One of the highlights of my family reunion was reconnecting after many years with members of the Alex Henderson branch of the family. One of Alex’s granddaughters had displayed photos of members of this branch at the first reunion back in 1990, and I’ve been trying to get copies ever since. Many thanks to cousin E.B.H., who brought them to the meet-and-greet Friday evening and allowed me to make copies.
The 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County, North Carolina lists my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Henderson, 52, carpenter, with his second wife Eliza, 25, and children Anna J., 8, Susan, 6, Hepsie, 4, and Alexander, 1. By the 1870 census, the family had moved about ten miles southeast to Faisons township, Duplin County: James Henderson, 52, farmer, wife Eliza and children Ann, 17, Susan, 16, Hepsey, 14, Aleck, 13, John H., 11, Nancy, 6, and Betty, 3, plus James’ son (by his first “wife”) James, 27, and boarders James Ammons and Thomas Cox. In the 1880 census of Faisons, Duplin County: James Henderson, 62, wife Eliza, and children Alexander, John, Nancy, Julia, Edward, and Lewellen.
On 19 March 1884, Alex married Mary Odom in Faison, Duplin County. The marriage register lists him as a resident of Wayne County, a few miles north. Witnesses to the ceremony included Isham R. Smith, who had married Alex’s younger sister Nancy in 1881, and James Henderson. (His father or his brother?)
Alex and Mary settled in Mount Olive, Wayne County, where they are found in the 1900 census: Alex Henderson, 39, farmer; wife Mary, 35; children Willie, 17, Mary J., 11, Theo., 9, and Connie, 6; a lodger and three boarders. However, Alex was set to become the only one of James Henderson’s sons to leave farming, and the 1906 Goldsboro city directory lists him and his oldest son Will Henderson as laborers living at 615 North George Street.
Will had married Susan “Sudie” or “Susie” Budd, daughter of John and Alice Budd, on 26 December 1903. His sister Mary Jane was the next of Alex’ children to marry, tying the knot with Robert Wooten of Lenoir County on 24 February 1906 at her father’s house. A “Holy preacher” performed the ceremony and her first cousin Oscar Smith, son of Nancy Henderson Smith, were witnesses. (Another witness, John H. Smith, may have been Nancy’s son Johnnie.)
By 1910, Alex and his three-generation family had settled into a house at 762 North James, just inside Goldsboro’s northern city limits. The census of that year shows Alex Henderson, 50, laborer on city streets; wife Mary, 44; son William, 23, felt factory laborer; William’s wife Susie, 23, laundress; daughter Mary Jane Henderson, 21, and her husband Robert, 27, hostler, and son Percy, 3 [this family’s last name was actually Wooten]; William’s sons Johnnie, 5, and William, 2; Alex’ son Theodore, 18, laborer at Goldsboro Buggy Company), and daughter Carnie, 16, nurse for a private family), plus five male boarders. [Oddly, as shown in this image from the 191x Sanborn map of Goldsboro, 760 and 762 North James were located between 704 and 712 and across from 709. The house is no longer standing, and the area is now primarily light industrial. Saint Stephen Baptist Church, however, has moved a few blocks north and is still attended by Henderson family members.] Later that summer, Mary Jane and Robert’s unnamed six-day-old infant died of convulsions. Mary’s aunt Nancy’s husband Isham Smith, an undertaker, buried the baby.
The 1911-12 Goldsboro city directory shows that Alexander, Connie, Theodore and William Henderson continued to share the house on North James Street, by then renumbered as 708.
In October 1911, Connie Henderson gave birth to her only child, Roland Alexander Smith. Just before Christmas, 1913, Connie married Roland’s father John A. Smith, 21, son of Jacob and Cora Smith, at the Presbyterian Church in Goldsboro. Reverend Clarence Dillard performed the ceremony, and one of the witnesses was Connie’s in-law James Guess, an undertaker who was married to her cousin Annie Smith Guess, daughter of Isham and Nancy Henderson Smith.
