John Hardin McHenry


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John Hardin McHenry, deceased, late postmaster of Owensboro, son of John Hardin and Hannah (Davis) McHenry, was born in Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky, February 21, 1832. His father was born in Washington County, October 13, 1797, and died in Owensboro, November 1, 1871. He received his education, principally, from his father, and studied law under his uncle Martin D. Hardin, a distinguished lawyer of Frankfort, and was admitted to the bar in 1819. He began the practice of law at Leitchfield, where he was postmaster; and November 22, 1820, Governor Adair appointed him Major of the Eighty-seventh Regiment State Militia; and in 1821 Commonwealth attorney for the new judicial district, embracing Daviess, Henderson, Breckenridge, Ohio and Muhlenberg Counties. He removed to Hartford and entered upon the duties of this office, which he held until 1839, when he resigned. In 1840 he was elected to the legislature; January 26, 1843, was appointed by Governor Robert P. Letcher “on the advice of the Senate” a member of the Board of Overseers of Transylvania University. In 1845 he was elected to Congress from the Second District by the Whig party, to which he belonged. In 1849 he was a member of the State Constitutional Convention, representing Ohio and Hancock Counties.

He removed to Owensboro in 1853, where he continued the practice of law until the time of his death. He was a most able lawyer, a hard worker and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of all who knew him; and there were few men in the state who were more widely known or more universally beloved.

Hannah Davis McHenry, mother of John Hardin McHenry, was born November 4, 1800, in Virginia; was married in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, November 11, 1823; and died in Owensboro, July 23, 1862. She was a daughter of Henry and Frances (Randall) Davis. Frances Randall and a brother were left orphans at an early age. He was afterward in the United States Navy, and was drowned while trying to ford the Potomac River.

The children of Hannah Davis and John Hardin McHenry were as follows: Martin D. McHenry, Henry D. McHenry, William H. McHenry, Barnabas McHenry, John H. McHenry, Mrs. (Dr.) Hale, Mrs. Robert Craig, L. S. McHenry and W. E. McHenry.

A number of the Davis men, relatives of Mrs. McHenry’s father, were in the Revolutionary war; others served in the war of 1812; and those who came to Kentucky as pioneers endured great hardship and suffered much from the depredations of the Indians.

Barnabas McHenry (grandfather) was a native of Maryland, who came to Kentucky soon after the Revolutionary war and was a distinguished pioneer preacher who organized many of the Methodist Churches in Kentucky and the west. He was a very able man and was consecrated to his work. He died of cholera, June 15, 1833. His wife, Sarah Hardin, daughter of John and Jane Davis Hardin, died of cholera the next day after her husband’s death, June 16, 1833, and they were buried in one grave.

John Hardin (great-grandfather) was born October 1, 1753, and was killed by the Indians in 1792. When the first call for troops was made by the Continental Congress he recruited a company of soldiers and joined General David Morgan’s Rifle Corps; was in the march from Boston to Canada, and in every engagement of that Corps until 1780. At the battle of Saratoga he performed a distinguished service, for which he received publicly the thanks of General Gates. In 1792 he was sent by special order of General Washington on a mission of peace to the Indians in Northern Ohio (then territory) and was murdered by them. He was a son of Martin and Mary (Waters) Hardin.

Martin Hardin (great-great-grandfather) was a son of Martin Hardin, the French Huguenot. King George, through Lord Fairfax, granted a tract of land in Fauquier County, Virginia, to Martin Hardin, junior, in 1748, who made a will in 1799 and died in 1800, at his home in Fauquier County.

John Hardin McHenry was educated in Hanover College, Indiana; at Center College, Danville, Kentucky, and was three years at West Point. Returning to Kentucky, he studied law and was graduated from the law department of the University of Louisville in 1857. He began the practice of his profession with his father and later was in partnership with Judge W. T. Owen.

Mr. McHenry was one of the ten captains selected by lot by Governor Morehead, April 9, 1859, to go to Utah; but the trouble was settled by A. S. Johnson and R. E. Lee before he was called upon to perform his duty on that mission.

In 1861 he recruited the Seventeenth Kentucky Infantry for the Union army; and on the first day of October, 1861, was in the first engagement on Kentucky soil. His regiment was with General Grant at Fort Donelson and at Shiloh, and was afterward consolidated with the Twenty-fifth Kentucky Infantry, and the new regiment was placed under his command. When President Lincoln issued his first proclamation on the subject of emancipation in 1862, Colonel McHenry took issue with the Government, for which he was dismissed. He was greatly loved by his men, who regretted his departure from the service.

He returned to his home in Owensboro, and in 1863 was a candidate for Congress, but was defeated by George H. Yeaman. He made a contest for the seat, but it was given to Mr. Yeaman.

