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Richard Henderson of Granville County

By Evelyn Wallace

This is part of a collection of notes and genealogies put together by the late author over more than 50 years of research of many Granville Co. families and being shared here hopefully to help others in their quest for their own ancestors. There is additional info and documents on this website for many of the names included in these notes, so do a Search above, or click onto any of the  underlined  links included in these records.

RICHARD HENDERSON of Granville Co. NC. WIR00339. (1735-1785) Dates of Richard Henderson come from Wm. Stevens Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biographies, p. 105-106. Information concerning his probate comes from the same source. Also Fred A. Olds, Abstract of North Carolina Wills from ca 1760 to ca 1800, p. 128

According to ROSTER OF SOLDIERS FROM NORTH CAROLINA IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION [Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972], p. 37 Richard Henderson was a Captain in the North Carolina militia 1780-1781. This was toward the end of the Revolution and may not be valid proof for his being called a patriot.

Although Richard Henderson, also called Col., is not in the writer's direct line, he is of importance because of his many associations with others in the writer's direct line:

1. Henderson was said to be a first cousin, through his maternal line (Elizabeth Williams), of John Williams, Esq. and of William Williams (d. 1775 at Boonesborough), the latter of whom is in the writer's line. Reportedly Henderson's mother Elizabeth Williams was a sister, of John Williams, sometimes called "Sr." of Granville Co., who was the father of John, Esq. and of William Williams and also of younger sons Nathaniel and Charles Williams. (1)

2. Henderson was instrumental in setting up Transylvania Co. in what later became western Kentucky, which company involved not only the older Williams brothers but at least one other of the writer's ancestors: Michael Stoner, who was hunter for the company. Daniel Boone's niece was to marry into the Stoner family. (Transylvania Co. was later called Richard Henderson and Company.)  See also: Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Company

Mark F. Miller in his DICTIONARY OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOGRAPHY, ed. by William S. Powell (Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 1988) characterizes Henderson as "land speculator, judge, and politician."

Richard Henderson's life will not be outlined here, but reference will be made to genealogical relationships. Many others have written extensively of Henderson and his exploits. Miller states that Richard served as his father Samuel's deputy sheriff.
"With that experience Richard next arranged to read law under his mother's cousin, John Williams, a young and gifted attorney. (1) Henderson was soon admitted to the bar and joined Williams in his practice. Their association would become a lifelong friendship; it was enhanced further in 1763, when Henderson married Williams' stepdaughter, Elizabeth Keeling, the daughter of an English peer, *Lord Keeling." (2)

The following account, again by Mark Miller, tells something of Henderson's life after Transylvania Company seemed to dissolve when both North Carolina and Virginia turned down his claims, awarding him only with about 200,000 acres, a large part of which became Henderson Co., KY. In Henderson Co. deeds, that portion of land is referred to as "Henderson & co grants."

"In 1779-80 he spearheaded another group of settlers into the Cumberland Valley in Tennessee and founded French Lick (present-day Nashville)." He remained active in the politics of his state. "His life was cut short by death at age forty-nine. He was buried on his farm where his house still stands near Williamsboro on Nutbush Creek. Henderson was an Anglican and a vestryman in the Parish of Granville." (3)

"His children were educated by Henry Patillo, an eminent Presbyterian clergyman."
His six children were: Fanny (b. 1764); Richard (b. 1766); Archibald (b. 1768); Elizabeth (b. 1770); Leonard (b. 1778); John (b. 1780). (4)

The Lyman C. Draper Mss, "Kentucky Papers," contains much information about Henderson, including newspaper clippings. Of genealogical interest is "Extracts from the Henderson & Co. papers of Mr. James Alves," in 2-CC-35:
Richd Henderson eldest son aged 21 years Aug '87

Archd " second son aged 20 " Aug '88

Leonard " 3rd " " 16 years ---- (5)

Wm " 4th " " 10 years ----

"Richd Henderson died leaving the following children, viz Fanny Henderson who intermarried with Spence Macoy. She is since dead leaving an only child named Betsey who is under 21 years. (6)

"Richd Henderson Jr
. had died without issue.

