lorenzo JONES, to finish sanding. The finished engine was about three feet long, steam-powered, and pulled flat cars. Displayed in the shop for a time, TAYLOR used it later to haul coal from his coalhouse to his home.

DOXEY also built a theatre on the front of his home to show movies to the Black community. This was the lot later used for the Gleaner Building. (Now a parking lot)

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS