Born: CA. 1840
Died: April 1907
Term: July 6, 1870 - mid 1872
John Henderson was the second of six children born to Andrew and Margaret Collins Henderson in Georgia, ca. 1840. In 1847, the family moved to Tampa where his father opened a mercantile business. With the profits from the business, his father expanded into cattle, and steamship transportation.
Henderson studied law under Judge James Gettis, a member of another important pioneer family of Tampa. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Henderson enlisted in the Confederate Army and was commissioned a lieutenant. He served four years in the army and was mustered out in May 1865. After his release, he returned to Tampa where he found the city in a state of decay from neglect and seriously damaged by Union Naval bombardment.
After the City's charter was revoked on October 4, 1869, Hillsborough County assumed responsibility for providing educational and other principal services but it became obvious that Tampa needed some form of municipal government to administer and monitor the services being provided by the county and the monies from the state. In response, a municipal election was held on July 6, 1870 in which John Henderson was elected Mayor along with William C. Brown as Clerk/Treasurer, and a city council with C.L. Friebele (President), William Mansel, John McKay, Sr., Franklin Branch, and Edward Clarke.
On January 25, 1871, Henderson was returned to office with William C. Brown as Clerk/Treasurer. The city council included John Jackson (President), Bartholomew C. Leonardi, Henry Proseus, John F. Fletcher and Henry L. Crane. Based on the records, it appears that municipal elections were held about every six to nine months. Henderson was again elected mayor on September 23, 1871. At present, the remainder of his term of office is unknown as are the dates of any re-election or if there was another person who served as mayor until residents voted for re-incorporation in August 1873. While Henderson and other city officials were not legally recognized, they administered county and state funds and provided basic municipal services.
John Henderson passed away in Tampa in April 1907.
Sources for this Biographical Sketch:
Covington, Dr. James W. and Wavering, Debbie Lee, "The Mayors of Tampa: A Brief Administrative History," Tampa, FL: University of Tampa, 1987.
Grismer, Karl H., Tampa: A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, St. Petersburg Printing Company, FL, 1950.
Robinson, Ernest L., History of Hillsborough County, Florida: Narrative and Biographical, The Record Company, St. Augustine, FL, 1928.
Florida Peninsula, Indexes (1870 - 1871), Florida Heritage Project