Visited by S. W. Durant & H. B. Peirce, 1878

Return to Index.
Return to Town of Henderson


Henderson is six of the "eleven towns" and the most westerly in the county except Galloo and Stony Islands which belong to Hounsfield. It was formed on February 17, 1806 from Ellisburg.

The first town meeting was held at the house of Reuben Putnam on March 11, 1806; Jesse Hopkins was chosen supervisor; Mark Hopkins as clerk; Lodowick Salisbury, Daniel Spencer and Emory Osgood as assessors; Elijah Williams as constable and collector; John B. Carpenter and Samuel Hubbard as poor masters; Marvel Danley, Asa Smith and Anthony Sprague as commissioners of highways; George W. Clark, Willes Fellows and Jedediah McCumber as fence viewers; Reuben Putnam as poundmaster; Israel Thomas, James Barney, Levi Scofield, Thomas Drury, Calvin Bishop, Robert Farrell, Benjamin Barney, John B. Carpenter, William White and Simeon Porter as pathmasters.

Successive supervisors 1806-10 Jesse Hopkins; 1811 James Henderson, Jr.; 1812 Asa Smith; 1813 Mark Hopkins; 1814-15 Asa Smith; 1816 Mark Hopkins; 1817 John S. Porter; 1818 Noah Tubbs; 1819 Asa Smith; 1820-24 Noah Tubbs; 1825-26 Caleb Harris; 1827 Jonathan Balllard; 1828-34, Caleb Harris; 1832, Peter N. Cushman; 1833-34 Caleb Harris; 1835-7, Peter N. Cushman; 1838-40, David Montague; 1841, George Jeffers; 1842-43 John Carpenter; 1844 Joseph A. Montague; 1845, William McNeil; 1846-51, Henry Green Jr.; 1852, Washington Bullard; 1853-55 Henry Green, Jr.; 1856, William P. Davis; 1857-8 Clark Burchard and William Dobson; Truman O. Whitney, George G. Whitney, William Dobson, Albert A. Davis, L. B. Simmons, A. A. Davis, William Dobson, Leonard Seaton and John Chapman.

During 1811-12 it was voted that Canadian thistles should be mowed in the "old of the moon", in June, July and August. Failure to comply resulted in a $5 penalty, half of which went to the complainant and half to the overseers of the poor. Wolf bounties brought $10 in 1807-15 except in 1809 when $5 was offered for wolves, wildcats and panthers.

The town fell to the share of William Henderson of New York, one of the four who bought the eleven towns of Constable, and for whom the town was named. An ancient portage from the head of Henderson Bay to Stony Creek across the town, by which the exposure of passing Stony Point was avoided due to the fact that it formed a cape that was difficult to navigate in small boats. At the head of the bay it was said there was a trace of a kind of wharf or landing. Native American traces were noticed in some places of the town and near an ancient trench enclosure a golden cross was found; it was about two inches long and had a ring attached presumably to be worn at the neck.

On Six Town Point there were traces of an old fort perhaps built by the French. Its location was adapted for defense as it commanded the entrance to the bay. Six Town Point is a narrow neck or peninsula that extends into the lake and in high water becomes an island. Its continuance forms several islands to the west of which lie the group of islands that include the Gallo and Stony.

Several vessels were built at a shipyard which was located immediately below the bridge crossing Big Stony Creek near its mouth. In 1808 the first one was built and was capable of carrying a considerable cargo of grain.

On Stony Point, the extreme western projection of Henderson there was a lighthouse built in 1837 at a cost of $3,000, the appropriation made on March 3 of that year.

The town was surveyed into lots in 1801 by Benjamin Wright of Rome, NY. In 1805, Lot No. 20, near Henderson Harbor was surveyed into 20 lots of four ranges of ten lots each for the purpose of a village.

