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Introduction to the Henderson Chronicles

A Roster of the descendants of Alexander Henderson of Fordell, County Fife, Scotland, three of whose sons emigrated to the American Colonies, prior to 1740, and settled near Alexandria, Va.


The surname of Henderson is derived from Henry -- Henry's son, which in time became Henrison, Hendrickson, Henderson. The name is old in Scotland, the family, having lived there since the fifteenth century. The chief seat being at Fordell, County Fife; and "Henderson of Fordell," is a term of distinction, and well known throughout the United Kingdom.

Many authentic and traditional stories are current portraying the valor and dexterity of the earlier generations, in peace and at war. And their fame extends across the continent.

Among the prominent members of the family were: James Henderson of Fordell, who was Lord Justice and King's Advocate, and received a charter under the Great Seal -- in the time of James IV; George Henderson of the next generation, was granted lands in the Shires of Fife and Edinburgh by Queen Mary of Scotland, and his wife was one of her Maids of Honor. He gave his life for his country. His son, James, married Jean, daughter of William Murray, Baron of Tullibardine. Robert Henderson figured extensively during the reign of James III of Scotland.

Another James Henderson, was a man of parts, and James VI conferred a singular favor upon him in excusing him from attending the wars all the days of his life, "In consideration of the good, true and thankful services, not only done by himself, but also by his predecessors, to us and our predecessors, of worthy memory, in all times past, without defection at any time from the royal obedience that becomes good and faithful subjects. Dated at our palace of Holyroodhouse, February 27, and the twenty-first year of our reign." Signed by the King.

A celebrated name in Scotland, was that of Alexandar Henderson, who next to John Knox, is considered by many as the most famous Scottish Protestant Theologian. He was Chaplain to King Charles I, and later mediated between the King and Parliament at Oxford. Was three times Moderator of the General Assembly at Edinburgh, when he presented a draught of the famous 'Solemn League and Covenant,' which with slight modifications, passed both Houses and became law for the two kingdoms. Henderson died in Edinburgh in 1646, and his death was the occasion of a national mourning in Scotland.

Ebenezer Henderson (1784-1858) was a Scottish missionary of great linguistic attainents whose field of labor covered, India, Denmark, Sweden, Lapland, Iceland, Germany, and Russia.

Thomas Henderson (1798-1844) was a Scotch astronomer of considerable distinction. He was Secretary to the Earl of Lauderdale and to Lord Jeffrey. In 1831 he was made royal astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope, and two years later was appointed astronomer royal for Scotland, professor of practical astronomy at Edinburgh, and director of the Carlton Hill Observatory.

A romance of the family, as told by Miss Frances M. Smith, is furnished by a certain Sir John Henderson, who fighting the natives in darkest Africa, was "rescued by a lady," so the record says. She was a royal, or a noble personage, which adds a touch of interest and thrill to the narrative, and she was probably wearing her crown (or string of beads) at the very moment of rescue, for descendants of the hero of this story, still preserve, under glass, "A picture of this lady, with a coronet on her head, and a 'landskip'" -- a representation probably of the very scene of the rescue.

Other Hendersons of note are: Frank H. Henderson, Vice-Admiral, Anglesey, Gosport; Sir Alexander Henderson (1902) First Baronet, Glenamond, Pertshire; Robert Henders, C. B. -- The Hermitage, Beckenham; Capt. Harold Greenwood Henderson, Kitemore, Faringdon, Berks.; Lt. Francis Barkley Henderson, Little Blakenham, Ipswich; Ven. James Henderson, New-Castle-on-Tyne; Sir. James Henderson, Oakley House, Windsor Park, Belfast; John Macdonald Henderson, White House, Fexlixstowe.

