Hillsborough County, Florida
History




FRANCIS ASBURY HENDRY

1833 - 1917



Francis Asbury Hendry was born November 19, 1833, about eighteen miles from Thomasville, Georgia. He was the son of James Edward and Lydia (Carlton) Hendry and the grandson of William & Nancy (McFail) Hendry and John & Nancy Ann (Alderman) Carlton. All four of his great-grandfathers, Robert Hendry, James McFail, Thomas Carlton and David Alderman were Revolutionary soldiers.

In 1851 James Edward Hendry, in search of new cattle range, moved his family to Hillsborough County, Florida and settled on the Alafia River, twenty-two miles east of Tampa. While on a return visit to Georgia to settle his business affairs, he died on January 3, 1852 at the home of his brother, Rev. Robert McFail Hendry, in Thomas County. On November 5, 1854, Lydia (Carlton) Hendry married Benjamin Moody.

Francis Asbury Hendry married on March 25, 1852 Ardeline Ross Lanier, born May 10, 1835, daughter of Lewis and Mary Lucretia (Ross) Lanier. The ceremony was perrformed at Alafia in Hillsborough County by Rev. J. M. Hayman. They had eleven children, but three did not survive infancy:


1. James Edward Hendry, born January 12, 1854; died July 10, 1915; married on June 17, Julia Isabel Frierson.

2. Louis Asbury Hendry, born April 19, 1856; died 1928; married 1st, Ella Frierson in 1878 (she died August 1, 1904); married 2nd, Mary Roberts.

3. Laura Jane Hendry, born March 2, 1858; died May 10, 1895 and buried in Frierson-Hendry Cemetery; married June 22, 1873 Waddy Thompson.

4. George M. Hendry, born June 30, 1860; married June 5, 1881 Willie Barineau.

5. Francis M. Hendry, born June 11, 1863; married Eleanor Murdock, March 24, 1889.

6. Virginia Lee Hendry, born August 20, 1866; died in 1966 and buried in Frierson-Hendry Cemetery; married 1885 John Frederick Menge.

7. Carrie Belle Hendry, born March 8, 1869; married December 30, 1887 Edward L. Evans.

8. Lucretia Pearl Hendry, born July 19, 1871; died 1938 and buried in Frierson-Hendry Cemetery; married September 5, 1888 Harry Higginbotham; married 2nd, Edward Carlton.

9. Julia Ellen Hendry, born November 24, 1874; died June 6, 1875.

10. Mary Josephine Hendry, born September 23, 1876; died April 12, 1877.

11. Unnamed infant.


In 1852 Francis A. Hendry moved from Alafia to Fort Meade and put his small herd of cattle east of the Peace River, and in so doing, became among the first to move cattle east of the river. On April 19, 1852 he registered his mark and brand: crop and split in one ear, upper square in the other, brand A.

In 1853 he made his first visit to Fort Myers, which three years before in February 1850 had been established on the old breastworks of Fort Harvie, which was originally built November 4, 1841, but later abandoned on March 21, 1842. In 1908 he recalled, "I first saw Fort Myers in 1853, when its personnel was composed of such men as General Hancock, Colonel Harvie Brown, Lieutenant Hartsuff, Lieutenant Benson, Captain Fowler, for whom Fowler Street is named. I was wined and dined in Fort Myers as a welcome guest with these noble men. Still the memory is fresh and vivid." Fort Myers, obviously had captivated young Hendry.

In 1854 he as a guide to Lt. Benson made his second visit to Fort Myers. Again in 1908 Hendry's recollection, "The object of this trip was to ascertain if it was practicable to open an overland, through route from Fort Meade to Fort Myers. The party consisted of Lt. Benson, mounted, three pack mules, and six footmen, detailed for the trip from the garrison of Fort Meade, and myself on horseback as a guide, for which I received one dollar per day in gold. Fort Myers in that day was a veritable oasis in the desert. Fort Myers of today may well be proud of her creditable standing as a pretty, well kept little city, but it will be hard to excel herself when she was dressed up in her military garb."

On February 18, 1856 he enlisted as a private in Captain William B. Hooker's Independent Company, Florida Mounted Volunteers and was mustered in February 21, 1856 at Fort Meade. "During the month of June, the company was employed on scout duty and a small detachment took an active part in the action of the 14 & 16 on Pease Creek & in pursuit of the Indians," so recorded the War Department. He was mustered out with the company as a private on August 20, 1856 at Fort Meade. At the time of enlistment he was described as being 23 years old (He was actually 22), 6 feet 1 inch, with gray eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, and by occupation a farmer and stockraiser.

