Early Settlers

White settlers moved first into the area along the Trinity River and then into those previously occupied by the Indians. Some of the first settlers were Jane Irvine, who had a Mexican land grant of a league and a labor, and Henry Jeffreys, who owned the league of land where the first community, Buffalo , developed. The town was at a ferry crossing on the Trinity River in the northwestern part of the county, near the site of present-day Seven Points. John H. Reagan surveyed the town lots and began his law practice there. The first commissioners were William Ware, David Carlisle, Alfred Moore, Thacker Vivion, Sr., and James Hooker. The Texas legislature established Henderson County on April 27, 1846, and named it in honor of James Pinckney Henderson, first governor of the state of Texas . The county was formed from parts of Nacogdoches and Houston counties. Its court was first held in the home of William Ware, and later, William Love. Henderson County was organized on August 4, 1846, and comprised 3,500 square miles at the time. Buffalo was the county seat until March 1848. Bennett H. Martin presided over the first district court in Buffalo in 1847. Centerville , six miles west of the site of present Eustace, near the center of the county, was to be the permanent county seat. James Harper Starr donated 100 acres of land in the John P. Brown survey for the town, and on September 11, 1848, Chief Justice B. Graham held court there. But Centerville did not remain the county seat. On April 2, 1849, the archives and county government were returned to Buffalo , for reasons not exactly clear, and Centerville ceased to exist.

In 1848 the legislature formed Van Zandt and Kaufman counties out of Henderson County and reduced it to its present size. The center of the county again moved. J. B. Luker became chief justice, James Boggs sheriff, and E. J. Thompson county clerk. Court was held under a grove of red oak trees where the present courthouse stands. The name of the new county seat, Athens , was suggested by Dulcina A. Holland (later Mrs. Dull Avriett), who hoped the town would be a center of learning. The first courthouse, built in 1850, cost the county fifty dollars. That year the population of Henderson County consisted of 1,155 white persons, eighty-one slaves, and one free black. Farming was the chief source of income; the county's 106 farms had a value of $64,214, mainly from corn and sweet potatoes. In 1850, the early settlers of Henderson County were from the upper South, but during the following decade westward migration from the lower South greatly increased. Cotton was introduced, though at the beginning production was negligible. By 1855 the courthouse had been sold and the proceeds given to W. B. Stirman to build a jail, from which only one prisoner ever escaped. The second county courthouse, a two-story, wooden, weather-boarded structure with four brick chimneys, was completed in 1860 and sat in the center of the square until it burned in 1885.

Linda Sybert Hudson, " HENDERSON COUNTY ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hch13), accessed August 29, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.  Used by permission.


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