Who we are, who we were,
In my wife's lineage are Roger Toothaker, an accused witch (and a male at that) who died in prison during the Salem witch hysteria, and several Mayflower passengers. Hey, that's pretty good, but in my own family tree is also an accused witch and the hero of an old Scots ballad (Can you be related to a fictional character?). However, none of those folks were Hendersons. As for my Henderson ancestors, as proud of them as I am, they were just ordinary folks, farmers, house carpenters, school teachers, cattle thieves, and the like.
N.B.: My father was convinced that our Hendersons had some connection with the Henderson family connected to Fordell Castle in Fifeshire. The closest connection I can find between the Hendersons of Fordell and Liddesdale is a brief and undocumented statement on a Rampant Scotland page that "the southern Hendersons spread eastwards from Dumfries to Liddesdale." Although Fordell is not in Dumfries, according to the same source, William Henrison of Dumfries was driven from his lands in the fourteenth century, and one descendant, James Henderson, established himself with a fortified mansion in Fordell in 1511.
The lineage of one Indiana County family of Hendersons has been traced back to Fordell in Fife. This is not a case of Scottish nobility coming to Pennsylvania, however. Three Scottish brothers who were at least five generations removed from the Henderson barons of Fordell, came first to Virginia from Fordell. One brother, Alexander stayed in Virginia many years before settling in Kentucky; another, William, moved around a bit before settling in North Carolina; and a third, John, moved to Pennsylvania. His son, John Washington Henderson, became a preacher, one of the first Presbyterian ministers in Westmoreland County (part of which eventually bcame Indiana County). A great nephew of his, also John Washington Henderson, born in Mahoning township in northern Indiana County, later became sheriff of Jefferson County. I have found no record that this family was in any way connected to my family. Since our Henderson ancestors emigrated from Tyrone in northern Ireland, it is not likely that they would have been related to these descendents of the castle-dwellers. However, no roots have been traced from the northern Ireland Hendersons back to Scotland.
Robert and Mary (Mary Ann Ralston) Henderson were Ulster Scots who were born sometime in the mid-1700's, in Northern Ireland, probably in Tyrone County. A family history at least indicates that Tyrone County was their home before emigrating to the United States. Almost nothing about their life in Ireland is known. They raised a family of six boys and three girls. Probably all of them were born in Ireland. According to tradition handed down through the generations, Robert took part in the Irish rebellions before coming to America. If true, Robert Henderson was possibly a member of the Society of United Irishmen, a organization that united Presbyterian dissenters in Ulster with Catholics from the south in a struggle for an independent Ireland. Inspired by the revolutionary and republican principles of the American and French Revolutions, the group was founded by Wolfe Tone in 1791. There was plenty of political ferment while the Hendersons were still in Ireland, but it was only after the Henderson family had come to America, that the Irish Rebellion of 1798 broke out. In one of the most violent and bloody wars in Irish history, as many as 30,000 men, women, and children may have been killed in the course of about three months. Rebels who were caught but not executed were deported to Australia, but there is no indication that the Hendersons left involuntarily because of Robert Henderson's involvment in rebellious activities. In a quirk of history, members of a later generation of Hendersons lived in the Vinegar Hill section of Indiana, Pa., and that hill may have been named after the site of one of the last battles of the Rebellion of 1798.
The Hendersons were probably members of the Seceders (Associate Presbyterian Church). This speculation is made based on the fact that the next generation of Henderson did not attend the Covenanter Church which was the closest Presbyterian church to them, but helped found the West Union church, which was affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (which in 1782 was formed to combine the Seceders and Covenanters).
The History of Indiana County, PA, 1745-1880, published by J. A. Caldwell, Newark, OH, 1880, lists the names of their nine children. Unfortunately, it provides no dates and lists first the boys and then the girls, so even their birth order is uncertain.
