The Significance of the Hendersons
Beginning in 1836, John Henderson, Sr., was one of three of the original large land holders of much of the Pass Christian peninsula. The Realty Combine owned lands that extended from the Bay of St. Louis eastward to the middle of present day Long Beach. In 1837, allocation of 65 land sections were parcelled out with one to Henderson, the next to Hughes, and the next to Shipman until all of the sections were distributed — resulting in each owning every other third segment across approximately ten miles of the peninsula coastline from the Bay to the Chimneys area. Shortly following the dissolution of their partnership, Henderson began trading out his holdings in order to aggregate contiguous lands to complete a lengthy expanse from the Bay to Donlin Avenue on the East, excluding the central district that was owned by the freed Negro, Charlot Asmard.
John Sr.'s son, Elliot, like his father, became an ardent promoter of Pass Christian as indicated by the many sales transactions in Harrison County Deed Records.
Along with Elliot, in 1903, his nephew, John Leland Henderson, advertised the benefits for the sale of lands in what was the vastly unsettled Henderson's Point. Leland lived in Bay St. Louis, while his uncle, Elliot Henderson, lived at the west end of Pass Christian. They promoted the area as the only remaining undeveloped tract of land between New Orleans and Mobile that offered immediate access to rail transportation. Henderson’s Point was described as having 15,000 feet of beachfront property along the Bay of St. Louis with wide, new streets and large residential lots and numerous common areas and parks. An anchorage basin was planned for dredging as a boat harborage which would adjoin a club house that would give access to a street car line through Pass Christian and on to Gulfport and Biloxi. Leland promised all the amenities for a beautiful, planned community.
However, with the Hurricane of 1906, and other setbacks, the Henderson dream slowed to a halt. Elliot died in 1913, at age 80, and John Leland Henderson returned to Oregon. Elliot, with no children, deeded his vast holdings to the Hewes Boys of New Orleans and Gulfport, who were nephews of his wife, Fanny Hewes. A few months later, she followed him in death.
It was left to Finley Hewes to become the new shaper of the company.
John Henderson, Sr. (1795 – September 15, 1857)
John Henderson, Sr. was born in 1795 at Bridgetown, N.J. and died at Pass Christian on September 16, 1857. His father was a Scotsman, and his mother had died while he was still a child. It was through his own efforts by which he obtained much of his education. As a young man, he became engaged in river trading and flat boating on the Mississippi River. After reading books by Blackstone, he became interested in law and later entered law school in Cincinnati, Ohio. After being conferred his law degree, his wife died — with his son, John Jr., he moved to Natchez, Mississippi.
The father and son later moved to Woodville in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, where John Sr. became famous as a pleader and orator, gaining him national fame. At Woodville, he married a second time, to the Mrs. Louisa A. Post, nee Fourniquet, and adopted her daughter, Julia. By that marriage, there was a son, Elliot.
John Sr. became a state senator from Wilkinson County during 1835-1836, and after moving to Pass Christian he was elected to the U.S. Senate in March 1839 to serve a 6-year term. While serving in this position he received great acclaim — Daniel Webster acclaimed that Henderson was the greatest land lawyer in the United States. As a member of the Mississippi State Militia, he was Brigadier General and was often referred to as General Henderson rather than Senator.
Following the Pass Christian area purchase in 1836, and the subsequent 1837 dissolution of the partnership of Shipman, Hughes, and Henderson, John Sr. moved his family to Pass Christian and established the family homestead at Henderson's Point.
Henderson was a significant and active developer of his acquired lands and an avid promoter of the fledgling town of Pass Christian throughout his years. He frequently invited famous dignitaries to his family home – including John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Jefferson Davis. He granted lands to the Episcopal Church and for Live Oak Cemetery. In researching his land sales in recorded Deed Books, he often drew platted maps of the property he transferred, thus leaving an historic trace to otherwise undistinguishable sales.
He was a member of the Whig Party and a firm believer in the doctrine of "Manifest Destiny," and, along with Mississippi Governor Quitman — favored Texas annexation, the War with Mexico, and the freeing of Cuba. In this regard, they were instrumental in planning and financing the failed Francisco Lopez Expedition to Cuba. Because the Federal government did not sanction their actions, Henderson and Quitman were charged in 1850, and brought to trial by the U.S. Government, but both were eventually acquitted. When Henderson was arrested, he was tried in New Orleans where he represented himself in three court trials before his successful acquittal.