In February 1916, Alex’ younger son Theodore, 22, married Bettie Hargrove, 20. Four months later, on 13 June, Alex Henderson was dead. Nephew-in-law James Guess buried him in Elmwood, Goldsboro’s African-American cemetery.
In the 1920 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: at 710 James Street, widow Mary Henderson, 54; son-in-law Robert Wooten, 40; daughter Mary Wooten, 30; their children Leroy, 12, George, 7, and Joseph, 2; grandson Roland Smith, 8; and four roomers. Little Roland was listed again in the home of his parents John and Connie Smith at 346 Thompson Street. Will had finally moved his family out of the “home house,” and he, Susie, and children John, Willie and Mary Alice are found at 219 East Vine Street in Goldsboro. Theodore is not listed in the census that year.
Mary J. Odom Henderson died 7 September 1926 in a hospital in Goldsboro after undergoing surgery for a strangulated hernia. Her death certificate reports that she was 60 years old and born in “Simpson” County. Her son Will Henderson was informant, and her husband’s nephew-in-law James Guess buried her in Elmwood.
At some point before 1930, the Smith family cast off into the Great Migration, fetching up in New Britain, Connecticut. In the census that year, John A. Smith, 39, wife Constance (“Connie,” no longer), 34, and son Roland, 17, shared a home at 311 East Enoch Street with another family, paying $18 a month. John worked as a laborer in a garage. Back in Goldsboro, Robert Wooten, 42, wife Mary Jane, 39, and their children Leroy, 22, George R., 18, Joseph, 13, Harrell, 7, Cleveland, 4, Mary E., 5, and Ruth A., 11 months, shared their household with three boarders, one of whom was the peripatetic “Rowland” Smith, 19, Connie’s son. Theodore Henderson was living in Goldsboro at 210 Brazil Street with a wife named Sudie, rather than the Bettie he married in 1916. He worked in cotton storage. William’s family seems to have been passed over by enumerators in 1930.
Connie H. Smith and son Roland A. Smith, n.d.
Theodore Henderson was the first of Will and Susie’s children to pass away. He died of knife wounds on 15 November 1936 at the age of 45. His death certificate states that he was born in Duplin County to Elex Henderson and Mary Odom, both of Wayne, and married to Bettie Henderson. Cousin James Guess buried him in Elmwood cemetery.
The 1940 census found Will and Susie Henderson and their daughter Margaret trying their fortunes further afield. They appear in Danville, Virginia, renting a house at 625 Upper Street. Will had found work cleaning machines at a mattress factory and reported to the enumerator that the family had been living in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1935. The Smiths remained in New Britain, Connecticut, one of a handful of African-American families on Oak Street. The family occupied a second-floor apartment at #55, and John worked as a molders helper at an electrical factory while Roland was a garage handyman and Constance tended to matters at home. Robert and Mary Jane Wooten were still in Goldsboro, living at 908 North Centre Street with their children Harold, Mary E., Cleveland, and Angeline.
Rev. William H. Henderson died 6 December 1959 at his home at 712 North John Street, Goldsboro, of cerebral apoplexy. His death certificate notes that he was born 1 December 1878 to Alaxander Henderson and Mary Odom and was married to Susie B. Henderson. The informant was his daughter Margaret Brown of 826 North Center, Goldsboro. He was buried in Lightner cemetery, just south of Goldsboro in the Mar-Mac community. (James Guess had died two years earlier and thus ended his long years of service to his wife’s extended family.)
Will Henderson, 1937.
Susie Budd Henderson died 20 November 1964 at her daughter Margaret’s home at 826 North Centre Street. Her death certificate reports that she was born 20 June 1891 to John Budd and Alice Jones. She was buried 22 November 1964 at Lightner cemetery.
Susie Budd Henderson, 1937.
R.W.B., only living grandchild of Alex and Mary Odom Henderson, July 2016.
Many thanks to Will and Susie Henderson’s granddaughter E.B.H. for copies of old photos of Alex’ descendants. I took the photo of Cousin R. last week at our family reunion. — LYH