No written documentation has been found to indicate from where or when the Henderson family left Ireland or whether or not they all came at the same time. Family tradition, however, tells that the family left together from Londonderry, spent sixteen weeks crossing the Atlantic, and landed in Philadelphia probably in 1796 or 1797. Since we know that Robert and his son Alexander were naturalized as citizens, the family could not have arrived before March 4, 1789, the date that the United States Constitution took effect. Information provided in Caldwell's History of Indiana County (1880) is inexact: "Alexander Henderson was a son of Robert and Mary, nee Ralston, natives of Ireland, who settled about 1796 on what is now the Frank Cribbs farm, Young Township." Records provided by Harry Danner Henderson of Potosi, WI (original source unknown) indicate that two of Robert and Mary's sons, John and Robert, Jr., sailed to America on March 26, 1797, the day after John married Letitia Fullerton, and settled in Conemaugh Township (Saltsburg area of Indiana County). A confused record in The History of Marion County Ohio (1883), indicates that David Henderson, [oldest son of Robert and Mary Ann], and his wife, Elizabeth (Orr) Henderson, "natives of County Tyrone, Ireland, ... emigrated to America in 1791, settling at Shippensburg, Penn., early pioneers. Later, they came to Clarksburg, Ind[iana County, Penn.], remaining a number years, thence came to Marion County, but he died in Delaware, Ohio, in 1834, aged eighty-seven years." Researchers Scott & Kathryn Ives point out that David's dates are probably wrong, since if the Marian History is accurate, he would be a quarter of a century older than the next of his siblings. If the birth date is wrong, the emigration date must also be held in question. However, if either of these two latter accounts is accurate, members of the Henderson family might have traveled across the Atlantic separately over the course of a decade.
The Hendersons were not Indian-fighting frontier settlers. They came toward the end of the wave of the great Scotch Irish migration to America, and they were part of the migration to Western Pennsylvania that occurred after the end of Indian/settler hostilities. Mad Anthony Wayne's troops decisive victory against the Iroquois at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (August 1794) led to the signing of the Treaty of Canandaigua and the Treaty of Greenville (both 1795). These treaties opened up a region which included all of western Pennsylvania to settlement without the threat of Indian resistance.
We have almost no information about the Henderson family's journey to America and what it did before it settled in what is now Indiana County. If the Hendersons followed the usual pattern of settlers at that time, they would have made the move for western Pennsylvania very shortly after the family arrived in the country. The family would have traveled along the public roads, using a wagon. The route they likely would have followed was not far removed from the Pennsylvania Turnpike today. The road went from Philadelphia to Lancaster, through Gettysburg, down into Maryland, and back into Pittsburgh. The Hendersons, without much doubt, would have bought their land from a land company. Land speculators had long before purchased rights to the lands that had been provided to soldiers after the Revolutionary War in lieu of other payment. Now that the land was free of Indian claims and hostilities, the land market became very profitable. Most likely, the Hendersons would have dealt with a land merchant and outfitter in Pittsburgh to acquire the deed and goods to settle it.
The next date in the life of Robert Henderson that is recorded is September, 1809, when he was naturalized as a citizen. Robert died in either 1813 or 1814. The date of Mary Ralston Henderson's death is not recorded. For many years the location of the actual gravesites of Robert and Mary Henderson were unknown. Information provided by Harry Danner Henderson, which at this writing has not been verified, indicates that Robert and Mary were buried in the graveyard of Old Congruity Church, about twelve miles from Saltsburg, across the river in what is now Westmoreland County. Evidence supporting this idea is that the Old Congruity Church was founded as an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and there was no other Associate Reformed Church in the area until the West Union Associate Reform Church was founded (in part by members of the Henderson family).
First here is summary information about all the children of Robert and Mary Ann Ralston Henderson, derived mostly from as compiled by Scott and Kathryn Ives, one of whom traces family back to oldest son, David Henderson.
David (17??-1834) -- not likely born in 1747 as one historical record indicates, possibly 1776 or 1782, as other records indicate.
Born in County Tyrone, Ireland; died in Delaware County, Ohio.
Married Elizabeth (or Elisabeth) Orr
Known Children: Robert
Born in County Tyrone; died in Pennsylvania.
Married Letitia Fullerton (1777-1858), who was also born in Ireland.
Family lore holds that John and Letitia were married immediately before they left Ireland for Pennsylvania.
