The area in which Henderson is located was originally part of a land grant by the King of England to the Earl of Granville. In 1780, the Revolutionary State of North Carolina laid claim to the area. A series of subdivisions of the grant into counties finally led in 1881 to the creation of Vance County. The already existing town of Henderson, because of its size and central location, was designated as county seat.
Even so, the beginnings of the settlements that led to the incorporation of Henderson preceded this event by well over a century. By the early 1700’s, numbers of Scotch, German and Irish pioneer settlers had migrated into the area and well-identified communities had begun to emerge. As agriculture, particularly tobacco, prospered, the Henderson-Vance County growth began in earnest dues to its strategic location on the east-west and north-south stage and wagon trails. With the construction of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad in 1835, the economic impetus was further accelerated. Local residents donated tracts of land on which the railroad built warehouses and shipping facilities. These, in turn, attracted merchants and others who built stores, homes, churches, stables, taverns and schools, which combined led to the charter and incorporation of the town of Henderson in 1841. The town was named for Chief Justice Leonard Henderson, an outstanding colonial jurist and native of Henderson.
From 1860 until after the Civil War, the area saw economic dormancy and stagnation. Nevertheless, the town of Henderson, because of its central location between the tobacco-rich areas to its west and the cotton-rich areas to its east, managed to quadruple in size between 1860 and 1870. Henderson’s first tobacco market opened in 1872, and by 1885, upwards of 7,000,000 pounds per year was being marketed. A cotton market opened in 1878 and it, along with tobacco, made up the principal economic production of the area. A newspaper, The Gold Leaf, was established in this time and remained in print until 1914 when it was sold to the Dennis family and later renamed the Henderson Daily Dispatch. In 1994, the paper was purchased by Paxton Media Group of Kentucky and is now the Daily Dispatch.
The economic and industrial growth of the past described was indeed a prologue for the future. In the decades since 1914, the expansion and enhancement of the City of Henderson and its metropolitan area has been without parallel in the region. Recent years have seen educational improvements in building facilities and curriculum capacity.
In addition to its public schools, the area has two private schools and nearby Vance-Granville Community College, an institution dedicated to academic, technical and cultural learning at advanced levels.
A vastly increased network of main highways and paved secondary roads has made the “dirt” road of yesteryear a rarity. Henderson sits astride main arteries of two major railroads. Raleigh-Durham International Airport is within forty miles and the city and county shares with neighboring communities a local airport, which can accomodate small private and commercial aircraft.
The growth and diversification of industry and business within the Henderson area continues unabated. Henderson is proud of the variety of manufacturing, merchandising, and service businesses available. The majority of these have located within the area during the past 25 years, attracted in large by the features of the location, mild climate, excellent medical facilities, churches, schools, water supply, recreational facilities, stable labor force and outstanding municipal services.