from Virginia and settled in Granville county, North Carolina, several
years prior to the breaking out of the Revolutionary war. His
ancestors were “fine old English gentlemen, and his wife was nearly
related to Lord Erskine, Chancellor of England. Her name was Miss
Erskine. Judge Richard Henderson of Granville, and Judge Maurice Moore
of Orange were the first men in North Carolina who ever held a
judicial office by the order of King George III. Judge Henderson, was
a man of brilliant intellectual gifts. Both had the brow of a
Socrates, with full, bright eyes, and a clear cut handsome profile.
Judge Richard Henderson had three sons, Archibald, Leonard, and John.
He was a man of wealth, his largest possession being a land grant from
the Crown which is now known as the state of Kentucky. This immense
tract was owned by a firm called Henderson, Hunt, & Co. The
descendants of Mr. Hunt still live in Granville. The greater portion
of the land was the property of Judge Henderson. When Kentucky became
a state, an immense portion of the land was taken from the land owners
by an “Act of the Legislature of Kentucky.” I can not understand
the justice of the “Act” and forhear to comment on it. This
Kentucky property has either passed entirely from the lands of the
family, or has dwindled down to so small a tract that it does not
deserve a passing mention the name of a county and thriving town in
Kentucky however are known by the cogonen of the former owner fo the
land Judge Richard Henderson.
complete and authentic records of his life and family were destroyed
when the Bannockburn, near Williamsboro was burned.
He is buried in a private family graveyard near that village.
Of his distinguished son,
I can write more definitely, A splendid portrait of him in oil by a
master hand presents itself to my mind’s eyes as I pen these lines.
His massive brow and full piercing blue-gray eyes bore convincing
proof of his episcopal brain; the winning sweetness of his moth and
subtile, refinement which “nameless something” gave to the whole
maintenance would at once inspire the confidence of the most
timid woman or man., inspire of the ever present majesty of -----?--
which spoke in every lineament of the honored face.
He was born in Granville, at Bannockburn in 1772. His father gave
him as good education as the country afforded, He studied law, and
after practicing for some years he was elected one of the three Judges
of the supreme Court in 1808. He resigned this office in 1816. He was
after th edeath of Justice Taylor he was appointed Chief Justice in
1829. He married Miss Francis Farrar. He had four sons and two
daughters. One of his daughters married Dr. Richard R. Sneed; the
other Dr. Wm. C. Taylor. His eldest son Archibald, settled in
Salisbury where he practiced a number of years. The second son, John
died at a comparatively young age. The third son Leonard, a
wonderfully gifted mouth, died quite suddenly, after a brief illness
at Bannockburn. Chief Justice Henderson was in Raleigh attending court
when he heard of young Leonard’s Illness. He fastened home, at once,
and drove up to his residence, during the night. He noticed that the
windows were up and the lights were at
in his son’s room, and realized that his favorite was a
corpse. Convulsed with emotion the old man entered the chamber of
death and throwing himself beside the corpse exclaimed , “The pearl
of my heart, and the pride of my home and family is gone.” I have been told that Chief Justice was cry fond and proud of
his son. He is divined to me, by persons
who remember him, as a remarkable handsome young man., a
splendid figure, and wonderful talents. He too sleeps beneath the sod
of one of the Granville’s family burying ground’s, and the memory
of him is fading away.
God Grant he now wears a crown hereafter and brighter than the laurel
wreathed his young and gifted manhood gave promise of his winning here
on earth. May Granville’s best flower’s blossom abundantly above
the sounds that Granville’s sons forget and neglect . The young son
, Wm. Far Henderson lives in Williamsboro. In this article I will not
spend a wealth of information on this gentlemen. I have known and
loved him all my life, and have long aspired to the honor of being his
biographer. It is enough to say here, that he is worthy of his honored
father, and does not discredit to the name he bears. He owns one of
the finest libraries in the state and has read more than any two
gentlemen of my acquaintances. If either of you Messrs., Editors, or
any of your readers, desire to be informed on my subject that the pen
of man has ever written about, I recommend you to call on Dr.
But to return to Chief Justice Henderson; “Full of honors and full
of years” he died in Granville and was buried in the burying ground
of Montpelier near Williamsboro ground. The spot is unmarked by a
monument and very few living persons can correctly designate his
resting place. It is a peculiarity of the family not to raise memorial
stones to their illustrious dead. Then let Granville county erect a
monument over the graves of this one of her proudest son !
