The Indianapolis News, An Independent Newspaper, Tuesday,
May 3, 1892
PROMINENT MEN DIE - Mr. Henderson Expires Suddenly on Reaching Home. Sketch of Mr. Henderson's Long and Eventful Life - Enterprises He Was Connected With The Indianapolis Journal, Wednesday, May 4, 1892
WILLIAM HENDERSON DEAD - Old and Honored Citizen of Indianapolis Passes Suddenly Away - Something of His Sterling Character and Useful Career
William Henderson, one of the best-known men in Indiana, an intimate friend of the late Vice President Hendricks, once prominent in State and county Democratic politics, died suddenly at his home, 710 North Meridian Street, at about 11:35 o'clock today. During the past year his health has not been good, a fall which he had during the winter seriously affecting him. For some weeks early in the spring he was unable to attend to business and only during the past fortnight had he begun going to his office at 74 East Market Street, with any regularity. This morning (May 3rd) he went down to his office at about the usual hour remaining until 11 o'clock when he started home in his carriage. While riding he was seized with severe pains and he went bed immediately upon arriving home, dying in a few moments. Mr. Henderson had been subject to heart disorders for some time and his physician Dr. Franklin W. Hays, had warned him against over exertion.
William Henderson was a son of John Henderson, a native of Albemarle County, VA, whose father settled in America before the revolution. William Henderson was born in Lawrence County, AL, October 14, 1820. His mother died while he was an infant, and his family soon removed from the place of birth to Mt. Sterling, KY and a short time later to Grant County, KY. At the age of nine, he moved with his parents (father and step-mother) to Mooresville, Morgan Co., IN. In the town of Mooresville, the family lived for seven years, with William working on the farm in the summer and going to school in the winter. During his later years, Mr. Henderson often spoke of having to walk five miles to school. In order to get to school in time, it was necessary for him to leave bed at 3 o'clock in the morning.
In the summer of 1837 Mr. Henderson came to Indianapolis looking for work. He found work on the National road, which was being constructed through Indiana. for two months he was a laborer on that part of the road between the city and where the Central Insane Asylum now stands. He was greatly troubled with rheumatism at the time, and his fellow laborers nicknamed him "Limber Jamie". When his job on the National road was completed he tied his earthly goods together in a handkerchief and started east on foot, saying to his friends that he proposed to go some place where he could learn a mechanical trade. He stopped at Richmond and other places along the road, but found no work until he reached Eaton, Ohio, where he hired himself out as a hostler to a hotel keeper named Thomas Morgan at $10 per month. He worked with this man for seven months, and then apprenticed himself to a saddler for a term of four years. He always had a desire to learn the saddlery business and he embraced the first opportunity to do so Mr. Henderson has related that when he went to the establishment to apply for a position, the owner replied sharply; "No, sir; there are so many worthless boys running around the country, I am determined to keep my shop clear of them".
Mr. Henderson offered to remain a week on trial, and he seemed to be so persistent that the owner finally said to him, "Young man, come again; I rather like you way of talking". In the course of a week the boy went back and was given a trial. At the end of a week, arrangements for a four year's term of service were made. The first year he was to get $25; the second $30; the third $35; the fourth $40; the saddler to board him, and Mr. Henderson to clothe himself. The employer proved to be a very kind man, and gave the boy some opportunities to attend school. Mr. Henderson stuck to the trade until four years expired. During these sessions of night school, he became very proficient in the various English branches and fitted him for the calling of a teacher. He then made up his mind to study law, and he entered the office of J. S. and A. J. Hawkins, of Eaton, Ohio. He read law and taught school for about two years, until the spring of 1844. He then left Eaton and came over into Indiana. He intended to locate at New Castle but on the way over he stopped at Centerville, where Judge Elliott was holding court. As he was anxious to get a license to practice, he remained there and entered a class of eleven to be examined by a committee appointed by Judges Kilgore and Elliott. There was a disposition with some to withhold a license from him, but through the influence of Judge Smith and Charles H. Test, he was given a license. In March of 1844, he then went to New Castle, with but $11 in his pocket, and hung out his shingle as a lawyer. He opened this office in connection with the late Judge Samuel E. Perkins. This partnership continued until Judge Perkins was appointed to the Supreme Court of Indiana. There was not much legal business to be done in those days, and he had a hard time of it for many years. Among the lawyers whom he met at the bar, many have since held high position - namely Caleb B. Smith, Samuel E. Perkins, John S. Newman, Charles H. Test, Nimrod Johnson, Judge Perry, Jacob B. and George W. Julian, and Samuel W. Parker.
Mr. Henderson continued to practice alone at New Castle and Centerville until 1850 when he came to Indianapolis. Here he bought property on South New Jersey street, near Pogue's run, for $950, on credit. He moved to his house in 1851, and opened an office in Johnson's Block, where he re-commenced the practice of law. In the fall of that year he formed a partnership with W. A. McKenzie. The firm did a large collection business for merchants in the East. His methods were so exact, methodical and conscientious that in a few years, he was known as the best business lawyer in eastern Indiana. His abilities soon brought him an extended and lucrative practice, pertaining to commercial interests rather than to litigation of a general character. He has been since 1852 the attorney for the Berkshire Life Insurance Company, and for many years their general financial agent for the investment of the company's funds. In 1853 Judge David McDonald became connected with the firm. A year later Mr. Henderson withdrew and began business again for himself. He was one of the incorporators of the Indianapolis Water Company, and for many years a director. In 1865 Mr Henderson was elected president of the Indianapolis Insurance Company with which he remained until 1880, the company having in the meantime been changed to the Bank of Commerce. He then abandoned the law and devoted himself exclusively to banking and insurance.
