Henderson County, Kentucky History


By Colonel A. Kaintuck

Without doubt, everyone has at some time or other wondered when it was that some specific event first occurred in Henderson. Perhaps he was unable to determine at the time. Here I offer a time directory as to the year when certain events first occurred.

Colonel GEORGE CROGHAN was the first white man to see the site of Henderson in 1765. He surveyed the Ohio as far as the mouth of the Wabash River.

The town of Henderson was first known as "Red Banks" on account of the appearance of the site from the Ohio River. Such a name was given to the little village as early as 1791.


The first school established in the county was Diamond Island School in 1794.

Captain JOHN DUNN established the first gristmill in 1796. The first physician, Dr. JAMES HAMILTON, came to the place during the same year.

The first road to be built was in 1797 and was called SMITH'S Ferry Road.

The first county court was held in 1798, JOE MASON'S will was probated at the session. JOHN D. HAUSSMAN filled the position as clerk.

The year of 1799 brought many firsts. The first election was held. EDWARD TALBOTT made the first survey of Henderson. The first jail was built. The first constable, JOHNATHAN ANTHONY, was appointed.

The first tavern to be established was BRADLEY'S Tavern in 1799. During the same year, CHARLES DAVIS became the first magistrate and ANDREW ROWAN, the first sheriff.

ENEAS McCALLISTER was the first tax commissioner in 1800. DANIEL SMITH was appointed the first coroner the same year.

HUGH McGARY was the first man to be indicted in the county in 1801. The charge against him was selling liquor without a license. During the same year, the first postmaster, George HOLLOWAY, was appointed.

JOHNATHAN ANTHONY established the first ferry across the Ohio in 1802.

HUGH McGARY was the first man to be indicted for a felony. The charge was stealing money from a patron of his tavern. The year was 1803. AMBROSE BARBOUR became the first jailer the same year.

The first church to be built in the county was the GRAVES Creek Baptist Church in 1808.

The first habeas corpus writ was granted to JOSEPH and SARAH WENDELL in 1809.

The first marriage to be recorded in the county was between LEWIS LAMBERT and PEGGY WILLIAMS in 1810. The ceremony was held before the Reverend JAMES McGREADY. During the year of 1810, the town of Henderson, Kentucky, was formally incorporated.

The first "hobo" or "tramp" came to town in 1810. He was JOHN BAPTIST DEZARNE.

WILLIAM ALLEN was the first person to be indicted for sending a challenge to fight a duel in 1811. During the same year, the first divorce suit was filed. It was between JOSEPH VAN KIRK and NANCY VAN KIRK. Also, PHILLIP BARBOUR built the first tobacco warehouse during the year, and the first steamboat to land at Henderson was the "Orleans." ROBERT FULTON and ROBERT M. LIVINGSTONE at Pittsburgh had built it. Its strange hissing sounds caused unusual rumors to be spread along the Ohio. Some folks thought that a meteor had fallen into the river.

The first courthouse was built in 1813.

AMOS WHITE was the first person to be convicted and sent to the penitentiary in 1815.

The first counterfeiter, JAMES DAVIS, was convicted in 1816 and was given a three-year prison term.

The first steam gristmill was established in 1816 and was operated under the name of AUDUBON and BAKEWELL.

The first steamboat to be built in Kentucky was built in Henderson by J. PRENTISS in 1817. Its name was "The Pike."

The first legal execution to be held was in 1818. CHARLES C. CARR was hanged for the murder of LEMUEL CHEANEY.

The first bank to be established was the Bank of Henderson in 1818.

In 1819 the fist slander suit, DANIEL O'TOOLE vs. GABRIEL HOLMES, was brought. A judgment was rendered for $425. During the same year, JOHN BOYLE, an Englishman, became the first man to be naturalized as an American citizen. Also the appointment was made of the first town clerk WILLIAM H. THOMAS, and of the first town treasurer, N. F. RUGGLES.

The first church to be built in Henderson was the Union Church in 1821.

JOHN GREEN became the first town marshal in 1822. The same year saw the selection of W. H. THOMAS as tax assessor.

