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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: The Hinterland

It's time for another peek into the archives ...

The Hinterland: Henderson’s Developing Frontier

Take a walk through downtown Henderson on a warm spring day. You may begin by the river, tranquilly pulsing with the motions of its rich blue waters. As you continue to historic Main Street near Central Park, you may take note of its blooming trees and abundance of fauna. By the time you reach Elm Street, you may notice the easy structural layout of the town’s streets.

What do you imagine Henderson was like in its frontier days over 200 years ago? According to the account of Samuel Hopkins, sent here in 1797 to survey and prepare the land for the Transylvania Company, the land, though wild and uncultivated, was not entirely unlike it is today, and though Hopkins encountered his share of agronomical and climatic complications, he had a positive and pioneering spirit. He writes in his report of the Red Banks (as Henderson was then known):

". . . in pursuing our course to the lower end of the town, we found ourselves within 50 feet of the first break of the bank. . . The descent is a fine sandy beach covered with a beautiful grove of trees. . . The fountains of water issuing from this bank are numerous and constant. . . The whole Town may be arranged into three classes – One third high and knobby – one third ridgy and dry – and one third nearly level. The last from the nature of the soil is wet and muddy from the fall of heavy rains, but not enough so, even the wettest, to prevent habitation with comfort."

Though it is likely that, upon first seeing the Red Banks, Hopkins foresaw the hard labour and months of planning that lay ahead of him, it appears evident that he also envisioned the opportunity in the land and the natural beauty of the would-be town.

To learn more about Henderson’s beginnings or to read the rest of the Samuel Hopkins report, come in and see us upstairs in the library. To see what our collection has to offer, visit our genealogy page here.

Read previous “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” posts.

Photo is Transylvania Society's original plan of Henderson County.)

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