Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Is anything in this article factually incorrect? Please submit a comment.

Printer-friendly page
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Henderson, Thomas

by Charles D. Rodenbough, 1988

19 Mar. 1752–15 Nov. 1821

Thomas Henderson, merchant and legislator, was born in Granville County, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Williams Henderson. In the early 1770s he operated a store at Guilford Court House with Thomas Searcy under the name Henderson and Searcy. Searcy's brothers, Reuben, Bartlet, and Richard, participated with Henderson's brother, Richard, in the formation of the Transylvania Company.

Thomas Henderson was elected a delegate from Guilford County to the Third Provincial Congress, which convened at Hillsborough during 20 Aug.–10 Sept. 1775. Another delegate from Guilford was Alexander Martin whose sister, Anne Jane Martin, became Henderson's wife in March 1778. For the rest of their lives the brothers-in-law remained close associates. As the Revolutionary War was ending, the fighting drew near Guilford Court House. Henderson was called into the militia as a private and acted as a guide to General Nathanael Greene in the maneuvering of the armies on either side of the Dan River.

Soon afterwards Alexander Martin became governor for the first of seven terms. He and Henderson acquired 350 acres of land at Guilford Courthouse confiscated from the Tory, Edmund Fanning. On this land, adjacent to the courthouse, they laid out a town called Martinsville (Martinville, according to the original deed) where the governor built his home. Martin, who never married, provided a home for his mother, and apparently the Hendersons also came to live with him.

Henderson became clerk of court for Guilford County, which was now politically controlled by Martin. In 1786, when Rockingham County was formed from Guilford, Henderson resigned as clerk of Guilford to take the same office in the new county. He then moved his family to Governor Martin's home, Danbury, on Jacobs Creek of the Dan River. Although Henderson acquired several tracts in Rockingham, he seems to have made his residence at Danbury for the remainder of his life. For this reason, according to local tradition, prior to the establishment of a central courthouse, much of the public business of Rockingham County was conducted by Clerk Henderson at Danbury (the governor's home—not to be confused with the county seat of Stokes County, established much later).

In 1789 Henderson served a single term as clerk of the Council of State, succeeded the next year by his wife's nephew, Thomas Rogers. In 1795 he was for one term a member of the Council of State. Between 1792 and 1795 Henderson served two terms as a representative of Rockingham County in the House of Commons, and in 1796 he served one term in the state Senate.

On 2 Nov. 1807 Alexander Martin died at Danbury and by his will left that home to Henderson and his wife on the condition that they continue to provide a home for Martin's mother. But Jane Martin died just four days after her son, relieving the Hendersons of this responsibility.

Henderson remained politically active in league with such local leaders as Colonel James Hunter, Theophilus Lacy, and Alexander Sneed. He died in Rockingham County.

Thomas and Jane Henderson had seven children: Samuel; Alexander, who became the owner of the Danbury estate during his father's lifetime; Mary (Polly), who married John Lacy; Thomas, editor of the Raleigh Star ; Jane; Nathaniel, who married Susan Searcy; and Frances (Fanny).


Ethel Stephens Arnett, Greensboro, North Carolina: The County Seat of Guilford (1955).

Charlotte Observer, 31 Oct. 1926.

John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585–1974 (1975).

Early Families of the North Carolina County of Rockingham and Stokes with Revolutionary Service (1977).

Worth S. Ray, Colonial Granville County and Its People (1973 reprint).

Rockingham County Deeds (North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh).

Additional Resources:

"CSR Documents by Henderson, Thomas, 1752-1821"

"Archibald Henderson Papers Relating to Family History, 1891-1964, collection no. 03650." Louis Wilson Round Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,Archibald.html (accessed January 4, 2013).



I am reading about Thomas Henderson being in the Rev. War at Guliford Court House, whoever wrote this, was 100% wrong. He never fought in that battle, maybe lived there, but that is the wrong Thomas Henderson -- that Thomas Henderson who was marching to Guliford Court house was my 6th great grandfather, 2 different Thomas Hendersons who did know each other and crossed paths many times.

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to share this issue with us. I am also replying to you via the email address you included with your post.

This is not an usual occurrence, the potential mixing up or combining of histories, for individuals during this period who had the same name and may have lived in the same region.  It is also possible that there were two Thomas Hendersons, unknown to each other, at Guilford Courthouse.  I will need to see if I can locate any records for the battle to look at this question.

Do you have any additional resources and reference citations and family history that you can share with me to help me look into this?  It is very difficult at times for us to work through these biographical issues during the colonial period because of issues with finding documentary evidence.  And we are unable to conduct full genealogical searches because we don’t have the staff to do this. If there are factual errors that I can reasonably substantiate, I can make updates.  If you have some additional information that will help, I will gladly try to look at this more closely.

Thank you again for visiting NCpedia and taking the time to share your history and comments.

I look orward to hearing back from you soon.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at