Harrison County Book of Wills
Book One, page 22, Estate of John Henderson, Sr. -- September 15, 1855Executor: Elliot Henderson
! To my Wife, Louisa Ann Henderson, one-fourth plus the homestead including all household goods and 15 slaves.
! To my adopted daughter, Julia P. Hamner, one-fourth
! To my daughter-in-law, Kate, wife of John Henderson, one-fourth
! To my son Elliot, one-fourth and the remainder of the Estate
! All stocks divided equally among the receiving heirs
John Henderson, Jr. (June 20, 1821 to September 13, 1866)
John Henderson, Jr., married Catharine Leland, (1818-1908) daughter of Judge Sherman Leland of Roxbury, Massachusetts, and with whom he had two children: John Leland Henderson, born March 11, 1851, and Louis Fourniquet Henderson, born September 17, 1853.
John Jr. had a falling out with his father, since a greater portion of the estate was given to John Sr.'s youngest son, Elliot, and it was to Catharine, "Kate," John Jr.'s wife, who was awarded his inheritance that was executed by John Sr.'s Will. The Will clearly stated regarding John, Jr., “his improvidence in one way or other proving him to be an unsafe trustee of property.”
For reasons of his wife's health, she and the two boys moved to North Fork on the White River in Arkansas. With her debilitating heath, they joined John Jr. at New Orleans. Mrs Henderson later moved to Summit, Mississippi in 1861, again for health reasons and to escape the rigors of the Civil War.
While practicing law in New Orleans, it was reported that John Jr. was killed due to the Canal Street citizens riot against Northern Carpetbaggers in 1866.
John Jr.’s widow, Catharine, moved to Boston, then Vermont, then to Ithaca, NY where the two boys, John Leland and Louis, aged 17 and 15, entered Cornell College in 1869. John Leland Henderson remained for two years and moved to Oregon – while Louis Fourniquet Henderson remained to graduate in 1874, and together with his mother, followed John Leland to Eugene, Oregon.
Elliot Henderson (1833 – February 12, 1913)
Elliot Henderson, younger son of John Henderson, served in a number of positions including councilman and Recorder (Mayor equivalent). As an attorney and realtor, his literacy level was better than many other officials as demonstrated in his composition and hand writing as read from Minute Books of Pass Christian.
In support of progress and development, a 50' wide road was financed and constructed by John Henderson, Elliot Henderson, Catharine L. Henderson, Mrs. Julia P. Henderson Hamner, McGinty, Lawrence Fallon, L.L. Harris, and J.P. Homer. By the ordinance creating the roadway, all West End property owners were authorized to swap the old road for the new road that ran from Cedar Street to the West End Depot railroad station. The new road adjoined and paralleled the L&N railroad tracks which became known as (Bay) St. Louis Street (and was later changed to Everett Street).
At that time, the L&N railroad right-of-way and tracks covered a distance of four miles inclusive within the City boundaries from east to west. The railroad company was the largest assessed property in the amount of $41,000, which included the main Depot between Davis and Fleitas, and station stops at the West End and at the East End.
There were a number of springs or streams that ran north and south as evident from the frequent public works services and repairs to bridges that were located along the Back Road, now Second Street, or over the steams that passed through (Bay) St. Louis Street.
Probably to reduce road rage, a special ordinance was passed in 1881, requiring vehicular traffic to remain in the driver’s right hand side of the road or be subject to a fine of one dollar, and further, that night drivers maintain a lighted lantern on the left side of their cart or carriage.
Elliot Henderson was elected Recorder (Mayor) in the election of Tuesday, August 31, 1878, for a two-year term and re-elected in 1880.
A Beautification Ordinance was passed on November 11, 1887, requiring all property owners on Front Street, from Elliot Henderson’s residence at the West End to the farthest extent of the eastern boundary. The purpose was to plant evergreen trees on the north side of the street along the edge of the sidewalk – not less than 20-feet apart, nor more than 30-feet.
In February 1890, the West End Artesian Well Company was formed by John H. Lang, Nicolas Bohn, Denis Amiel, Nicholas Buchert, Laurence C. Fallon, Samuel F. Heaslip, and Joseph Lewis. They proposed to provide pure water to the West End of Pass Christian by digging a well on the beach side of Front Street at the foot of Magnolia Street and to lay pipe along Front Street from Henderson Avenue to Fallon’s residence. The City Council approved the proposal providing that public drinking water fountains be placed at Henderson Avenue and at Magnolia Avenue along Front Street.