On August 22, 1856 he enlisted as a private in Captain Leroy G. Lesley's Independent Company, Florida Mounted Volunteers and was mustered in at Fort Meade. War Department rolls recorded as follows: "September 1856, Alafia, Florida, employed in scouting. January 1857, this command has been scouting on the western border of the Gulf coast." He was mustered out with his company as a private on February 19, 1857. In an affidavit filed March 5, 1903 Francis gave as his tour of service February 18, 1856 to May 1858, having served in Hooker's Company. National Archives had no record of his second enlistment. Soldiers of Florida lists him as 2nd Lieutenant in Captain Lesley's County. W. M. Hendry and Jehu J. Blount on January 17, 1903 both gave affidavits that Francis served from 1856-1858 in the Seminole Indian War.

A Seminole, when later an old man, recalled: "The other warriors said I was too young to go on the warpath and left me here to provide meat for the family, but towards the end of the war the Indians learned the white army had abandoned Fort Thompson because the Caloosahatchee had overflowed it as it was built of dead pine posts (lightwood) with one end buried in the ground and knowing this fat pine would easily burn, the Indians decided to burn it to the ground and they detailed me to burn it. ‐— I slipped through the popash (pond) and as I stepped out of the north side, a lone white soldier stepped out of the hammock on the other side. —— We stood still and he was looking me in the eyes as if to say "Why don't you shoot and get it over with?" We stood this way a minute or so and I raised my rifle to kill him, a bunch of dogs started a fight and I knew the soldiers often carried dogs trained to track Indians. I decided I better run for the Big Cypress as fast as my legs could carry me. After the war I learned the brave soldier was Captain Hendry.

F. A. Hendry, wife Ardeline, their children James, Asbury, Laura, plus his sister Mary Jane (who on January 16, 1862 married Jehu J. Blount) and Zachariah Seward, a 21 year old clerk, were listed as a household in the 1860 Hillsborough County Census. Neighbors included: Bennett Whidden, F. C. M. Boggess, James L. Whidden, A. J. Hendry (his brother), E. T. Kendrick, J. I. Hooker, Lewis Lanier (his father-in-law), G. W. Hendry (his brother), H. S. Seward, Simpson Singletary (his brother-in-law, married January 30, 1850 Martha Ann Hendry), F. M. Durrance.

Francis A. Hendry was one of the prime movers in the organization of Polk County, which was established February 8, 1861 by the division of Hillsborough County, the eastern half becoming Polk. In November 1861, he was elected as a County Commissioner, along with Readding Blount, Isaac Waters, Joseph Mizelle. The same election selected H. S. Seward for the State Legislature, J. J. Blount as Clerk of the Circuit Court, L. W. Cornelius for Judge of Probate, H. L. Mitchell as State Solicitor, and E. T. Kendrick for Sheriff.

During the Civil War, he did service in the commissary department in the states of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, C. S. A. In 1863 he raised a cavalry company, commanded by himself, Captain Hendry's Company A, 1st Batallion, Florida Special Cavalry, which was attached to Col. Charles J. Munnerlyn's Independent Batallion. Fort Myers, which had been abandoned at the end of hostilities in 1858, was reoccupied by Union troops in December 1863, and held until May 1865. U. S. forces used the fort as a base to make raids into the interior to gather cattle and recruit men. Hendry later estimated that 4,500 head of cattle were taken, some from as far away as Fort Meade. In February 1865, Captain Hendry, attached to Major William Footman Cow Cavalry, participated in the unsuccessful attack on Fort Myers. Captain Hendry served until his surrender at Tampa at war's end.

After the war, he returned to his Fort Meade home where he continued cattle ranching and farming. Francis resumed his role in civic affairs. During Reconstruction, he served as State Senator from Polk and Brevard counties. On November 4, 1867, he answered a summons for jury duty at Bartow.

After purchasing cattle from J. C. Rockner of Fort Meade and Captain D. Huges of Bartow, he, joining the herds with what he already possessed, drove 12,000 head of cattle across the Caloosahatchee River and pastured them on the prairies of Fort Thompson. In 1870, after disposing of his property at Fort Mead, he moved his family to Fort Myers and chose as his home one of the abandoned officers' quarters, which he refurbished.

