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Capt. Francis Asbury Hendry

By Spessard Stone



Francis Asbury Hendry, for whom Hendry County, Florida was named, was a Confederate soldier, cattle king, and civic leader.

Francis Asbury Hendry was born November 19, 1833, about eighteen miles from Thomasville, Georgia. He was nicknamed "Berry" and appeared as such in several contemporary records. He was a son of James Edward Hendry and Lydia (Carlton) Hendry.

In 1851 James Edward Hendry, in search of new cattle range, moved his family to Hillsborough County, Florida and settled on the Alafia River, twenty-two miles east of Tampa. While on a return visit to Georgia to settle his business affairs, he died January 3, 1852 at the home of his brother, Robert McFail Hendry, in Thomas County. On November 5, 1854, Lydia Carlton Hendry married Benjamin Moody.

Francis Asbury Hendry married on March 25, 1852 Ardeline Ross Lanier, born May 10, 1835, Bulloch County, Georgia, daughter of Louis Lanier and Mary Lucretia (Ross) Lanier. Rev. J. M. Hayman officiated at Alafia in Hillsborough County.

In 1852 Francis moved from Alafia to Fort Meade and put his small herd of cattle east of the Peace River, and, in so doing, became among the first to move cattle east of the river. On April 19, 1852 he registered his mark and brand: crop and split in one ear, upper square in the other, brand A. Francis and Ardeline first lived in the garrison at Fort Meade, which was occupied by three companies of regular soldiers, some of whom had their wives and children with them.

After leaving the garrison at Fort Meade, he made his home about two miles north of Fort Meade on what became know as the "Berry Hendry Branch" of the Peace River, as opposed to the "Wash Hendry Branch," so named for his younger brother, George W. "Wash" Hendry.

About 1853, he made his first move to Fort Myers, which three years before in February 1850 had been established on the old breastworks of Fort Harvie, which was originally built November 4, 1841, but later abandoned on March 21, 1842. In 1854 as a guide to Lt. Henry Benson, he again visited Fort Myers to ascertain if it was practicable to open an overland through route to Fort Myers.

During the Third Seminole War, he enlisted as a private on February 18, 1856 in Capt. William B. Hooker's Indpt. Co., Fla. Mtd. Vols. and was mustered in February 21 at Fort Meade. "During the month of June, the company was employed on scout duty and a small detachment took an active part in the action of 14 & 16 on Pease Creek & in pursuit of the Indians," so recorded the War Department. He was mustered out with his company as a private on August 20, 1856 at Fort Meade. At the time of enlistment he was later described as being 23 years old, 6 feet 1 inch, with gray eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, and by occupation a farmer and stockraiser.

He enlisted as a private on August 22, 1856 in Capt. Leroy G. Lesley's Indpt. Co., Fla. Mtd. Vols. and was mustered in at Fort Meade. War Department rolls recorded as follows: "Sept. 1856, Alafia, Fla., employed in scouting. Jan. 1857, this command has been scouting on the western border of the Gulf Coast." He was mustered out with his company as a private on February 19, 1857. In an affidavit filed March 5, 1903 Francis gave as his tour of service February 18, 1856 to May 1858, having served in Hooker's Co. and two terms in Capt. Lesley's Co. National Archives records received by this writer had no record of his second enlistment. W. M. Hendry and Jehu J. Blount on January 17, 1903 both gave affidavits that Francis served from 1856-1858 in the Seminole Indian War.

On February 5, 1856 at Fort Meade, Capt. L. G. Lesley wrote to Governor James E. Broome, “Your Excellency-I have the honor to report...that the officers of my company are Streety Parker, First Lieutenant, and Francis A. Hendry, Second Lieutenant. Soldiers of Florida listed him as 2nd Lieutenant in Capt. Lesley's Co.

The family was enumerated at Fort Meade in the 1860 census of Hillsborough County. The 1860 Slave Schedule showed Francis had eight slaves while Louis Lanier owned seven slaves.

Francis was active in politics throughout his adult life. On October 27, 1857, he was selected to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners for a two-year term. He was one of the prime movers in the organization of Polk County, established February 8, 1861 by the division of Hillsborough and Brevard counties. In November 1861, he was elected a Polk County Commissioner.

