Henderson County, Kentucky Biography


RICHARD HENDERSON, for whom Henderson County and the city of Henderson were named, was born in Hanover County, Virginia, April 20, 1735.  His father was Col. Samuel HENDERSON and his mother Elizabeth WILLIAMS.  The family moved, in 1756, to Granville County, North Carolina.

The first public office Richard HENDERSON held was that of constable, followed soon after by that of deputy sheriff to his father, who had been made high sheriff.  He read law for twelve months with his cousin, Judge John WILLIAMS, and at the end of that time was licensed to practice.  He soon rose to the highest rank in his profession, and honors and wealth followed.  Governor TRYON, in 1768, appointed Mr. HENDERSON one of the two associate justices of the Western District of North Carolina.

A man of great ambition, he soon became involved in speculations which embarrassed him and cramped his resources.  Bold and adventurous, he resolved to repair the ravages made in his private fortune by engaging in the most extensive land deal ever recorded in the history of this country.  Having formed a company for that purpose, he succeeded in negotiating with the head chiefs of the Cherokee Nation a treaty (known as the treaty of Watauga) by which all that tract of country lying between the Cumberland River, the mountains of the same name, and the Kentucky River, and situated south of the Ohio, was transferred to the company for 10,000 pounds.  By this treaty HENDERSON and his associates became the proprietors of the country which now constitutes more than one-half of the state of Kentucky.  This was in 1775.  The company immediately proceeded to establish a proprietary government, with seat at Boonesborough (now Boonesboro), and with HENDERSON as the president.  The new country was named Transylvania.

HENDERSON’S purchase from the Cherokees was afterwards annulled by act of the Virginia Legislature by virtue of an expired charter of James I.  But, as some compensation for the services rendered in opening the wilderness and preparing the way for civilization, the legislature granted to the proprietors a tract of land twelve miles square (over 200,000 acres) on the Ohio, below the mouth of Green River.  The state of North Carolina also granted to the company 200,000 acres of land in what is now Tennessee.

In 1779 Judge HENDERSON opened at the French Lick (now Nashville), Tennessee, a land office for the sale of the company’s lands.  Next year he returned home and retired to private life.  He died on January 30, 1785.  His four sons were distinguished men, one of them, Leonard, being chief justice of the Supreme Court of the State from 1818 until his death in 1833.

Story was found on pages 78 & 79 in the “Henderson, Home of Audubon”. Henderson, Home of Audubon was compiled by the Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Kentucky and  sponsored by Susan Starling Towles, Librarian, Public Library, Henderson, KY.

According to the 1799 and 1800 Henderson County Census records derived from Tax Lists transcribed by Linda Hicks Hallmark and formatted by Lisa Hallmark Pounders, Richard Henderson (heirs) are noted.  However, there are no Henderson heirs noted in the 1810, 1820 or 1840 Federal Census records.  In 1830 Federal Census records for Henderson there is Anna Henderson noted, House #88, Page 235, with (2) 20 year old females and probably Anna age 50.

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS

Copyright 2002 HCH&GS