"Archd Henderson - of full age. Leonard H. too

"Elizabeth Henderson who has since intermarried with Wm Lee Alexander has issue two daughters--Sally & Fanny infants." (One account says Alexander was of Mecklenburg Co., presumably North Carolina but possibly of Virginia, as that Virginia county was adjacent to Granville Co. and its progeny counties.)

This is a more detailed abstract of the will of Richard Henderson. It gives some information about his involvement with Transylvania Company.

"Richard Henderson of North Carolina, 18 September 1784
To my wife Elizabeth during her life the land and plantation whereon I now live with other plantations adjoining. Also all my household and kitchen furniture with my stock of every kind including all my plantation utensils, all the Negroes I am now in possession of and their increase. I am possessed of various tracts of land lying on the Western side of the Blude Ridge and jointly interested with the Transylvania Company, these land be disposed of by my Executors in following manner: The lands on the Eastern side of Cumberland Mountain except the land belonging to the Transylvania Company be sold and the profits educating my children. Any surplus be divided among my living children or their representatives. The lands on the Western waters or the branches of the River Ohio be sold at the discretion of my Executors or a majority of them and the profits be equally divided between my said wife Elizabeth and my children. At the death of my said wife, I give my son John the lands and plantations whereon I now live and the adjacent lands on condition he is in rite at at his mother's death and have living issue. Executors to sell and in South Carolina and money be disposed as directed by wife. My wife Elizabeth Executrix, John Williams, Leonard Henley Bullock, Robert Burton, Bromfield Ridley, Pleasant Henderson, and my two sons Richard and Archibald my Executors.
Richd Henderson
Wit: Nathl Henderson, John Henderson, Fanny Henderson, Elizabeth Henderson, John Henderson, Reuben Searcy

Codicil 27 January 1785 Executors have full power to sell as much land as necessary to pay debts except my manor plantation and lands adjacent. To my daughter Faney Henderson all my lands on East side of Nutbush Creek & Anderson's Swamp except the flowable lands on said Creek and Swamp, including the land whereon John Vandyke lives and land whereon Nathaniel Henderson lives and where Reuben Searcy formerly lived. To my daughter Elizabeth Henderson all land southwardly and eastwardly at the line beginning at the West corner of Pleasant Henderson's land to the Northeast of Thomas Person's land. To my son John Henderson after the death of my wife, all remainder of land on Nutbush disregarding the clause concerning same in my will. If John precedes his mother in death or if he die in nonage or without issue, then the land be sold and money divided to my surviving children or their legal representatives.
Wit: Elizabeth Henderson, Mary (X) Burke, P. Henderson Richd Henderson
May Court 1788 Richd Henderson qualified as Executor

(Source: Timothy W. Rackley, GRANVILLE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA ORIGINAL WILLS, VOLUME 1, 1749-1810 [Kernersville, NC: Published by author, 2002], p. 43)

Much of that which has been published about Henderson and family was written by his 2nd great-grandson, Dr. Archibald Henderson III (1877-1963), a noted historian (son of John Steele Henderson & Elizabeth B. Cain; grandson of Archibald Henderson II & Mary S. Ferrand; gr-grandson of Archibald Henderson & Sarah Alexander; the family lived in Salisbury, Rowan Co.,NC). However, according to some students of the neighbors of Nutbush Creek area of Granville Co. NC, Archibald probably skipped a generation in outlining the ancestry of his family.

This skepticism is reflected by correspondence found in the Worth S. Ray Special Collection at Salt Lake City, V. 91, One person questions Archibald's statements, believing he skipped some generations in reconstructing his family's history. This is particularly reflected on pages 126 and 128 of said collection, parts of letter written by Mrs. Josephine Henderson Neal of Louisa, VA in 1947. Mrs. Neal for twelve years had been Deputy Clerk of Orange County, VA, and she knew records of some Henderson families in Orange Co. quite well. She wrote, "My only desire is to get my own line straight but having done genealogy all my life I know how hard it is to ever get many lines all connected and straight yet I feel sure anyone with the right desire wants to correct mistakes if they have made them and that is why I do not understand Dr. A. Henderson's not being willing to recognize errors after they have come to light."

