The Will of James Henderson of Greene County, Tennessee ~ 1793

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY:  LaRae Rahm


NOTE:  There has been much controversy amongst Henderson researchers in regards to the James Henderson will & especially the line referring to his son John................

Esther M. Carroll:  In reviewing the handwriting of other parts of the documents, other words are capitolized within a sentence & there is very little punctuation or it appears to be in the wrong place. In the photocopies that I have  (which is a photocopy of the original document) there is NO PERIOD after the A in John A Brown.  However on the other handwritten copy (which has been transcribed by another person) there is a period after the A. giving the impression that it is an initial.

In the line referring to Hannah it appears to read, "I give and bequeth unto my beloved Wife Hanna one bay horse four years Oald and Saddle and all my [word illegible]"

The next line appears to me to read, "[word illegible] I give and bequeth unto my beloved Son John A Brown Mare and Coalt my Saddle and Gun." 

I have copied both sentences exactly as possible including/excluding punctuation & capitalizing the same words that are capitolized in the document & spelling the same way.  Also the words "beloved son John" are CLEAR in both documents. 

The next line comes from the second transcribed document:  "And lostly I do order that all the remainder of my Estate be equally divided amongst my wife and children"  

The only heirs James mentions by name in his will are his wife Hannah & his son John.


From:  Henderson descendant John Nash:

It is not my intent to reproduce the entire will in this message, but to
clear up a long-standing controversy and to bring attention a phrase
that I believe provides a clue to what happened to the land owned by
James Henderson.

The controversy has to do with a phrase that has been interpreted as "my
beloved son John a brown mare and coalt." OR "my beloved son John A.
Brown mare and coalt."

I have been one of those who was reasonably certain that it was John A.
Brown. This is not the case. It is quite clear that his "beloved son
John" gets a brown mare and colt. My apologies to John Hendersons
descendants, to Henderson researchers - and to all brown horses (I found
two references to brown horses in the Knoxville Gazette while looking
for evidence of the raid that killed James Henderson.)

Having said that, I must give some of the evidence that side-tracked me
and others, so that it will not happen again.

1) The county made  certified copies of the deteriorating will and other
county documents, especially deeds. This copy say explicitely "John A.
Brown", complete with a period after the letter "A". The curator told me
that these copies were made in the 1880's.  I had thought they were made
much earlier.

2) In viewing the original will it is much easier to see punctuation, or
lack of, and to see that the letter "A" or "a" between John and Brown is
lower case. It is not an upper case letter. Compare it to an "a" earlier
in the will and you can see this.

3) The "B" in Brown in the original will is capitalized. Compare it to
the "b" in "bay horse" three lines above and the distinction is clear.

4) There was in existence  a boy named John Brown, and he has been
linked to Ann Henderson who has been linked to James Henderson. This
link will be addressed in another message.

The other phrase that I find significant is unfortunately under the
scotch tape and the ink blot. My interpretation relies upon the
certified copy. I read it in this way: "And lastly I do order that all
the remainder of my estate be equally divided  amongst my wife and
children."

This refers to the land, a problem I will write about in another
message.

Researched in October 2002, in Greeneville, TN. The will was seen by
Dewey Henderson, Rand Henderson, and John D. and Mary Nash. It was
handled and explained by a gracious Curator - Don Miller


From Rand HendersonSome have argued that "Brown" can't refer to the horse as you don't call a horse "brown" but "bay," "chestnut" etc.  In order to get more insight on this theory, I ran it past my thirteen year old daughter Brianna -- our resident equestrian.  She came back some days later and reported that in some of her books on horses there are references to "brown" horses as a shade not described by "bay" or "chestnut."  Specifically, she pointed out that "The Complete Book of Horses by James Kerswell, Crescent Books 1993 on page 14 under "Color terms applied to horses" indicates that "Brown:  Dark brown to almost black.  Brown to black points."  In contrast it defines "Bay:  Basically brown in various shades from yellow to red but not dark brown.  The points -- extremities such as mane and tail -- are black."  Brianna also informs me that a colt can be three years and  under.  

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The curator at the Greenville Historical and Genealogical Library agrees with the assessment (while examining the original will) that the capitalization throughout the will lends credence to the argument that it is not a person "John A. Brown" but rather "to my son John A Brown Colt and Mare my saddle and gun."  The better copy also helps. 


At right is a picture of the original will of James Henderson which is at the Historical and Genealogical Library in Greeneville. The picture was taken by Rand Henderson in October, 2002 while he was on a research trip in Tennessee.   Rand states, "It was so exciting to be in the presence of a document over 200 years old that James signed!"

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