Henderson began to settle under Asher Miller of Rutland, local agent, about 1802. Those who took up lands were: Thomas Clark, Samuel Stewart, Philip Crumett, John Stafford and Peter Cramer for a total of 1,1,95 acres by October 26, 1801. Within three years the following settlers came: Moses Barret, William Petty, Daniel Spencer, Captain John Bishop and sons, Calvin, Luther, Asa and Sylvester, Jedediah and James McCumber, Samuel Hubbard, Elijah Williams, Levi Scofield, William Johnson, David Bronson, John and Marvel Danley, Andrew Dalrymple, Luman Peck, Jonathan Crapo, George W. Clark, Thomas Drury, Anthony Sprague, Daniel Forbes, Emory Osgood and others who were mostly emigrants from New England. Calvin Bishop died 24 January 1850 at 68 years and Samuel Hubbard died 14 July 1843 at 82 years.

On Henderson Bay, a Scotch settlement was formed in 1803-7 by John and Duncan Drummond, Charles and Peter Barrie, Duncan Campbell, Thomas Bell, James Crawe, Daniel Scott and James McCraull from Perthshire in Scotland. C. Barrie opened a store there in 1823, which he kept for several years. Abel Shepard settled there in 1806.

A paper showing balances due from settlers in the town dated January 1, 1809 listed the following names of those who were living there at that time: A. Jones, R. Favel, Jeremiah Harris, Horace Heath, Samuel McNitt, Amos Hart, Daniel Hardy, Benj. Hammond, Samuel Jones, Daniel McNeil, Martin T. Morseman, Appleton Skinner, Asa and Ira Smith, Samuel Foster, Wm. Waring, Wm. White, Daniel Pierce, John B. Carpenter, Luther S. Kullinger, Lodowick Salisbury, T. Hunsden, W. White and Thomas Bull all of whom owed $17,734.87 for lands.

Dr. Isaac Bronson became an owner of a large tract in 1807 which was sold and settled by a separate agency. Abel French succeeded Asher Miller a few months in the agency and on April 8, 1805, an agreement was reached between Wm. Henderson and Jesse Hopkins by which Hopkins became the agent of the town and Pinckney and he continued in the employment of Mr. Henderson for many years. Hopkins published a pamphlet in 1823 with data relative to the early history of the town.

In 1803-4, ten families wintered in the town. In May of 1806, there were 70 families, mostly middle aged and young people. A 25 acre plot of land was cleared with the hope of a commercial port and given the name of "Naples". The bay was named accordingly and Mr. Hopkins built a house and opened a land office near the town of Naples, which he had laid out. Provisions used were brought from Kingston and the lumber from Ellisburg and Sacket's Harbor. In 1807 a small store was opened and several attempts, although unsuccessful, were made to bring business into the town. Henderson obtained the passage of a law for the opening of a state road from Lowville to Henderson Harbor, which was laid out from Lowville into Pinckney but never completed. In 1809 he caused a dam and sawmill to be built on Stony Creek but the dam gave way and all was a total loss. The dam was rebuilt in the next season and a mill erected at great expense. Negotiations with General Matoon of Massachusetts for the sale of the township failed in 1811 because of the war prospects. Hopkins built a large schoolhouse at the harbor which also served for religious meetings. And he began building vessels, the first being a schooner of 20 tons. In 1814 a second vessel of 40 tons was built and soon after, two others, and Henderson began to present the appearance of considerable business. Hopkins continued in the agency until 1822 and was engaged in a variety of success in his speculations - some were successful and others were unfortunate. When he fell into arrears he was suspended from the agency and the improvements he had made taken to apply on his liabilities.

Samuel Nutting came from Columbus, Chenango Co., NY in 1817 and settled on a lot later owned by his sons, Samuel and Charles Nutting. He was accompanied by his wife and one child, that being Sally. Nutting's eldest brother, Simeon, settled previously on a farm later owned by Joseph Fillmore. Brothers Luther, Ezra, Leonard and John Nutting arrived at nearly the same time with the others. They were the first permanent settlers in that part of the town and for some years, the only ones. Samuel Nutting purchased his place from his brother-in-law, Stephen Reed, who had made slight improvements and although Reed had taken up considerable land in the neighborhood he sold it all to the Nuttings. Reed moved from there to the western part of the town and later lived in Ellisburg as well as other parts of the county.

