WAS WILLIAM BENTON HENDERSON?
Oct. 19, 1870 - THE SOUTH FLORIDA MALE & FEMALE
INSTITUTE AND ITS BOARD OF TRUSTEES
The board of trustees of the South Florida Male &
Female Inst. private school consisted of well-known
and successful businessmen of the community. The ad
even advised that good boarding could be obtained in
the homes of private families at moderate rates.
(Back then, "South Florida" referred to the entire
peninsula portion of the state, excluding only the
The same ad repeated
Nov. 2, 1870 and every week through ---.
Dr. Franklin Branch (1802-1882) was
early druggist, SE corner of Florida and
Washington, and owner of the Branch Opera House
on Franklin St.; son Darwin Austen Branch was
mayor from 1857 to 1858.
William Benton Henderson (1839-1909),
one of five children of Andrew Hamilton
Henderson who came to Hillsborough County in
1846. W.B was founder of an early store
with Captain John Miller, editor of the Florida
Peninsular and developer of Tampa Heights,
Tampa's first suburb.
Edward Austin Clarke came to Tampa in
1853, was married to a daughter of Dr. Franklin
Branch, then married to a daughter of Judge
Perry G. Wall. Clarke was first mayor of Tampa
after the Civil War, a big investor in real
estate and was the Clarke in "Clarke & Knight"
hardware store until Perry Wall II turned 21 and
took his place as "Knight & Wall".
WILLIAM BENTON HENDERSON, EIGHT-TIME TAMPA
August 1876 – August 14, 1877
August 14, 1878 – August 13, 1879
August 13, 1879 – August 14, 1880 (
August 12, 1881 – August 14, 1882
August 14, 1882 – August 14, 1884
August 13, 1885 – July 15, 1887
July 15, 1887 – March 8, 1888
March 4, 1891 – March 4, 1892
bio on W. B. Henderson was sourced and
The City Council of Tampa and
Celebration of Old City Hall's
project of the City of Tampa, 7th
Edition - December 2018.
TAMPA HEIGHTS: TAMPA’S FIRST RESIDENTIAL
SUBURB, By Marston C. Leonard
THE SUNLAND TRIBUNE Volume IV No.1 Nov.
1978, Journal of the TAMPA HISTORICAL
History of the City and the Tampa Bay
Region of Florida,
by Karl H. Grismer, edited by D. B.
Genealogical Records of Tampa Pioneers,
and some who came after, Charles E.
The Blue Book and History of Tampa
Pioneers, by Pauline Brown-Hazen, 1914.
History of Hillsborough County, by E. L.
Robinson, 1928 at
the University of S. Florida Digital
William Benton Henderson, 1891
Photo from Florida Memory, State Library
& Archives of Florida
September 17, 1839 in Jackson County,
Georgia, William B. Henderson came to Tampa
at the age of seven with his parents.
Alexander Hamilton Henderson and Flora
Olivia McDonald arrived in Oct. 1846 with
their four young boys: William Benton, John
Alexander, James Fletcher, and Andrew
Augustus; William was the oldest. At the
time, Tampa consisted of the Fort Brooke
military post and a small trading station
with a sparse population of civilian
settlers on the north side of the post, most
of whom were merchants supplying the fort
personnel. A couple of years after
arriving, Alexander and wife Olivia had one
more son: Wesley P. Henderson, in 1848.
have the advantage of an early school
training. His father died in 1852, so
being the eldest child of a large family, he
assumed the responsibilities of self-support
and of making his own way at the early age
of twelve years, He took a job in Kennedy &
Darling's general store to help support his
mother and his four younger brothers.
On Feb. 9.
1860, when he turned 21, he married Caroline
Elizabeth Spencer, a sister of Sheriff and
newspaper editor Thomas K. Spencer. Thomas
and Caroline were children of Palma Ceia
homesteader William Samuel Spencer. W.B and
Caroline then bought a small farm on the
Alafia River and there W.B. opened a small
general store. He continued merchandising
and farming until the outbreak of the. Civil
War a year later.
W.B. and his young wife,
Elizabeth Spencer, with his two youngest
brothers Augustus and Wesley.
Civil War, W.B. served first in Capt.
(judge) James Gettis’ Company D of the 7th
Florida Regiment. He went with this company
to Kentucky and saw service there for about
a year, when he was discharged because he
had become ill with tuberculosis. He
returned to Tampa and when recovered, he
immediately reapplied to the Sec. of War for
reappointment, but the response was slow in
coming so he enlisted in Capt. John T.
Lesley's company in Tampa. When Capt.
