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George Washington Hendry
By Spessard Stone

George W. "Wash" Hendry, a pioneer settler of Fort Meade, was a veteran of the Third Seminole War, Confederate soldier, cattleman, real estate agent, citrus grower, and author.

George Washington Hendry was born December 3, 1838 in Thomas County, Georgia. With his parents, James Edward Hendry and Lydia (Carlton) Hendry, "Wash," as he was nicknamed, moved in 1851 to a site on the Alafia River, twenty-two miles east of Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida. His father died on January 3, 1852 and his mother remarried on November 5, 1854 Benjamin Moody of Riverview.

In August 1853, George moved to Fort Meade, which was then occupied by a company of regular soldiers. He settled on what became known as the Wash Hendry Branch of the Peace River. There he farmed and raised stock. On June 15, 1854 in Hillsborough County, he registered the following mark and brand: swallowfork, upper & underbit in one, uppersquare on the other, brand 89. The 1862 Polk County Tax Roll listed George W. with 190 head of cattle and his brother Albert J. with 400.

On January 3, 1856, George enrolled in Capt. William B. Hooker's Independent Company, Florida Mounted Volunteers and was mustered out of state service and into federal service of Hooker's Company (2nd service, Seminole War) on February 18, 1856 and was mustered out August 20, 1856. He held the rank of sergeant in the volunteer service. On August 20, 1856, he enlisted as a private in Capt. Leroy G. Lesley's Independent Company, Florida Mounted Volunteers and was mustered out February 22, 1857. He also served in Lesley's Company as a private from August 24, 1857 to February 23, 1858 and March 11, 1858 to May 17, 1858. At the time of his first enlistment he later described himself as being 5 feet 10 inches, with hazel eyes, black hair, light complexion, and by occupation a farmer.

In Hillsborough County on November 17, 1859, George W. married Frances S. Varn, born March 24, 1841, daughter of Frederick and Sarah (Heirs) Varn.

George was elected as a lieutenant of the local militia on May 7, 1860. G. W. and Frances Hendry, along with Thomas Hatfield and R. A. Carlton, were enumerated in the Fort Meade area in house hold # 232/183 in the 1860 census of Hillsborough County, dated June, 21 1860. On April 13, 1861 he was elected clerk of the circuit court of Polk County, established from Hillsborough and Brevard in February 1861 but was succeeded by Jehu J. Blount, elected October 7, 1861.

During the Civil War, George enlisted on or about March 15, 1862 in Company E, 7th Florida, CSA. He also served as a lieutenant in Capt. Francis A. Hendry's Company, and served until the end of the war. Capt. Hendry reported of his brother's part in the attack on Fort Myers, which was held by the U. S. Army, in February 1865:

"The night preceding the attack on Fort Myers the battalion was marching leisurely along the trail between Fort Thompson and Fort Myers and came to a halt about twelve miles from Fort Myers. It was dark and raining, and Major Footman called for me. He said, 'Captain, I want ten men who can step on eggs and not break them. Make a detail from your company, dismount them, and place them in command of one of your best lieutenants and have them report to me at once.' This order was quickly compiled with when Lt. George W. Hendry, in command of ten men of his choosing, reported to Major Footman.

"The Major said to him in substance that there was a picket post one mile from Fort Myers on a little creek (Billy's Creek) and to capture the pickets without firing a gun, if possible. The Lieutenant had a hard, difficult, and perilous job before him, and he came as near to accomplish as was possible for him to do. The country was so covered with water, the night so dark, and the pickets without campfires, that it was impossible to locate them. He passed within yards of the guard and did not know it. The picket guard heard the wading in the water but thought it was a herd of cattle passing by. When the day dawned, Lt. Hendry returned to the battalion, meeting a few miles from Fort Myers."

After the war, George continued for a time in raising stock, but soon turned to other ventures. In January 1878, he was an incorporator of the Tampa, Peace Creek and St. John's Railroad which proposed a railroad from Tampa to the interior, which ultimately was completed by Henry B. Plant. In 1883 George advertised as a real estate agent and authored Polk County, Florida. Its Lands & Products. He also had citrus groves and a citrus nursery, which the devastating freezes of the winter of 1894-95 cleaned out.

Frances Varn Hendry died October 6, 1889 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Fort Meade. George eulogized, "She looked on the bright side of life, was a member of the Methodist Church, and lived a Christian."

