History of Henderson

City History
Historic Henderson, home of four Kentucky governors, occupies part of a 200,000 acre land grant deeded in 1778 to the Richard Henderson Land Company by the state of Virginia. Originally, Colonel Henderson and others had purchased from the Cherokee Indians the territory containing some 17,000,000 acres of land, which included most of the area that is now Kentucky. This purchase was voided by the Virginia legislature. Subsequently, the 200,000 acre tract was granted to Richard Henderson and Company in recognition of the $50,000 paid by the original land company to the Cherokee Indian in the Treaty of Watagua. Land in that grant is included in the present boundary of Henderson County.

The area comprising Kentucky, originally known as the great hunting and fishing mecca of American Indians, was first seen by a group of men including Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone, who found their way into the area through the Cumberland Gap. Boone reported to Colonel Henderson and his associates that this virgin timberland crisscrossed with navigable streams, was excellent for the development of agriculture, with access to foreign markets through New Orleans via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Henderson is Born
General Samuel Hopkins, a Revolutionary officer acting as agent for Colonel Henderson, and Thomas Allin, surveyor, laid out the City of Henderson. They completed the plan on April 6, 1797. This is now considered the city’s birth date.

Henderson was incorporated as a town in 1810, with a population of 183. The first private school, Henderson Academy, was established in 1813. The first bank opened for business in 1818, and the first regularly established church (Old Union Church) was founded in 1825. The first Henderson County Court House was erected in 1814, was replaced in 1842, and again in 1965. Henderson reached the status of a city in 1867, and in 1922, a commission form of government was adopted. This was replaced by the present City Manager form of government in 1966.

Henderson’s wooded hills and lush vegetation attracted the naturalist, John James Audubon, who once operated a mill on the riverfront, one block from the center of the present business district where Main and Second Streets cross. Thousands of people annually visit Audubon State Park and Museum located at the northern limits of the city.