The first newspaper, established in 1823, was called "The Columbian" and was published by WILLIAM R. ABBOTT. The printer was JOSHUA CUNNINGHAM.

N. R. RUGGLES became the first wharf master in 1824.

The first case of smallpox occurred in 1835.

F. E. WALKER became the first county treasurer in 1837.

The first county school superintendent, John McCULLAGH, was named in 1840. During the same year, THOMAS TOWLES became the first county attorney.

In 1842 the town of Henderson purchased its first fire engine.

The first presiding elder of the Methodist Church in Henderson was appointed. He was RICHARD TYDINGS.

The first county judge was selected in 1851. He was WILLIAM RANKIN.

The first county tax assessor, THOMAS J. LOCKETT, was appointed in 1852.

The Know-Nothing Party first made itself manifest locally in 1854 and came to claim all of Henderson County.

In 1854 the town of Henderson incorporated as a city. The first elected mayor was WILLIAM B. VANZANDT. The councilmen elected at the same time included JAMES W. CLAY, GEORGE M. PRIEST, JACOB FULWEILER, JOHN H. LAMBERT, BARAK BRASHEAR, and DAVID H. UNSELT. City officers elected included WORDEN P. CHURCHILL, city judge; SOLOMEN NESTLER, city marshal; HENRY LYNE, treasurer; and YOUNG E. ALLISON, tax assessor. The Ionian Debating Society was also organized during the year of 1854.

D. R. BURBANK opened the first saw mine in 1855.

JOSEPH CLORE established the first saw mill in 1856.

The first county poorhouse superintendent was appointed in 1857. He was JAMES W. GIBSON. J. W. ANTHONY established the first steam ferry across the Ohio River at Henderson during the same year.

The first billiard table was brought to town in 1858 and installed in the HANCOCK House.

Streets of the town were lighted with gas for the first time in 1860.

The first city physician was appointed in 1866. He was SAMUEL FOX. On January 11 of the same year, STEPHEN DUVALL was given public whipping by direction of a jury after he was found guilty of stealing some meat.

In 1867 bonds of $300,000 were voted for a railroad. The same year saw the appointment of T. M. JENKINS, first superintendent of the gas works, and JOHN B. HART, first public administrator.

The first public school building was erected in 1869. It was called the Center Street School. MAURICE KIRBY became the first city superintendent of schools.

J. T. WILSON became the first superintendent of county roads in 1873. Dr. J. A. HODGES was appointed the first physician at the jail and Dr. S. C. SMITH was made physician at the poor house. Also, bonds were voted for a system of waterworks.

The first building and loan association was established in 1874.

In 1875 JOHN W. GEIBEL became the first inspector of oils. Dr. OWEN GLASS became the first president of Farmers Bank, and L. C. DALLAM became the first president of Henderson National Bank.

The first gravel road was constructed in 1881. It was constructed from Henderson to Zion.

The first buggy company was organized in 1882.

The year 1883 brought the establishment of the first telephone exchange. H. S. PARK placed it in the rear of the post office. The Henderson Cotton Mills were built also.

Records for 1884 make first mention of Central Park as a city park. At the time, however, the place was called "Court Park."

The first typewriter in town was used in 1884 at the Farmers Bank.

The year of 1885 (July) saw the passage of the first train locomotive over the Henderson Bridge. It will be recalled that a bond issue was voted for the construction of a railroad in 1867.

The first street railway with mule-drawn cars was begun in 1886.

On March 15, 1887, the first park commissioners were appointed. They included JOHN A. LYNE, PETER HOFMANN and DAVID BANKS, Jr. The same year saw the installation of the first soda water foundation at the W. S. JOHNSON and Brothers Drug Store.

Henderson was lighted by electricity for the first time in 1896.

The first city hall was built during the administration of Mayor POWELL in 1903.

LESLIE P. HITE, Dr. W. H. EDWARDS and WILLIAM H. SEIBER owned the first automobiles in Henderson. Apparently, these automobiles were bought about 1896.

The commission form of city government was first established in Henderson in 1921.

No doubt, there are many other significant dates or firsts, which should be mentioned here, but it, believed that these are the more important ones as far as the city in general is concerned.

Reprinted with permission
Newspaper clipping found in Society file

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