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 Texas.
The dispute arises because Henderson maintained law offices in both
This might be a good resolution: San Augustinians went to the trouble
and expense of erecting an equestrian statue of Henderson on their
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
Next 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 in 1847.
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.
June 9, 2002 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald
is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on