Elliot, like his father John Henderson, Sr., early on showed an aggressive interest in business development and land sales promotion. As an attorney, he followed in John Sr.'s footsteps. He served as Mayor in 1878 and 1880, and served two terms as a State Senator in 1882 and 1884. He continued promotion of the area and in 1903, with his nephew John Leland Henderson, formed the Mexican Gulf Co. which platted and promoted sales of the vast area then known as Henderson’s Point extending from the Gulf to Bayou Boisdore; west of Fort Henry at the southwest and west of Cedar Avenue north of the railroad tracks.
Elliot and his wife, Fanny G. Hewes of New Orleans, have gravestone markers that are side-by-side in Live Oak Cemetery in Pass Christian. Elliot died on February 12, 1913, at age 80, and Fanny followed soon after his death on August 29, 1913, at age 77. Without children, they deeded their properties to Fanny's nephews, the Hewes boys: Newton H., Frederick S., William H., Francis G., George P., Henry L., and Finley B. Hewes.
In a 1976 interview, Tom Parker remembered that “Old Man Elliot“ always wore a high silk hat and a full growth beard. Upon leaving the Pass Christian Bank, now the home of the PC Historical Society – Elliot would stop by former Louisiana Governor John Parker’s house before going on to his home just west of the Cedar Grove in the vicinity of Vista Drive.
John Leland Henderson (1851 – 1927))
During the 1890s, John “Lee” Henderson and A.R. Hart were partners in a legal and realty firm offering abstract and estate services. Their office was located on the beach side of Front Street facing Main Street in Bay St. Louis across from the Hancock Bank. He was the grandson of Senator John Henderson and the nephew of Elliot, with whom he formed the Mexican Gulf Company in 1903. “Lee”Henderson was particularly proud of his swimming record for having swam a 16-mile distance, without rest or change of stroke, from Blake's Wharf at Waveland to Cat Island.
Louis Fourniquet Henderson ((1853 – 1942)
Very little is known, here on the Coast, about John Leland Henderson’s brother, Louis. However, still existing Henderson family descendants living in Oregon, saved Louis’s Memoirs as composed before his death when he was in his late 70s. The following was written sometime around 1930, about his visit to John Henderson, Sr.’s home called “The Homestead.”
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“On reaching New Orleans (when 5 years old) we joined Father (John Henderson, Jr.), and all of us proceeded to my grandfather’s home (JH, Sr.), just below Pass Christian, on Mississippi Sound. This estate, consisting of several square miles, was then called, “Henderson’s Point,” and is still so named on any large map of Mississippi. The house was a huge but delightful one, and was situated only a hundred yards from the Sound, and was hospitably opened at all seasons of the year to any friends of my father’s or grandfather’s.
It was no uncommon thing for dozens of ladies and gentlemen to ride down from Pass Christian the three or four mile to my grandfather’s place, simply announcing when they arrived that they had come down for breakfast or lunch. This was by no means unusual in those southern homes before the war. It simply meant a scurrying around of the darky cooks in the kitchen, cooking biscuit, corn bread, and sweet potatoes, while a group of young muscular slaves was sent out into the Sound with a long seine to catch the early breakfast.
“Generally, in half an hour they had all the fish that a crowd of that size could consume, and the delicious breakfast was set upon the table always ending in black coffee and fruits of many kinds from my grandfather’s own place.
I remember once being taken by my uncle Elliot Henderson on a hunting trip after alligators. We were accompanied by a spry little dog, which seemed to the child a strange thing to take alligator hunting, but when we reached the lagoon, a mile or so away, I then saw his use. My uncle flung the dog into the lagoon in order for it to swim around to attract an alligator which would be shot in the head long before the dog swam back to shore.”
This Partition map of 5/22/1858, shows the distribution of Pass Christian lands between the heirs of John Henderson, Sr. Although all of the surviving descendants participated in selling some of their properties, most of the aggressive land sales were conducted by Elliot with some assistance by his uncles Louis and Edward Fourniquet. Both, of whom, were attorneys and active in the community, the origins of city and county governments, and in land sales. Later, Elliot’s nephew, John Leland Henderson joined him in selling and promoting Henderson’s Point (Henderson Heights and Pass Christian Isles, which included all of the Timber Ridge area.