Children: Samuel, Mary, Jane, Lucy, Robert, James, Joseph, Letitia, David, William, Andrew, Alexander, Elizabeth
James (dates unknown)
Born in County Tyrone
Married Jane Andrews
Born in County Tyrone; died on 26 August 1844 in Elder's Ridge, Pa.
Married Mary (Polly) McComb (1794-1871), daughter of James McComb (1758-1814) & Nancy Agnes Jack (1764-1833).
[A family story digression: James McComb came to America from Ireland when he was about 18 years old. Soon after moving into the wilds of Pennsylvania, he was captured by Indians. He was able to escape by stealing a canoe and almost immediately enlisted as a private in Captain Thomas Askey's Company (1st; Fannett Township) of the 1st Pennsylvania Militia Battalion (Cumberland County) and rose to the rank of Colonel. After the war, McComb moved further west in Pennsylvania and became one of the first settlers of Blacklick Township, which is now in Indiana County, and one of the first Elders of Bethel Presbyterian Church (near Jacksonville, Pa.). He was elected to the state Legislature and served for 13 years. During the War of 1812, he served as Brigidier General of the Second Brigade of the Fifteenth Division of the Pennsylvania Militia. The division served for three months near Erie and Buffalo, but it is not at all clear that it saw any action.]
Children: Robert Ralston (b. 1819), Jane McKnight (1821-1895), Joseph (b. 1823), James McComb (1824-1868), John Fullerton (1826-1911), David Laird M. (b. 1829), Mary Ann (1832-1906), Lucinda Smith (b. 1834), Nancy Jack McComb (b. 1837)
Born in County Tyrone; died in 1871 in Saltsburgh, Pa.
Married Francis [or Margaret] Graham (1789?-1864)
Children: Mary Ann (married Robert McMeans); Eliza (married James Carothers); Jane (married D. K. Daugherty); Isabelle; Joseph
A. (married Julia A. Wilson); Margaret G. (married Rev. Andrew Getty); Lucinda F.; and Sarah R. (married John Longwill).
Reported to have fought in the War of 1812.
Born in County Tyrone; died in Clarksburg, Pa. (buried in West Union Cemetery).
Married Hannah Thorne on 2 February 1809. Hannah was born about 1780 and died in Clarksburg in August 1844. Her father was probably Josesph Thorne, who was living in Derry Township, Westmoreland County, in 1790. She is also buried in the West Union Cemetery.
Children: Mary (1809-1883), Robert (1811-1852), Matilda (1813-1855), Margaret (1816-1893)
Jane (dates unknown)
Born in County Tyrone; died after 1850 but before 1860, based on Census records.
Married Thomas Hood (b. 1783 in Ireland, d. before 1860)
Children: James, Robert, Mary, Veniza, Thomas C., Jane
Note: The Hood farm neighbored the Henderson farm in Young Township and is now owned by a Henderson cousin of mine.
Isabella (dates unknown)
Born in County Tyrone.
Married Edward McKelvey
Known children: Mary (b. 1796), married Alexander Nesbit (b. 1799)
Lucy (dates unknown)
Born in County Tyrone.
Married James Smith.
Note: It is believed that a son of the Smiths gave land to his cousin Robert Henderson in exchange for his building them a house.
More about Alexander:
Alexander took over the family farm (the same farm later sold to Frank Cribbs as mentioned in Caldwell's History). Alexander was born in 1784; since the dates of birth of most of his other of his siblings are unknown to us, we don't know for sure where in the family order he comes. It is likely that he came over from Ireland to the United States with the rest of his family in 1796 or 1797. Tradition tells us that he had a reputation for being a hard-working and successful farmer. He was married to Hanna Thorne on February 2, 1809, by the Rev. Joseph Henderson [a relation?]. Hanna was 29 years old (five years older than Alexander) at the time of their marriage. Alexander became a naturalized citizen in December 1811, two years after his father. Robert, Alexander's father, lived with his son on the old farm until his death, according to John G. Henderson, Sr., great grandson of Alexander. Alexander and Hanna had three daughters and one son, Robert. Originally members of the Reformed Presbyterian (Coventer) Church in the village of Clarksburg, both husband and wife were among the founders of the West Union Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Alexander and Hanna died within one week of each other in August, 1844. He was 60; she was 65. Both are buried in the West Union cemetery.
