Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Henderson County

For our next county survey, I thought we would look at Henderson County. In 1838, the southern part of Buncombe County was taken to create Henderson County. The county is named for Leonard Henderson, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1833. The county seat, Hendersonville, is also named for Henderson.

In 1860, Henderson County had a total population of 10,448, including 1,382 slaves, and 85 free blacks. The county boundaries also contained most of present-day Transylvania County. In the 1860 presidential election, Henderson County cast 425 votes for Breckinridge, 496 for Bell, and 4 for Douglas. William M. Shipp was elected over Alexander Hamilton Jones to represented the County during the Secession vote in May 1861. There were actually threats made that men voting for Jones would be shot. Jones later enlisted in the Federal army, and served as Henderson County’s representative at the state convention in 1865, and in the United States Congress.

According to Terrell Garren’s Mountain Myth, Henderson County supplied 1,296 men to the Confederate army and 130 men to the Federal army. Men from Henderson County served in Company I, 16th NCST; Companies A and H, 25th NCT; Company G, 35th NCT; Company G, 56th NCT; and Company D, 60th NCT. On the Federal side, Henderson County men served in the 2nd and 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry (US).

Probably the most interesting aspect of Henderson County’s role in the war actually stems from the area being used as an antebellum summer home for many people from the South Carolina low country. Probably the best example would be Christopher G. Memminger. After growing up in South Carolina, Memminger bought land and built Connemara, his summer home in 1838. Memminger would later become the first Secretary of the Treasury for the Confederacy. He served until 1864, when he resigned. Memminger was replaced by another part-time Henderson County resident: George A. Trenholm, who owned Solitude. It is believed that Trenholm was the model for Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.

Numerous accounts of bushwhacking in Henderson County survive. We will focus on two main events. On June 10, 1864, Andrew Johnstone was eating dinner with his family when six men showed up at the house, Beaumont, near Flat Rock. After eating dinner with the Johnstones, one of the “bushwhackers” shot and killed Andrew. His thirteen year-old son retrieved the pistol that Andrew was attempting to draw, and then killed two and wounded another of the attackers. Later, Company E, of the 64th North Carolina Troops was sent to Flat Rock to help maintain order.

On April 23, 1865, Some of Stoneman’s men arrived in town, spending the night and quartering their horses in a part of an unfinished college building.

There is much to see in Henderson County today when it comes to the War. Connemara was later purchased by Carl Sandburg, who wrote a Pulitzer-winning biography on Abraham Lincoln. The house has been preserved and is a part of the National Park Service. If you visit the area, also check out the St. Johns in the Wilderness Episcopal Church Cemetery, where Memminger is buried, along with several other officers. This is one of the best cemeteries in all of western North Carolina. If you have time to visit one other place, make sure it is the Henderson County Museum in Hendersonville. Located in the old courthouse, the museum has a fantastic Civil War display. On the grounds of the courthouse are numerous monuments, including a Dixie Highway marker, and a Confederate monument, erected in 1903. Also, in the northern portion of the county, in Fletcher, near Calvary Episcopal Church, is a group of monuments to Robert E. Lee, Zebulon Baird Vance, Daniel Emmett, Francis Key Scott, and O. Henry.

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