Henderson County, Kentucky Biography


Richard Henderson SOAPER, tobacconist of Henderson, was born in Henderson County, 7 Feb 1836, and is the eldest son of William and Susan Fannie (HENDERSON) SOAPER. He was educated in the private schools of Henderson; Shelbyville College and Kenyon College, Ohio. No means were spared to give him a thorough collegiate education. Upon his return from college he was given a position in his father's tobacco stemmery and in a very short time he mastered the science of handling the weed, and subsequently acquired an interest in the business. He remained with his father until 1867, when he established a house of his own. His father joined him in this enterprise a little later and they continued together until his father's death in 1881, since which time he has continued the business in Henderson in partnership with his brother.

In 1868 Richard established a branch house in Uniontown, with a capacity of five hundred hogheads per annum; and this, with his Henderson house, he has operated most successfully, buying and shipping about one thousand hogsheads annually, for which the principal markets are Liverpool and London. In addition to his large tobacco interests in this country and Europe, Richard owns two valuable farms in the river bottom, one of five hundred and twenty-eight acres and the other of four hundred and twenty-six acres. These lands are noted for their productiveness of either corn or tobacco. His annual crops are very large, and so well systematized are his farming operations that nothing but an overflow or an unprecedented drought can prevent him from reaping a handsome income from this source every year.

His plant in Henderson was destroyed by fire 10 Feb 1894, but it was immediately rebuilt on even a larger scale than before. The present building is 160 X 75 feet, four stories high, two stories of brick and two of frame, with an L 80 X 65 feet. An average force of sixty-five or seventy hands are employed in this establishment.

His father, William SOAPER, left a large and varied estate and Richard H. was made executor of his will. The property consisted of lands, houses and lots, moneys, bonds, stocks and other possessions, which were to be apportioned among nine devisees. It was a difficult undertaking, but Richard settled this great estate without a complaint from anyone, another evidence that he is one of the ablest business men of the times.

Richard has acquired a wide knowledge of men and of the world, together with much valuable experience, by his extensive travels at home and abroad. His career has been characterized by great energy, prudent care, superior judgment and undoubted integrity. His is devoted to his friends, is warm hearted and enjoys social life to the highest degree, but has never married. He is as regular as a clock in his habits, always prompt in keeping engagements and punctual to the minute in his attendance at his office; and with these characteristics it is not strange that he is pointed out by his neighbors as a model business man.

Richard was raised a Whig, but he had not reached his twenty-first year, when that party was disbanded and he has never identified himself with any particular party or organization. He has no desire for office and would not accept one if tendered him by the unanimous vote of the people. In politics, church and charity he is free to exercise his own will. He gives with a liberal hand, keeping his own counsel and obeying the dictates of his noble, generous heart.

His father, William SOAPER, was born in Loudon County, Virginia, 28 Apr 1795, and was educated in the ordinary schools of that state and in Maryland. William came to Henderson in 1820, and with very limited means engaged in the saddlery business, frequently traveling through the country, but subsequently engaged in purchasing and stemming tobacco in partnership with Judge Thomas FOWLES. This partnership was dissolved by mutual consent after some years and he continued in the same line of business, with most remarkable success, accumulating a very large fortune. William was married 2 Nov 1830, to Susan Fannie HENDERSON, whose natal day was 9 May 1813. Her father, Richard HENDERSON, was nephew of Richard HENDERSON for whom the city and county of Henderson were named. Susan's father was married in North Carolina, 6 Mar 1807, to Annie ALVES and came to Henderson in 1812.

Kentucky Biographies, John M. Gresham Company, 1896

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