Alexander and Hanna had three daughters and one son. Mary (1809-1883) married John Robertson. Robert (1811-1852) married Martha Henry, Matilda (1813-1855) married Samuel McLaughlin, Margaret (1816-1893) married John Rosborough.
Alexander and Hanna's son Robert was born on October 2, 1811, on the Clarksburg farm. When he was twenty, he married Martha Henry. Martha's parents were Robert Henry and Martha McKesson Henry. Although Martha had no formal education, she was self-educated and became known as the "scholar of the family." Originally both Robert and Martha were members of the Covenanter Church in Clarksburg, which her father had been instrumental in founding as one of its first elders, when Clarksburg was still called Blacklegs. When her husband Robert started attending the newly formed Associate Reformed Presbyterian in West Union that his family had helped found, Martha continued to attend the Covenanter Church in Clarksburg. Only several years later, after the Covenanter Church in Clarksburg dissolved, did Martha start attending the West Union Church.
A history of the Covenanter Church in Clarksburg lists several members of the Henry and Henderson family in its original 1831 roll: Robert Henry, Moses Thompson, David Henderson, Robert Henderson, Alexander Henderson, John Coleman, Robert Coleman, William Coleman, James Gray, Thomas Gailey, James Gailey, Miss Ann Gailey, John Henry, Mrs. Margaret Henry, Andrew McCreery, Samuel McCreery, Miss Jane McCreery, Daniel Euwer, Samuel Gilmore, Nancy White, John McCurdy, John Morrison, Thomas Gemmil, Miss Jane McKelvey, Mrs. Martha Smith, Nathan Douthett, Samuel Barr, Mrs. Francis Barr, John Kirkpatrick, Mrs. Kirkpartick and Mrs. Kimbal.
Robert did some farming, but his principle occupation was building houses. He specialized in brick houses and made his own bricks. He may have learned his trade from his father, but this is not known for sure. After he had made several brick houses in the area, he made an agreement with the Smiths (a cousin who was the son of his aunt Lucy) to build a brick house for them in exchange for 100 acres (which was half of their property) in Young Township near Elder's Ridge. The Smiths had been living in a log house which was on the half of their property that was deeded to Robert Henderson, so when the Smiths moved out of the log house, Robert and Martha sold their old homestead to the Cribbs, and moved in the old Smith place. The new living quarters were supposed to be temporary, until Robert could build a brick house for his family. Before he could work on his own house, he was hired to build a brick house for the Hood family on a neighboring farm. About this time, however, Robert became sick with what was called galloping consumption, probably tuberculosis or some kind of pneumonia. After making the bricks, he became too sick to build the house. The Hoods had to hire another builder, who constructed a frame house for them. Robert's ill health became chronic, but after his health improved somewhat, he was able to use the bricks originally made for the Hood house to construct his own house. The house was built on higher ground, where it was though to be healthier, even though the log house was in a "favorable" location near a spring. There are stories of the log house having "running water" -- probably a springhouse trough that ran through the basement of house. The brick house was completed in 1850. Two years later, Robert died. The Henderson, Smith, and Hood houses can all be seen on a plat map of Young Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, dated 1870. The houses are near the western border with Armstrong County just north of the boundary line between the Watson and Elders Ridge districts.
Martha was left with four boys to raise (one child had died in infancy) and a farm to run. As her granddaughter Ethel indicated, she must have been a strong woman. Unusual for a woman at the time, she plowed the fields herself. Perhaps less unusual she smoked a pipe. She was also known for being strict, domineering, and hard to get along with. Her church going independence was one indication. Her relationships with her sons was another. Family lore says her eldest son moved away to Kansas as soon as he was old enough to do so. After the Civil War, her sons John and James almost immediately left home and moved out to what is now College Springs, Iowa, in the southwestern part of the state. The two brothers were part of a large group who followed a preacher from either the Olivet or the West Union Church (or perhaps both). Family tradition says that it was a group of sixteen young men. My grandfather used to recite their names. Many of them may have been comrades in Company D of the 62d Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Another source indicates that 40 people in all, including single young men and some families, were part of the migration.