Mrs. Neal wrote Ray that Louisa Co. has records only from 1770 on and those not complete. "This county was formed 1742 from Hanover." (This information is incorrect, as Mrs. Rosalie Edith Davis has transcribed/abstracted many records of Louisa Co. from 1742 to circa 1790, including deeds, vestry books, some guardianship papers.)

This lack of records in Louisa and its predecessor Hanover Co. makes it difficult to make linkages from Hanover to Louisa to Granville Co., NC, Many of the Williams-Henderson-Snead family males, reportedly originally of Hanover Co., were in that NC county almost from its inception--1746. Refer to the biography of Richard Henderson I, the probable grandfather of Col. Richard Henderson.

In his will, proved ca. 1786, Col. Richard named his wife Elizabeth (Keeling), sons John, Richard, Archibald and daughters Fanny and Elizabeth. ????

There are a number of references to Richard Henderson and to his brother Nathaniel Henderson in Mabel Clare Weaks, CALENDAR OF THE KENTUCKY PAPERS OF THE DRAPER COLLECTION OF MANUSCRIPTS (Madison, Wisc: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1925) which is a calendar or an index to Drapers papers on Kentucky.------

(1) The fact that John Williams, Esq., was the nephew of Elizabeth (Williams) Henderson seems to be a more accurate statement than does the fact that she was Williams' sister, as some earlier accounts have stated. Refer to Archibald Henderson, THE CONQUEST OF THE OLD SOUTHWEST (New York, 1920), 107, who states John Williams, Henderson's law partner, was also his uncle. It is interesting that this newer work credits John Williams with more intellect than do some earlier accounts, such as Wheeler. Indeed, when one reads the correspondence of both Williams and Henderson, one tends to dismiss the statement that the men were largely uneducated. Much of their correspondence has been published in Saunders, COLONIAL PAPERS OF NORTH CAROLINA and in Clark's STATE PAPERS OF NORTH CAROLINA. Refer to biographies of John Williams I of Hanover Co. and of John Williams II of Goochland Co. for information concerning the relationships of Elizabeth (Williams) Henderson and her siblings to various Williams families of Virginia.

(2) That *George Keeling was "an English or Irish lord" has yet to be documented. A person by this name appears in Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck, VIRGINIA'S COLONIAL SOLDIERS (Baltimore, 1988). The list was taken from records relating to Virginia in the Public Record Office, London C.O.5/1312 [superscript 2].

George Keeling was Captain in New Kent Co. 7 Mar 1701/2 under R. Lightfoot, Col. of Foot. (p. 217. Hanover Co. was formed from New Kent Co.) His name again appears 4 July 1702 under Col. John Lightfoot, Lower Company of Foot. (p, 218)

(3) We believe the parish is called St. John's, even today. A small wooden Episcopal church, now restored, but built in colonial times, stands near Williamsborough, now in Vance Co., NC.
(See: St. John's Episcopal Church and St. John's Church Historical Marker)

(4) John H. Wheeler, REMINISCENCES AND MEMOIRS OF NORTH CAROLINA AND EMINENT NORTH CAROLINIANS (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1966 reprint) gives this information about the six children:

a. Fanny, b 1764, m. Judge Spruce McCay [sic] of Salisbury.

b. Richard, b Jul 1766; studied law at university; died early age.

c. Archibald, b 1768; d 1822; lived and died in Salisbury; studied law with his relative, John Williams. Wheeler gives much information, albeit in flowery language, about Archibald and his career.

d. Elizabeth, b 1770, m. William Lee Alexander

e. Leonard, b 1778 (later Wheeler says 6 Oct 1772); d. 12 Aug 1833 near Williamsborough, NC. [A more probable birthdate is 1764; see his biography.] He also studied law with Judge John Williams. Wheeler writes of his career. Of his family, Wheeler states, "A widow nee *Farrar, a niece of Judge Williams, and five children survived him." Wheeler lists five of the children. Of these, Lucy married Dr. Richard Sneed. See biographies of Leonard Henderson and of associated persons, William Farrar and Stephen Sneed, probable father of Richard Sneed.
(*Note by DW: This was Frances Farrar, d. Sept. 1845, will probated November 1845 Granville Co.)

f. John Lawson, b 1770. Wheeler later gives a birthdate of 1778. He died ca. 1844. He read law and was active in politics, according to Wheeler's lengthy biography. He was married twice: 1st Miss Noble of Virginia; 2nd to Miss Kittrell. No issue. 
(Note by DW: From the Raleigh Register, dated July 14, 1843, John L. Henderson, of Salisbury, d. July [1843])

(5) Holcomb's GRANVILLE MARRIAGES shows that Leonard Henderson m. Frances Farrar 3 Nov 1795.

