The Hendersons

Who we are, who we were,
and one family's story

This site dedicated in loving memory to
Joseph Ralston Henderson, 1915-2010

'The Hendersons will dance and sing | As Mr. Kite flys through the ring. Don't be late.' -- Lennon and McCartney

Hello, cousin. I'm glad you stopped by. If you are looking for the Robert Henderson and Mary Ralston Henderson lineage, you can skip down to it directly. Also on this page is a bit of Henderson history followed by lists of notable Hendersons, real and fictional.

Digression before we even start: In my wife's lineage are Roger Toothaker, an accused witch 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.

Hello, long lost Henderson cousin. Are we related?

  1. According to the General Register Office for Scotland, Henderson was 29th most common surname in Scotland in 2017. That hasn't changed much since 1975 when it was 27th.
  2. According to the 2010 United States census, Henderson was the 112th most common surname in the USA. That's down from 103d most common surname in 2000, and 81st in1990.
  3. Variations on "son of Henry" have been found throughout the British Isles and Europe. Among the variations are d'Enrico, d’Handresson, Heinrich, Heinrichs, Heinrichsen, Heinrichsohn, Heinrichson, Heinricks, Henders, Hendrick, Hendrix, Hendricks, Hendrie, Hendron, Hendry, Henriksen, Henrikson, Henrisoun, Henry, Henryson, Hinrichsen, Jindrich, Kendrick, MacEanruig, MacHendry, MacHenry, MacKendree, MacKendrick, MacKendry, McHendry, McHenry, McKendrick, McKendry. More evidence of unrelatedness.
  4. Over the decades, especially in North America, many of these variations, as well as names similar in spelling or pronunciation, were anglicized or modified to Henderson. So just because you are a Henderson, it doesn't necessarily mean you are a Scot.
  5. In Scotland, there must have been many unrelated branches and enclaves of Hendersons from different parts of the nation that shared a name but not the immediate gene pool.
  6. Unfortunately, that means that even though you are named Henderson (or your mother was named Henderson), there is an excellent chance that we are not related.
  7. You are at least distantly related to me if you can trace your family back to Robert Henderson, who was born sometime in the mid-1700's in Northern Ireland, married Mary (or Mary Ann) Ralston, and emigrated from Tyrone County around 1796, and settled in what is now Indiana County, Pennsylvania.

Related or not, if you are a Henderson living in the North America, we probably share some things in common.

  1. There is an excellent chance that you come from Scots who had lived in Northern Ireland before emigrating to North America. Many more Scottish immigrants departed from Ireland than emigrated directly from Scotland. 
  2. If your ancestors were typical Henderson emigrants they were not Highlanders. Although Henderson was a proud Highland name, Highlanders did not emigrate to America in any significant numbers. Historian Horace Edward Henderson goes even further saying that the residents of the Highlands played no role in the settlement of the Plantation of Ulster. NOTE: Some Highlanders did migrate directly from Scotland to North America, especially to the Carolinas, following the Jacobite defeat at Culloden in 1746.
  3. Before they emigrated to Ulster in Northern Ireland, your Henderson ancestors most likely came from the Scottish Borders.
  4. If I had to be more specific, I would suggest that if they came from the Scottish Borders, they likely hailed from Eskdale in Dumfriesshire or Liddesdale in Roxburghshire.

On what grounds do I say this?

  1. The Ulster Scots (only North Americans seem to call them Scotch-Irish, or now Scots-Irish to use the term former Senator Jim Webb has popularized) were almost all Presbyterians who were originally Scottish Lowlanders. After the defeat of the Irish in 1603, the English took possession of the six northern counties of Ulster, and James (I or VI, depending on whether you were English or Scottish) offered land grants to English and Scottish nobility and gentry in order to colonize the new acquisitions with loyal subjects. Impoverished Scottish Lowlanders who lived in sub-marginal land, however, were by far the most likely people willing to take advantage of the opportunity.
  2. Henderson clan in the BorderlandsAlthough Hendersons were found in many parts of lowland Scotland, including the Fife peninsula and the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, where the Henderson name was commonly found, the highest percentage came from southwestern Scotland and Scottish Borders, areas that were poverty-ravaged, beleaguered by decades of war (between both nations and families), and filled with Presbyterian radicals. The Covenanters were found in Perth and Fife, especially some of the ministers, but their real heartland became the southwestern counties of Scotland.
  3. Highlanders were specifically excluded by King James VI and I from Ulster Plantation settlement since they were Catholic or supportive of the Catholic claimants to the throne, and not trusted to populate Ireland. When Highlanders migrated as a result of the Highland Clearances in the nineteenth century, most settled in Lowland Scotland or the colonies (Canada and New Zealand especially), but not the United States which was no longer a British colony.
  4. There is documented evidence of a large number of Hendersons living in the Western and Middle Marches at the time of the migration to Ulster.
  5. A map in George MacDonald Fraser's book The Steel Bonnets places Hendersons in the border regions of Liddesdale and Eskdale. They were a minor enough family or riding clan, however, that Hendersons are not much mentioned or discussed in the text. NOTE:The map above is not from Fraser's book. I failed to record the source of the map, but I am sure checked first to see that it was in the public domain. Apologies to its creator.