The children (all sons) of Robert and Martha:
Portraits of three brothers:
Robert Alexander John Joseph Henry
Martha's youngest son was Joseph Henry. He was fourteen years old when the civil war began. He stayed at home through the war years and beyond, working the farm. Although the youngest, since all his brothers moved west or died in the war, Joseph took over the farm. He married Jennie (Prudence Jane) Telford two days before Christmas in 1874. He was 27; she was 23.
After the marriage of her son, when Jennie moved into the brick house, Martha moved out into the old log house. There she shared the quarters with a woman, Liza Bean (Been, according to the 1860 Census). Liza was known as quite a character, an old maid, but she was hard working and also known for being "a good person to have around." Martha lived another 19 years, continuing to help with the farm work until the end. She died at aged 86 in 1893 and was buried in the West Union Cemetery. Liza Bean stayed on the farm after Martha's death and later took care of Jennie when she took ill.
Because his wife was the daughter of a preacher and sister to a preacher and a lawyer, Joseph Henry Henderson seemed to have felt the need to prove that farming was a profession equal to the others. He advocated scientific farming, built the first silo in Indiana County, and acquired a herd of registered Guernsey cows -- the westernmost herd in North America at the time. They had eleven children, and all who survived childhood not only received a high school education at Elders Ridge Academy, but went on to some higher education.
The children of Joseph and Jenny:
Portraits of nine siblings:
Two of Joseph and Jenny's sons, Harry Oram and John Gordon were close in age. They traded turns going to the agricultural college at Penn State. After each had received two years of schooling, the brothers decided that Harry was better fitted to continue at Penn State and John was better fitted to take over the family farm. Harry O. Henderson, went on to earn a doctorate in dairy science, wrote a standard textbook in the field, and was head of the dairy program at West Virginia State University.
John Gordon Henderson was born in 1886. He married Sara (I have also seen it spelled Sarah) Kathryn Holstein. Kathryn, better known as Kate, was a loving women, but one of her daughters informed me that unlike her husband who teased and joked a lot, Kathryn did not exhibit a broad sense of humor. It was probably not amusing to her if someone pointed out that a Guernsey farmer married a Holstein. As a student at Penn State, just before he got married, John had a role in the evolution of ice cream.
The youngest members of the descendents of Robert and Mary Ann Ralston Henderson are members of the ninth generation, and among them are four who are the seventh generation of Hendersons to live at Richland, the Henderson family farm. The old farm house in the picture above has been torn down, but other buildings in that farm portrait are still standing. The Henderson clan in its recent generations has extanded from coast to coast and even as far away as India.
For privacy concerns of living persons, the family tree ends here. If you are a family member interested in details of John Gordon Henderson and Kathryn Holstein Henderson's family tree, please contact me for additional information.
My grandfather John G. Henderson married Sara Kathryn Holstein. My grandmother's great aunt, Anna Holstein, served in the Civil War in a medical capacity. After a long struggle with her conscience, feeling "an uncontrollable impulse to do, to act, for anything but idleness when our country was in peril," she came to Antietem with her husband and six women from her neighborhood to help care for the wounded. She "shrank instinctively from such scenes, and declined to join the party," but after then had something of an epiphany experience and so changed her life. "The first wounded and the first hospital I saw I shall never forget, for then flashed across my mind," she wrote later. "'This is the work God has given you to do.' and the vow was made, 'While the war lasts we stand pledged to aid, as far as in our power, the sick and suffering. We have no right to the comforts of our home, while so many of the noblest of our land so willingly renounce theirs.'" She became active with the Sanitary Commission, and served in the tent hospitals of the Second Army Corps and was present many other battlefields, including Gettysburg. She became Matron of the Second Corps Hospital at Gettysburg and remained there five months, until it was closed at the time of the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. She was an invited guest at the dedication and was on the platform behind Lincoln when he gave his Gettysburg address. In January 1865 she and her husband went to Annapolis "to do what they could for the returned Andersonville prisoners."