When he settled in Fort Myers, there were only a few families there. Those known were Captain Manuel A. Gonzalez, John A. Weatherford (Gonzalez's brother-in-law), and J. A. Vivas. Francis was soon followed by his brother, William Marion Hendry, brother-in-law Jehu J. Blount, and nephew, Frank J. Wilson (son of Adeline and James Wilson).

Captain Hendry's cattle herds increased rapidly on the previously ungrazed rangeland. He established contact with the Cuban market and was one of the first to ship cattle from Punta Rassa. This necessitated the construction of wharves and pens. As early as 1876, he fenced in a tract of 25,000 acres to improve the grasses for fattening stock for market. Reputedly at one time he had as many as 50,000 head of cattle and was called "The Cattle King of South Florida". In 1891 he began to dispose of his stock of cattle running on the wild range and bought and enclosed a large area of low marsh lands on the borders of the Caloosahatchee River, where he placed Jersey and other improved breeds, crossing them with scrubs, which developed a hardy, valuable strain. With one day's ride he could see his entire stock and personally superintend them. He also had hogs and citrus.

In 1872 a one-room log cabin school was opened. Francis enrolled his younger school age children George, Francis, and Virginia Lee.

In 1876 he was among the citizens of Fort Myers who petitioned for a postoffice. Washington granted the request, but to their chagrin insisted on calling the village "Myers". Repeated overtures to have Washington relent went unheeded. Not until 1901 did the postoffice yield and officially accept Fort Myers as the city's proper designation.

Believing a newspaper vital for the area, he subsidized Stafford Cleveland's first edition of the weekly "Fort Myers Press", which was headed: "Myers, Monroe County, Florida, November 22, 1884". Francis A. Hendry was chairman of the meeting, held in the schoolhouse at 2nd and Lee Streets, that resulted in the incorporation of Fort Myers on August 12, 1885. The first city officials were: Mayor, H. A. Parker; Clerk, C. H. Stebbins; Marshal, C. L. Oliver; Members of the Town Council, F. A. Hendry, N. L. Langford, J. T. Haskew, William M. Hendry, J. J. Blount, W. A. Roberts, J. O. Breman. Later he became Mayor.

In 1887 another meeting led in a petition campaign for the formation of a new county. Hendry in 1908 remembered, "Well do I remember when the time came to organize a new county by the people of the mainland of Monroe County, and the mass meeting held under the shade of the trees on the present school lot in Fort Myers. Proud indeed am I that when a name was discussed that I—even I—made a notion to name it in honor of the beloved Robert E. Lee. Well do I remember the enthusiasm in adopting that notion." His efforts proved successful for on May 13, 1887 Lee County was established. Along with William Towles, Frank J. Wilson, Peter Nelson, and John Powell, he was selected to the first Lee County Board of Commissioners. This honor was thereafter bestowed on him several times, and he completed his last term only shortly before his death.

Captain Hendry from 1875-1887 was State Senator from the 24th District, composed of the counties of Monroe and Manatee. From 1893-1905 he was six times elected as Lee County State Representative. He served on important committees and proved an active and influential member.

About 1891, having previously moved to Fort Thompson, he turned the active administration of his stock interests over to his sons, and interested himself chiefly in his citrus groves and his experimental breeding of cattle. He and his wife, believers in Southern hospitality, kept their home open to all who desired to share in the liberality, and they entertained hundreds of guests.

Although he was a veteran of the Third Seminole War, Captain Hendry was on very friendly terms with the Seminoles. He was among them known as an exponent of fair play for the Indian. During the 1870's he took Billy Conahadjo, whom the whites called Billy Cornpatch, into his home and sent him to school with his children. He was the first Seminole to receive a white man's education; however, his education caused a minor crisis as the Indians did not favor his learning the white man's ways. Billy went on to become an interpreter for a federal commission which reported on the Seminoles in 1880. Before Captain Hendry's death, Billy reported on the Seminoles in 1880. Before Captain Hendry's death, Billy Cornpatch & his brother, Bill Fewell (Hofalkee Hadjo), walked sixty miles in from the Big Cypress to see him once more.

Francis was a Methodist and a Mason. He was a steward in his church and chairman of the board of trustees for many years. He always contributed liberally to all church purposes and other worthy causes. He and his brother, William Marion Hendry, gave a lot at First Street and Royal Palm to be used for a church. In 1895 he donated land and built a church at LaBelle. In 1893 a Methodist Episcopal Church had been found in LaBelle, but their church services were conducted in the one-room thatched school, previously started in 1890. He had platted LaBelle and named it for his daughters, Laura and Belle. (LaBelle was incorporated in 1911.)