Charles Carter, another brother-in-law of the Nuttings, located at nearly the same time with the latter on a place half a mile west of Samuel Nutting's property. Their farms were all near the lakeshore and among the most fertile in the town.

A trapper, Davidon Bronson, was the first actual settler; he set out the first orchard with the second planted by Christian Salisbury. Bronson built a log house on low land that was later acquired by George W. Collins about the center of town. He cleared about an acre of ground and sowed turnips, and seeded it with herd's grass. In high water the house flooded so he was forced to move. He moved to Bishop Street and finally located in the western part of the town on land later owned by Leonard Seaton. It was there that he set out the orchard.

Abraham Wilkinson who came from Charlton, Saratoga Co., NY settled in Jefferson in 1806 on Stony Island. Three years later he moved to Galloo Island and in the spring of 1812 to Henderson. Settling with him was his wife and six children. He served in the War of 1812 and died about 1865. His sons were Silas and William Wilkinson who settled in Henderson. Mrs. Silas Wilkinson's father, Paul Stickney, settled in Adams around 1800, and came from Litchfield, Oneida County. He was a native of New Hampshire. William Wilkinson also served as a soldier in the War of 1812.

Jason Crittenden, Revolutionary War veteran, came from Massachusetts and settled in town prior to the War of 1812, bringing his wife and a small family of children. Several more children were born after they settled. His son, Harvey Crittenden, married a daughter of Jonathan Matteson Sr., of Ellisburg, and served but 57 days in the War of 1812 - which was three days too short to receive a pension; he moved to New York City.

Jesse Hopkins, the fourth son of Joseph Hopkins became Henderson's agent for the town. He was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on May 20, 1766. His father was a prominent citizen and was repeatedly honored with the public confidence. For 30 years he held the office of probate judge and died while in office. At age 17, Jesse, on the visit of Generals Washington and LaFayette to his father's house, pleased the latter so well that he was made his aid during a series of military operations in that quarter. His youth prevented him from enlisting in the army and his love of country from accepting the invitation of LaFayette to visit France and engage in lucrative pursuits. In 1803 he married in Hartford but his wife died and he spent five years speculating in the West Indies. When he returned he married his cousin, who was a granddaughter of Samuel Hopkins, DD, a celebrated divine of Newport, RI. In 1805 he was appointed as agent for Henderson. He died in Henderson at 71 years.

Joseph Hawkins, native of Connecticut, settled in Henderson around 1810 where he resided until his death. After the War he engaged in lake commerce. In 1828 he was elected to Congress and Perley Keyes was his opponent. He served as a county judge and died in Henderson on April 20, 1832 at 50 years. His friends E. Camp and E. G. Merrick placed a tablet on his grave: The navigation of our lakes was relieved from grievous custom house fees by his zealous efforts as Member of Congress in 1830.

Amasa Hungerford of Bennington Co., VT, settled in 1810 at what became known as Hungerford's Corners, southeast of Henderson Bay. Originally settled by a man named Hart who had built a log house, Amasa Hungerford built a frame dwelling in 1817. Hungerford was an uncle to the mother of the poet, John G. Saxe. The Hungerford farm took many premiums as being the finest, best improved and best regulated farm in the county. His father, Captain Amasa Hungerford was a Revolutionary War soldier but never settled in Jefferson County although his wife died there. Amasa Hungerford's farm became the property of his son, Benjamin, who lived in Michigan. In 1816, Orrin and Uriah Hungerford settled near the Corners where they purchased farms.