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 Hendersons of 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.

Please don't be disappointed, but, if you were descended from Scottish Border Hendersons or lowlander Hendersons dwelling in Glasgow, Edinboro, Perth, or even Fife, alas, your ancestors...

  1. did not wear kilts.
  2. did not play the highland bagpipes.
  3. spoke Scots English, not Scots Gaelic.
  4. were quite an ethnic mix of Danish, Saxon, Angle, Norman, Flemish, and, of course, a little Celtic (unlike the Highlanders who ethnically were quite akin to the Irish).
  5. not only weren't related to the unfortunate handful of Hendersons who were slaughtered with the MacDonalds in Glencoe, but, instead, probably would have despised them (since those Glencoe Hendersons were Catholic or Catholic-leaning Jacobites).


  1. They were probably poor, whether they were urban or rural dwellers.
  2. They were most likely hard-working tenant farmers or peasants -- without even a classy name like crofter, since the term crofter was a euphemism for a peasant of the highlands and islands.
  3. They might, instead, have been semi-lawless cattle thieves -- more poetically called reivers.
  4. Their outlawry is somewhat in question, however, since they kept their name off a 1587 Scottish Parliamentary list of border families and clans condemned for lawlessness. One explanation is that they were honorable, clean living citizens. The other is that, although they were thieves, they were simply too minor and obscure to have gained the government's attention.
  5. They were filled with poetry and music, as the Border ballads, many of which were collected by Francis Child more than a century ago, indicate.
  6. In the 16th century and earlier, they might have been illiterate.
  7. They feuded. The Hatfields and McCoys didn't start the tradition in Kentucky. They were just doing what many other Border Scots and Border English families had been doing for centuries before them.
  8. They were dour. Even centuries ago, Border Scots had a reputation for being silently ill-humored and gloomy.
  9. Lawless as their reputation had been, once they got religion, they became stern, forbidding Presbyterians.

To check on your own ancestors, you can try these genealogical links:

These are more than 100 notable Hendersons that, as far as I can figure, I am not related to (I won't make assumptions about you):

