GOVERNOR OF TEXASby
Archie P. McDonald, PhD
James Pinckney Henderson
is a gentle argument among the historically minded folk in San
Augustine and Nacogdoches
over who has claim to James Pinckney Henderson, the first elected governor of
The dispute arises because Henderson
maintained law offices in both communities.
This might be a good resolution:
San Augustinians went to the trouble and expense of erecting an equestrian statue
of Henderson on their courthouse
lawn and Nacogdoches did
not. That, and good sense, ought to count more.
was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, on March 31, 1808. After attending Lincoln
Academy and the University of North Carolina he was admitted to the bar to practice
law in 1829 -- at 21 years of age. He joined the state militia and rose to the
rank of colonel before moving to Mississippi in 1835. That is where he caught
the "Texas Fever." |
Henderson arrived in Velasco
in June 1836, a bit late for the military phase of the Texas Revolution, but he
joined the army anyway. His first assignment was to recruit Americans for similar
service, which he did in North Carolina, and then was appointed Texas' attorney
general and eventually secretary of state by President Sam Houston.
came diplomatic service as Texas' minister to England, where Henderson married
Frances Cox of Philadelphia in 1839. The next year they settled in San
Augustine and Henderson opened a law office. In 1844 he joined Isaac Van Zandt
in Washington to help negotiate a treaty of annexation, which was rejected by
the US Senate. Good old-fashioned politics resolved the annexation issue more
favorably for Texas within a year and Henderson was
a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1845. He was elected governor in
November, and became the first governor of the State of Texas in February 1846.
Mexico and the US went to war that spring over annexation and other issues,
so Henderson persuaded the legislature to allow him to take the field as head
of the Second Texas Regiment and led troops in the Battle of Monterrey. Henderson
resumed civilian gubernatorial duties late in 1846 but declined to run for reelection
Henderson returned to his legal practice until the legislature
selected him as successor to Senator Thomas J. Rusk in 1857. He served only a
few months in the US Senate, and died in Washington on June 4, 1858. He was buried
in Washington, but his remains were moved to the state
cemetery in Austin in 1930.
But they have a fine statue of Henderson
in San Augustine.That
counts for something.
9-15, 2002 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Archie McDonald is author of Pioneers, Poke Sallet and Politics with Bob Bowman.
It is available through the East Texas Historical Association, Nacogdoches)
by Archie P. McDonald - Order Here
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