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Henderson is a city in Henderson Countymarker, Kentuckymarker, United Statesmarker, along the Ohio River in the western part of the state. The population was 27,373 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Evansville, Indianamarker metropolitan area.

The city has been called home by ornithologist, naturalist, and painter John James Audubon as well as blues legend W.C. Handy. For more than 100 years the city has been home to the Southern Cherokee Nation.


Henderson has its roots in a small, block-wide strip of land high above the Ohio River, currently the site of Audubon Mill Park (directly south of the city's riverfront boat dock). A frontier village on this site was called "Red Banks" by the native Americans who originally lived and hunted there, because of the reddish clay soil on the tall banks of the river. In the early and mid 1790's, Red Banks featured a tavern and was home to several white settlers.

Henderson's roots lie in a scheme by a North Carolinamarker judge, Colonel Richard Henderson, and a group of investors who sought to buy much of modern-day Kentuckymarker and Tennesseemarker from 1,200 Cherokee Indians gathered at Sycamore Shoalsmarker (located at present day Elizabethton, Tennesseemarker) and later resell these frontier lands to settlers.

Henderson's group, the Transylvania Company, hired Daniel Boone to help settle the region. The Virginia General Assemblymarker ultimately voided the deal, but granted Richard Henderson & Company 200,000 acres (800 km²) in exchange for their efforts in developing the wilderness region. That ground was located where the Green River flows into the Ohio River. Richard Henderson died years before the site was developed. On behalf of other investors and their heirs, Gen. Samuel Hopkins and a surveyor named Thomas Allin in 1797 visited Red Banks and laid out plans for a town, which was named Henderson.

A distinguishing characteristic of their efforts were unusually wide streets, reportedly to prevent a fire in one block from easily spreading to another. Those streets are so wide that today even with diagonal parking spaces downtown, there is still enough space to allow delivery trucks to park in the center of the street without interfering with two-way traffic. An historic walking tour of the greater downtown area has been organized by the Downtown Henderson Project.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Henderson County became a major producer of tobacco, much of which was exported to Great Britain. Henderson was reported to be the largest dark tobacco producer in the world with large tobacco warehouses and stemmeries dotting the downtown area. Picture postcards from the era show long lines of horse/mule-drawn wagons piled high with tobacco, waiting their turn to unload. Some tobacco processors accumulated considerable fortunes. Undocumented claims have persisted that in 1860 Henderson ranked second only to Heidelberg, Germany, in terms of per capita wealth and that shortly before World War I it was home to more millionaires than any city in the world for its size. But Great Britain imposed a high tariff on imported tobacco after World War I, wrecking Henderson's export market. Tobacco warehouses and plants closed, and the community's economic fortunes reversed. The last tobacco facility, the Soaper Tobacco Warehouse on Pennell Street, closed in 1984.

While many cities were inundated during the devastation during the Ohio River flood of 1937, the city of Henderson, because of its position on a bluff above the river, was spared much of the damage that Pittsburghmarker, Cincinnatimarker, Louisvillemarker, Evansvillemarker, Paducahmarker and others suffered. That prompted Leigh Harris, publisher of the Henderson Gleaner and Evening Journal newspapers, to boast: "Henderson is on the river but never in it!" That helped prompt industrialization of the city.


Henderson is located at (37.835587, -87.580713). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.1 square miles (44.2 km²), of which, 15.0 square miles (38.8 km²) of it is land and 2.1 square miles (5.5 km²) of it (12.36%) is water.

Because the Indianamarker-Kentuckymarker border is defined as the low-water mark on the north bank of the Ohio River as of 1792, a small portion of Henderson County (approximately long and wide), lies north of the current course of the river in what would appear as part of Indiana. Both the Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridgesmarker and the Ellis Park Racecoursemarker horse racing track are located entirely within Kentucky. The racetrack actually uses Indiana's 812 area code despite officially being located in Kentucky.


As of the census of 2000, there were 27,373 people, 11,693 households, and 7,389 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,829.0 people per square mile (706.0/km²). There were 12,652 housing units at an average density of 845.4/sq mi (326.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.26% White, 10.53% Black or African American, 0.18% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.58% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.27% of the population.

There were 11,693 households out of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.5% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.8% were non-families. 32.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.5% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,427, and the median income for a family was $39,887. Males had a median income of $32,131 versus $22,225 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,925. About 13.2% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.6% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those age 65 or over.


More than 30 percent of jobs, and approximately 40 percent of wages, in Henderson County are associated with manufacturing, far in excess of national averages. Among the community's industries today are aluminum production, automotive and appliance parts, plastic injection molding, tool and die making, food processing and processing of recycled materials. In June 2008, of the 20,205 jobs in Henderson, almost 12% were government jobs. It also ranks as one of Kentucky's top three corn and soybean producers. Henderson is also one of the state's leading coal producers, with over 2.8 million tons produced in 2004.


The Henderson County school system includes eight elementary schools: A.B. Chandler,Spottsville, East Heights, Bend Gate, South Heights, Jefferson, Cairo, and Niagara; two middle schools: North Middle and South Middle; and one high school: Henderson County High School. Two other schools one for those with mental and or physical deficiency, Riverview, the other an alternative school for those suspended from the other schools in the district, Central Learning Center. There is also one parochial school, Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School.

Henderson is home to one postsecondary institution, Henderson Community College, as well as a satellite campus of Murray State Universitymarker. In addition, students are also served by Oakland City University Evansville Center, University of Evansvillemarker, and University of Southern Indianamarker in neighboring Evansville, Indianamarker.