Francis opposed secession, but cast his lot with the Confederacy. The Jacksonville Florida Times-Union of April 14, 1893 related (1864-65 records show him as a captain, not a major):

"When the war between the states was threatening, he cast his vote against secession but when it became inevitable, he at once enlisted in the cause of the Confederacy, was actively engaged for three years in the commissary department of Florida, furnishing large herds of cattle to the armies in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. In 1863 he organized a cavalry company, and was assigned to Col. J. C. Munnerlyn's battalion, Confederate states army. Did much hard and perilous duty, but was never engaged in any of the hard fought battles. He served much of the time with the rank of major and was in the army until the end of the war."

During the Civil War he did service in the commissary department. From Tampa on September 27, 1863, James McKay, Commissary Agent for the 5th Department of Florida, wrote Major Pleasant W. White:

“...I made out in sending 344 Head fair Beef Cattle off Mr Hendry on the 24th he tried hard to get Rid of driving, he said he would loose money, and after he had seen my averaging & purchaseing, he asked me if I would allow him to drive and deliver to Summers - - I thought this strange as all the people I purchased from present seemed highly satisfied, and said they were satisfied now, as no speculators had the matter in hand and that the prices were uniform and all got alike. This is what I always desired, as I know how jealous & suspicious they are, I had my own thoughts regarding Hendrys Remark or his desires and Replyed by asking how he would like to deliver 800 or 100 (?) Head of Cattle he spoke off to Stubbs at Madison C.H. and at what price. He after some time agreed to deliver them to Stubbs at 12 1/2 c/ gross delivered & averaged at Madison. This I thought Reasonable and asked that I would meet & contract with him on 3d or 4th Prox at Fort Mead when he stated he would have another drover Ready..”

He raised a cow cavalry company, commanded by himself, Capt. F. A. Hendry's Company A, Florida Special Cavalry, C. S. A., which was attached to Col. Charles J. Munnerlyn's Independent Battalion. Fort Myers, which had been abandoned at the end of hostilities in 1858, was reoccupied by Union forces in January 1864 and used as a base to make raids into the interior to gather cattle and recruit men. Capt. Hendry later estimated that 4,500 head of cattle was taken. Hendry's Co., headquartered at Fort Meade, was credited with helping to turn the tide in Southwest Florida with Union troops and sympathizers no longer able to operate at will or with impunity. In December 1864, his company numbered 131 men. In February 1865, Capt. Hendry, attached to Major William Footman Cow Cavalry, participated in the unsuccessful attack on Fort Myers. He served until his surrender at Tampa at war's end.

Major C. J. Munneryln, from Brooksville on December 10, 1864, wrote to Brig. Gen. Miller, Commander of the Dept. of Florida:

"Capt. F. A. Hendrys Co is at Fort Meade. This Co is the most efficient of all. It has done active scouting & has so punished the enemy on several occasions that Cattle stealing from Fort Myers has been stopped. Capt Hendry is a most valuable Officer. I have detailed him from his Co & placed him in command at Brooksville. All the companies except the first two being subject to his authority." (See "Old Papers Belonging to Capt. F. A. Hendry," file in Lee County, Fla. Circuit Court files, 1917, copied by Kyle VanLandingham, February 2001, and on Bamberg web site.)

Francis, a member of the Democratic Party, exercised a powerful influence in post war politics. He represented Polk County in the Second Constitutional Convention, convened at Tallahassee on October 25, 1865. The Jacksonville, Florida Union of December 16, 1865 in reporting his election to the 28th Senatorial District (Polk and Brevard counties) referred to him as "Berry" Hendry. He served 1865, 1866. On May 26, 1869, he was appointed to a board of public instruction for Polk County.