In 1881 and 1882 he took exceptions to the preference shown to ex-confederate soldiers by the state government in the matter of appointments; and he inaugurated the campaign known as the Union Democratic Movement, in which ex-Lieutenant-Governor R. T. Jacob received 75,000 votes for Governor. He was a Democrat until the nomination of James G. Blaine for President, when he became a Republican.

Mr. C. C. Watkins, having been appointed Postmaster of Owensboro by President Harrison, resigned his office, and Colonel McHenry was appointed Postmaster March 26, 1891; was confirmed by the Senate December 16, 1891, and died during his term of office, July 7, 1893.

For two years he was Grand Master, and at the time of his death was Past Grand Master Workman of the A. O. U. W. of Kentucky, a Mason and a member of the G. A. R.

Colonel McHenry was one of the best lawyers in Kentucky, a fine speaker and eloquent pleader, keen and alert in the management of his cases and a successful practitioner at the bar. He was an obliging and competent official, an ideal soldier and an honorable, upright citizen who won the respect and esteem of the entire community. He was universally popular throughout the state, in which he was a prominent figure during the greater part of his busy and useful fife.

Colonel John H. McHenry was married December 30, 1868, to Josephine Phillips, daughter of Joseph Francis and Elizabeth Sue (Simpson) Phillips, whose ancestry is traced back to one of the earliest settlements in the United States.

Joseph Francis Phillips, father of Mrs. McHenry, was born in 1809. His father’s name was William Phillips, who married a Miss Graham of Virginia, whose mother’s maiden name was Robinson. But to go back to the progenitor of the Phillips family in America: Rev. Joseph Phillips of Boxford, England, and his wife, Elizabeth, came to this country with Governor Winthrop and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts, in the early years of the seventeenth century, about 1630. Their children were Elizabeth, Abigail and Samuel, the last named of whom was a minister at Rowley, Massachusetts. His son, Theophilus, appears in 1686 as one of the guarantees of the Charter of Newton, Long Island, by Governor Dongan of New York. Philip Phillips, son of Theophilus, was born December 27, 1648, and removed to New Jersey, locating at Lawrenceville, about six miles from Trenton, and had three sons: Theophilus, born May 15, 1673; William, born January 27, 1676, and Philip, born December 27, 1678. The last named son was captain in a Hunterdon County regiment and was promoted to major in 1727, serving in the regiment commanded by Colonel John Reading, who was afterward Governor of New Jersey. Major Phillips died in 1740. His wife’s name was Elizabeth, and they had six children, Philip, Abner, Samuel, John, Esther and Ruth. Samuel (third son of Major Phillips) was the father of five children, Jonathan, Elias, John, Samuel and Asher. Jonathan, the eldest of these children, was a captain in the Second Regiment of New Jersey in the Continental army. He married Elizabeth Houston, sister of Honorable William Churchill Houston. Elias, the second son of Samuel Phillips, was adjutant of the First Regiment of Hunterdon Militia in the Revolutionary war. He married Elizabeth Phillips, his cousin, daughter of Colonel Joseph Phillips. John, the third son of Samuel Phillips, married a sister of Elizabeth, wife of Elias. Colonel Joseph Phillips (son of William and father-in-law of Elias and John) an officer in the Revolutionary war, was born 1708; died 1778. His children were: Abigail, wife of Captain Edward Yard; Mary, above mentioned; Frances, Elizabeth, above mentioned; William, and Dr. Joseph Phillips, who was a surgeon in the United States army and served with Generals St. Claire, Wayne and Wilkinson, and who died in Lawrenceville, N. J.

Previous to the Revolutionary war Colonel Joseph Phillips was captain of a company in the old French and Indian war, having left New Jersey in the party commanded by Major Trent.

William, his grandson, came from New Jersey; married in Virginia, and later settled at Frankfort, Kentucky, where he died in 1864. Under General William Henry Harrison fought at the battle of Tippecanoe November 7, 181 1.

Elizabeth Sue Simpson Phillips (mother of Mrs. McHenry) was a daughter of Benjamin and Pauline (Ballard) Simpson. Pauline Ballard was a sister of Andrew Jackson Ballard and Judge Bland Ballard, late of Louisville; and was a daughter of James and Susan Cox Ballard, who was a daughter of Sallie Piety Cox. Sallie Piety was a daughter of Lord Piety of Ireland. Mrs. McHenry’s mother often told of hearing her great-great-grandmother, Lady Piety, say to her daughter, all of the generations being present: “Arise, daughter, and go to thy daughter, for thy daughter’s daughter hath a daughter.”

James Ballard, great-grandfather of Mrs. McHenry, was a brother of Bland Ballard, the celebrated Indian fighter, and their father’s name was Bland Ballard, a Colonel in the Revolutionary war; and prior to the war was an inspector of tobacco in Virginia, by appointment of the Crown of England.

Source: Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. John M. Gresham Company, Chicago, Philadelphia, 1896. Courtesy of the Daviess County Bicentennial Committee