(6) Transcripts of Granville Co. records show that the groom's name was **Spruce Macay. At Nov court 1796 he was appointed guardian to Elizabeth Mccay, which indicated that the child's mother was deceased.

Henderson's letter is written 29 Oct 1778 from Williamsburg [VA] to John Williams, who apparently is at Boonesborough or en route to or from. At times, during this Boonesborough episode, John Williams is labeled Colonel. No doubt Henderson was trying to convince the House of Burgesses that they should approve his 14th province called Transylvania. Kentucky was still claimed by Virginia until 1792. Among those opposing this *proprietary* were Patrick Henry and George Roberts Clark.

Henderson writes Williams (reportedly related as a cousin, as his mother, reportedly belonged to the Williams family. Elizabeth Henderson is reported to be the sister of the older John Williams, Sr. of Nutbush Creek area of Granville Co., NC. This John Williams [called Sr. in Granville Co. until his death ca 1770] reportedly was the father of John Williams Jr. [later called Esq], William Williams, who died at Boonesborough Dec 1775], and probably of these two other brothers: Charles Williams [who witnessed the will of Williams Williams, as he was dying at Boonesborough] and Nathaniel Williams. These two *younger* brothers were closely associated. They are frequently teamed together as sworn chain carriers in the land patents as published by Margaret M Hofmann.

Some names and statements extracted in 1987 by E.W.Wallace at Research Library UCLA:
Letter from Williamsburg [Virginia] Oct 29th 1778
Henderson is having difficulties with the Assembly of Virginia *concerning our Transylvania purchase.*

Names extracted from Henderson letter: Some of my notes are in brackets.
Mrs Williams [the former Mrs George Keeling, maiden name Agnes Bullock} She may have been called away by the death of a family member. [person seemingly not named]

Henderson writes, in part:
In the fore part of this letter I informed you that Mrs. Williams was well. This was true, but you must not think from that expression that she was or has for some time been so well as I could wish. You know her, & I am sure, don't expect from her anxiety, that her spirits and health are not impaired. Truth is, from our observation she is much so. You ought not to desert your duty of the public, but should come home as soon as you can, and determine between yourselves, whether so long a separation shall take place. You don't wait to be told that we all rejoiced much, on your easy recovery from the Small pox, but believe me, I am alarmed on your account. The pox was much too slight, & I am afraid that an ulcer or abscess will form in your Lungs, for want of a Sufficient discharge the other way of the disturbed matter--pray have you not an habitual cough? or do you feel no oppression in your breast? If either of these should be the case, consult some Physician, and do for the best.

Other excerpts from this letter. Note Jackey Williams, eldest son of deceased Willliam Williams, had died. Jackey's (or John) seemed to be the eldest son. His only brother, Samuel Farrar Williams, thus became the sole male heir of William Williams, who died testate at Boonesborough Dec 1775. (See transcribed copy of will) Samuel Farrar Williams filed a later rejected Rev War pension claim in Henderson Co., KY in which he said he was born in 1759 in Granville Co. NC.

(Background: Samuel Farrar Williams of Granville Co. NC and later of Henderson Co., KY, based on extensive research and some old letters in the extended Williams family, is believed to be one of the ancestors of David F. Williams [1818 KY-1881 TX]. David F. Williams b ca 1818 in Henderson Co., KY, was later of Hickman Co., Ky, of Vicksburg [Warren Co, MS] and still later of Victoria Co., TX where he died testate. David was probably named for his maternal grandfather, David Stephens of Henderson Co., KY. David Stephens was Quartermaster in the War of 1812 but died later. To date, no will has been located. His widow, Elizabeth (--) Stephens subsequently married her neighbor seemngly a widowerer with grown children, many if not all, living in Henderson Co. KY.)

