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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Greenville Henderson of Henderson's Mill Fame

Following is a biography, written by Paul K. Graham, of Greenville Henderson, one of the earliest settlers in the Tucker area, and founder of the Henderson Mill.  In it you will find some very interesting details about the early history of this area. This article is being posted here at the request of one of CoTI's most valued members.  I do not know the original source.

I am also posting a fascinating early map of the Tucker area, which was first drawn (I believe) by a Union officer in 1864, around the time of the Battle of Atlanta.  You will note the map locates Henderson's Mill, Browning's Court House and Stone Mountain

This marker is on Henderson Mill Road, just south of where it intersects with Midvale Road.  It is on the west side of Henderson Mill, close to the exit from the St. Bede's Episcopal Church parking lot. 

Greenville Henderson

By Paul K. Graham
April 2002

Greenville Henderson lived in DeKalb County, Georgia for almost 45 years, becoming the anchor of a small farming community between the modern day towns of Chamblee, Doraville, and Tucker. Today, his legacy is visible by making the short trip north on Henderson Mill Road from Northlake Mall, past Henderson Mill Elementary School, across Henderson Creek to Henderson Road and Henderson Middle School.

At work he was a miller, farmer, beekeeper, and sheepherder, at one time owning more than 2600 acres of land stretching from Evans Road to Northlake Mall. He was a slave owner. At church he was a deacon, clerk, and representative to the local Baptist association. At home he was a husband, a father of seven, and grandfather to more than fifty. He was active in local political affairs, serving as the local militia captain and as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

Greenville was born on 10 November 1792 in South Carolina. Very little is known about Greenville’s early life because no record has been discovered that specifically names his parents or any of his parents' family. A story passed down through the Henderson family and attributed to Greenville himself is that he was sent to Wilkes County to live with an uncle named Tom. The name Tom must have been important to Greenville because his first son was named Thomas.

The recorded history of Greenville’s life begins on 25 February 1813 when he married Nancy Barnett in Morgan County, Georgia. Over the next thirteen years, the routine aspects of Henderson’s life in Morgan County are recorded on tax digests, in two land transactions, and in the administration of the estate of John Henderson, out of which Greenville bought a young colt for five dollars. In 1823, Greenville was the administrator of the estate of his wife’s father, Zadock Barnett.

Henderson joined the Georgia Militia in November 1814, one month before the diplomatic end of the War of 1812. His enlistment was not dictated by a desire to defeat the British. All able men were members of the militia during this pioneer period and, with the Creek nation close by, the militia was a defensive army providing security to the settlers. Greenville’s enlistment at age 22 was a response to the practical and social requirement to help protect the community’s security.

Henderson served as a private under the command of Captain Henry Lane, who was in turn commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Jones, a hot-headed officer who was later court-martialed for using the militia (including Henry Lane’s men) to intimidate Governor Peter Early of Georgia in November 1814. A short story of this event is recounted in James C. Bonner’s Milledgeville, Georgia’s Antebellum Capital.

Greenville was discharged on 4 May 1815 at Fort Hawkins in central Georgia. According to military records, Henderson later served as a commissioned officer in his local Georgia Militia Districts. He was a lieutenant from April 1817 to May 1818, and from November 1820 to March 1824 he served in the same company as a captain.

Greenville served in the militia a final time as the captain of Georgia Militia District 572 (now called Browning’s District) in DeKalb County from June 1827 to March 1831. As an officer of a local militia company, Greenville was responsible for maintaining the readiness of his men, but there is no record of his companies being called up for service at any time.

Greenville and Nancy had seven children, six of which were born in Morgan County: Thomas, Major A., John B., Rufus, William Griffin, Irena, and Martha (in DeKalb County).

Greenville moved his family from Morgan County to DeKalb County in late 1825 or early 1826, during DeKalb’s pioneer period. He had purchased land in DeKalb County in 1823 and spent almost three years preparing his homestead along what is now known as Henderson Creek, at the intersection of modern day Henderson Mill Road and Midvale Road near Tucker.

Greenville and Nancy became members of Nancy Creek Primitive Baptist Church soon after they moved to DeKalb County. Nancy was “received by experience” on 3 May 1829 and Greenville joined the next week. Greenville “applied for letters for himself, wife” in August 1829 and was granted dismissal from the congregation.

On 15 August 1829, four days after Nancy and Greenville left Nancy Creek, they became founding members of Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church. Greenville was voted to be a deacon of the church and a representative to the Yellow River Baptist Association. He was the church clerk from September 1833 until February 1835 when he and Nancy left Fellowship Baptist and returned to Nancy Creek.

Back at Nancy Creek, Greenville continued to serve as a deacon and as a representative to other area churches. Greenville and Nancy remained at Nancy Creek the rest of their lives.

In 1853, Greenville was elected to the House of Representatives of the State of Georgia and he spent the winter of 1853-1854 in Milledgeville, Georgia. It was during this session that the General Assembly approved the creation of Fulton County from DeKalb County. He was a member of the Committee on Banks and the Committee on Finance and introduced a handful of minor bills, including an “act to provide for the payment of Nathan Center, of the county of DeKalb, a teacher of the poor children in said county, in the years 1850, 1851, and 1852.”

The Civil War had a direct impact on Henderson. All five of his sons enlisted. Most of the family's men fought, including his sons-in-law, grandsons, and grandsons-in-law. The exact tally is still incomplete and each family member's service records are still being compiled.

Thomas Henderson was seriously wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness in Western Virginia and died almost two months later because of wound-related disease. He is buried in Confederate Cemetery in Lynchburg, VA. Greenville’s grandson Greenville A. Henderson, son of Major A. Henderson, was involved in difficult troop movements in territory that would become West Virginia and died in Camp Bartow from pneumonia in August 1861, only three months after he enlisted. Three of Greenville’s granddaughters lost their husbands, including Parthina Henderson Gresham, who's husband Josiah was killed at Antietam, most likely sometime between 6am and 9am during fighting in the Cornfield or East and West Woods.

The Civil War not only claimed the lives of many family members, it came to Greenville’s house. During the Battle of Atlanta, Major General John Logan stopped his Fifteenth Corp at Henderson’s home and mill on the way to Decatur to feed and water his horses and rest his men.

Greenville died on 14 August 1869 and is buried in Greenville Henderson Cemetery along Henderson Mill Road. At the time of his death, he had 6 surviving children and 55 grandchildren. Some moved west to Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, but a considerable number of Greenville’s descendants stayed in the Atlanta region.

During his 77 years, Greenville was a pioneer, landowner, and community leader and witness to war with Britain, with Indians, and with his own countrymen. It was his continuous and active presence in the same location for 45 years that helped forge a community of farmers centered on the Henderson lands separate from the local town of Cross Keys and long before the creation of Chamblee, Doraville, or Tucker.


  1. Graham wrote a fascinating update a year later, knocking down several myths about Greenville Henderson, in particular, the land grant and "3,000 acres" myths:

    1. Any more info would be greatly appreciated. For the last of the so called 3000 acres is about to be sold. I believe I am a direct relative of Greenville Henderson.