Lesley was severely wounded, Henderson took
command until the CSA surrendered. W.B.
named one of his sons "Gettis Augustus" in
honor of Capt. James Gettis.
developed unusual talents in business
affairs and financial management. After the
war, he engaged in the cattle trade and
stock raising business for the next 10
years, by which he accumulated a handsome
W.B., a stock raiser, wife
Caroline E, son Gettis A. Henderson.,
daughter Blanche, daughter Cora,
cook Ema Harrison, and probably her three
daughters Sarah (servant), Malica, and
It was a
conspicuous peculiarity of W.B's businesses
that although he was the real head and the
responsible financial backer of most of
them, his name never appeared in the chief
place as the senior partner or head of the
1870s, bought an interest in Captain John
Miller's steamboat and mercantile business,
forming the partnership of Miller &
Henderson, which became Tampa’s largest
store. With Miller he also founded the Tampa
Steamship Company. Together, the steamship
and mercantile business dominated Tampa’s
commercial contact with the outside world,
largest wholesale and retail grocery
business in the southern half of the state.
They also owned a number of steamships and
sailing vessels that plied the Gulf waters,
and in those days furnished almost the only
means enjoyed by the people of Tampa and
this section of the state of communication
with the outside world. W.B.
was a diversified and dynamic promoter: he
introduced Durham bulls into the Florida
cattle industry; he built Tampa’s first
telegraph line; he started the banana trade
with Central America, started Tampa's first
suburb and was one of the founders of
Tampa's first hook & ladder company.
This ad below
was one column, top to bottom of the page.
The unused vertical space has been removed
and the ad split into 3 columns.
partnership with Capt. Miller had continued
about ten years, when the Tampa Commercial
Company was organized with Mr. Henderson as
President and A. C. Wuerpel as
general manager. The Taliaferros, Stocktons
and D. G. Ambler, of Jacksonville were also
stockholders in this company.
TAMPA'S FIRST HOOK & LADDER FIRE COMPANY
Wuerpel came to Tampa from New Orleans with
his wife and four children in the early
1880s. He and W.B. Henderson were prime
movers in another* effort to start Tampa's
first organized fire department which
consisted of volunteers. On June 2, 1884,
sixteen local citizens formed Hook & Ladder
Company No.1, a volunteer department with W.
B. Henderson as foreman, Fred Herman,
assistant foreman, and C. P. Wandell,
treasurer. Other members were P. F. Smith,
Dr. Duff Post, Ed Morris, J. C. Cole, E. L.
Lesley, Phil Collins, S. P. Hayden, Frank
Ghira, H. L. Knight, A. J. Knight, C. L .
Ayres, S. B. Crosby and A. P . Brockway. In
1885, August C. Wuerpel was appointed
to be the department Chief.
Read more about A. C.
Wuerpel and the start of Tampa's first fire
company here at this TampaPix feature
Five or six
years later, on the dissolution of the Tampa
Commercial Co., W.B. retired from active
business and channeled his energies into
financial investments and public service.
But he still retained interests in various
enterprises and became identified with
others: the Tampa
Harness and Wagon Co., a partnership
with Henry Clay Giddens of the Henry
Giddens Clothing Company, selling men’s
apparel. With real estate investor William
H. Beckwith, they founded Beckwith &
Henderson, a real estate firm which
later became Beckwith, Henderson and Warren.
This active involvement brought him even
*A similar effort was begun in 1869 by a
committee, with officers of the company
chosen, but that was about as far as it got.
Was Ansel Watrous?"
as presidents of the: Bank of West Tampa,
West Tampa Land and Improvement Company,
Tampa Building and Loan Association, Tampa
Publishing Company (consolidating two local
papers into the Tampa Times), Tampa’s first
Railway Company, for ten years W.B. was the
president of the State Board of Health,.
Henderson's home on 7th Ave, in
built a large house, complete with
observation turret, on the bluff at Tampa
Heights, he was soon surrounded by so many
business and family associates that the two
block section of Seventh Avenue East
resembled a Henderson corporate center which
would heavily influence Tampa’s economic
growth for many years.
of Tampa’s identifiable sections, Tampa
Heights was an area of many small
subdivisions, established by original
homesteaders or developers. Most of the
early homes were constructed by individual
contractors and while the area had its share
of land speculators, the Heights was
designed for Tampans with little newspaper
promotion and attractions for Northern
winter visitors. Perhaps the four block
Tampa Heights subdivision, created in
September of 1889, by William Benton
Henderson, best reflected the growing
prestige of Tampa Heights in the last decade
of the nineteenth century.
as prominent in the social and political
life of Tampa as in its financial
affairs. Though he might have easily
attained prominent positions in the
politics of the state, it was well known
that he never sought political office
nor accepted a salaried position at the
hands of the public. He always declined
and devoted his activities in that line
to local and county matters, and his
efforts were always directed toward
securing good government and an honest
and fair administration of the Jaws.