Thos. Henderson, of Jamestown, Va., 1607, was born in Scotland, a son Richard, married Polly Washer, and lived in Hanover Co. Samuel, one of several children (b 1700), married a little Welsh girl, Elizabeth Williams, aged about thirteen. He settled in Granville Co., N. C., and founded a very large and prominent branch of the family. His son, bearing the same name, removed to Kentucky at an early day where he assisted in the rescue of Jemima Boone and Elizabeth Callaway from the Indians and on the following day (7, Aug. 1776) he and Elizabeth Callaway were married. Their daughter, Fanny, b 29, May 1777, was the first white child born in the State of Kentucky, of parents married in that State. Another son of Samuel Henderson, Sr., was Judge Richard, who was appointed one of the two Associate Judges of North Carolina in 1768 by Gov. Tryon. Judge Henderson was President of the Transylvania Company, which, with Daniel Boone, Messrs. Hart and others, he organized. It was one of the greatest land companies ever in operation and comprised nearly the whole of Kentucky. Judge Henderson married Elizabeth Keeling, step-daughter of his kinsman, Judge Williams, and among his children were:

  • Judge Leonard Henderson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of N. C.;
  • John Lawson Henderson, Clerk of Supreme Court;
  • Richard, and
  • Archibald, great-grand father of Prof. Archibald Henderson, Ph. D., of the University of North Carolina.

Gov. Alexander Martin of N. C. was also of this family. Thomas Henderson was also the ancestor of the several generations of Nathaniel Hendersons, who removed to Alabama in 1818. A descendant, Hon. Charles Henderson, is now the chief executive of that State.

Another American line is descended from Rev. Richard Henderson who married Janet Cleland. He had three sons: Archibald, Richard, and Alexander who married Sarah Moore and was a merchant at Colchester, Va. He came to Virginia in 1756, was a member of the House of Burgess before the Revolution. When peace was established, he was appointed by the Legislature with four others: George Washington, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as Commissioners to determine, in conjunction with commissioners from Maryland, the boundary line between the two States. They met at Mt. Vernon, the Maryland commissioners, and the result of their labors is known as "The Compact of 1785." When Thos. Henderson of Fauquier, a grand-son of Alexander Henderson, was a member of the General Assembly nearly a hundred years later, the Commissioners of the two States, who were still struggling with the boundary question, appeared before the House, and the Hon. A. D. Jones, then Attorney General of Maryland, addressed the Assembly, referring to the efforts made to settle the disputed lines almost a century before. Mr. C. E. Henderson of Easton, Maryland, is a descendant and perhaps the best historian of this branch.

And yet another line was founded by John Henderson who married Mrs. Margaret McCain, daughter of Mrs. Susan McCain, of New London, Penn. They were in Virginia prior to 1740. Among their children were: John, who married Elizabeth Basnett; William and Margaret. John, Jr., was the father of Isaac, b 1773-5; Dorcas; Charles; Thomas, b 1781 in Albemarle Co., Va.; William and Margaret. Mrs. Sarah Henderson Wiggins of Indianapolis is the chronicler of this family.

But probably the most complete and authentic record of the family in America, is given by Dr. Jos. Lyon Miller of Thomas, W. Va., in his concise little volume, "The Ancestry and Descendants of Lieut. John Henderson," (1650-1900); of Greenbrier county, W. Va. the writer is a great-grandson of the subject of the work, who is supposed to have been descendant of James Henderson, First Knight of Fordell (b 1450, killed in battle at Floddenfield on that fatal 9 of September, 1513); his son, John, also met his death at that time, as did their royal master, King James IV, of Scotland. In 1494, Sir. James Henderson was appointed King's Advocate and a few years later, Lord Chief Justice, as has previously been mentioned.

