John S. Henderson papers, 1755-1945, 1962.

Creator: Henderson, John S. (John Steele), 1846-1916.
Collection number: 327
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Abstract: John Steele Henderson, member of the North Carolina General Assembly, United States congressman, lawyer, and a founder of rural free delivery of the mail, was born 6 January 1846 in Salisbury, N.C., the son of Archibald II and Mary Ferrand Henderson, a descendant of General John Steele, comptroller of the United States Treasury. In October 1874, Henderson married Elizabeth Brownrigg Cain (1850-1929). They were the parents of Elizabeth Brownrigg Henderson, who married United States Navy Captain Lyman A. Cotten; Archibald Henderson, professor of mathematics at the University of North Carolina, who married Barbara Curtis Bynum; John Steele Henderson Jr., electrical engineer for Westinghouse, who married Ruth King; and Mary Ferrand Henderson, who was active in the Democratic Party and in the Episcopal Church in North Carolina. Letters, financial and legal papers, and other items of John Steele Henderson and members of the Henderson and related families. Earliest items are deeds, indentures, wills, and other legal documents. Items from the 1820s and 1830s chiefly relate to Archibald Henderson’s plantation business dealings. In the 1840s-1850s, most letters deal with family activities, especially those of John S. Henderson and his brother Leonard at school in Asheville, N.C., at the University of North Carolina, and at the University of Virginia. There are also items relating to slavery, including lists of slaves hired out, slave bills of sale, and at least four letters from slaves. During the Civil War, there are many letters from John S. Henderson at the University of North Carolina and from Leonard, an officer serving chiefly with the 8th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. After the Civil War, most of the items relate to activities of John S. Henderson, including his political career, and of his family. Included is material about Reconstruction; the United Daughters of the Confederacy; the women’s suffrage movement; Democratic Party politics; literature and the performing arts; and travel, especially that of Lyman and Elizabeth Cotten in Japan, where Lyman served two tours of duty as naval attache with the United States embassy in Tokyo before World War I. Other family members in the post-Civil War correspondence include John S. Henderson’s brother, Richard; his brother-in-law, William Cain; and his mother-in-law, Sarah Jane Bailey Cain. Volumes include several diaries, most notably that of Mary Ferrand Henderson, 1854-1861, in which she documented family activities.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Slave bills of sale (especially prevalent in 1807); receipts, mercantile account statements, and other business papers constitute the bulk of the material before the 1840s, while personal correspondence makes up the bulk of the collection by the 1860s. (See Folder 3 for slave bills of sale).

Included are a list documenting the hiring of slaves in1850 (Folder 18) and a copy of a will discussing sending freed slaves to Liberia in 1841 (See Folder 12).

Letters from Anderson Henderson, a slave who was hired out to another family (1849, 1857, 1865) and a letter from Isabella, (n.d.), a slave complaining about being hired out to a black mistress (See Folders 17, 23, 37-38).

Other letters discuss Archibald Henderson’s attempts to recover runaway slaves in 1847 (Folder 17); a proslavery speech delivered by Georgia senator Robert Toombs in Boston  in 1856 (Folder 22); Reconstruction politics  in the 1860s (Folders 40-45); and an attack on two whites by a “drunken infuriated negro” in 1890 (Folders 123-132);

Correspondence also includes discussions of accusations that three black men had murdered a white man near Salisbury and the possibility that troops would be required to prevent a lynching in1906 (Folders 274-279); and the movement of white women in Massachusetts from domestic to munitions factory positions, a move which left maid positions open to black women in 1916 (Folders 334-341).