Joseph Henderson (pilot)
Captain Joseph Henderson ca. 1880
September 9, 1826
Charleston, South Carolina
|Died||October 7, 1890 (aged 64)
Brooklyn, New York
|Cause of death||Peritonitis|
|Residence||633 Willoughby avenue, Brooklyn|
|Occupation||American harbor pilot|
|Net worth||$US 100,000 (October 1890)|
|Spouse(s)||Angelina Annetta Weaver|
|Children||Sarah R. Henderson
Maurice D. Henderson
Joseph Henderson Jr.
Mary Ann Henderson
Angelina A. Henderson
Alexander D. Henderson
Captain Joseph Henderson (September 9, 1826 - October 7, 1890) was an early American harbor pilot who guided large vessels in and out of the New York harbor. He was a legendary figure in New York during the 1880s, well known for being one of the oldest and wealthiest of the Sandy Hook Pilots, which operated in what is now the Port of New York and New Jersey. He was recognized to all the large steamship owners as one of the most experienced and trustworthy New York pilots.
Joseph Henderson was born in Charleston, South Carolina. According to the 1880 Federal Census, Henderson's father and mother were born in South Carolina. At sixteen years of age (in 1842), Henderson left Charleston to find passage to New York as a cabin boy on a ship traveling there. By 1845, he must have been well established as a New York pilot. The New York Herald notes: "Some men on South street remember him in 1845 as a pilot of some standing even then."
Henderson married Angelina Annetta Weaver on February 11, 1849 at the Tabernacle Baptist Church, near Chatham Square, in New York City. The marriage announcement appeared in The New York Herald newspaper. They had six children: Sarah R., Maurice D., Joseph Jr., Mary Ann, Angelina A., and Alexander D. Henderson (businessman).
Sandy Hook pilot
Henderson was a notable Sandy Hook pilot in the New York Harbor and along the Atlantic Coast during the American Civil War. South Street (Manhattan) is a street in New York City that was the center of the city's shipping industry. When Henderson was twenty (1846), he took out his first pilot papers with the Board of Commissioners of Pilots of the state of New York. He became adept in all branches of piloting.
Henderson was listed in the 1848 Doggett's New York City directory as a seaman at 325 Front Street, New York City. He owned several pilot ships in the Sandy Hook service. By the age of twenty-one, he was captain of his own Schooner, self-educated in seamanship, and a New York Sandy Hook pilot. He spent over 45 years as a New York pilot and was in more boat accidents than any other pilots.
On September 13, 1853, Henderson was documented as one of the pilots and owners of the pilot boat Elwood Walter, No. 7, belonging to the Merchant Pilot Association. The pilot boat was named after the president of the Mercantile Insurance Company, and was built by Mr. Edward T. Williams, of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The boat weighed 90 tons and was 71 feet long.
On December 17, 1856, Henderson was listed as being one of the captains for the pilot boat USS G. W. Blunt (1861). It was said that on this ship, he had fallen from the masthead. On January 21, 1857, Henderson was listed as being on the George W. Blunt, No. 11, anchored at Coney Island, but hemmed in by the ice. A snowstorm was reported in Brooklyn, and there were reports of shipwrecks on the coast and loss of life due to a winter storm.
During the Civil War, Henderson was a pilot on the transports USS Arago (1861) and USS Fulton (1862), running from Newport News, Virginia to Port Royal, South Carolina. The author, Charles Edward Russell, wrote about Henderson and the Sandy Hook men during the Civil War.
Russell said: “In 1862 he [Joseph Henderson] was snapped up by the Federal Government to do pilot work on the southern sounds, with which, it is said, he had some youthful acquaintance. His work for the Government was so valuable, ingenious, and efficient that he received not only thanks but unusual reward in bankable funds. Among the valuable services performed by the Sandy Hook men in that contest was the guiding of naval vessels through the intricate channels of southern waters, conspicuously Albemarle, North Carolina and Pamlico Sound.”