Sylvester Finney of Warren, Litchfield Co., Connecticut moved to Oneida co., NY about 1794 when it was a wilderness. He moved to Henderson and his son was Rev. Charles G. Finney, a Congregational revivalist. In 1812, Charles G. Finney left Jefferson and moved to Connecticut and from there to New Jersey, but near New York City where he taught school. In 1818 he returned to Jefferson Co. and studied law in Adams. During his stay, he was converted to his religious endeavors and became a famous revivalist in the United States and England. Born at Warren, Litchfield Co., CT on August 29, 1792, he died at Oberlin, Ohio on August 16, 1875 at almost 83 years. One of Sylvester Finney's sons, Zenas, owned a farm near the upper point of Henderson Harbor which became the property of Eaton Alexander. Another son, George W. Finney, became noted for his lectures on the subject of temperance and died in California.

In Naples a public square had been donated to the village by Henderson. There, a frame schoolhouse was built by Jesse Hopkins in 1812. The first school in Henderson was kept in a log house which stood about a mile south of Henderson Village in the winter of 1808-09. The teacher was Alfred Forbes/Fobes. Before the schoolhouse was built at Henderson Harbor, Dr. Elias Skinner, who was the first physician to settle in the town, taught school in one end of his dwelling. Those who attended his school recalled the brisk birch switches of various lengths that he used to reach students at all distances.

John Blanchard taught in the schoolhouse in the winter of 1817-18. A man named Bancroft taught either just before or just after Blanchard.

Samuel Cole from Rhode Island settled in Henderson Harbor in 1812 as a tanner and shoemaker. In 1817 he moved to a farm near Henderson Village which was owned by Thomas Drury, the widow of whose son (Thomas Drury, Jr.) Mr. Cole married after the death of his first wife. A man named Dye was associated with him at the Harbor and Cole sold him the business. Dye sold the property to Benjamin Andrus who later moved to a farm across the bay and then finally to Oswego County. Cole moved from Henderson Village to the State of Wisconsin where he died. His brother, Jonathan Cole, who settled at Henderson Village in 1814 stayed and was a deacon in the Baptist Church.

William W. Warner of Rensselaer Co., NY moved to Henderson Harbor in March of 1813. In 1811 he was on Galloo Island but after war was declared he moved to the mainland. During the 1813 season in company with others, including Jesse Hopkins, they built a small schooner of about 40 tons called the Henderson. In October the United States impressed the schooner for their service and Captain Warner sailed it. It was lost in the fateful General Wilkinson expedition of 1813, being burned after the landing of men at Ogdensburgh, to prevent it from falling under British control. In the spring of 1814, he built a vessel of 50 tons called the Lily. It was sold in 1815. Captain Warner died at Henderson Harbor in 1817. Captain Warner's son, Capt. John S. Warner, began sailing in 1817 and did so until 1861. He then resided at the Harbor. In 1850 he purchased the Frontier House, which had been a private dwelling and in 1861 after repairs, opened it as a hotel which he operated until 1876 and then rented it to Capt. Edward White.

When the Warners first settled at Henderson in 1813, a hotel was kept by Hinckley Stevens and it was opposite the site of the Frontier House. Stevens and others kept it running until about 1830. While it was running a second one was built by a man named Chandler, which opened in the fall of 1826 and was on the west side of the road on the corner south of the Frontier House. Chandler's hotel burned about 1863.

After the War of 1812, a considerable business was done at the Harbor in buying and shipping stock and grain which at that time went to Kingston. The first wheat ever shipped by water was taken by Capt. J. S. Warner on the schooner, Richard M. and taken to the Genesee River and from there to Rochester. Shipbuilding was carried on at Henderson Harbor for a very long time.


Around 1807, a deacon of the Presbyterian denomination, named Fellows, built a saw mill and a grist mill on Big Stony Creek and originated the settlement. The mills became the property of John Putnam who sold them to Lodowick Salisbury. Salisbury in 1812 made repairs on them. He had opened the first store in the village in 1811 and in which in 1812, Lowrey Barney, a physician, was a clerk. Salisbury brought a portion of his goods at Utica and Albany but mostly by night from Montreal and then transported in bateaux. Williams & McCumber opened a store in Henderson in 1809-10 and Dr. Barney had also clerked for them. These men later became engaged in the lumber business.