Ornithologist, naturalist, and painter John James Audubon spent several years in Henderson in the 1810s. He is honored in the downtown with nine cast-bronze sculptures based on paintings from Audubon's "Birds of America" series, at the John James Audubon State Park and Museummarker, which houses the world's largest collection of John James Audubon memorabilia and one of the most extensive collections of his work in the world.

Annual Festivals

Each year Henderson hosts a variety of events and festivals. The Henderson Breakfast Lions Club holds the Tri-Fest, a street festival that raises funds for non-profit organizations, in mid-April each year. There is also the free Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival in mid-June and the free Bluegrass in the Park Folklife Festival in August.

Bluegrass in the Park Folklife Festival is one of the largest free Bluegrass festivals in the country. It is Henderson's oldest on-going music festival and will mark its 25th continuous year in 2010. Past performers have included Bill Monroe, Emmylou Harris, Alison Kraus & Union Station, Ricky Skaggs, John Hartford, Glen Campbell, and other notable Bluegrass artists. The Folklife aspect of the festival is a celebration of local lifestyles and culture with displays on recreational folklife (traditional games), functional folklife (quilting, tatting, chair-caning, basket-making, fly-tying), oral traditions (storytelling), folk music, food traditions (curing country hams, making burgoo, the craft of barbecue), and foreign cultures that have integrated with local traditions, among other things.

The Green River Arts & Crafts Festival is a large event that has been held for more than 30 years on a weekend in early October at John James Audubon State Parkmarker and organized by the Green River Area Development District.

Music and Film

Blues legend W.C. Handy spent nearly a decade in Henderson. In his autobiography Father of the Blues, Handy said: "I didn’t write any songs in Henderson, but it was there I realized that experiences I had had, things I had seen and heard could be set down in a kind of music characteristic of my race. There I learned to appreciate the music of my people … then the blues were born, because from that day on, I started thinking about putting my own experience down in that particular kind of music." Each year, Henderson honors Handy by holding one of the largest outdoor free concerts in the USAmarker, the Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival.

A few scenes from the movie A League of Their Own were shot in Henderson, including boarding house scenes that were filmed at a stately home at 612 North Main St. that was once the home of Augustus Owsley Stanley, a governor of Kentucky and U.S. senator. These include the scene in which the character Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) is reunited with her husband Bob (Bill Pullman), who has been overseas fighting during World War II, and she leaves the women's baseball team.

Sporting Events

In 1994, the Henderson Recreational Association signed a contract with the Babe Ruth League, Inc. to host the 1994 Bambino World Series. This was the first time the city of Henderson had ever hosted a major sporting event. Park Field was the intended site for the Series but didn't meet the BRL requirements. The city had to construct a bigger and better-equipped stadium. Construction on the project began in 1992 and ended in the early part of 1994. After the renovations, seating in Park Field was increased to 5,500. The playing field was resurfaced, and many other improvements were made.

On August 10, 1994, the first pitch of the 1994 Bambino World Series was thrown out. Thousands of fans packed into Park Field to watch the event. A week of baseball was set, bringing in qualifying teams from all over the United Statesmarker and the Virgin Islands. Kennewick, Washingtonmarker took home the crown. Two years later, the town decided to bring the Series back to Henderson. The event was dedicated to former Kentucky Senator and former Henderson resident A.B. "Happy" Chandler. This time the Series would be publicized more in the media by networking a 24-hour television station dedicated entirely to the event. On the day of the event the town newspaper, The Gleaner, created a huge informational program for the event including the teams, bios, pictures and even a baseball card treatment to the host team, the Henderson All-Stars. The 1996 Bambino World Series began on August 17, 1996. The Henderson All-Star Team advanced all the way to the National Championship game, something no other host team has been able to accomplish. But the hometown team was not enough for the 8-time Bambino World Series National Champion Oakland, Californiamarker and lost 8-4.

Organized baseball for Henderson's youth (primarily boys) was started by William Hebe, James "Hank" Harpole, and Joe Gabe via organizational meetings in the local YMCA in 1949-50. Affiliation with the national Little League was obtained and the city land reclaimed garbage dump on the high banks of the Ohio River was dedicated to the creation of three regulation fields, two for Little League (boys 6-12) and one for "Pony League" (boys 12-15)called Park Field. The area is adjacent to a city park and large enough for bleachers, ample parking, and, at one time, the headquarters building of the local amateur ham radio club, W4KVK. Harpole was a major leader, doing chores from raking stones from the playing fields to seeking sponsors for the team uniforms and becoming coach for years of a Little League team there. The baseball efforts grew to scores of teams and more fields elsewhere in Henderson, and was often credited with reducing adolescent mischief in the area. Harpole later founded a "T-ball" league for pre-schoolers (to 6 years)in Henderson that included girls.


Henderson is served by one local daily newspaper, The Gleaner, as well the metro edition of the Evansville Courier & Press. Both are owned by the E.W. Scripps Company.

Henderson is part of the Evansville media market, the 101st-largest television market and 161st-largest radio market in the United States. WSONmarker (860-AM) is the only locally owned radio station broadcasting from the city. Stations from Owensboromarker and Madisonvillemarker are also available.

WEHTmarker, Evansville's ABC affiliate, has its studios and transmitting tower located in Henderson, though it is licensed to Evansville.

Notable natives

See also


  2. Market Ranks and Schedule (151-200)

External links

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