Francis rapidly expanded his cattle interests. The Tampa, Florida Peninsular of November 3, 1869 noted his $50,000 cattle purchase from Julius C. Rockner of Fort Meade. After purchasing additional cattle from Capt. D. Hughes of Bartow, he joined the cattle with those he already owned and drove 12,000 head across the Caloosahatchee River and pastured them on the prairies of Fort Thompson. In 1870, after disposing of his property at Fort Meade, he moved his family to Fort Myers where he chose as his home one of the abandoned officers' quarters, which he refurbished. The 1870 census of Monroe County, dated June 11, listed the Hendrys in the area northward & eastward of Camp Romano. Francis' occupation was given as a herdsman, with $2,000 in real estate, and $75,000 in personal property. He established contact with the Cuban market and was one of the first to ship cattle from Punta Rassa to Cuba, which necessitated the construction of wharves and pens. As early as 1876 he fenced in a tract of 25,000 acres to improve the grassland for fattening stock for market. Reputedly at one time, he had 50,000 head of cattle and was known as the "Cattle King of South Florida."

The New York Times of September 14, 1883, page 3, reported:
" TO EXPLORE THE EVERGLADES.
"NEW ORLEANS, Sept 13 - The Times-Democrat's expedition to the Everglades will assemble at Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 15, and proceed by rail to Cedar Keys, thence by steamer to Fort Myers and up the Caloosehatchee River, through the canals to Lake Okeechobee. A camp will be established for one week on Observation Island until preliminary surveys shall have been made and everything is in readiness for the trip. A direct course will be taken for Whitewater Bay to the Gulf coast. When the centre of the Everglades is reached a camp will be established for two weeks,and surveying parties will be sent out in easternly and westernly directions. The Everglades in their entire extent will be penetrated. The personnel of the expedition is Major A. P. Williams, of Florida; Col. F. G. Hopkins and Dr. James Kellum, graduates of the United States Naval Academy, and Col. F. A. Hendry, the cattle King of Florida. The expedition will take with them six Racine canoes, manned by eight colored men. "

In 1891, having previously moved to Fort Thompson about 1888, he began to dispose of his stock of cattle running on the range and bought and enclosed a large area of low marshlands on the borders of the Caloosahatchee River. There he placed Jersey and other improved breeds, which he crossed with scrubs, thereby developing a hardy, valuable strain. With one day's ride he could see and personally superintendent his stock. He turned the active administration of his stock interests to his sons and interested himself mainly in the experimental breeding of cattle and his citrus groves.

He continued to be active in civic activities. In 1895, he platted LaBelle, which he named for his daughters, Laura and Belle. He was chairman of the meeting, held in the school house at Second and Lee Streets, which resulted in the incorporation of Fort Myers on August 12, 1885. Elected to the first Town Council, he, as one of the first ten town officials, was thus one of the ten founding fathers of Fort Myers. In 1887 another meeting led in a petition campaign for the formation of a new county. Francis reminisced in 1908: "Well do I remember when the time came to organize a new county by the people of the mainland of Monroe County and the mass meeting held under the shade of the trees on the present school lot in Fort Myers. Proud indeed am I that when a name was discussed that I- even I-made a motion to name it in honor of the beloved Robert E. Lee. Well do I remember the enthusiasm in adopting that motion." He was selected to the first Lee County Board of County Commissioners. He served as state senator from the 24th district (Monroe and Manatee counties), 1875, 1877, and represented Lee County in the House 1893, 1895, 1897, 1901, 1903. He served on important committees and proved to be an active and influential member.

Francis on January 16, 1903 applied for a pension based on his service in Capt. Hooker's and Capt. Lesley's companies. He gave his address as LaBelle, Lee County, Florida. His claim was granted under certificate # 4150, and when he died he was receiving $20 per month. On October 1, 1907 he applied for a pension based on his service as Capt., Capt. Hendry's Company. W. M. Hendry of Capt. Parson's Co. and J. J. Blount of Capt. Hendry's Co. gave a joint affidavit of support. His claim was approved as pensioner # 6059 for $120 per year.

Francis in the final year of his life, probably for easy access to medical care, moved back to Fort Myers. There Francis Asbury Hendry died of chronic interstical nephritis on February 12, 1917 and was buried in the Frierson-Hendry Cemetery. He had been a member of the Methodist Church and a Mason. The Tampa Tribune eulogized: "Captain Hendry was a man of genial temperament, naturally cultivated, gifted with the power of making friends and keeping them, few men in the state were so widely known liked and trusted."