The only state office that he ever held
was that of member of the State Board of
Health, as its first president.
several years W.B. was the Chairman of
the County School Board, and numerous
terms as City Councilman.
He was several times a member and
chairman of the Board of County
Commissioners of Hillsborough Co., in
which position his financial ability was
largely instrumental in promoting the
prosperity and upbuilding the material
fortunes of this section.
He served a
total of eight terms on Tampa’s City
prominent in the church's affairs, being
for many years a steward and liberal
contributor to the finances of the First
Methodist Church, of which he was a
member and trustee. He was chairman of
the building committee that supervised
the construction of the present 
house of worship of that church. He was
a trustee of the church from the time of
the commencement of his membership. He
loved his church and was interested in
all the would make it succeed. He not
only gave of his wealth in capital, he
gave it his thought, time and attention.
W.B took a
prominent part in fraternal and other
organizations. He was a member of the Order
of Odd Fellows, a Mason, and a Confederate
Veteran. He also belonged to the Tampa
Yacht and Country Club.
largely interested in the orange business
for many years. At one time he owned nine
groves, totaling 85 acres in fruit-bearing
trees. He owned property all over South
Florida. In De Soto, Manatee and
Hillsborough counties, he owned 8,000 head
of cattle; he was undoubtedly the principal
shipper of cattle to Cuba from Florida for
also one of the founders of Tampa’s Board of
Trade in 1885, being a part of it for over
25 years, and through all those years, he
was one of the most active and steadfast
workers in promoting its interests.
W. B. HENDERSON
W.B. died on May 7, 1909 in Dwight,
Illinois. He had gone there to recover at
"a well known sanitarium" from what was
described as "a nervous breakdown."
relationship between him and the schools of
the County and of Tampa were always very
intimate to him, and as an appreciation of
what he had done to promote education in the
county, all the public schools were closed
the day of his funeral, which was held on
May 10, 1909 in Tampa. It was one of the
largest ever held in Tampa. The Rev. W. J.
Carpenter, Pastor of the First Methodist
Church, conducted the service at the church
taken from his eulogy:
"History is made up of the acts and
deeds of men and women. The growth of
the city, state or nation is the
crystallized history of those who have
been the leaders of its progress and the
champions of its development.
Biography, expressed in the
intellectual, commercial, social, and
religious growth of a people makes the
history of that period of that people.
Those, who in their public acts and in
their progressive ideas reflect the
growth and sentiments of their people,
are the real makers of history.
To attempt to eliminate the
individual from the movements of
civilization is to fail to truthfully
record the real facts of history. How
true these observations are is most
forcibly illustrated in the life and
achievements of our friend and fellow
citizen, W. B. Henderson. No man can
write the history of Tampa or of South
Florida and leave his name out; and it
is equally true that the biography of W.
B. Henderson cannot be truthfully
written without writing a large part of
the history of the growth and
development of Tampa and of South
From his obit: "While
never aspiring to the position
of boss, it was recognized in
the county for many years that
two men could swing its
sentiment for a candidate and
that their approval was almost
equal to election. One was Col.
Henderson, and Capt. John T.
Lesley was the other."
Read his whole obit, it is long.
(When it opens, click it again
to see it full size.)
HENDERSON FAMILY OF
John G. Henderson, a native of Ireland, was the
progenitor of the early Tampa Hendersons. He came to
this country when a young unmarried man with his
father and brother who settled in South
Carolina. John G. settled in Franklin Co, GA where
he purchased a homestead in 1807 and lived there for
the remainder of his life. By his first wife
he had four children, by his second wife, Margaret
Collins, he had five children. Andrew Hamilton
Henderson was their fourth child.
Andrew H. Henderson
(1815-1852) was the founder of one of the most prominent and
distinguished families in the history of Tampa and
South Florida. He came to Florida in 1846 from
Georgia where he was born and
settled in Hillsborough County where he lived the
remainder of his life.
1850 Census, Tampa
Andrew H. Henderson and wife Flora
Andrew H. Henderson's
death in 1852 left Flora with five sons,
ages 4 to 12. W.B took a job at
Kennedy & Darling's general store to
help support his family.
