Raney: Chattanooga's first citizens, Part 2

Raney: Chattanooga's first citizens, Part 2

November 16th, 2014 by By Suzette Raney in Opinion Columns

The Henderson/Lattner house is said to have been used by U.S. Army Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as his headquarters.

The Henderson/Lattner house is said to have been...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

(Second of two parts)

Among Chattanooga's first 53 citizens was Jane Cozby Henderson, a wife, widow and astute businesswoman willing to fight to keep her property on Ross's Landing, according to estate papers donated to the public library in 2008.

These 53 citizens occupied land while it was still part of the Cherokee Nation and thus had first rights to purchase lots -- at $7.50 per acre -- when Ross's Landing was incorporated as Chattanooga in 1839.

Jane Cozby was born at Falling Water in Hamilton County to James and Isabella Woods Cozby. She became one of the first white women to cross the Tennessee River into Cherokee territory when she arrived at Ross's Landing with her husband, Daniel Henderson, who traded in Chattanooga before its incorporation and conducted the 1835 census of the Cherokees.

As there were few places for travelers to stay at Ross's Landing, the Henderson cabin -- with its several log houses in a row and long front porch near the corner of Market and Second streets -- served as an inn. Attached to the inn was Daniel's trading post.

Unfortunately, Daniel disappeared during a trip to Charleston, S.C., to buy supplies. Much later, bones were found near Georgetown at White Oak Mountain. Tom Starr, of Native American stock and "a desperate character," reportedly confessed that he and his brother murdered Daniel Henderson and stole his money.

Jane provided for her family by continuing to house travelers in her inn. As Daniel's widow, she also owned a large section of the Landing. Six surveyors selected by the early occupants, Allen Kennedy, John P. Long, Albert Lenoir, Aaron Rawlings, George Williams and A. Ramsey, divided the town land into lots -- for private occupants as well as public buildings.

Jane protested the division and went to court to regain her estate. Her suit in Chancery Court was finally decided after 11 years, and she was allotted 12 and a half acres of Ross's Landing, the hill above, and a large section surrounding the landing.

The Henderson home at 110 E. First St. was reported to be the first frame house in Chattanooga.

The family lived in the home until Thomas J. Latt-ner purchased it in the 1850s. When Lattner joined the Confederate army, his wife Josephine moved to Georgia, leaving behind the house and its contents.

According to historian Zella Armstrong's 1933 newspaper article, Gen. Ulysses Grant rode by the empty house on Oct. 24, 1863, and immediately acquired it for his headquarters. Its proximity to the river, high position on the hill, and wide porch with view made the house useful in planning his campaign.

Four other future presidents were said to have stayed at the house: Rutherford Hayes, William McKinley, James Garfield and Chester Arthur.

Under Miss Armstrong's leadership, the house became the property of the Gen. U.S. Grant Headquarters Association and was opened to the public as a museum in 1952. Rooms inside were dedicated to Jane Henderson, Albert Lenoir, the Cherokees and the Civil War.

Descendants of the early settlers, including Geraldine Henderson Wilkey, Jane Henderson's great-granddaughter, made donations of books, paintings, artifacts, and furniture to the museum. Despite its history and efforts of local preservationists, the house by 1966 had fallen into disrepair, was condemned by the Better Housing Commission and razed.

Music star Johnny Cash purchased some of the boards and bricks to use in his Nashville estate.

The estate papers of Jean Marie Jordan contain considerable information on Jane's descendants. Her daughter, Isabella, married Richard Henderson, a lawyer, who supported the Union and served as Chattanooga mayor in 1865. He later became a Hamilton County delegate to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention of 1870.

Richard's son, Daniel P. Henderson, married Abigail Legg, Meredith Legg's daughter. Thus, two first citizen families were joined. Daniel and Abigail Henderson's children were Isabelle Maude Jordan and Geraldine Henderson Wilkey. Geraldine Wilkey kept the family archives and passed the papers and keepsakes to Carlisle and Jean Marie Jordan, her nephew and niece. Jean Marie Jordan added to the family lore with her own correspondence and genealogical pursuits. The Jordan's family history, leading back to Meredith Legg and Jane Henderson, tells the story of a family and a city.

Suzette Raney is archivist/librarian in the local history and genealogy department of the Chattanooga Public Library. For more, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org or call LaVonne Jolley 423-886-2090.