Ardeline R. Hendry on March 29, 1917 applied for a pension as the widow of Francis A. Hendry, who served in Capt. Hooker's Co., Indian War. She gave her address as Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida. Jehu J. Blount and William H. Towles, both of Fort Myers, gave supporting affidavits that they knew F. A. Hendry and Ardeline R. Hendry, respectively, for 64 years and 33 years. On August 27, 1917 Herbert J. Drane, Congressman of the 1st District, wrote a letter to expedite her claim. In part he stated: "I knew Captain Francis A. Hendry for twenty-seven years before his death. He was probably the best known individual in private life in the State of Florida and was a man highly respected and beloved by all classes. I have never had the pleasure of to know Mrs. Hendry, the claimant, but I know that the deceased soldier was a man of great hospitality, that he lived in happiness with his wife during all my lifetime in Florida (about 34 years), they kept open house and Mrs. Hendry has been known for a great many years by thousands of people in Southern Florida. Captain Hendry was a man of unimpeachable character, his descendants being numerous and his wife who is now an aged woman has the respect and affection of all who knew her." Under certificate # 8354 her claim was approved at the rate of $12 per month.

Ardeline Hendry died September 6, 1917 in Fort Myers. George W. Hendry had said of his sister-in-law: "She has ever been a woman of firmness and decision, yet gentle and affable. She has made Captain Hendry a life partner of the highest praise." Burial was in the Frierson-Hendry Cemetery.

Posthumously, Capt. Hendry was honored when a new county, the sixty-third, containing 764,911 acres, which was taken from Lee County, was named Hendry County with LaBelle as the county seat. Hendry County was established May 11, 1923.

Issue of Francis A. and Ardeline (Lanier) Hendry:

1. James Edward Hendry, born January 12, 1854; died July 10, 1915; married on June 17, 1875 Julia Isabel Frierson, daughter of Aaron Taylor and Mary Matilda (Wall) Frierson.

2. Louis Asbury Hendry, born April 19, 1856; died on December 31, 1928; married (1) November 1879, Ella Hester Frierson, daughter of Aaron Taylor and Mary Matilda (Wall) Frierson; (2) Mary W. Apthorp.

3. Laura Jane Hendry, born March 2, 1858; died May 10, 1895; married on June 22, 1873 Charles Waddy Thompson.

4. George Milton Hendry, born June 30, 1860; died on March 22, 1948; married on June 5, 1881 Willie Barineau.

5. Francis M. Hendry, born June 11, 1863; died June 6, 1941; married on March 24, 1889 Eleanor Murdock.

6. Virginia Lee Hendry, born August 20, 1866; died in October 1966; married on October 30, 1884 John Frederick Menge.

7. Carrie Belle Hendry, born March 8, 1869; died on June 20, 1966; married on December 30, 1887 Edward Lewis Evans.

8. Lucretia Pearl Hendry, born July 19, 1871; died 1938; married (1) September 5, 1888, Harry Higginbotham; (2) December 20, 1900, Edgar Carlton, son of Jeremiah and Eliza Jane (Langford) Carlton.

9. Julia Ellen Hendry, born November 22, 1874; died on June 6, 1875.

10. Mary Josephine Hendry, born September 23, 1876; died April 12, 1877.

11. Unnamed infant.

References: George W. Hendry, Family Record of Lydia Moody Nee Hendry Nee Carlton, 1900; "Old Papers Belonging to Capt. F. A. Hendry," filed in Lee County, Fla. Circuit Court files, 1917, copied by Kyle VanLandingham, Feb. 2001; pension applications of Francis A. and Ardeline Hendry, Florida Archives and National Archives; Soldiers of Florida, 1903; Francis P. Fleming, Memoirs of Florida, Volume 11, 1902; Karl H. Grismer, The Story of Fort Myers, 1949; Florence Fritz, Unknown Florida, 1963.

This profile is adapted from the author's features in South Florida Pioneers 33/34 (July/Oct. 1982), The Herald- Advocate of September 10, 1987, and John and William Sons of Robert Hendry, 1989.

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Copyright © 2002 - Updated: October 28, 2003 10:37 PM