Virginia Knapp

HENDERSON, TEXAS. Henderson, the county seat of Rusk County, is on U.S. Highway 259, 138 miles east of Dallas near the center of the county. It was named for James Pinckney Henderson, the first governor of Texas, when the town was laid out in 1843. A post office was established there in 1846. The town grew rapidly during its first two decades, but a fire in 1860 destroyed most of the commercial buildings. The Henderson and Overton Branch Railroad was completed in 1877 and connected the agricultural center of Henderson with the International & Great Northern at Overton. At that time the population was 1,500. In addition to being a shipping center for agricultural products, in the nineteenth century Henderson was also a center for education, with a number of private schools. Among them were Henderson Female College (1849–66), Fowler Institute (1850–ca. 1861), Henderson Masonic Female Institute (1864–66), and Henderson Male and Female College (1871–90). In 1990 Henderson was the home of the Texas Baptist Institute and Seminary.

The great East Texas oilfield, discovered in Rusk County near Henderson in 1930, caused the population to increase from 3,000 in 1930 to 10,000 in 1933. The boom ended in the early 1940s and the population dropped to 6,437, but a legacy of twenty-eight manufacturing and service industries remained to sustain the town's economy. Boral Henderson Clay Products, the largest of these, manufactures face brick and tile. Henderson was incorporated in 1940 with the mayor-council form of city government. The present courthouse was built in 1928 near the town square, where the first courthouse was erected in 1849, destroyed in the 1860 fire, and rebuilt in 1878. In front of the present courthouse is the 1936 commemorative statue of Thomas J. Rusk, for whom the county was named.

Henderson has fifteen historical markers, among which are three Texas historic landmark homes: the Howard-Dickinson House, the M. Kangerga House, and the T. J. Walling Log Cabin. In 1984 the Victorian deluxe Arnold outhouse in Henderson was awarded a Texas historical marker, giving Henderson legitimate claim to fame as the location of the "Fanciest Little Outhouse in Texas." Other cultural institutions in Henderson include the Rusk County Memorial Library, the Depot Museum and Children's Discovery Center, and an outdoor heritage center. The Children's Discovery Center, where children could have a hands-on experience with artifacts and other educational materials, was the first of its kind in Texas. During the 1950s the population of Henderson gradually increased due to its location on the East Texas network of Class A highways and the subsequent arrival of new industries. By 1988 the population had reached 11,972, and the town had 306 businesses. In 1990 the population was 11,139, and in 2000 it was 11,273.

Rusk County History (Henderson, Texas: Rusk County Historical Commission, 1982). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Virginia Knapp, "HENDERSON, TX," accessed June 17, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/HEH01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox