John Joseph Henry

Died in Lancaster on the 15th of April, in the 53d year of his age, John Joseph Henry, Esq., late President of the 3d Judicial District of Pennsylvania.
The Centinel, Gettysburg, PA, May 8, 1811- Transcribed by Nancy Piper]

Biography of John Joseph Henry

John Joseph Henry, son of William and Ann Henry was born November 4, 1758 at Lancaster, PA. His grandfather, Robert Henry came from Scotland, emigrating in 1722. With his wife Mary and three sons, John, Robert and James, he settled in the Doe Run valley, Chestery county, where he and his wife died in 1735. Of their sons James died early, who did not survive infancy and Robert, following the current of the Scotch-Irish emigration, went into the valley of Virginia, where he left many sons and daughter, and they numerous descendants. John Henry married the daughter of Hugh DeVinney, one of the Huguenots of the Pequea valley. He remained upon the homestead, but dying in middle life, his family consisting of five sons and several daughters became scattered. William Henry, the eldest of these learned the trade of a gunsmith, at Lancaster, where he subsequently rose to prominence in public affairs, being a member of the General Congress, treasurer of the county and a long time one of the justices of the peace, dying in 1786. He was the father of the subject of our sketch.

Young Henry's early education was fair for the times, but growing up amid the excitements of the ante-Revolutionary period, when the struggle came books were thrown aside, and although a mere strippling of seventeen he volunteered in the first company raised for the war in Pennsylvania - Captain Matthew Smith's of Paxtang. He had joined without the knowledge of his father, but his good mother entered fully into the spirit of the youth, made his rifleman's uniform consisting of leggings, moccasins and a deep ash colored hunting shirt. The story of that campaign, in which he subsequently participated, has been preserved us in his "Account of Arnold's campaign again Quebec, in the autumn of 1775" - and by far the most interesting record in existence.

Released from captivity in the fall of 1776, he returned home, apparently in health, but with the seeds of disease deeply planted in his constitution. The scurvy from which he suffered in the prison at Quebec, attacked with terrible force the knee which had been injured in the assault. The joint became the seat of a violent inflammation, disease of the bone followed and when two year afterwards he left his couch, it was only to walk with a crutch through life. Some good, however, came out of this evil. He became a student, determined to take the law as his profession His preceptor was Col. Stephen Chambers of the Revolution, a gallant officer, a brilliant lawyer and whose untimely death in 1789 was greatly deplored.

After several years of assiduous study, young Henry was admitted to the Lancaster county bar, January term, 1785, and at once commenced the practice of his profession at Lancaster. He was among those admitted to the Dauphin county bar at its first court, and of which he became the president judge in 1793. Upon his appointment as judge he took up his residence at Harrisburg. About the year 1804 his constitution, so severely shattered in youth, began to give way, and so frequently were the attacks from which he suffered, that he was unable to perform his usual amount of labors. The judicial district was a large one, and the non-performance of his duties caused petitions from several of the counties to be presented to the Legislature for his removal, nothing being alleged against him, however, but absence. That honorable body, in 1808, having examined and considered the charges, acquitted him with honor. His commission he retained for the space of two years longer; but at last unable to fill the arduous duties of his office, in the latter part of the year 1810, he tendered his resignation to the Governor of the State. Four months later, while at Lancaster on a visit, on the 15th of April 1811, he passed from his earthly labors and is interred in the burial ground of the Moravian church there.

Judge Henry married a sister of Colonel Stephen Chambers. They had two sons, Dr. Stephen Chambers of Detroit, and Dr. Julien, of St. Louis, both deceased, and several daughters, one of whom reached maturity _ Anna Mary, who married Hon. Thomas Smith of Delaware county and left issue.