    Explorers and frontier pioneers:
  1. Richard Henderson, judge, financier of Daniel Boone, and Transylvanian, was one of the greatest land speculators in history.
  2. Captain James Henderson, of the East India Company ship Hercules, who in 1819 discovered (at least for the British) Henderson Island, an uninhabited Pitcairn Island. Who knows when the first Polynesian had discovered it, but it had been previously discovered by a European in 1606 when Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandez de Quiros claimed it for Spain.
  3. William Henderson, colonial American landowner and pioneer, after whom Henderson Bay, Henderson Harbor, and Henderson, NY, are named.
  4. Robert Douglas Henderson, the discoverer of gold in the Klondike.
    Politicians, organizers, and diplomats (some quite noted for their lack of success):
  5. Neville Henderson, the British ambassador to Germany, who advocated the policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany.
  6. John Brooks Henderson, a United States Senator who authored the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States and courageously defied the Republican Party leadership in 1868 by voting to acquit President Andrew Johnson at his impeachment trial. Neither act was popular in his home state of Missouri, and he subsequently lost his bid for re-election and dropped out of politics.
  7. Leon Henderson was once known as the "most powerful man in the country" after FDR appointed him chief of the Office of Price Administration, making him responsible for civilian rationing during World War II.
  8. Nobel Peace Prize winning Arthur Henderson, a British diplomat who fought valiantly, if unsuccessfully, for disarmament prior to World War II.
  9. Nicholas Henderson, better known as Nicko, has been called one of Britain's most distinguished diplomats. He became ambassador to the US after he tried to retired and has been credited as being the catalyst for the special friendship that developed between Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
  10. Heather Henderson has been a mover and shaker in Australian politics since her childhood as the daughter of a prime minister and is best known for being a catalyst for the development of Canberra into a real capital city.
  11. James Pinckney Henderson, the first governor of the State of Texas, who served most of his first and only term commanding a division of Texas Rangers in the Mexican War. He was only a few months into his career in the US Senate when he died.
  12. The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson, a federal judge in the Northern District of California, was the first African-American lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and has been a key civil rights jurist.
  13. Rose Henderson, the first woman in Canada to earn a PhD, and early advocate of the Bahai faith in that country, but better known as a feminist, Socialist, peace advocate, and labour organizer,
  14. David Bremner Henderson, Scottish-born, was Speaker of the US House of Representatives from 1899 to 1903. If he did anything remarkable during those years, however, I haven't discovered them.
  15. Charles Belknap Henderson, a US Senator from Nevada, who seems most noted for a failed assassination attempt against him and having a desert city named after him
  16. Zelma Henderson, civil rights activist, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka desegregation case. By the way, Cheryl Brown, one of the namesakes of the case, married a Henderson when she grew up.
  17. Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
  18. Elmer Henderson, a lawyer who initiated the landmark 1950 Supreme Court case Henderson v. United States that outlawed segregation in railroad dining cars.
  19. Gregory Henderson, a diplomat in the Foreign Service and expert on Korea at the time of the Korean War, was also a collector of Korean porcelain.
    Doctors, scientists, engineers, and inventors:
  20. Donald Henderson, the doctor who headed the team that eradicated smallpox.
  21. Thomas Henderson, Scottish astronomer, who was the first person to measure the distance of a star (Alpha Centauri in 1832/33). A lunar crater is named after him [Not to be confused Odessa Meteor Crater, discovered by Julius Henderson].
  22. Lawrence Joseph Henderson, a leading biochemist of the early 20th century, most famous for establishing Harvard's Fatigue Lab and for writing what later became known as the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation.
  23. Joseph Lewis Henderson, an early follower of Carl Jung, credited with the concept of a cultural unconsciousness. He was called the Shaman of Elko. 
  24. Greg Henderson and his wife Jill have invented the first working hoverboard. Back to the Future is now (sorta).
  25. Daniel Henderson holds more than two dozen patents related to wireless picturephone devices, so he can almost be credited with the invention of the cellphone. Alas, he also ran a company that got into the business of suing major companies over patent rights -- with mixed results. More recently he has become a sculptor.
  26. Donald M. Henderson, among other things paleontological, has been researching the biomechanics and locomotion of dinosaurs.
  27. Charles Roy Henderson, a giant in the field of animal breeding and genetics.
  28. Carrol L. Henderson is the supervisor of Minnesota’s Nongame Wildlife Program in the Department of Natural Resources and author of numerous field guides and other wildlife books.
  29. John Henderson, partner of Fox, Henderson & Co., the firm contracted to build the Crystal Palace and Paddington Station (following Isambard Kingdom Brunel's outline plans). Fox, who was the designer, was knighted, but it was Henderson who was in charge getting them built and ensuring "that things got done."
  30. David Marr Henderson, Engineer-in-Chief of Imperial Maritime Customs of China, was one of the first successful Western engineers in China. He was especially known for designing and building lighthouses. He was son of John Henderson, mentioned just above.
  31. Alexander Henderson, the Scottish Presbyterian preacher most responsible for the keeping the Church of Scotland Presbyterian (by preparing the National Covenant of 1638 and serving as Moderator of the Glasgow Assembly at a key time during the early 17th Century).
  32. Bobby Henderson, founder in 2005 of the Flying Spaghetti Monster religion. Although some call Pastafarianism a parody developed to protest the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design in the public schools, this church has become "the most logical and fastest growing religion on the planet."
  33. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary.
    Educators and scholars
  34. Charles Richmond Henderson, who died in 1915, was minister turned sociology professor at the University of Chicago. As a social advocate and reformer, he was a colleague of Jane Addams.
  35. Harold G. Henderson, the translator most responsible for introducing Haiku to the English-speaking world.
  36. Virginia Avenel Henderson, called the "first lady of nursing."
  37. Metta Lou Henderson, honored pharmacist and author.
  38. Archibald Henderson, mathematician and colleague of Einstein.
  39. John S. Henderson, Mayan scholar and co-discoverer of the "Cradle of Chocolate."
  40. Jeffrey Henderson, Professor of Greek Language and Literature, especially praised for his translations of Aristophanes.
  41. Stanley D. Henderson is the F.D.G. Ribble professor emeritus, the University of Virginia's School of Law. The labor law text book has been through enough editions, that it now begin's with his name, Henderson's Labor Law: Cases and Comment.
  42. Lianne Henderson is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Glascow. Her research, resulting in numerous books and articles, covers many areas, including Folk Belief, the Scottish Witch-Hunts, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Arctic Exploration, and Scottish Emigration. She also sings and seems to have a lot of fun.
  43. Paula Henderson, scholar and lecturer on British architecture and gardens, especially the Tudor period.
  44. Philip Henderson, biographer and critic of several English authors, including Swinbourne, Marlow, and Butler.
  45. William Otto Henderson was a historian of the working class and a biographer of Friedrich Engels.
  46. George Cockburn Henderson, pioneering promoter of history being studied as a science and for Australians studying Australian history.
  47. George Washington Henderson, in 1877, while as student at the University of Vermont, became the first black student to be elected into the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society. He became a preacher and a professor and served as dean of theology at Fisk University in Nashville.
    Our musical Hendersons:
  48. Hamish Henderson, the twentieth century musical legend, poet, folksong collector, and composer of what many called the unofficial Scottish national anthem.
  49. Fletcher Henderson, the real father of Big Band Music and the musician who broke an important color barrier when he joined the Benny Goodman Band, becoming the first black musician to appear on stage with a "white" orchestra.
  50. Fletcher's brother Horace was a pretty good musician and arranger, too.
  51. Ray Henderson, whose real name was Raymond Brost, was the tin-pan-alley tunesmith responsible or co-responsible for such favorites as "That Old Gang of Mine," "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue," "You're The Cream in My Coffee," "Button Up Your Overcoat," and "Bye, Bye Blackbird."
  52. Rosa Henderson, nee Deschamps, was a vaudeville blues singer and the first female vocalist to record with a big band.
  53. Luther Henderson, yet another gifted jazz arranger, who worked with artists as diverse as Duke Ellington and the Canadian Brass.
  54. Skitch Henderson, the late goateed Tonight Show bandleader, symphony conductor, and composer.
  55. Joe Henderson, legendary and Grammy Award winning tenor saxophonist.
  56. Jarlath Henderson is a renowned Uillean pipe player, if any Uillean pipers can claim renown.
  57. Chick Henderson, born Henderson Rowntree, was a wildly popular English singer from the Big Band era. Largely forgotten now, he was the first British soloist to sell a million records.
  58. Wayne Henderson is a luthier and a master of the steel-string guitar who was honored with a National Heritage Award. He's been host of a music festival in Galax, Virginia, since 1995. The guitar he made for Eric Clapton has been called the perfect instrument.
  59. Caroline Henderson, a Danish-Swedish pop and jazz singer whose biggest hits have been "Kiss Me, Kiss Me," and "Made in Europe."
  60. Ella Henderson, was Britain's hottest new singer-songwriter a few years ago. Is she still?
  61. Bugs Henderson, the late Texas blues guitarist.
  62. Natalie Hinderas, pianist, one of the first black artists to establish an important career in classical music. She was born Natalie Leota Henderson.
  63. Zenna Henderson, the creator of the haunting series of sf stories, collectively called "The People." Born a Chlarson, she married into our family.
  64. Dee Henderson, leading author in the niche of inspirational romantic suspense writing.
  65. Eleanor Henderson, who just happens to a writing professor Ithaca College, where I put in 37 years as a librarian, had her debut novel Ten Thousand Saints receive much critical acclaim. All three of her novels have hit the best seller lists.
  66. Emma Henderson, whose debut novel, an unsentimental account of a child with profound disabilities and an unspecified mental illness, challenges readers.
  67. Bill Henderson writes novels about Elvis and coaches other writers.
  68. Lauren Henderson, English author of glam thrillers, chick lit, and young adult novels.
  69. Helena Ruth Henderson, a New Zealand librarian, poet, and novelist, who wrote under the names Paul Henderson and Ruth France.
  70. Smith Henderson published his debut novel Fourth of July Creek in 2014, and it has made it only several best of the year lists.
  71. Mary Henderson Eastman gained fame for a novel that tried to defend slavery. It was written in response to Uncle Tom's Cabin. She went on to publish sentimental tales of American Indians.
    Journalists and non-fiction writers:
  72. Angelo Henderson is a Pulizer Prize winning Detroit-based journalist. He is now a news radio host.
  73. Stephen Henderson is a Pulitzer Prize winning Detroit-based journalist/commentator who was named the 2014 NABJ Journalist of the Year.
  74. Paul Henderson won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 1982 as a reporter for The Seattle Times for a series of articles that helped reverse a conviction of a man accused of rape. Henderson died in 2018.
  75. Douglas Henderson, globetrotting photojournalist.
  76. Caspar Henderson, a journalist who has covered energy, science, environment and human rights, has more recently has gained fame as a writer about "things that make the world astonishing."  
  77. Sally Henderson is an Australian conservationist who writes about endangered African wildlife. 
  78. Janice Wald Henderson​ is a renowned food and travel journalist, long associated with Bon Appétit.
  79. William Penhallow Henderson, was a muralist, architect, and furniture designer, whose most lasting work has been the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, in Sante Fe. He was also known for being the husband of Alice Corbin Henderson, poet and editor of Poetry Magazine.
  80. Marge Henderson Buell, the creator of Little Lulu, a comic strip from an earlier era.
  81. Sam Henderson is a cartoonist of another (alternative) era.
  82. Keith Henderson was a portrait painter, muralist, and book illustrator (especially notable for his woodcuts). He was also an official artist of the RAF during WWII.
    Soldiers, both heroic and infamous:
  83. Archibald Henderson, the fifth and longest serving Commandant of the Marine Corps, after whom the USS Henderson, a navy transport, was named.
  84. Major Lofton R. Henderson, a Marine Squadron Commander, who was killed at Midways and posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. His heroism was also rewarded by the naming in his honor of Henderson Field in Guadalcanal and the destroyer USS Henderson
  85. Charles W. Henderson, Marine Vietnam vet, who retired to became a successful military journalist and author.
  86. Bruce B. Henderson, Navy Vietnam vet, who retired to became a successful military journalist and author.
  87. Colonel Oran K. Henderson, the colonel of the 11th Battalion, who was found not guilty in a court martial related to the My Lai massacre.
  88. Artis Henderson, author of the memoir Unremarried Widow, describes life as an Army wife and how that life changed after the death of her husband in Iraq.
    Famous for film, televsion, theatre, and not wearing (m)any clothes:
  89. Shirley Henderson, who may be most famous for portraying Moaning Myrtle, the annoying ghostly character in the Harry Potter films.
  90. The Brady Bunch's mom (Florence Henderson was the name she was born with, not just a stage name).
  91. Dell Henderson, a pioneering filmmaker who directed and acted in silent films as early as 1908. In the talkie era, he became a familiar comic foil to the likes of Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, WC Fields, and the Three Stooges, but often not credited. His full name was George Delbert Henderson, and occasionally his name appeared as Del.
  92. John Henderson, the "Bath Roscius," was a Shakespearean actor and rival of Garrick, who was also known as an absolutely awful poet and playwright.
  93. Felicia D. Henderson is a television producer, screenwriter, and director, who also writes comic books. She may be best known for developing the TV series Soul Food.
  94. Martin Henderson, a New Zealand actor and heart throb (think teens and Demi Moore).
  95. Laura Henderson, British society lady and theatre impresario personified by Judy Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents.
  96. Julie Henderson is the first Henderson super-model. She had been featured in several Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, but she hasn't been modeling recently. Her grandfather gained more narrow fame after he discovered an improved strain of rudy red grapefruit.
  97. Charles L. Dodgson's photographs of his child friend Annie Henderson and her sister Frances became controversial only long after the author of Alice in Wonderland was dead.
  98. Lu Ann Henderson was the adventuresome "nymph with waist-length dirty blonde hair" on whom the character Marylou in Jack Keroauc' On the Road was based.
    Our athletic kinfolk:
  99. Rickey (baseball) -- the nearly unanimous Hall of Fame pick his first year of eligibility.
  100. Brooke (golf) -- is Canada's golf sensation. Her sister Brittany plays as well (but not quite as well).
  101. Dave (baseball) -- great player, but only made it to one All-Star Game.
  102. Thomas [Hollywood] (football) -- more famous for what he did off the field
  103. Prairie Rose (rodeo star) -- pioneering champion bronc rider at the turn of the twentieth century.
  104. Paul (hockey) -- Canadians revere him for "The Goal of the Century"
  105. Krazy George -- professional cheerleader who was the inventor of "The Wave."
  106. Cam, a pioneering college basketball coach, inventor of the fast break and modern zone defense.
  107. Mitch, Princeton basketball player and head coach.
    Agricultural innovators & environmentalists:
  108. Peter Henderson, pioneer seed merchant. A prolific horticultural writer and innovator, he founded a garden supply business, helped invent the seed catalog, and helped turn New Jersey into the Garden State.
  109. Elizabeth Henderson, Peacework Organic Farm, expert on sustainability and community supported agriculture.
  110. Hazel Henderson, the noted authority on equitable ecologically sustainable human development and socially responsible business and investment.
  111. As an  environmental lawyer, Clay Henderson has worked for preserve Florida's natural lands.
    Entreprenuers & capitalists:
  112. Fritz Henderson, former GM president and CEO, who took the auto company to bankruptcy and back again.
  113. Alexander Henderson, a Scot who immigrated to Virginia and in the eighteenth century became the "father of the chain store" when he opened stores in Dumfries, Alexandria, Colchester, and Occoquan, Va.
  114. Bill Henderson is the founder of Pushcart Prize and advocate for writing in small presses.
  115. Fergus Henderson, "wild" and audacious chef, cookbook compiler, and cult hero.
  116. Paddy Henderson, with his brothers George, Thomas, and Robert] founded a steamship company in Glasgow in 1834 that spawned several related firms and enterprises that lasted in some form with the Henderson name until 1970. The Supreme Court case, Henderson v. Mayor of City of New York (1876), established immigration under control of federal law
  117. Seth Aaron Henderson, fashion designer and a Project Runway all-star.
  118. Colonial timber mill operator Thomas Henderson, after whom the Aukland suburb of Henderson and the Henderson Valley (one of the most prolific winemaking areas in New Zealand) are named.
  119. Charles Christopher Henderson, Arkadelphia financier, after whom a state university in Arkansas is named.
  120. & 121. William G. and Tom W. Henderson, pioneer motorcycle designers and manufacturers.

Henderson Lewelling

Henderson Lewelling was one remarkable individual, so I hope but can't document that Henderson Lewelling was named for a Henderson relative. His mother's maiden name was Jane Brookshire, but the names of his grandmothers are unknown, and there were Hendersons among the Friends community of Randolph County, NC, where Henderson Lewelling was born. Henderson Lewelling was born on 23 Fourth (April) 1809, according to Quaker birth records. His family opposed slavery and either found life in North Carolina uncomfortable or were pulled by the desire to move West. In 1825, his family, led by his father Meshack (his uncles were Shadrach, and Abednego) was one of several Quaker families to move to Indiana. While living in Duck Creek, Henry County, Indiana, Henderson married Elizabeth Pressnall on 13 Twelfth [December] 1830. After about ten years of residence in Indiana, most of the extended family moved to Iowa, where they helped establish a new Quaker-filled community of Salem. The Lewelling family became successful in establishing a merchantile store, orchard, and nursery. Henderson Lewelling was also prominent (in the secretive way he needed to be) in the Underground Railroad. The Friends community of Salem disagreed over the issue of abolition. They agreed in their oppostion to slavery, but they disagreed on how active to fight for ending it. The Lewellings were among 50 members to be disfellowshiped for advocating activism.

Shortly afterwards, in 1847, the Lewelling family headed off by covered wagon along the Oregon Trail in what was one of the most unusual pioneer journeys recorded. Three wagons held the family of ten (Henderson, his wife Elizabeth, five daughters, and three sons) and all their earthly possessions. What was special about the trek was their additional wagon. It had been specially designed by Lewelling and built with two long, narrow boxes filled twelve inches deep with charcoal, composted manure, and soil. The boxes were filled with more than 700 young fruit and nut trees -- apples, pears, peaches, cherries, quince, walnut, and hickory -- as well as grape vines and currant and gooseberry bushes. The surviving trees would become the parent stock of all of the early orchards in the Pacific Northwest. The family started as part of a wagon train of more than 100 wagons, but the wagon train soon left them behind. The cumbersome, heavy-loaded nursery wagon, pulled by three yoke of oxen, was slow, and the plants required daily time-consuming attention. These were the varieties recorded:


  • Baldwin
  • Yellow Bellflower
  • Blue Pearmain 
  • Early Harvest
  • Gloria Mundi 
  • Golden Russet
  • Gravenstein
  • King (Tompkins King) 
  • Newtown 
  • Northern Spy
  • Rambo
  • Red Astrachan 
  • Red Cheek Pippin (Monmouth)
  • Rhode Island Greening
  • Westfield Seek-No-Further
  • Esopus Spitzenburg
  • White Winter Pearmain
  • Winesap


  • Bartlett (Williams' Bon Chrétien)
  • Clapp Favorite
  • Early Butter (Craig)
  • Fall Butter (White Doyenné)
  • Pound
  • Seckel
  • Vicar of Winkfield
  • Winter Nelis


  • May Duke
  • Black Bigarreau
  • Kentish
  • Royal Anne (Napoleon*)
  • Black Tartarian
  • Early Purple Guigne


  • Early Crawford
  • Late Crawford
  • Golden Cling

*The label was missing, so Lewelling named the cherry Royal Anne. Later it was determined to have been a Napoleon cherry tree, but by that time the Royal Anne was well established.

The family joined up with other wagon trains along the way, but usually only for a few days. They had started with two other families in a caravan of seven wagons, but when one of the men from another wagon died, the Lewellings ended up traveling on their own. The trip west took seven months, and only on the best days did the wagons travel as many as fifteen miles. Toward the end of the journey, so the tale goes, a miracle saved the lives of the Lewelling party. There was a war going on in the Oregon Territory between the United States and the Cayuse, or Liksiyu, people. The hostilities broke out because of tensions brought on by arrival of thousands of new settlers whom the Cayuse thought were desecrating the land. A family of missionaries living near The Dalles was massacred in revenge for a doctor spreading a measles epidemic, or so it was believed. The Dalles is a section of the Columbia River bordered by steep cliffs where the Oregon Trail came to an end, and the massacre had occured only a very short time before the Lewelling family approached that part of the country. However, when a Cayuse war party started to attack on the Lewelling wagon train, they suddenly turned peaceful. Henderson's daughter Eliza, many years later, supplied an explanation. The Cayuse believed that the Great Spirit lived in trees and when they saw the wagon full of trees, they thought that this group of settlers should not be harmed. The Indians even helped these settlers complete their journey safely. The transfer of all those trees across the Columbia River was no easy task, but Henderson Lewelling and family and trees eventually arrived in yet another community Lewelling helped establish, Milwaukie.

Llewelling, with a partner and son-in-law William Meek, established the first commercial orchard in the Pacific Northwest, and the grafted trees they sold helped establish orchards throughout Oregon and Washington. To get an idea of his success, within a few years, the partnership had sold more than 100,000 trees at the price of $1.00 to $1.50. The California Gold Rush lured Lewelling from Oregon, but as a market for fruit, not for the gold. He sold his enterprise and holdings in Oregon to a son and moved south to Alameda County. After a new cherry variety was discovered in the orchard Llewelling had sold to his son, Seth Llewelling named it for the Chinese worker who was responsible for the cross-breeding used to develop it. The Bing cherry is the most produced sweet cherry variety in the United States. In that time period, to honor a Chinese worker was shockingly just, egalitarian, open-minded, and singularly unusual -- attributable to Quaker principles. After the gold rush had died down and California settlement became more permanent, Henderson Llewelling helped establish yet one more community -- Fruitvale. The community was established in 1854, and Henderson Llewelling and his son and son-in-law all made themselves another fortune.

Lewelling's story doesn't end there, however. While they were living in Oregon, his first wife died in childbirth. It would have been their eleventh child. It is speculated that something then changed in Henderson Lewelling. In California, he took on a series of new wives in rather rapid succession. It is not clear how legal the marriages were or how they ended. He was on his fourth wife, when Lewelling came up with a new idea. He decided to establish a utopian community based on a combination of Quaker principles, spiritualism, vegetariansim, naturism (at least occasional nudism), and free love. He sold his orchard and business and most of his property to raise funds for the enterprise. In 1859, he sailed with about 30 eager colonists. The departure was wondrously scandalous. The company of travellers included a couple of his sons and his housekeeper, but not his wife. According to a San Francisco Times article that was based on reports of returning crew members of the schooner Santiago, that had been purchased and fitted out by Lewelling for the Free Lovers, the ship left San Francisco at midnight on the 5th of October with ten men, five women and six or seven children. For several days, additional passengers who had "peculiar difficulties in getting away" were able to board. One of the men, whom bill collectors were after, "actually concealed himself...under the hoops and petticoats of Mrs. B." One couple was delayed when their 17-year old daughter refused to join them. Henderson Lewelling was the last to board the ship before it headed out to sea. He did so furtively, successfully escaping both wife and incarceration. His wife was in the process of having the courts declare Lewelling a lunatic. The society of Free Lovers, known as the Harmonial Brotherhood, failed almost before the ship reached Honduras. Quarrels and fights broke out almost immediately aboard ship, and factions formed. An "egg war" started at a stop in Mexico when the same eggs were sold to two different men. Both women and men were observed by crew members to secretly drink forbidden coffee and tea and eat salt pork. Once in Honduras many of the community failed to adjust to the unfavorable climate, caught fevers, got sick, and died. In 1860, Lewelling returned to California in poverty.

He lived another 18 years, in obscurity, apparently far removed from the fruit and orchard business, possibly estranged from family, and perhaps crazy. The next recorded event in his life was his death by a heart attack while he was clearing brush. His gravestone spelled his name Luelling, although during his life before the free love expedition in documents his name was spelled Lewelling. It might be attributed to a gravestone engraver's mistake, except his first wife, buried in Oregon, had Luelling on her gravestone, as well. Thus a sad end to a remarkable man who deserves a place among the Hendersons.

There seems to be suprisingly few fictional Hendersons, but they include these remarkable and forgettable characters:

A Family of Hendersons Come to America:
The Story of Robert Henderson and Mary Ralston Henderson and a few of their descendants

Note: Many of the family details and stories have been preserved thanks to efforts of many individuals, especially Big Aunt Helen and Little Aunt Helen and Aunt Mitch (Helen Streams and Helen McFarland and Martha Allison), my father Joseph Ralston Henderson, and his cousin Bob Duncan. Thanks to Faye Tyson for sharing the scanned images used.

First Generation: Robert Henderson and Mary Ralston Henderson

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).

Second Generation: Alexander and Hanna Thorne Henderson

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

John (1772-1844)
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
Children: unknown

Joseph (1780-1844)
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)

Robert (1782-1871)
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.

Alexander (1784-1844)
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.

Third Generation: Robert Henderson and Martha Henry Henderson

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.

The Henderson FarmRobert 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:

Robert Alexander Henderson b: 1838; d: 15 May 1862; as a member of the 1st Regiment Missouri cavalry, he was killed at Battle of the Little Blue Creek on 11 November 1861.
John Henderson b: 26 November 1840; d: 13 April 1917; served with 62d Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and was wounded at Gaines Mills, Gettysburg, and Spottsylvania Court House; moved to College Springs, Iowa, after the war; was a store owner, carpenter, blacksmith, and undertaker. He and his wife had one daughter.
James Wilson Henderson, b: ? [died in infancy]
James Ralston Henderson b: 1845. He used the name Ralston. He was lame, so he did not join the army during the Civil War. He moved to College Springs, Iowa, after the war with his brother and ran a store and became postmaster.
Joseph Henry Henderson b: 27 February 1847; d: 11 November 1913; Too young to serve in the Civil War. Because his brothers had moved west, he took over the family farm.

Portraits of three brothers:

portrait of Robert Alexander Henderson portrait of John Henderson, private in the 62d Pennsylvania Volunteers, Infantry portrait of Joseph Henry Henderson
Robert Alexander             John               Joseph Henry

Fourth Generation: Joseph Henry Henderson and Jenny Telford Henderson

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. In the 1870 Census Martha was listed as the head of the household, with Joseph listed as son. He married Jennie (Prudence Jane) Telford two days before Christmas in 1874. He was 27; she was 23.

The Henderson FarmAfter 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 servant, Liza Been (Been, according to the 1860 and 1870 Census, but my father thought she spelled her name Bean). 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. He also planted and maintained an apple orchard of 100 trees. 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.

After the death of Joseph Henry Henderson in 1913, John, the third son, took over the farm, since his oldest brother had moved to Washington State and his next older brother had become a banker. When John married Kate in 1914, Jenny and her oldest daughter Mabel moved into the city of Indiana. They lived at 661 Water Street in a home that was given to Jenny by her brother Stephen James Telford, the judge, who lived two houses away. This was the Vinegar Hill section of Indiana. One of their other neighbors was Alex Stewart, who owned a hardware store. The Stewarts had a rather famous son, Jimmy Stewart, the actor.

The children of Joseph and Jenny:

[Martha] Mabel Henderson Hopkins Rogers b: September 22, 1875; d: 21 April 1965. My dad said she moved out west (but I'm not sure where, perhaps Iowa), then back to Pennsylvania. Although my dad told me that all of the siblings received some amount of higher education, census records indicated that Mabel completed no more than the 8th grade. She may have received training to become a practical nurse, but since practical nurses weren't licensed until the 1940s, I'm not sure what or how much that training would have been. She cared for several sick and convalescent individuals during the course of her life. She married twice – both times to recent widowers in whose homes she had lived while providing care to their previous wives. Both times her husbands died within a year and a half of their marriage. She married William Hopkins in 1928 and Johnson Rogers in 1950. Mabel died on 21 April 1965.
Mary Hadessa (Dessie) Henderson Duncan b: July 1877; d: 4 September 1929. A school teacher before she married Archie Wallace Duncan, a farmer. Wallace and Dessie's children included James Telford, John Mathews, Joseph Henderson, Robert Cree, Mary E., Jane Elizabeth, and Mabel Emily. Robert Cree Duncan died in June 2009, aged 97. Wallace prided himself by his progressive approach to farming, building a large silo, purchasing new machinery and modern appliances, and maintaining innovative practices and sanitary conditions on his farm of 160 acres. His wife's death and the depression both hit him hard. He died in on 22 September 1935.
Cree Telford Henderson b: 25 July 1879; d: 25 February 1944. He was studying to be a school teacher at Valparaiso College in the state of Indiana, when a summer job in the Pacific Northwest turned into a career as a railroad engineer for the Northern Pacific Railroad. He lived in Spokane. Cree was killed in a train accident near Colfax, Washington. He married Vera Eliza Nesbitt, and they had daughter Cora and ason Stephen.
This article from page 8 the Independent-Record (Helena Montana), from 27 February 1944 details the fatal accident:
Railroad Man Dies In Collision Of Train, Engine
Spokane, Wash., Feb. 26. (AP) C. T. Henderson, Spokane railroad engineer, was killed and two passengers were hospitalized at Colfax as a result of a collision between a Northern Pacific passenger train and a light engine near Oakesdale, railroad officials reported here today. Injured were Budge Eller, 36, Spokane, arm and head injuries, and Mrs. Harry F. J. Schilling, Lewiston, Idaho, head injuries. Seven other passengers were treated for minor bruises and shock.Cause of the accident was not immediately reported. The train was bound from Spokane to Lewiston, Idaho.
Eva Belle Henderson Miller b: September 1881; d: 15 October 1970. She moved to Idaho. Her husband was Curtis J. Miller, and they had two daughters, Ruth and Maxine. Eva's name was pronounced with a short E, like the ev in "seven", not the ev in "evil".
Robert Alexander Henderson b: November 1883; d: 17 February 1965. He became a banker and industrialist in Meadville, Pa. He was a graduate of Westminster College and received a graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. His wife's name was Jean, and they had two daughters, Dorothy and Betty. Among Robert's occupations were cashier at the Marion Center Bank, trust officer of the Savings and Trust Bank of Indiana, Pa., and Pennsylvania State Bank Examiner during the governorship of Robert Fisher, and Chairman of the Board of the Meadville Malleable Iron Company.
James Stewart Henderson b. 20 March 1885; d: 31 December 1890. Died of diphtheria.
John Gordon Henderson b: 13 September 1887; d. 28 November 1978. He survived the diphtheria that killed his brother. After taking the short program at Penn State, took over the family farm. See below.
Harry Oram Henderson b: 5 November 1889; d: 11 December 1961. He earned ungraduate and master's degrees from Penn State, and became a county agent. Moved to West Virginia as an extention dairy agent and helped organize the Dairy Department at West Virginia University which he headed for 30 years. Earned his doctorate in dairy science at the University of Minnesota. His textbook, Dairy Cattle Feeding and Management went through four editions, and he authored or coauthored over 100 research bulletins and scientific papers. Harry married Marian Saltsman and they had one son, Robert Eugene. Robert was stationed in Alaska during World War II. He remained in Alaska after the war to teach and farm and lived there for six decades. He and his wife Wilma had five children.
Ethel Kathryn Henderson Ross b: 31 July 1892; d: 24 May 1984. Ethel taught school and raised a family; she and her husband James A. Ross lived in many places including New Castle, Pa., Dryden, NY. Among other occupations, he was a store owner and restaurant owner. Ethel died while living with her daughter Alice Marie Ross Guye in St. Louis, Mo.
[Sarah] Helen Henderson Streams b: 3 August 1896; d: 26 March 1978. Helen married Arthur Streams and moved to Brownsville, Pa. Returned to Indiana, Pa., and was a schoolteacher for most of her life. She had one adopted son, Jimmy.

Portraits of nine siblings:

portrait of Mabel portrait of Dessie portrait of Cree portrait of Eva portrait of Robert portrait of John portrait of Harry portrait of Ethel portrait of Helen
Mabel Dessie Cree Eva Robert John Harry Ethel Helen

Fifth Generation: John Gordon Henderson and Kathryn Holstein Henderson

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. He maintained a dairy farm, delivering milk to the nearby mining town of Iselin, through the depression and more prosperous times. He also maintained and added to his fathers apple orchard.

Children of John Gordon and Kathyrn Holstein Henderson and beyond . . .

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 (jhenderson@ for additional information.

Can you be related to a fictional character?

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, but ballad singer and scholar Andrew Calhoun is certain there was an historical Jamie Telfer. Landmarks of Liddesdale are featured prominently in the ballad, and other individuals 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, an ancestor of the poet and novelist); and a Martin's Gibb (Martin's Hab in the ballad). If Jamie Telfer 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 Scott'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." Andrew Calhoun, who cites Scott's other known other perversions of ballads altered for his own purposes, is certain Scott's version is not the original.

In case you wish to visit the home of a fictional or actual relative, there is also some question about what and where the Dodhead was. Scott 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. By the way, later editions of Scott's Border Minstrelsy were edited by Thomas Finlayson Henderson, a once prominent historian, author, and biographer.

*Child 190 is shorthand for the 190th ballad listed in Francis James Child's collection of English and Scottish popular traditional ballads. "Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead" is also found in Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders .

This page created and maintained by: John R. Henderson (jhenderson@
Last modified on 27 April 2021