Older than the state of Texas itself, the City of Henderson and Rusk County have early historical backgrounds. The City of Henderson was founded in 1843 and named after James Pinckney Henderson, the first governor of Texas. W.B. Ochiltree (one of the founding fathers of Henderson), gave ten of his acres on the north part of the town site to the city with the stipulation that it be called “Henderson” in honor of his friend. General James Smith (who was also one of the original Rusk County commissioners) was another founding father who donated a portion of his land to the city.


The founding Rusk County commissioners began to plat the town of Henderson as county seat after Rusk County was established January 16, 1843. As lots were sold and businesses built, the county commissioners discovered that a square for a courthouse had inadvertently been omitted. To fix this, land was purchased back to create a city square. The first wooden courthouse was completed in 1849 in the center of the city square. During this time, the commissioners donated both land and money for churches and schools to be built: the Baptist and Methodist churches (originally established in 1845); the Henderson Female College, (approved by the Texas Legislature in 1856), and the Henderson Male and Female College (which existed in the 1870s until after the turn of the century).


Major transportation came to the area after the Civil War. In 1872, the International and Great Northern Railroad crossed the northwest corner of Rusk County, but missed the City of Henderson. Two years later on April 29, 1874, the Henderson and Overton Branch Railroad Company was chartered to build 16 miles of track from Overton to Henderson. At the turn of the century, the branch railroad was sold to Missouri-Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific), and is still in operation.


During the Reconstruction era, the City of Henderson began to see the talents and skills of the brick masons and pottery makers who had settled in Rusk County. The first of the brick buildings to be built (1878-1926) was an ornate brick courthouse in the center of the city square. During the mid to late 1800s, there were many buildings built by Dave and Logan Howard, who built the first brick home in Henderson. That brick home is now a medallion home named the Howard Dickinson House. From 1883 to 1895, the Howard brothers built seven stores on the city square, five of which are still in use today.

The city has 19 historical markers that include antebellum homes dating from the 1880s as well as churches and colleges that existed in Henderson in the early years. After a series of township reorganizations, a final reorganization took place in 1911. This established E. B. Alford, Sr. as Henderson’s first mayor.


In the early 1930’s, C.M. “Dad” Joiner brought in the Daisy Bradford #3 Discovery Well six miles northwest of Henderson. As a result, during the 1930’s Depression, the City of Henderson experienced a rapid population growth from 2,000 to over 10,000 people in just a few months. The discovery of oil in East Texas was and continues to be critical to the area’s economy.

As the population increased, the City of Henderson prospered. In 1986, Henderson’s downtown area was designated into the National Register of Historic Places. Colorful canvas awnings highlight the ornate downtown buildings, where they offer decorative shade to downtown shoppers visiting the variety of retail and restaurant establishments.


Henderson is home to 13,000+ people and covers 12 square miles. It is located in central east Texas, 20 miles south of I-20, 130 miles southeast of Dallas, 182 miles northeast of Houston and 66 miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana.

The City is a political subdivision and municipal corporation of the state, duly organized and existing under the laws of the State, including the City’s Home Rule charter. The City was incorporated in 1911. Henderson first adopted its Home Rule Charter in 1947, and is currently operating under a charter amendment dated April 6, 1985. The City operates under a Council/Manager form of government with the City Council comprised of the Mayor and five council members. The term of office is two years: the mayoral term and two councilmembers expire in even-numbered years; the other three council member terms expire in odd-numbered years. The City Manager is the chief administrative officer for the City.

Constant improvements in all areas of service continue to present challenges for City officials. It is the city officials’ and employees’ wish to maintain and provide the best for the citizens of Henderson.