It's time to take another peek into the archives ...
Ol' Man RiverFrom the time Henderson was founded and throughout its history, the Ohio River has been an essential part of its culture. When members of the Transylvania Company chose the land, they accounted for the utility of the river, and, because of its commercial navigability and the water it provides, the river is still a source of life for most Hendersonians. There has perhaps been no other era in its history, though, when Henderson was more dependent on its river society than in the steamboat era. Imperative to Henderson’s prosperity during that time was the work of rivermen like Captain Charles G. Perkins.
In 1861, Captain Perkins enlisted as a river patrolman in the United States’ navy and was quickly promoted to the rank of Captain of the gunboat, the Brilliant. Though, as a native Ohioan, he sided with the Union in the Civil War, he made friends with southern sympathizers in Henderson by sparing fire on the city, by frequently docking there, and by returning runaway slaves. The citizens eventually began to appreciate Captain Perkins as a protector of their city, and in November 1863, Perkins married a local girl by the name of Annie Terry. From that point, he made his home in Henderson.
At the conclusion of the war, Charley Perkins continued his career as a riverman and saw much of the success that other local boatmen experienced. He purchased a home on North Elm Street and spent several years and a large sum of money making home improvements. He and his bride produced seven children and enjoyed the remainder of their lives in Henderson and in Evansville, Indiana. He loved the river, which, because of its rapidly expanding commercial interests, brought considerable prosperity to the region and fulfillment to his family.
C. G. Perkins’ most notable Henderson home still stands at 116 North Elm Street.
To read more about Captain Perkins’ adventures during the Civil War and his life in Henderson, feel free to visit us at the library, or check out the following books:
History of Henderson County, Kentucky by E. L. Starling
Currents: Henderson’s River Book by Gail King and Susan Thurman
You can also check out our genealogy page or read previous “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries.
Image is of the steamer, the John S. Hopkins, which carried the deceased Captain C. G. Perkins from his last home in Evansville, Indiana, to Henderson, where he rests in Fernwood Cemetery. Thanks to Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana for this image.