More excerpts of Henderson's letter to John Williams:
Mr. Springer - to deliver a letter to [Col] John Williams from the Williamsburg area

Jackey Williams - Mr. Springer will inform of the death of your nephew Jackey Williams.

Necessity of settling the estate of your lately deceased brother [not named but no doubt a reference to William Williams who died testate at Boonesborough Dec 1775]

Dr. Burke - our attorney in Virginia

Mr. Burton - evidently of Halifax (NC or VA?)

(Comments: One of the stepdaughters of said elder John Williams, which child he seems to have adopted, is Agatha called Agatha Keeling in her father's will. But this Agatha Williams daughter according to records of Judge John Williams, married a Robert Burton***, whose pedigree is not known. Nonetheless Agatha and Robert Burton became the heirs of Judge John Williams. Papers of Robert Burton are at Duke University and also at the Archives of North Carolina. This writer has not researched these papers.)

Mr. Willie Jones - one of our agents

Mr. Johnston - seems to be a part of Transylvania Company

Mr. Harnett - will be at Congress by the first of December

My father [Samuel?] Henderson - very ill

Sterne and Jason - the race was to be run (talks of speed, probably a race between horses)

Mr. Willie Jones sent his man Austin, to keep Sterne. (Is Sterne a horse?)

(See entire transcription of Letter from Richard Henderson to John Williams, 1778 )

Research of Granville Co. marriage records give the following:

John Williams m/ Agnes (Bullock) Keeling, a widow, 12 Nov 1759.
Richard Henderson m. Elizabeth Keeling, stepdaughter of John Williams, 26 Dec 1763
Col. Robert Burton m. Agatha Williams 12 Oct 1775. She was daughter of [Judge] John Williams and Agnes [Bullock] Keeling (a widow).



Notes by D. Williams:

*George Keeling left a will, which was probated in Halifax Co., NC in 1759, where he named his children, John, Elizabeth, Ann, Frances & Agatha Keeling. See a transcribed copy of the Will of George Keeling.  Also see KEELING biography.

**Spruce McCay was member of the Superior Court from 1782 to 1808, the year of his death. There is much about his family in the UNC Southern Historical Collection: Macay and McNeely Family Papers, 1746-1918

***Robert Burton (1747-1825) was the son of Hutchins C. Burton & Tabitha Minge of Mecklenburg Co.,VA; The other children of Hutchins  & Tabitha (Minge) Burton were: John Burton (married Mary Gordon); Hutchins Burton, Noel Hunt Burton, James Minge Burton, Martha Burton, and Mary Burton. Hutchins Burton (Sr.) was the son of Noel Hunt Burton and Judith Allen. The other children of Noel Hunt & Judith (Allen) Burton were: John Burton, Josiah Burton, Robert Burton, Benjamin Burton and Allen Burton. The BURTON family came out of York and Accomac Counties in Virginia, and later settled in Henrico County, Virginia. Tabitha was the daughter of Robert Minge and Mary Hunt (who were married May 15, 1695). Robert & Mary (Hunt) Minge's other child was: Martha Minge. Mary Hunt was the daughter of William Hunt, of Charles City County, Virginia, and Tabitha Edloe. The other children of William & Tabitha (Edloe) Hunt were: George Hunt, John Hunt, and William Hunt.  See additional family info: The Bible of Col. Robert Burton as copied by his great-granddaughter, Mrs. A.L. Smith and published in the "Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 1" in 1920;  Family Bible of Alfred M. Burton of Williamsborough from the NC Digital Collection; The Robert Burton Papers 1775-1866 and the Burton and Young Family Papers 1807-1911 both part of the NC Digital Collections, some of which contain online content.

2013 to present by Evelyn W. Wallace,  Deloris Williams for the NCGenWeb Project.  No portion of  any document appearing on this site is to be used for other than personal research.  Any republication or reposting is expressly forbidden without the written consent of the owner. Last updated 10/24/2015