On January 16, 1903 Francis A. Hendry applied for a pension, based on his service in Captain Hooker's and Captain Lesley's companies. He gave his address as LaBelle, Lee County, Florida. His claim was granted under certificate #4150 and when he died he was receiving $20 per month.

On October 1, 1907 he applied for a pension, based on his service as Captain, Captain Hendry's Company. W. M. Hendry of Captain Parson's Company and J. J. Blount of Captain Hendry's Company gave a joint affidavit of support. George M. Hendry, his son, acted as notary public while W. M. Hendry, his brother, as Clerk of the Lee County Circuit Court, certified their affidavits. He was approved as pensioner #6059 for $120 per year.

In the final year of his life he, probably for easy access to medical treatment, moved back to Fort Myers. Captain Francis Asbury Hendry died of chronic intersticial nephritis on February 12, 1917 at his home in Fort Myers. "The Tampa Tribune" eulogized, "Captain Hendry was a man of genial temperament, naturally cultured, gifted with the power of making friends and keeping them, few men in the state were so widely known, liked and trusted." He was buried in the Frierson-Hendry Cemetery.

On March 29, 1917 Ardeline R. Hendry applied for a pension as the widow of Francis A. Hendry, who served in Captain Hooker's Company, Indian War. She gave as her address Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida. Her granddaughter, Sarah M. Foxworthy (daughter of James Edward Hendry), and her husband, James E. Foxworthy, acted as her witnesses. On July 11, 1917, continuing the application, Jehu J. Blount and William H. Towles, both of Fort Myers, respectively stated that they had known F. A. Hendry and Ardeline R. Hendry for 64 years and 33 years. On August 27, 1917 Hon. Herbert J. Drane, Congressman of the 1st District, wrote a letter to expedite her claim. In part he state, "I knew Captain Francis A. Hendry for twenty-seven years before his death. He was probably the best known individual in private life in the State of Florida and was a man highly respected and beloved by all classes. I have never had the pleasure to know Mrs. Hendry, the claimant, but I know that the deceased soldier was a man of great hospitality, that he lived in happiness with his wife during all my lifetime in Florida (about 34 years), they kept open house and Mrs. Hendry has been known for a great many years by thousands of people in Southern Florida. Captain Hendry was a man of unimpeachable character, his descendants being numerous and his wife who is now an aged woman, has the respect and affection of all who know her." Under certificate #8354 her claim was approved at the rate of $12 per month.

Ardeline Hendry died September 6, 1917 (according to her tombstone) in Fort Myers, Florida. G. W. Hendry had said of his sister-in-law, "She has ever been a woman of firmness and decision, yet gentle and affable. She has made Captain Hendry a life partner worthy of the highest praise." She was buried in the Frierson-Hendry Cemetery next to her husband.

Posthumously, Captain Francis A. Hendry was honored when a new county, the sixty-third, containing 764,911 acres which was taken from Lee County, was named Hendry County with LaBelle as the county seat. Hendry County was established May 11, 1923.


SOURCES: Milton D. Wilson, "Pioneer Families of Polk County and South Florida: The Hendry Family with data on the Alderman Family, the Carlton Family, the McFail Family, the Wilson Family", 1944; G. W. Hendry, Lydia Moody Nee Hendry Nee Carlton, 1900; Early Hillsborough County Marks and Brands; F. A. Hendry, "A History of the Early Days in Fort Myers", 1908; Military and Pension Records of F. A. Hendry, National Archives; 1860 Hillsborough County Census; Francis P. Fleming, Memoirs of Florida, Volume 11, 1902; M. F. Hetherington, History of Polk County, 1928; Soldiers of Florida; CSA Pension Record of Captain F. A. Hendry, Tallahassee; Charlton W. Tebeau, A History of Florida, 1971; Florence Fritz, Unknown Florida, 1963; Allen Morris, The Florida Handbook 1977-1978; Albert and Park DeVane, DeVane's Early Florida History, 1978; D. B. McKay, editor, Pioneer Florida, Volume III, 1957; Obituary of Captain F. A. Hendry, "The Tampa Tribune" as reprinted by "The Courier-Informant", Bartow, Tuesday, February 20, 1917; Frierson-Hendry Cemetery.


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