In 1812 a building was erected and occupied by Amos White and James Nash as a carding mill. They sold it to the Henderson Woolen Manufacturing Company who had Elihu Shepard as its president in 1814. The first trustees were Allen Kilby, Hezekiah Doolittle, Joseph Dickey, Tilley F. Smead and Chester Norton. The property reverted to the original owners, White and Nash. White carried on the mill and carding machine for a time and then sold it to Valentine Parker, a millwright by trade, who converted it into a gristmill after selling off the machinery. Luther Reed later bought it as a gristmill. Joseph Parker, Valentine's father, was an early settler of the town.

George Finney built a second gristmill and he sold it the mill to Alonzo Leffingwell.

A distillery was built by a man named Calkins about 1810-11 and it was the first of its kind in the place. A second was afterward owned by William Henderson and operated by his agent, Nathan Goodell, probably 1815-16. Henderson took corn as payment for land and made it into whiskey which brought a fair cash price.

Deacon Fellows mentioned above, built his frame house in 1808-09. He opened a tavern, which was a first in the village. He sold all with his mills to John Putnam who sold to Lodowick Salisbury.

Around 1812, a post office was established at Henderson Harbor and Mark Hopkins was appointed postmaster. He was succeeded by Mr. Stevens, father of Shubael Stevens of the town. The office was removed to Henderson Village on the resignation of the postmaster at the Harbor and the first man installed as postmaster at the village was Rev. Holland Weeks, a Swedenborgian preacher. He was succeeded by Henderson Spencer and Charles H. Sprague.

Dr. Daniel Barney the second physician in the town of Henderson was from Rhode Island and moved to Little Falls in Herkimer co., NY in 1794. He then moved to Jefferson county and lived in Rutland, Adams and Henderson before settling in the latter in 1807. He died on May 19, 1828. His son, Dr. Lowrey Barney of the village began practice in 1814 as an 1822 graduate of Fairfield Medical College in Herkimer.

The Henderson Social Library was formed on Feb. 9, 1819 and Percival Bullard, Peter N. Cushman, Chester Norton, Rufus Hatch, Thomas Fobes, Allen Kilbey and Elijah Williams were elected first trustees.

The first Baptist church of Henderson was formed on June 26, 1806, at the home of Merril Danley by Emory Osgood who was pastor until September 11, 1823.

The first Baptist church of Smithville was formed on Sept. 29, 1823 with Henry Keith, Austin Robbins and Ebenezer Sumner as trustees. The Second Baptist Church of Henderson was formed Jan. 1, 1820 with 66 members. Its first pastor was Rev. Emery Osgood. The church was built in 1823. In 1820 or so, the Presbyterians built a small church in Henderson Village. A society was formed on 28 October 1819 with Adonijah Wheaton, Ralph French and Jesse Hopkins as trustees. Methodists organized a society on July 29, 1830 with Beebee Smith, Cyrus Hall, Amos White, Joseph J. Hatch and Calvin Bishop as trustees. The Smithville Congregational Church was formed on Jan. 3, 1824 by Rev. Abel L. Crandall with 21 members. The First Universalist Society of Henderson was formed on January 13, 1823 with John S. Porter, Roswell Davis and Amasa Hungerford as trustees. On December 25, 1825, a society of the New Jerusalem was formed in Ellisburg at Brewster's schoolhouse with 13 members. It was under the direction of Rev. Holland Weeks of Abington, Massachusetts who settled in 1821. He died on July 24, 1843 at 75 years. First members were: Holland Weeks, Joseph Dickey, Moses J. Morseman, Edward Leslie, Jeremiah Sias, Charles Stearns, Jr., John Burt Blanchard, Lucy Ann Blanchard, Alvin Wood, Lydia Wood, Ann. H. Adams, Hannah M. Goodale and Harriet A. Weeks.

This ends the early history and firsts of Henderson.

Information transcribed and contributed by volunteer M. Sapienza. © 2015.

Return to Town of Henderson page

Return to Jefferson County NYGenWeb page