On Jun. 5, 1854, Flora
married Simeon L. Sparkman, "a man whom
the boys did not like, so Tampa pioneer
lawyer James Gettis took the three
younger sons, John, James, and
Wesley, and raised them."**
As Gettis was a lifelong
bachelor, the Hendersons were as close
to family as he ever had during his
years in Florida."**
**VanLandingham, Kyle S. (2018) "James
Gettis: Tampa Pioneer Lawyer,"
Sunland Tribune: Vol. 23 , Article 6.
Marriage record and certification of
Simeon L. Sparkman and Flora O.
Henderson. Click either one to see
Simeon Lewis Sparkman was a planter
and a slave owner, a son of Stephen
Lewis Sparkman and Elsa Ann Keightly
Sparkman who both hailed from Bertie
County, North Carolina. His first
marriage (abt 1842) was to Laura Ann
Collins, the daughter of Charles H.
and Ann Mary Robarts Collins. Simeon
and Laura had the following
children, all born in South
Carolina: Mary Ann Sparkman b.
10/15/1842; Harriet Elizabeth
Sparkman b. 08/10/1844; Lavenia A.
Sparkman b. Jun 1847; Stephen
Charles Sparkman b. abt. 1850.
then married Flora Olivia (McDonald)
Henderson in 1854. Flora died
in 1856. It is unknown where
Flora is buried.
Simeon's 3rd wife was Elizabeth
McCollum b.22 Sep 1836 d. 16 Oct
1906. Simeon and Elizabeth had three
children, who were all born near Ft.
White, Columbia, Florida : William
Oscar Sparkman b. 07/22/1864; Minnie
Florence Sparkman b.
01/07/1865;Robert Lee Sparkman b.
abt 1870. Captain Simeon Lewis
Sparkman was in charge of the
Company of Florida Mounted
Volunteers during one of the many
Seminole Indian Wars. The company
was mustered out in Feb. 17, 1857 at
Ft. Brooke, Florida. In the muster
rolls, Captain Sparkman was
described as having a dark
complexion, blue eyes, black hair
and standing 5'8" in height. His
brother, Elijah B. Sparkman was
Simeon's 1st Lt.
DESCENDANTS OF ANDREW H. HENDERSON AND FLORA O.
born in Jackson Co., GA on Sep. 17, 1839,
he died in 1909 Dwight, IL
of pneumonia where he had gone to recover
from a different illness.
W.B. married on Feb. 8, 1860 to Caroline Elizabeth
Spencer, a sister of Sheriff and proprietor
of the Peninsular, T.K. Spencer. Caroline was born Jul. 3, 1843 and
died Dec. 14, 1906. They had 6
children that attained maturity:
born at Alafia on Aug. 6, 1861 He
married twice, first to Hattie Stallings
of Covington, GA, and after her death to
her niece, Cassie Evans of the same
By his first wife he had: Parks,
who died at age 13, Otto Lee, Cora, John
A., William B. Fannie Mae, and Emily.
By his 2nd wife, they had two children:
Walter H. and Gettis A. Jr.
Alafia on Aug 22, 1867. She
married Dr. Leslie W. Weedon. Thay
had 3 children:
Fred R., Weedon, Harry Lee Weedon, and
Mary B. Weedon
Tampa Feb. 21, 1870. She married
George Clarence Warren. They had 2
William Henderson Warren, born in
Atlanta, GA, and James Whitfield Warren,
born in Tampa.
in Tampa on May 9, 1877, died age 30, on
Oct. 17, 1907, unmarried.
born in Tampa, Oct 5, 1879, unmarried
[at time of this writing, 1915].
born in Tampa on Jul. 4, 1884, married
Amos Love Harris. They had 3
children: Robert H. Harris, Caroline Harris,
William Henderson Harris, all born in
Photo of Mattie Ward Henderson Harris from State
of Florida Archives, Memory collection
1860 Census, Tampa
William B. Henderson & wife Elizabeth
W.B. & Elizabeth had no children
yet, but W.B.'s two youngest brothers, Augustus
and Wesley, were
living with them at this time.
(1841-1904) Second son of Andrew H. Henderson and Olivia
McDonald Henderson. Unofficial Mayor of
Tampa during non-city charter years, July 6,
1870 – August 11, 1873 (unverified.)
In 1856, attorney Henry Laurens Mitchell joined Judge
James Gettis in the practice of law in Tampa, to
found the firm of Gettis & Mitchell.
Later, a young John Alexander Henderson joined the law office of Judge James Gettis, a
prominent local lawyer who afterwards was judge
of the Circuit Court in Tampa's district.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Henderson enlisted
in the Confederate Army and was commissioned as
a lieutenant . He served four years in the army
and was mustered out in May 1865.
