Richard Henderson

by Edmund Starling, 1886


RICHARD HENDERSON, for whom Henderson County, and the City of Henderson are named, was born in Hanover County, Virginia, April 20th, 1735. His father was Colonel Samuel Henderson, of Scotch, and his mother, Elizabeth Williams, of Welsh descent. The family emigrated in 1756 to the present home of the descendants, Granville County, North Carolina. His parents were poor, and hence his education neglected. It is said, but the authority for it is not given, that he grew to maturity before he had learned to read and write. Certainly, after he was of age, he improved his opportunities with wonderful energy. The first position that opened up to him a new view of life, was that of constable; followed soon after by that of under-sheriff to his father, who had been made sheriff. These duties educated him largely in that practical knowledge of men and things for which he became distinguished in after life. He read law for twelve months with his cousin, Judge John Williams. He then applied for license to Charles Berry, Chief Justice of the Colony, whose duty it was to examine applicants, and on whose certificate the Governor issued a license to practice. "He was asked how long he had read and what books? When the limited time was stated, and the number and names of books he had read, the Judge remarked that it was useless to go into any examination, as no living man could have read and digested those works in so short a time. With great promptness and firmness, Henderson replied that it was his privilege to apply for a license, and the Judge's duty to examine him, and if he was not qualified, to reject him; if qualified, to grant the certificate. The Judge, struck with his sensible and spirited reply, proceeded to a most scorching examination. So well did the young man sustain himself, that the certificate was granted, with encomiums upon his industry, acquirements and talents."

Such energy and spirit knew no rest. He soon rose to the highest ranks of his profession, and honors and wealth followed. Under the law of 1767, providing for a Chief Justice and two associates for the province, Governor Tryon, about 1768, appointed Mr. Henderson one of the associate justices. While holding the Superior Court at Hillsboro, Orange County, Monday September 24th, 1770, the "Regulators" (those who first resisted the aggressions and extortions of the crown officers) "assembled in the court yard, insulted some of the gentlemen of the bar, and in a riotous manner went into the Court House and forcibly carried out some of the attorneys, and, in a cruel manner, beat them." Judge Henderson, finding it impossible to hold court, left Hillsboro in the night. At the battle of Alamance, near the Alamance River, not many miles distant, on May 16th, 1771, was the first blood spilled in resistance to exactions and oppressions of English officers in the name of the crown. The troubled times shut up the courts of justice. He died January 30th, 1785.

The History of Henderson County, Kentucky by Starling 1887 page 788-89;

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