I will as one of Granville’s daughter’s, pledge any earnest
and in procuring a monument unable to mark the spot sacred to the
memory of Leonard Henderson.
Many amusing characteristic anecdotes are told of chief Justice
Henderson. It is well known fact, that his did not require one half a
much study to arrive at a correct conclusion as other men required.
His opinions in spite of
this fact are quoted as high legal authority today, by Judges of the
Qu---- Bench in Westminster. Abby Judge Gaston, I think it was, said
that “Judge Henderson leaped from hill to hill with perfect
confidence and safety and never had to descend to the valleys of legal
love.” Judge Nash was once surrounded by a crowd of clients who were
anxious to have his opinion in a certain case. He was busy with other
business, and after been importune for some time, he gave the opinion
without authority to back it, Exclaimed, “Now Clear Out ! “ That
is my opinion and I give
it without authority Just as Len Henderson does, and I swear it to be
is a curious fact, that Chief Justice never, arose to address a jury
or any audience without visible trembling. It frightened him
until he lost himself in his subject, and then he was every inch
the orator. Judge Henderson attended St. John's Church In Williamsboro.
For several yearsBishop Ravenscroft was Rector of St. John's Parish
and resided near Henderson. At the time, Judge Henderson was a member
of the Vesory. For some weeks after the arrival of the Bishop
Ravenscroft, Judge Henderson, who was very busy with his professional
duties and a law school which he had established in Williamsboro, did
not call on the Bishop. Finally, the chief found time to go and pay
his respect to the Bishop, and made himself a ceremonious call. Chief
Judge Henderson was announced, and the Bishop, without taking his eyes
from the sermon he was writing motioned for the visitor to a chair
near by and continued to write. Judge Henderson had not been
intentionally remiss from his social duty to the Bishop Ravenscroft
and did not understand such a discourteous reception. He quitely sat
until Bishop Ravenscroft saw fit to entertain him. A polite and formal
conversion consumed the moments of a brief visit and Judge Henderson
returned to his home almost angry with the new rector.His conscience
reproved him however, for neglecting to call earlier on his
distinguished visitor and the following circumstances was the last
that was ever heard of the unpleasant reencounter. That day at
dinner, Chief Justice Henderson ordered wine to be brought on the
table and invited his sons and law students to drink a toast with him.
Raising his glass, He said, " Young Gentlemen I purpose the
health of John Stark Ravenscroft, The Lord Chesterfield of America !
this the two Gentlemen became devoted friends and continued so until
Bishop Ravenscroft stood beside the death bed, of the Chief Justice.
There they parted, with expressions of affectionate regard.
the latter apart of Chief Justice Henderson's life, he formed a habit
of bending his head forward and resting his chin on his breast. This
attitude made his massive brow look larger and almost concealed his
eyes. Once while examining some law students who applied for a license
he assumed this position. One young student not knowing of who he
spoke, nudged a lawyer near him--that lawyer was afterwards Judge
not that old fellow asleep!" Asleep! NO, responded Ruffin,
"You miss one word in your examination and you will find out when
he is asleep is not. He will be the widest awake, of any man in that
Hon. Hugh Widdell of this city tell me that he once had to summon
Chief Justice Henderson as a witness in a case he was pleading at the
Oxford bar. He says, "The chief Justice was a great lawyer an
able jurist, but was the meanest witness that ever appeared before
judge or jury!"
might give you a number of reminiscences of Chief Justice, for every
home in around Williamsboro, has some tradition connected with him. He
was the "King Arthur" of all the ancient knight's, that in
olden times, reflected honor on Granville county. Now let Granville
honor him by preserving from desecration and ruin, the spot of earth
that covers his mortal remains. ---------------
the pamphlet of : Historic Vance County --And-- "Happy, Healthy,
Hustling Henderson" by John Bullock Watkins published ( June
1941) by The Henderson Daily Dispatch Co, Henderson NC.
grave of Judge Richard Henderson (1735-1785), father of Chief Justice
Leonard Henderson is about one mile beyond Ashland.
stone was put up by Archibald Henderson of Chapel Hill. It reads as
Pioneer, Colonizer Founder of Boonesboro, Ky. and Nashville, Tenn.,
President Colony of Transylvania, Author Cumberland Compact.
Williams, the Burtons, and Chief Leonard Henderson are buried at