Richard Henderson was born on April 20, 1735 at Hanover County, VA.
He was the son of Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Williams.
Richard Henderson married Elizabeth Keeling on December 28, 1743 at Oxford, Hanover County, VA.
He was apparently known as Colonel Henderson in some circles. In Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina, Rutherford County on page 409 is a reference that indicates Colonel Richard Henderson was the same man that bought a large tract of land from the Cherokee. "He [Felix Walker] went in 1755 with Colonel Richard Henderson to Kentucky (then called Louisa). Colonel Henderson had made a purchase in that section from the Cherokee Indians at Long Island on the Holston, they united their forces with Daniel Boone, who was their pilot to 'the promised land'. The company amounted to thirty persons."
Richard Henderson died on January 30, 1785 at Hillsborough, Vance County, NC, at age 49.
He was the subject of the following sketch at Historical Sketches of North Carolina, Vol. I, pp 102-104,:
RICHARD HENDERSON, the remaining Colonial Judge, was the son of Samuel Henderson. He was born in Hanover County, Virginia, on the 20th of April, 1735. His ancestors by his father's side were from Scotland, and his mother's side (Williams) from Wales.
His father came to Granville County about 1745; and subsequently was appointed the sheriff of that county. The duties in which his son was employed afforded that practical knowledge of men and things, for which Judge Henderson was distinguished in after life. his early education was as good as the state of the country afforded.
He read law with his cousin, the late Judge Williams, for twelve months. When he applied for license to the Chief Justice of the colony, whose duty it was to examine applicants, and on his certificate a license to practice was issued by the Governor, he was asked how long he had read, and what books? When the limited time was stated, and the number of books that lie had read, the Judge remarked that it was useless to go into any examination, as no living man could have read and digested the works lie had named, in so short a time. With great promptness and firmness, young 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.
He soon rose to the highest ranks of his profession; and honors and wealth followed.
A vacancy occurring on the bench, he was appointed by the Governor a Judge of the Superior Court. He sustained this dignified position with fidelity and credit, during an excited and interesting period. He was forced on one occasion to leave Hillsboro by the disturbances of the Regulators
The troubled times shut up the courts of justice.
In 1774 the Cherokee Indians offered for sale their lands. He formed a company with John Williams and Leonard Hendly Bullock, of Granville; William Johnston, James Hogg, Thomas Hart, John Lutterell, Nathaniel Hart and David Hart, of Orange County, and made a treaty on the banks of the Watauga River. He purchased from the Indians, for a fair consideration, all their lands south of the Kentucky River, beginning at the mouth or junction of said river with the Ohio to its source, thence south into Tennessee, until a westwardly line should cross the Cumberland Mountain so as to strike the ridge which divides the waters of the Tennessee River from those of the Cumberland, and with that ridge to the Ohio River, and with that river to the mouth of the Kentucky River aforesaid; including a large portion of the States of Tennessee and Kentucky.
The company took possession of the lands on the 20th of April, 1775; the Indians appointing an agent, John Farrar, to make a delivery according to law.
The Governor of North Carolina, Martin, issued his proclamation in 1775 declaring this purchase illegal. The State subsequently granted 200,000 acres to the company in lieu of this.
The State of Virginia declared the same, but granted the company a remuneration of two hundred thousand acres, bounded by the Ohio and Green Rivers.
The State of Tennessee claimed the lands, but made a similar grant to the company in Powell's Valley.
In 1770 Judge Henderson was appointed a commissioner to extend the line between Virginia and North Carolina into Powell's Valley. His associates on this commission, were Oroondates Davis, John Williams of Caswell, James Kerr, and William Bailey Smith. A difficulty arose as to the true latitude of 86° 30", and the commission was closed.
This same year, Judge Henderson opened a land office, at the French Lick, now Nashville, Tennessee, for the sale of the company's lands.
In the summer following he returned home, where in the bosom of his friends and family, lie enjoyed the evening of life in peace and plenty. On the 30th of January, 1785, he died at his seat in Granville, loved and esteemed by all who knew him.
He left (by his marriage with Elizabeth Keeling, a stepdaughter of the late Judge Williams) six children, Fanny, born 1764. who married Judge McCay, of Salisbury; Richard, born July 1766; Archibald, born August 1768; Elizabeth, who married Alexander, born 1770; Leonard, born 1772; and John Lawson Henderson, born 1778.
All four sons studied the same profession for which their father had been so distinguished; and their reputation did not disgrace their ancestor. Richard died at the early age of 30, but gave every promise of distinction, had his life been spared ; Archibald was the head of his profession, in Western Carolina, a distinguished member of Congress, and the legislature. Leonard was one of the first lawyers of his day, and attained the eminence of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina; and John, the youngest son, was blessed with a clear mind, and was distinguished for his learning; but, from a diffidence of manner, never exerted himself to use those means to attain the eminence of his illustrious brothers. He was a member of the legislature from Salisbury, Comptroller of the State in 1825, and died at Raleigh in 1843, while attending to his duties as Clerk of the Supreme Court.