Anna Holstein gained some short-lived fame when her story was published in the book Woman's Work in the Civil War: a Record of Heroism, Patriotism, and Patience, Philadelphia, Zeigler, McCurdy & Co., 1867 (pages 251-259), one of the first books written about women and the war. This book is available online through the Making of America series. Also in 1867, J. P. Lippincott, Philadelphia, published a book written by "Mrs. H." about her Civil War experiences entitled Three Years in Field Hospitals of the Army of the Potomac. Researcher Jim McDonell has informed me that from the details of her chronicles, he has been able to determine that Anna Holstein was the author.
The great great grandmother of John G. Henderson was Martha Tilford, who was accused of being a witch in Salem, New York. She and her husband, George Telford were born in Liddesdale, which is a particularly stark, bleak part of the westernmost Scottish Middle Marches. The area was famed as the home of the worst of the Border reivers. George MacDonald Fraser, in his book The Steel Bonnets, called Liddesdale the "cockpit of the the Border and home of its most predatory clans." Liddesdale was the locale of an old ballad, "Jamie Telfer in the Fair Dodhead," Child 190.* Was Jamie Telfer the ancestor of Martha Tilford, George Telford, or both? The Oxford Dictionary of Surnames indicates that Telfer has many variant spellings including Telford, Tilford, Telfair, Tolver, Tailleferre, and Tulliver.
There is no evidence outside the ballad of an historical Jamie Telfer, and there is some question about what and where the Dodhead was. However, landmarks of Liddesdale are featured prominently in the ballad, and others mentioned in the ballad are historical figures from the time of the 1580s, including the Captain of Bewcastle; Martin Elliot; "Auld Buccleugh" of Branxholme Hall, whose real name was Walter Scott, and who was an ancestor of the poet and novelist); and a Martin's Gibb (Martin's Hab in the ballad). If Jamie Telfer, real or invented, had his cattle stolen in 1580, that's about the right amount of time for George Telford to be Jamie Telfer's great grandson. So my great grandmother's great grandfather's great grandfather could be the hero of the ballad, fictionalized, if not fictional.
The ballad extends through 41 verses (more or less depending on the version), but in a nutshell, it tells the tale of poor Jamie whose ten cattle are stolen by the wicked English Captain of Bewcastle. Jamie threatens to take revenge against the Captain of Bewcastle. The captain laughs at him, since Jamie's only weapon is an "auld sword without a scabbard that scarcely now would fell a mouse." Jamie then runs on foot [barefoot in one version] through the snow to seek the aid of the local powerful protector. When the first protector rejects him because Jamie hasn't been paying him blackmail, Jamie then go to a rival protector as well as his brother-in-law and some other neighbors. The band of Scots eventually battle the English enemy, killing fifteen of English soldiers and injuring the Captain in a place in his anatomy that had he lived a hundred years he would never be loved by woman again [one version has him shot through the head, but continues to speak in the very next verse]. The bottomline was that in exchange for the ten cattle Jamie had stolen, the Scots took back for him thirty and three. Lovely, eh?
Sir Walter Scott has been accused of altering the ballad from the original to make his family appear to be the heroes. In another version of the ballad, the head of the Scot family refuses Jamie for his failure to pay blackmail, and it is the Elliots who come to his aid. In Scot's version, it was the Eliots who refused Jamie, and the Scots who rode with him against the English. Andrew Lang, in 1910, concluded that which version of the story was in the original remains unknown, but that "absolute proof that Scott did, or did not, pervert the ballad, and turn a false Elliot into a false Scott version, cannot be obtained unless new documents bearing on the matter are discovered."
In case you wish to visit the fictional home of a fictional relative, Scot places the Dodhead at a "near Singlee, in Ettrick," but Andrew Lang, in his notes of the ballad, says Scott is wrong and places the Dodhead "near Skelfhill, on the southern side of Teviot, within three miles of Stobs." In both cases the Dodhead would have been well within Liddesdale.
Andrew Lang's commentary on the ballad can be found in chapter 5 of Sir Walter Scott and the Border Minstrelsy, now available online through GoogleBooks.
This page created and maintained by: John R. Henderson (email@example.com).
Last modified: January 4, 2013