[Notes and Queries Historical and Genealogical /Chiefly Relating to Interior of Pennsylvania Series 3 Volume I, by William Henry Egle, Harrisburg, PA, The Daily Telegraph Print 1887, Pages 38, 39.- Transcribed by Nancy Piper]

Hon John Joseph Henry:-Of Judge Henry's family, the following are interred in the Harrisburg cemetery:

[Notes and Queries Historical and Genealogical /Chiefly Relating to Interior of Pennsylvania Series 3 Volume I, by William Henry Egle, Harrisburg, PA, The Daily Telegraph Print 1887, Page 96. Transcribed by Nancy Piper]


The good man's best eulogium is his life and actions. They will remain an eternal monument of truth, while the proudest strains of panegyric are at best evanescent and often venal. Yet, when a man whose best days have been devoted to his county; who has sacrificed to her his health and the prospects of fortune; sinks at last under the pressure of infirmities and disease contracted in her service; it becomes a public duty not more to him than others, to secure to the circumstances of his life and sufferings. Such was eminently the character of Judge Henry.

Of his private virtues, his spirit of general philanthropy, his warm attachment to this friends, it would be unnecessary to speak, where he has been so well known and so long beloved. But there are traits in his character, which, as they appear only on great occasions may not have been so generally known or so justly appreciated.

As a soldier of the revolution, he united the intrepidity of age with the enthusiasm of youth. He was but a boy, when the invaded liberty of his country called on all her sons for defense. With him, her claims were paramount to the authority of a father; and allurements of military glory were more attractive than the endearments of domestic life. At the age of 16, disregarding the displeasure of his family, he joined the army in the quality of cadet.

About that period, the celebrated expedition against Quebec was projected. Young Henry proceeded from Cambridge with that branch of the army under the command of Arnold, whose march lay through the forests of Maine. Young as he was, and unacquainted with hardships, he was selected with 3 others, to explore the sources of the Kennebeck and Chandiere, and the most direct route to Canada.

What must have been the feelings of his veteran associates, when sinking under the fatigues of the march, the inclemencies of the sky, and the natural severity of the climate, to behold this young soldier supporting all the privateers, incident to war, with a fortitude, courage and cheerfulness, not only above his age, but almost above our nature.

Those who are acquainted with the history of this memorable campaign, know too well the fate of the gallant Montgomery**, and the sufferings of his brave companions. Of these sufferings, no small share fell to the lot of young Henry. Before Quebec, where more than once the pride of modern chivalry has been sloven down, with many of his countrymen, he fell into the hands of the enemy. Here commenced the series of his protracted sufferings. Here were contracted the remote causes of that complication of disorders which at length were destined to terminate his existence. A close confinement for several months, without wholesome nutriment or air, brought on the scurvy that loathsome scourge of camps. From this he never perfectly recovered. It had left his constitution shattered.

His military career was short but brilliant. At 17, he was honored with a captainship, in the army, where every private was a hero. But alas! An inscrutable Providence here checked his aspiring ambition, and stopped his pursuit of military honor. A Slight accident from which he would have soon recovered in a sound state of the system, tendered him forever incapable of rejoining the army. For indeed the very fountain of health had been poisoned.

The army was to young Henry the school of life. Here he met with men of different habits of thought and of living; yet all animated by the same principle, all subject to the same infirmities. Here he learned the maxims of that universal benevolence, which taught him to look on every man as a fellow sufferer and a brother. These maxims directed his conduct through life. He was open, generous, enthusiastic.

The stranger who pays this tribute of veneration to the memory of this good but unfortunate man, though he has seen and felt his kindness, saw him but the remnant of what he was. He never saw him until disease and pain had sunk him almost to the grave. But he has seen him in those interesting moments when, looking back as it were from the tomb on the family he loved, he cheered their desponding hearts by occasional flashes of that good humor, which pain could not totally extinguish through chastened and endeared by a father's solicitude. He saw him like some great oak, whose foliage the frosts of winter had blasted, whose branches had been shattered and torn away by the tempest of heaven; but whose heart was yet sound.

[The Centinel, Gettysburg, PA, May 15, 1811, From the Lancaster Journal Transcribed by Nancy Piper]