The pilot-boat William Bell, was built in Greenpoint, Long Island, N. Y. in the year 1863-64 by Edward F. Williams for Joseph Henderson, William Anderson, John Van Dusen, and James Callahan, all Sandy Hook pilots. On August 11, 1864, the William Bell ventured too far out to sea and was captured and burned by the Confederate raiding steamer the CSS Tallahassee. Henderson was at sea at the time of the capture, acting as pilot for the Government on another vessel.
In December 1869, Henderson offered his services to pilot the steam vessel Tybee out of the port of New York, leaving for San Domingo, Dominican Republic; but the shipmaster refused to employ him. The Tybee proceeded to sea without having any pilot of the port on board. A judgment wad made in the district court of New York City in favor of Joseph Henderson (plaintiff) for thirty-eight dollars and eighteen cents plus the costs for pilotage fees out of the Port of New York.
On October 28, 1872, Henderson, of the New York pilot boat "Pet, No. 9", sighted the brig Emily. The crew of the Emily came on board the pilot boat Pet, which lay by the brig until 7 p.m., at witch time the Emily capsized. It was not until the next day that the crewmembers were transferred from the Pet to the steamship Italy, from Liverpool, and brought to the New York port.
On November 5, 1872, Henderson spoke at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners of Pilots in their office, No. 75 South Street, in the City of New York, about how he and his pilot boat Pet, No. 9, rescued the crew of the brig Emily. The Board of Pilot Commissioners acknowledged Henderson’s effort with a resolution, which granted that a reward for such acts of personal risk be paid to the pilots for a sum of $250.
On February 3, 1877, an article from the Spirit of the Times newspaper wrote about Henderson and the pilot-boat Pet. "This week, in connection with a picture of the pilot-boat Pet, Captain Joseph Henderson, we give a brief sketch, the object of which is to explain how the business of these craft is conducted in the port of New York."
In 1879, Henderson was called upon as an expert seaman to determine the height of the water span of the Brooklyn Bridge, a new bridge from Brooklyn to New York City. “Captain Joseph Henderson, a Sandy Hook pilot, was the next witness called. He testified as to the difficulties masters of ships would experience in bringing their ships under the bridge when completed.”
On February 17, 1883, Henderson, John Van Deusen, William Anderson, and James Callahan petitioned the United States, via the Alabama Claims award, for compensation of their loss of the pilot boat William Bell during the Civil War. Henderson had to testify to his ownership and status as a Sandy Hook pilot during to the Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims. On June 5, 1883, Henderson was compensated for $6,170.31, since he owned 5/16 shares in the William Bell.
On June 16, 1885, Henderson was expressly selected to escort the French steamer Isère, laden with the Statue of Liberty into the New York Harbor to Bedloe's Island. Pilot Boat Pet No. 9 was sighted and Pilot Henderson was taken on board. His appearance on the ship was printed in several New York newspapers.“The Isere – Bartholdi’s Gift Reaches the Horseshoe Safely. ”Pilot Henderson was taken aboard but judged that the night was too dark for safe crossing of the bar. He, however, took charge of the ship and stood offshore waiting for daylight.”  People lined the docks and boats went to sea to welcome the Isère.
On May 8, 1887, Henderson was mentioned as a pilot on the steamship Martello in the United States Supreme Court case regarding a collision between the American barkentine Freda A. Willey and the British steamship Martello near the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. The suit said "The Martello was at fault for proceeding at an excessive rate of speed in fog and was responsible for the collision and should pay $23,943.43." The suit said "Pilot Henderson has been a New York and Sandy Hook pilot for nearly forty-two years." 
On November 20, 1889, Henderson was commander of the pilot boat Pet, No. 9, which was lost in the Newport, Rhode Island harbor. "Pilot boat Pet, No. 9, of New York went ashore this morning on the east side of Conanicut Island, half way between Beaver Tail and Mackerel Cove. She dragged her anchor near Mackerel Cove, Rhode Island and drove ashore, proving a total loss. The agile Henderson escaped with his life."
On August 13, 1890, Henderson took the White Star Line passenger steamer SS Teutonic (1889) to sea on her first westward race across the Atlantic with the steamship SS City of New York. The race ended in victory for the Teutonic. The race from Queenstown harbor, Ireland to Sanddy Hook, took five days and nineteen hours. On August 21, 1890, Henderson was listed again as the pilot on the liner Teutonic, during its race against the steamship liner City of New York.