After the City’s Charter had been revoked on October 4,
1869, Tampa residents became the responsibility
of Hillsborough County. While the county took
over some of the city’s services, it became
obvious that Tampa needed some form of municipal
government to administer and monitor these
In response, the city held a municipal election on July
6, 1870, in which John Henderson was elected
Mayor. While the state and the county did not
legally recognize Henderson, he maintained a
semblance of local government to administer
John A. attained distinction at the bar and in
political life during the troublesome times of
Reconstruction after the Civil War. He
took an active and conspicuous role in the
effort to throw out the carpetbag and scalawag
rule, his efforts attaining complete success in
John made his home in Tallahassee and devoted himself
entirely to the practice of law, becoming one of
the foremost members of the Florida bar. At the
time of his death he had been recognized as
perhaps the leading corporation lawyer in
Florida, representing several principal
railroads and other large concerns. He was
in the prime of his life when he passed away,
and if had he lived longer would have
undoubtedly reached greater heights of fame and
John married first to Mary Turman
(1842-1864) of Tampa. She was a daughter of
Simon Turman, Sr.** and Abijah Cushman.
John & Mary had one child.
**Simon Turman, Sr. was a county probate judge
and president of Hillsborough County's first
Board of County Commissioners in 1846. His son,
S. Turman, Jr. was the publisher of the Tampa
newspaper "The Florida Peninsular" beginning in
(1863-1939) She married George Waldo of NYC
and moved north, then to California.
next to Mattie Ward of Tallahassee, she was a
daughter of Col. George T. Ward, commander of
the 2nd Florida regiment. They had 3
prominent lawyer at Tallahassee. He
married Sadie Lewis
(1877-1921) married Prof. A. A. Murphree, pres. of the
Fla. State University. They had 4
children: Alberta Murphree, Martha
Murphree, John W. Murphree, and Albert
(1843-1873) Third child of Andrew H. Henderson &
Olivia McDonald Henderson.
He also became a lawyer, who in the opinion of
his peers was one of the brightest and brainiest
of the local bar. He died in the years of
his prime, unmarried.
Their ads didn't
change much over the years, except for
the font styles.
The lack of Tampa newspaper images for
1872-1876 prevent us from locating
J.F.'s obituary in 1873.
Andrew Augustus Henderson
(b. 1845-46) He
died in the Civil War, Rank: Musician Military,
Florida Military Unit: 7th Regiment, Florida
Fifth child of Andrew H. Henderson
and Olivia McDonald Henderson.
He was the first
superintendent of public instruction for
Hillsborough Co. after the Reconstruction period. He did much to bring into successful
operation the new system of public schools that
has since achieved such a conspicuous
success in Hillsborough County. He married Mary Parrish of
Manatee Co. They had no children.
Catalog of Officers & Alumni of Washington & Lee
University, Lexington, Va.
W. P. attended Washington & Lee
University in 1868-69, perhaps for a business
1870 Census, Tampa
John A. Henderson and brothers
In 1870 W.P. lived with his brothers
John and James. He was listed as a student for
US Treasury Register of persons employed by the UST
In May of 1875 W.P. was working
as an inspector for the US Treasury dept.
He was paid $3 per day for days he worked.
W.P. was showing signs of
consumption. The last column shows
"Threatened" and "with consumption" above
State gazetteer and business Directories FOR
From Internet Archive
G. A. Henderson was Gettis Augustus
Henderson, b. Aug 1861, , a son of Wm. B. Henderson.
T. K. Spencer also owned and published the Tampa
The Weekly Floridian (Tallahassee)
Obit - TAMPA
JOURNAL, July 21, 1887
WESLEY P. HENDERSON
his residence on Nebraska Avenue on
Monday night, July 18th, 1887, Wesley P.
Henderson, aged 36 years, 6 months and 3
Henderson died of consumption of which
he has been suffering for several years.
He was a man of strong will, power and
bravely fought the fatal malady but at
last had to yield to its satiate power.
He was a native of Tampa, a gentleman
who possessed the highest sense of honor
and whose life has been one of rectitude
and Christian character. For
several years he was County
Superintendent, and has filled other
positions of trust and honor. Mr.
Henderson was a gentleman of high
standing in this community and his death
is deeply mourned. The bereaved
family and relations have the deserved
sympathy of a host of friends in their
sad affliction. The funeral was
attended by a large concourse of friends
and prominent citizens of the city.
History of Florida: Past and Present, Historical and
Biographical, Volume 1 By Harry Gardner Cutler
Records of Tampa Pioneers:
This is a
breakout page from:
BEGINNINGS OF A SCHOOL SYSTEM IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY
which is the introduction page to: