Putnam County

GENERAL THOMAS J. HENDERSON

The roster of officers and men serving in the late war from the grand old prairie state furnishes a long list of those who distinguished themselves in camp and upon the battlefield, and among that number there is not one with a better record for faithful service, greater bravery and exalted patriotism than the man whose name heads this sketch. He is a native of Tennessee, born in Brownsville, Haywood county, November 29, 1824, and is the son of Colonel William H. Henderson and Sarah M. (Howard) Henderson.

William H. Henderson was born in Garrard county, Kentucky, November 16, 1793, and there spent his boyhood and youth. At the age of nineteen years he enlisted in Colonel Richard M. Johnson's regiment of mounted riflemen, and served during the war of 1812. Having studied surveying, for some years he fohowed that profession in his native state, and in 1823 removed to Tennessee, locating in Stewart county. In that State he also engaged in surveying, and also filled a number of offices of honor and trust. He served as sheriff of his county, and later, when he removed to Haywood county, was elected to the state senate, which position he resigned in 1836, to remove to Illinois. He was the first register of deeds of Haywood county, in which Brownsville is located, and there recorded the first deed the same year our subject was born.

On coming to this state William H. Henderson located in Putnam, now Stark, county, on a farm, but his business tact and abilities were soon recognized by the people, and two years after Iiis arrival he was elected a member of the legislature, in 1838, and in the winter of 1838-39 met with that body in its last session at Vandaha, and where he was associated with Lincohi, Edwards, and other notable men. He also served in the first session of the legislature meeting at Springfield, in the winter of 1840-41. While a member of that body he was instrumental in the creation and organization of Stark county. In 1842 he was a candidate on the whig ticket for lieutenant-governor, but was defeated. In 1845 he removed to Johnson county, Iowa, where he purchased and operated a large farm. In politics he was a whig. His death occurred January 27, 1864, at the age of seventy-one years.

William H. Henderson was twice married, his first marriage being with Miss Lucinda Wimberly, in Stewart county, Tennessee, January 11, 1816. By this union there were three children: Mary, who married John T. Sevier, both now being deceased; John W., who twice served as a member of the senate from Linn county, Iowa, and who now resides at Cedar Rapids, that state; and William P., who resides at Jefferson City, Iowa. Mrs. Lucinda Henderson died in Haywood county, Tennessee, and later Mr. Henderson married Sarah M. Howard, who was born in Sampson county. North Carolina, September 15, 1804, and died in Marshalltown, Iowa, in January, 1879. By this union were five children: (1) General Thomas J., our subject. (2) Henry C, who is now engaged in the practice of law at Boulder, Colorado; during the war he was a member of the state senate of Iowa, and for some years was district judge in that state. (3) Elizabeth H., the only daughter by the second marriage, died in infancy. (4) Reverend Stephen H., who was a member of the Iowa Methodist Episcopal conference for some years, and while there filled some of the best pulpits of the state, and who also served as presiding elder. He was later transferred to the Nebraska conference and filled the Methodist Episcopal pulpits in Lincoln and other cities. Pie married Miss Elizabeth Winterstein of Iowa, a lady of pleasing presence, of much culture, and most admirably adapted for the wife of a minister. They reside at Lincoln, Nebraska. (5) Daniel W., who resides at Jefferson, Iowa. He was a member of the Thirty-second Iowa Infantry, and served three years in the late war. (6) James A., who became an attorney of note in Iowa, but who was compelled to abandon the practice of law on account of ill health. Removing to Toulon, Illinois, he there published the Stark County News until his death. He was a member of the Forty-seventh Illinois Infantry.

The boyhood of our subject was spent in his native state, and until eleven years of age he attended the common schools and the male academy at Brownsville, Tennessee, and during the last year commenced the study of Latin. With his father's family he came to Stark county, Illinois, where he attended the pioneer schools of that locality. Nine years later he again went with the family to Johnson county, Iowa, where he entered the State University at Iowa City and spent one term. Prior to this, however, he had taught country schools more than a year. On leaving the university he returned to Stark county, and taught the first term of school in a building just erected for that purpose at Toulon. He then clerked in a store for nearly a year, and in the fall of 1847 was elected clerk of the county commissioners' court of Stark county, and served as such until the office was changed to that of clerk of the county court, to which office he was elected and served until 1853. While discharging the duties of these offices, which were not very arduous at that time, he continued his law studies, and in 1852 passed an examination and was admitted to practice. On the expiration of his term as clerk, in 1853, he opened an office in Toulon and commenced the practice of his chosen profession.

Law and politics seemed to go hand in hand that day, and in 1854 Mr. Plenderson was elected a member of the Illinois legislature and served in that capacity a term of two years. In 1856 he was elected to the state senate, and served with such men as N. B. Judd, Silas L. Bryan, B. C. Cook, and W. C. Goudy, and was at that time the youngest member of that body. Those were exciting times. Tlie whig party had ceased to exist, and the newly organized republican party had sprung into existence. As an anti-Nebraska man he was elected to the house, but as a republican he was elected to the senate. The celebrated Kansas-Nebraska act had been passed. The southern states were attempting to force slavery upon the newly organized territories, and the north, much against its will, was forced to recognize the great power wielded by the south, and that that section was determined to have its way regardless of consequences. In this political fight our subject entered heart and soul.

The election of Abraham Lincoln m i860 furnished the pretext for the southern states to carry out their threats. Secession acts were passed, and the war for the preservation of the union was begun. It may well be surmised on which side our subject was to be found. In almost every school district in Stark county he addressed his fellow-citizens, urging enlistments, and pleading with all to stand by the administration and the union.

In the summer of 1862, when the call came for 300,000 more, Mr. Henderson determined to enlist, and at once took the field and soon succeeded in raising a company, which became a part of the One Hundred and Twelfth regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Assembling in camp, by permission of Governor Yates the regiment was permitted to elect its colonel, and Mr. Henderson received the unanimous vote, both of officers and privates. On the 22d of September, 1862, the regiment was mustered into service and immediately ordered to the front. Its record for nearly three years following is a part of the history of that great struggle. In the campaigns through Georgia and Tennessee, the One Hundred- and Twelfth was ever at the front, its colonel winning the good will of his superior officers for his conscientious discharge of every duty devolving upon him. "Always hopeful, always prompt, always courageous, a most loyal subordinate, and a most able and devoted leader," was the record given him by Major-General J. D. Cox, under whom he long served. At the battle of Resaca, Georgia, May 14, 1864, he was severely wounded and lay in a hospital for some time, after which he was granted a furlough and came home to recuperate. Returning to his regiment, the Third Brigade, Third Division, Twenty-third Army Corps, was organized for him, and he was assigned to its command. As commander of this brigade, he served until the close of the war, being brevetted a brigadier-general for gallant conduct during the campaign in Georgia and Tennessee, and especially at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, the commission dating November 30, 1864.

The war over, the regiment being mustered out of service. General Henderson returned to his home in Toulon, Stark county, and quietly resumed the practice of law. There he remained until March, 1867, when he moved to Princeton and formed a partnership with the late Joseph I. Taylor in the practice of his profession, which was continued until 1871. At this time the general was appointed by President Grant as United States collector of internal revenue for the fifth Illinois district, with headquarters at Peoria. During the two years he was connected with that office he collected and turned over to the general government more than nine million dollars. Returning home in 1873 he formed a partnership with Judge H. M. Trimble, which still continues, the firm being an exceptionally strong one.

In 1868 General Henderson was one of the presidential electors for the state at large, and cast his vote for General Grant. In 1870, he unsuccessfully sought the nomination for congress, and in 1874 was nominated and elected a member of the Forty-fourth congress from the sixth district. During that term he served on the railways, canals and pension committees; in the Forty-fifth congress he served on claims; in the Forty-sixth on commerce; in the Forty-seventh he was chairman of the committee on military affairs; in the Forty-eighth, Forty-ninth and Fiftieth congresses he served on the committee on rivers and harbors; in the Fifty-first he was chairman of committee on rivers and harbors; and in the Fifty-second and Fifty-third he served on rivers and harbors, and also on banking and currency. For eight years he served as a member of the sixth district, and for twelve years from the seventh. After his first term he was always re-nominated by acclamation. In all. General Henderson served the people faithfully and well for twenty years. His greatest service as a member of congress, as he regards it, was rendered as a member of the committees on commerce and on rivers and harbors, in the improvement of the waterways of the country, and his principal achievement was the securing of the construction of the Hennepin canal, and this is a movement of which he may well be proud. A man more honest and devoted to the best interests of his constituents never entered the halls of congress, and those that know him best do not hesitate to say that he is in every respect a noble type of American manhood. For twenty years he has been one of the most popular of the soldier statesmen in congress, and his name stands for honesty, integrity, and everything that is good in politics and public life. No man in Bureau county in the past twenty years has stood nearer the hearts of the people.

General Henderson was married May 29, 1849, to Miss Henrietta Butler, of Wyoming, Stark county. She was born in New York City, August 11, 1830, and is the daughter of Captain Henry and Rebecca (Green) Butler, of Wyoming, Illinois. By this union four children have been born, (i) Gertrude R., wife of Charles J. Dunbar, of Princeton, and they have two living children, Harry B. and Fred T. (2) Sarah E., wife of Chester M. Durley, of Princeton, who also have two children, Leigh and Helen, (3) Mary L., wife of John Farnsworth of Washington, D. C, who have four living children, Gertrude, John, Eunice, and Thomas H. (4) Thomas B., a boot and shoe dealer of Princeton, and insurance agent.

Fraternally, General Henderson is a Mason, holding membership, with blue lodge, chapter, commandery and consistory. As a citizen he is ever ready to do all in his power to advance the interests of his adopted city, giving of his time and means for its material advancement. He and his estimable wife live in a beautiful home on Peru street.

The republicanism of General Henderson has never been doubted. He was a delegate at the last whig state convention in Springfield, and was a delegate to the republican national convention at St. Louis in 1896, and cast his vote for Major McKinley, protection and sound currency.

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois  published in 1896, page 10.


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