After the death of Frances, George lived three or four years in Fort Myers, Lee County. There on April 30, 1891, he married (2) Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth (Kantz) Knight Titus, born in Snyder County, Pennsylvania. Rev. W. J. J. Whidden officiated. (By Sarah's marriage to James William Knight of Freeburg, Pennsylvania, she had a son, Peter Oliphant Knight, 1865-1946, a prominent attorney, businessman and political power broker in Tampa. Sarah and her brother Dan C. Kantz in 1883 had built the Keystone Hotel in Ft. Myers. The name was changed several times and was eventually sold to Dr. W. S. Turner who enlarged it and renamed it the Riverview Hotel.) Sarah Kantz Hendry's date of death is not known, but The Tampa Tribune of June 18, 1903 had the obituary of Mrs. G. W. Hendry, 61.

While in Lee County, George served from 1893-1894 as Judge of Probate of Lee County. After returning to Fort Meade, he, a Democrat, was elected as a Representative from Polk County to the Florida House of Representatives and served in the 1899 session. He had been defeated in an earlier bid in 1876.

George in 1900 published a family history, Family Record of Lydia Moody Nee Hendry Nee Carlton in which he chronicled descendants of his mother and sketched his early ancestry. He also wrote articles on the early history of the region.

On July 28, 1902, George W. Hendry applied for a pension based on his service during the Third Seminole War. He gave Fort Meade as his address. William L. Stephens of Ft. Meade and William W. Clark of Bartow declared they had known him for 30 and 14 years respectively. On November 29, 1902, John W. Whidden of Arcadia stated that he had known George for 46 years and had served with him in Capt. Hooker's Company. Under certificate no. 4879 his claim was approved at the rate of $8 per month commencing June 27, 1902, which was increased to $20 per month from February 19, 1913.

On July 20, 1904 at Fort Meade, he was married by Rev. Hardee to Mrs. Annie Hughes, born ca. 1842, widow of David Hughes. (A merchant, Capt. Hughes, who died January 18, 1889, was chairman of the meeting held May 3, 1882 which decided to incorporate Bartow.)

Incomplete records from the Florida Archives show that on January 22, 1908 a state pension certificate # 6100 was issued to George W. Hendry for his Confederate service.

George Washington Hendry died March 2, 1914, Fort Meade, and was buried in Evergreenn Cemetery.

On April 6, 1914, Annie E. Hendry applied for a widow's pension based upon George's service in Hooker's and Lesley's companies. She gave her age as 72 and Fort Meade as her address. Fred W. Varn and L. Singleton, both of Fort Meade, stated they had known her 39 and 18 years respectively. In June 1914, B. F. Blount gave an affidavit concerning the death of David Hughes. Her claim under certificate no. 8171 was approved, and she was last paid at $12 per month to December 4, 1917.

On August 1, 1914, she applied for a pension based on George's service in the Confederate Army. Francis A. Hendry, late Captain of Company A, Munnerlyn's Battalion, gave an affidavit that George had served in Co. A. Ann E. Hendry (she did not give her given name as Annie in the application) listed her property to consist of: real estate located four miles south of Bartow, 10 acres $100; dividends only on 10 shares of Bank of Fort Meade est. 10%, $100. Her claim was approved as pensioner no. 1644 on August 28, 1914, with pay from August 6, 1914 at the rate of $100 per annum.

According to pension records, Annie Hendry died December 15, 1917 and was buried in Evergreen Cemeterry.

Issue of George W. and Frances (Varn) Hendry:

1. Frederic F. "Tobe" Hendry, born July 14, 1861; died December 12, 1900; married Tacie M. Cook.
2. John Morton Hendry, born June 10, 1864; died in childhood.
3. Adelaide Victoria Hendry, born April 13, 1866; died February 21, 1894; married on December 17, 1884, Francis Marion Wilson.
4. Lavinia H. Hendry, born April 30, 1869; died July 23, 1953; married on July 24, 1888, Frank B. Harless.

References: George W. Hendry, Family Record of Lydia Moody Nee Hendry Nee Carlton, 1900; Milton D. Wilson, Pioneer Families of Polk County and South Florida, Polk County Historical Commission; George W. Hendry "Fort Meade The Ancient," Fort Meade Leader, May 1, 1913; Ernest B. Simmons, "First Families of Polk County," Fort Meade Leader, March 16, 1916; military and pension records of George W. Hendry, pension applications of Annie Hendry, Florida Archives & National Archives; "Early Hillsborough County Marks & Brands," South Florida Pioneers 9; 1862 Polk County Tax Roll; 1860 Hillsborough County census; George H. Dacy, Four Centuries of Florida Ranching (St. Louis, 1940), p. 178; Francis A. Hendry, "History of the Early Days of Fort Myers"; Karl Grismer, History of Fort Myers, 1949; M. F. Hetherington, History of Polk County, 1928.

This profile is adapted from my profile in South Florida Pioneers 45/46 (July/Oct. 1985).

February 5, 2001, October 16, 2001, April 7, 2004, March 28, 2011 (tombstone)