He was the subject of the following sketch at Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina, Granville County, pp 179-183,:
The Henderson family, has been long favorably known in North Carolina as one of distinguished ability. Its name has been inscribed on a county, on a town, and on a village; the talents of it members have bean displayed at the bar, in the pulpit, on the bench, and in the halls of congress. The progenitor of this family in, North Carolina was Richard Henderson, who came from Hanover County, Virginia, about 1762, and settled in this county [Granville County, North Carolina].
I found in the Roll's office, London, among the records of the Board of Trade, these entries!
"1769, March 1st. At a meeting of the Council; present, Governor Tryon, John Rutherford, Benjamin Heron, Lewis De Rosett and Samuel Strudwick.
"Richard Henderson, Esq., was appointed Associate Judge, &c., as also Maurice Moore, Esq." * * * Mr. Henderson, Governor Tryon reports, "is a gentleman of candor and ability, born in Virginia, and lives in Hillsboro, where he is highly esteemed. The Governor stated that he wished to have appointed to these two places, Mr. Edmund Fanning arid Mr. Marmaduke Jones, but they declined."
I found among the papers of the Board of Trade, on file in the Rolls Office, London, a letter from Judge Henderson to Governor Tryon, dated September 24th, 1770, at Hillsboro, stating, "on that day, Herman Husbands, James Hunter, William Butler, Ninian Bell Hamilton, Jeremiah Fields, Matthew Hamilton, Eli Branson, Peter Craven, John Fruit. Abraham Teague, and Samuel Parks, armed with cudgels and cowskin whips, broke up the court and attempted to strike the judge, (Henderson) and made bin, leave the bench. They assaulted arid beat John Williams severely, and also Edmund Fanning, until he retreated into the store of Messrs. Johnstone and Thackston; they demolished Fanning's house. Not only were these beaten, but Thomas Hart, John Luttrel, (clerk of the crown) and many others, were severely whipped."
Another entry, January 25th, 1771, ordered that Richard Henderson, who appeared as prosecutor of the several charges against Thomas Person, should pay all costs.
Another record "Proclamation of Governor Martin, dated February 10th, 1775, issued as governor and as agent and attorney of Lord Granville, forbidding Richard Henderson from purchasing or holding any lands from the Cherokee Indians."
Extracted from Governor Martin's dispatch: "I enclose a copy of Lord Dunmore's proclamation, also Richard Henderson's plan of settlement of a large tract of land on the waters of the Kentucky, the Cumberland, the Ohio, and the Tennessee."
These extracts prove the enterprise and character of Judge Henderson, under the royal rule, After independence had been declared, and the state government organized and established in North Carolina, he was elected one of three judges of the court, which he declined to accept, or resigned in a few months. The chief reason that caused this, was that Judge Henderson was at that time the chief manager of the "Transylvania Land Company." He and his associates had bought, for a fair consideration, of the Cherokee Indians, who had offered their lands for sale, a rich tract of country, in which was embraced a considerable portion of Kentucky and Tennessee, The treaty by which this purchase was made was concluded in 1775, on the Watanga river, at which Daniel Boone was present. The states of Virginia and North Carolina declared this void.
His associates in this transaction were John Williams, Leonard Henly Bullock, of Granville, William Johnston, James Hogg, Thomas Hart, of Orange.
The company took possession of these lands on April 20th, 1775.
The Governor of North Carolina, (Martin) by proclamation, declared this purchase illegal; the state of Virginia did the same, and the state of Tennessee claimed these lands; but the states of North Carolina and Virginia each subsequently granted to the company 200,000 acres as remuneration.
In 1779, Judge Henderson was appointed with Oroondates Davis, John Williams, of Otis- well, James Kerr, and William Baily Smith, to run the line between Virginia and North Carolina into Powell's Valley.
The same year lie opened a land office at the French Lick, (now Nashville) for the sale of the company's lands,
Judge Henderson had several brothers, the youngest of whom was Major Pleasant Henderson. He was born in 1750, and served in the war of the revolution. In 1789, he succeeded John Haywood, as clerk of the House of Commons, which position he held for forty years, continuously. He married, (1786) a daughter of Colonel James Martin, of Stokes County, and settled at Chapel Hill, where he resided for many years, and vetoed a large family. He moved in 1831 to Tennessee, where he died in 1842 in the 85th year of his age, leaving Dr. Pleasant Henderson, of Salisbury, born 1802; Dr. Alexander Martin Henderson, born 1807; Mrs. Hamilton C. Jones, of Rowan County.
Judge Henderson married Elizabeth Keeling, a step-daughter of Judge Williams, and had six children.
I. Fanny, born 1701; married to Judge Spruce McCay, of Salisbury,
II. Richard, born July, 1760.
III. Archibald, born 1708.
IV. Elizabeth, born 1770; married William Lee Alexander.
V. Leonard, born 1778.
VI. John Lawson, born 1770.
Judge Richard Henderson returned home front Tennessee in 1780, and surrounded by peace and plenty, esteemed and loved by all who knew him, he departed this life on January30, 1785.
His daughters, intelligent and accomplished, married men of ability and high reputation. Each of his sons studied the profession of the Law, in which their father was distinguished, and they did his name no dishonor.