As the similarity of given names between the main line of Fordell and Virginia may be of interest, the generations from Burke, (1625-1850) are given:

"Sir John Henderson married Margaret Montieth, heiress of Raniford; by whom he had five sons and five daughters, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John Henderson, Esq., who was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, 15 July, 1664. Sir John married Margaret, daughter of Sir John Hamilton of Obieston, Lord Chief Justice Clerk; by whom he had two sons and two daughters, and dying in 1683, was succeeded by his second and only surviving son, Sir William, who married Miss Hamilton, daughter of Sir John Hamilton of Mountain Hall, by whom he had four sons and a daughter. He died in 1709 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir John, who married Christian, daughter of Sir Robert Anstruther, bart. of Balkaskie; by whom he had three sons and five daughters. Succeeded by second and eldest surviving son, Sir. Robert (died October, 1781) married October 3, 1784, Isabella, daughter of George McKenzie, Esq., of Firne; by whom he had issue: John, his successor, and Sir Bruce, present Baronet (1834). Sir Bruce died childless, and the estate descended to his first cousin, George Mercer, who assumed the name of Mercer-Henderson."

John, James, and Samuel Henderson, brothers and sons of Wm. Henderson and Margaret Bruce and grandsons of John Henderson, Gent., of Fifeshyre, Scotland, came to Virginia about 1740. They all settled in Augusta county where they married and brought up families.

John Henderson was an Ensign in the Augusta Militia in the French and Indian War, and in 1758 received fourteen shillings pay. His will was recorded in Augusta county, 1766, and mentions a son, William, two daughters unnamed, and his wife, Rosa Finley, who was a sister of John Finley, one of the first Justices of the county.

Samuel Henderson was also in the Augusta Militia in 1758, and received a like amount as pay. His will is recorded in that county in 1782, and mentions his wife, Jane, and the following children: James, Andrew, Alexander and Florence. James, died, 1801, and his will mentions the wife, Isabella, and children: John, Joseph, Jones, Alexander, Becky, Sarah, Margaret and Jean.

James Henderson (b 1708 Scotland, d 1784, Va.) also served in the Augusta Militia in the French and Indian War, first as Ensign and later as Lieutenant. June 23, 1783, he married Martha, daughter of Audley Harrison Hamilton, Gent., and his wife Eleanor Adams. They were the parents of: David, John, James, William, Sarah, Joseph, Jean, Samuel, Archibald and Margaret. Dr. Miller brings the line of descendants of James and Martha Henderson, down to 1900 and embodys many interesting biographical items.

Among the distinguished Americans of this name are found: Hon. David B. Henderson of Iowa, Speaker of the National House of Representatives; Hon. James P. Henderson of Texas, United States Senator; Hon. John B. Henderson (son of Jas. and Mary Dawson Henderson of Danville, Va.) Federal General and United States Senator from Mo.; Wm. James Henderson, Musical Critic and Scholar, of New Jersey; Charles Hanford Henderson, Educator and writer, of Pennsylvania; and Chas. Richard Henderson, professor and writer, of Illinois.

The names of many others of this family might well be mentioned as history builders in America, but space does not permit. Collateral kinsmen of the Scotch Progenitor are scattered throughout the Western Hemisphere. They are engaged in every walk of life, and it is wholly unnecessary to enlarge upon the attributes and character, of this strict Covenanter faily, descended from generation to generation, and ameliorated by each successive age. And while on the subject of the attainments and worth of the house of Henderson, it will not be out of place to remind the patient reader of this family's honor and uprightness, thrift and enterprise, courage and ambition, religious sincerity and charitable generosity, philanthropic spirit and statesmanship.

The Compiler does not claim pre-eminence for this family, whose history is rich in the story of the brave men and noble women. Grand and brilliant men have sprung fro mother blood and their long lines of honored and illustrious descendants have impelled the admiration and envy of the continent, but they have talented men that are able to tell about them. The Compiler has attempted to recall all authentic available information of this noble ancestry, e'er the thoughtless destruction of records and the passing of the older generations has crumbled its gravestones and robed the spot in green

-- J. N. M.

Source: John N. McCue, Henderson Chronicles (N.p.: n.p., 1915), 6-10.

ID  22 
Linked to  Alexander HENDERSON 

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