Gus C. Henderson

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Gus C. Henderson (November 16, 1862–1915) was an influential African American in the heart of Central Florida. He spread his intellect and fervor for many to see and learn from throughout his life. Born near Lake City in Columbia County, Florida, Gus C. Henderson would remain in his home town for twenty years. Struggling from age ten after losing his mother, Henderson would have to fend for himself to survive. Making small wages to support his lifestyle, Henderson was not a privileged youth but he never lost sight of his desire to learn, a book always in hand. With a thirst and passion for knowledge, Henderson would trade in his farming tools in search of something better. Henderson accepted a job working as a salesman for a New York Firm. Despite great success on the job, he was asked to resign after word spread that he was a colored man. Designated the first "commercial tourist" of the State and among the best of the salesmen on the road, he was disheartened to learn of their request and after just five months sent in his notice of leave. With fervor still in his heart, the 24-year-old Henderson made his way to Winter Park, Florida. After three years and an untold number of friends and acquaintances, Henderson found a stable community to make his mark. He would go on to make monumental contributions to early Winter Park.

Henderson can be cited for playing an influential role in the incorporation of Winter Park as a city: "…if it were not for Henderson’s efforts, the incorporation of Winter Park would not have taken place on October 12, 1887, and Hannibal Square may not have originally been included within the city limits of Winter Park" (Livingston). Henderson was known for his political views. A staunch Republican, one of Henderson’s most famous speeches displays this passion, "…all we ever received came from Republicans. Our citizenship, our Freedom, our free schools, and numerous good laws that have done great good for the Negro came from the Republican party, and, gentleman, if that party never does any more special good for me, I shall die a Republican." As such when it came time to support the efforts of Chicago banker Loring Chase and his partner, Oliver Chapman, to start a city, Henderson supported their efforts to the max. Henderson rallied the townspeople, asking for the votes of the 64 black residents registered to vote who outnumbered the 47 registered white voters. Due to Henderson’s encouragement, Henderson even leading voters to the meeting from Hannibal Square, there were enough voters to pass the legislation, making Winter Park a city and Hannibal Square part of the district.

Henderson’s second major accomplishment to benefit Winter Park was his founding of the Winter Park Advocate. The newspaper was one of two black newspapers published in Florida at the time. He began as manager but went on to assume the position of collector, reporter and editor. His paper became sought after for its relativity to white and black culture. May 31, 1889 the first issue of the Winter Park Advocate made its premier. Henderson focused on the interests of the local people, social gatherings, community politics etc. Articles written by Henderson were included "Christmas in Hannibal Square," "A Gala in Hannibal Square," "Colored Free Masons," and "Highschool for Colored Youth."

After two years, Henderson moved away from Winter Park leaving behind The Winter Park Advocate but once in Orlando in 1906 opened another newspaper, The Florida Recorder (Colored) Republican. Henderson would pass away in 1915 leaving behind a wealth of influence and strong sense of community wherever he settled.

References[edit]

  • Florida Collection – Archives (Rollins College): Chase, "Winter Park Scrapbook" 1889-1906, Vol. 1 and 2-3, Lochmede, 1887, Vol. 1, 2, and 3, Livingston, Fairolyn, "A Window on Hannibal Square." Research Paper.
  • Clark, James C. "Black History Highlights," Orlando Sentinel, February 6, 1990, E4.
  • Robison, Jim. "Black history spotlight on…Gus Henderson," Orlando Sentinel, February 23, 2001.
  • Shofner, Jerrell H. Orlando: the City Beautiful. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Continental Heritage Press, 1984.
  • Florida Collection – Archives (Rollins College) Chase, "Winter Park Scrapbook" 1889-1906, Vol. 1 and 2-3 Lochmede, 1887, Vol. 1, 2, and 3 Livingston, Fairolyn, "A Window on Hannibal Square." Research Paper.
  • Clark, James C. "Black History Highlights," Orlando Sentinel, February 6, 1990, E4.
  • Robison, Jim. "Black history spotlight on…Gus Henderson," Orlando Sentinel, February 23, 2001.
  • Shofner, Jerrell H. Orlando: the City Beautiful. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Continental Heritage Press, 1984.