JOHN P. HENDERSON is well known in financial circles not only as a part proprietor of the Bank of Virden, but as one of the prominent farmers and stock raisers of the county, owning and occupying a large and well ordered farm in Virden Township. He was born in Garrard County, Ky., January 15, 1833. His father was James Harvey Henderson, a Virginian by birth, coming of Scotch ancestry. He removed with his family to Kentucky in the early years of its settlement, and then went from there to Indiana in its territorial days, and located near Bloomington. There were but few whites in that part of the country then, and as the Indians were numerous and hostile, the whole neighborhood lived for some time in a fort.
The grandfather of our subject was a resident of Indiana during the War of 1812, and one of his brothers took part in that conflict and never was heard from afterward. In 1830 Grandfather Henderson came to Morgan County, Ill., and spent the "Winter of the Deep Snow" there. Soon after he took up his residence among the pioneers of Greene County, locating on a tract of timber and prairie land near Whitehall, where he spent the remainder of his life in improving a farm, dying in 1849. He married Nancy Provine, who died at the home of the father of our subject about two years after her husband's death.
James Harvey Henderson was very young when his parents removed to Indiana, where he grew to manhood. At the age of seventeen he began to learn the trade of a blacksmith, receiving sufficient money to clothe and board himself. At that time blacksmiths used to make chains, wedges, axes, hoes, and even the horse shoes and the nails with which to put them on. He worked evenings to make those things to sell, and in that way earned his first money, which was the basis of a fortune. After completing his apprenticeship Mr. Henderson returned to Kentucky and carried on his trade in that State. He married during his residence there, and in the fall of 1837, came to Illinois once again, bringing with him his wife and two children that had been born to them in Kentucky. The journey was made with a pair of oxen and a horse to lead, attached to a covered wagon, in which were all their earthly possessions.
Mr. Henderson located at Carrollton, then a small place, and became one of its pioneer mechanics, opening a shop for the purpose of carrying on trade, and operating it two years. At the expiration of that time he entered Government land six miles east of Whitehall. He erected a log house, also a smithy, and devoted a part of his time to his trade and the rest to his farm, residing there until 1853. About 1850 he came to Macoupin County and entered six hundred and forty acres of Government land in what is now Virden Township. In 1853 he took up his residence upon it, building his dwelling on section 10, and in the years that followed he devoted himself assiduously to improving his farm. In the fall of 1883 he died in the comfortable home that was the result of his unremitting toil. He was more than ordinarily fortunate in the prosecution of his calling, and had become one of the wealthy farmers of the county, whose name will ever be held in respect as that of one who aided in developing the riches of the county, and who, though not one of its earliest settlers, is deserving of a high place among its pioneers. The maiden name of his wife was Almira B. Reid, and she was a native of Kentucky. She departed this life on the home farm in Greene County in 1845, leaving three children, namely: Samuel B., who died in 1849; John P.; and Mary, who married John Woodson, and died at St. Louis in 1880, leaving two children, Julia and Alma.
In the pioneer schools of Greene County our subject received his education. These temples of learning were rudely furnished with benches made of puncheon, with wooden pins for legs, and without backs or desks. A log was taken out of the wall of the house to admit light. The country surrounding his early home in this State was in a wild condition, as the pioneers had not made much headway against the forces of nature at that period, and deer, wild turkeys and other game were plentiful. He was quite young when he began to assist his father in the farm work, and he continued to live with him until he attained manhood. In 1856 he turned aside from the calling to which he had been bred, to engage in the mercantile business at Virden, and carried it on there successfully the ensuring four years. In 1863 he decided to try his fortune in the golden State, and with fifteen others he started for the Pacific Coast in the month of April, taking quite a number of horses and mules to dispose of in California. The little party made the entire journey overland across the plains by the way of the Platte River Valley and Salt Lake. In the month of August our subject and his companions arrived at Marysville, where they disposed of their stock, and in December of the same year he started homeward by way of the Isthmus, arriving one month later.
After his return from California Mr. Henderson accepted the position of clerk to Sheriff Wills, who was then County Tax Collector. He remained with him two years, and then began to improve a farm west of Virden. In 1873 he sold that place and purchased the one on which he now resides of Dr. Orange B. Heaton. This farm contains four hundred and eighty acres of fine, well cultivated prairie land, well stocked with cattle and horses of high grade, and amply provided with buildings of a neat and substantial class, and all the modern appliances for carrying on agriculture to the best advantage.
Our subject is a man of large enterprise, and besides managing his extensive farming affairs very successfully, he is interested in the banking business. In 1887 he formed a partnership with B. F. Caldwell, E. D. Keys, W. T. Lewis and George J. Patterson, to establish the Bank of Virden, and he is still a member of four years, and is firmly founded in the confidence of the people, who regard it as one of our safest and best managed monetary institutions, and its credit is high wherever it has financial dealings.
The marriage of Mr. Henderson with Miss Maxie Z. Bronaugh was solemnized in January, 1867, and their happy wedded life has brought them one daughter, whom they have named Almira L. Mrs. Henderson is a daughter of John and Louisa (Poindexter) Bronaugh, of whom a sketch appears on another page of this work. Mr. Henderson is a man of sensible and sound views on all the important questions of the day, and is well dowered with tenacity of purpose, sagacious and independent judgment and other traits necessary to success in any vocation. He has not staid to question whether or no "life is worth living," but has done his best to make it so by doing his whole duty wherever placed. In his politics he is unswerving in his allegiance to the Democratic party. Both he and his good wife are exemplary members of the Christian Church, and are of high repute in their community.
A lithographic portrait of Mr. Henderson is presented on another page of this volume.