During President Buchanan's administration, Mr. Henderson was the pension agent for Indianapolis and vicinity. His first political affiliations were with the Whig party, which he left in 1854 when it became involved with the know nothing fanaticism of that period. From that time on he was a Democrat, taking an active part in the Tilden campaign of 1876 and the campaigns of 1880 and 1884.
During the last thirty years, Mr. Henderson has amassed wealth rapidly, and for a long while he has owned a house and lived on North Meridian street. He was married on January 22, 1845 to Miss Martha Ann Paul, daughter of Jonathan Paul, one of the early settlers in Decatur County, this state. She died May 25, 1854 after having given him two children, the Rev. Dr. William Rossman Henderson, a Presbyterian clergyman and attorney and Mrs. Joseph P. Wiggins (Sarah Henderson Wiggins). Mr. Henderson also leaves an only grandson, Howard, the son of Mrs. Wiggins. He is now a student in Yale College. Mr. Henderson married secondly, Miss Rachel McHargh, of Greensburg on April 11, 1855.
From 1852 until his death, Mr. Henderson was the legal advisor of the Berkshire Insurance Company and of late years, his business affairs were almost altogether with that company. Mr. Henderson's prominence in the past six years has come through his connection with the Citizen's Committee of One Hundred that brought to trial the conspirators who committed the tally-sheet forgeries of 1856. Mr. Henderson was the president of the organization and also chairman of the executive committee having in charge, the management of the prosecution. His fearless and uncompromising conduct of this prosecution - he held it to be the duty of good citizenship to punish those who would steal the dearest rights of a freeman - brought him into disfavor with the baser element of his party, and he, to some extent suffered political ostracism. In 1887 he became a member of the police board, remaining in that position until something more than a year ago.
When the Indianapolis & Broad Ripple Rapid Transit Company was organized, Mr. Henderson was made temporary trustee for the bondholders and stockholders to dispose of the bonds and stocks. He claimed that he had made arrangements to dispose of the bonds and some of the stock, and that his commissions would have amounted to $35,000. He also claimed that the Edison Company be its suit and action in refusing to build the road had prevented him from realizing on such commission, and hence he brought suit against the Edison Company for $40,000. Then the last Board Ripple scheme was on, the managers, in order to get rid of the suit of the Edison Company against the Board Ripple Company, settled with Mr. Henderson and all suits were dismissed. Within the last year the public has heard much of a business controversy between Mr. Henderson and General Strum, now in Mexico. The controversy grew out of the collection of General Strum's claim against the Mexican government. Several years ago Mr. Henderson advanced money to General Strum with which to prosecute the claim, and it was agreed that he was to receive a certain per cent of the amount collected in return for money advanced and as pay for services a attorney. Mr. Henderson claimed that he was not paid the amount due him, and made charges against General Strum and the Mexican government. There grew out of the controversy a suit for accounting by Mr. Henderson against Strum, and a suit for slander by Strum against Henderson. These suits are still pending in the courts. Mr. Henderson went to Mexico to prosecute his claims and his controversy with M. Romero and other Mexican officials. This has been made prominent in the press of the country.
Mr. Henderson was a conspicuous figure. He was a man one would turn to look at after having passed. His figure was commanding. He was full six feet in height, and of strong, muscular build. His hair in his younger days as black as the raven's wing, has for many years been lightly tinged with the gray. He had a keen black eye. He always fore an old-fashioned stock and a plain black cord crossed his shirt front to his watch.
He was a man whose word was as good as his bond, and when he had once thoroughly considered a question and taken his stand upon it, he was immovable no matter what consequences might ensue. In his habits he was decidedly old fashioned. He was one of the few men in the city who would never trust the free delivery of mail. ever since the system was inaugurated, he has rented a lock box in the post office, and regularly, five or six times a day, he could be seen going from his office to the post office for his mail. William Henderson and family were prominent members of the First Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis and subsequently the Third Presbyterian Church, which was formed from this body. Mr. Henderson was a close personal friend of the Rev. Dr. Joseph R Wilson, father of Woodrow Wilson. Dr. Wilson was a house guest of the Hendersonís on several occasions, including the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in May 1859, held in Indianapolis.
The Daily Journal - Saturday, May 7, 1892 - MR. HENDERSON'S FUNERAL - His Remains Laid to Rest in Crown Hill - Dr. Haines' Eulogy of His Character.
At 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon the funeral of William Henderson took place from his residence, 710 North Meridian street. The services were conducted by the Rev. M. L. Haines, D.D., assisted by the Rev. D. R. Lucas. The active pall bearers were A.C. Harris, W.W. Herod, C.C. Foster, C.E. Coffin, Clarence Wulsin and Theodore C. Steele. The honorary pall bearers were A.L. Roache, Mr. Hall of Pittsfield, Mass., Elder John M. Butler, H.G. Carey, J.A. Wildman. Many Thanks to William Beekman Henderson for sharing this Biography of his Great Grandfather of Marion County, Indiana with us.
Marion County, Indiana
"Biography of William Henderson"
The following are excerpts compiled from three newspaper articles following the death of William Henderson (Oct 14, 1820--May, 1892).
Submitted by: William Beekman Henderson( Great Grandson)
Copyright February 6, 1998.