On August 23, 1890, Henderson was allotted the task, an honor he was proud of, to take the cruiser USS Baltimore (C-3) safely out to sea when she carried inventor Captain John Ericsson remains to their final resting place in Stockholm, Sweden. Ericsson was regarded as one of the most influential mechanical engineers and inventors of his time.
In what would become Joseph’s last outing, on October 4, 1890, Henderson left home in good health and sailed to Sandy Hook on board his pilot boat America, No. 21. During this trip, he became ill and was brought home to New York. Peritonitis set in. On October 7, at age sixty-four, Joseph Henderson died at his family home at 633 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper carried a front-page article titled: "Captain Joseph Henderson Dead – An Old Pilot and a Long Resident of Brooklyn Passes Away".
Henderson was buried in the historic Green-Wood Cemetery. The Evening World newspaper said, “He was one of the oldest and best known of the Sandy Hook crew. The flag on the New York Sandy Hook pilots’ building, at 20 State Street, hung at half-mast this morning in respect to the memory of Capt. Joseph Henderson, one of the oldest pilots in the service, who died at his home, 633 Willoughby avenue, Brooklyn, yesterday of peritonitis.” Henderson was a prominent freemason, and was a member of Hill Grove Lodge No. 540 in Brooklyn, New York. Members of the lodge were summoned to attend the funeral services.
In 1929, Charles Edward Russell published the book, "From Sandy Hook to 62°", which is about the Sandy Hook Pilots including references to Joseph Henderson. In the 1932, the St. Matthew’s Church listed in their Easter Church bulletin, that a Communion Service was given in memory of "Captain Joseph Henderson".
- "Death of an Old Pilot" (PDF). The New York Evening Post. October 8, 1890. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
- 1865 New York State Census and 1878 U.S. Passport Applications.
- "Half a Century of Piloting" (PDF). New York Herald. October 12, 1890. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
- The New York Herald, Feb 13, 1849, page 4.
- Charles Edward Russell, "From Sandy Hook to 62°", 1929, page 148.
- Board of Commissioners of Pilots of the State of New York.
- The New York Times, May 16, 1853, pg. 3.
- New York Herald (New York, NY) Page: 1
- "Pilot Henderson Dead". The Evening World, Image provided by The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden. 8 Oct 1890. Retrieved 2013-04-18.
- Charles Edward Russell, "From Sandy Hook to 62°", Page 149, The Century Co., 1929
- "United States. Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims". Google Books, 1882-85. v. 21. 1882. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
- United States. Dept. of State, Geneva Arbitration Tribunal - 1872
- Henderson v. Spofford. Abbott's Practice Cases - Volume 10 - Page 141. 1871. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
- Nov 5, 1872; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times, pg. 2.
- "The Pilot Boat Pet - Number Nine of the New York Harbor Fleet" (PDF). Spirit Of The Times, February 3, 1877. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
- The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 9, 1890, pg 1.
- The Tallahassee, Complete Rebel History of Her Depredations, the New York Times, pg. 1. and The William Bell, A New York Pilot Boat, the 1969 issue of The Log of Mystic Seaport, pg 17.
- The New York Tribune, June 18, 1885, pg 1.
- "Old Pilot Henderson, who jumped from the skylight down on the quarter deck of the Isère". ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, pg. 1.
- Willey v. The Martello. The Federal Reporter, Volume 39. July 31, 1889. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
- The New York Times, November 20, 1889, pg 3.
- The New York Evening Post
- "Neck and Neck On The Ocean" (PDF). The New York Herald. August 21, 1890. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
- The New York Evening Post, 1890.
- The Newtown Register, City and County News, October 16, 1890.
- "Captain Joseph Henderson Dead" (PDF). The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 9, 1890. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
- From Sandy Hook to 62°, Charles Edward Russell, published by Century Co., New York, 1929, pages 148-153.
- 1932 St. Matthew’s Church bulletin from the records of the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew Church