George Washington Hennen

GEORGE W. HENNEN - As an ex-Confederate soldier, as a Denton County pioneer, George W. Hennen has lived a life of varied circumstance and fortune, and his experiences and achievements make up a record that should be published for its historical value and will be read with interest by his many friends.

Mr. Hennen, who is still living at his Texas place a mile west of Garza, was born in Mississippi County, Missouri, June 30, 1842. He was only an infant when both his parents died. Of the four children, Mr. Hennen has no knowledge of his sister, Ruth. His older brother, John, was his comrade in the army and is a resident of Choudrant, Louisiana. The youngest Harrison Q. is a resident of Archer County, Texas.

George Washington Hennen grew up near Charleston, county seat of his native county in Missouri. After the death of his father he was left to the cold charity of strangers, and after the age of twelve under the management of a guardian. His first home was with William Fulks, a good man. Then for a time he was with an old bear hunter, a man of brutal nature, from whom he received almost constant ill treatment. Finally a court order put him in the custody of his step-grandfather. Judge William Bush. Judge Bush was a prominent lawyer, and his memory is cherished by Mr. Hennen because of his kindly and considerate treatment. He remained with Judge Bush until thirteen, then started life for himself. During this time he had practically no opportunity to attend school, and the only text book he remembers was Webster's old blue back speller. It was in later years, while superintendent of the Sabbath school in the Garza community, that Mr. Hennen acquired his chief knowledge of the literary art, and for many years has been a close student of the scriptures and a reader of current events.

He was nineteen years old when the war came on. He grew up in a slave-holding community, there being slaves on the farm of Judge Bush. For a time he drilled in his home community, and then at Memphis, Tennessee, joined Company E, commanded by Captain Rice, of the First Missouri Infantry, under Colonel Bowen. From Memphis the command went to Fort Pillow, thence to New Madrid, to Columbus, Kentucky, and to Bowling Green, and was then ordered to Shiloh, where Mr. Hennen participated in his first great battle. He came out uninjured, though he saw many of his regiment fall. After his next fight at Corinth the regiment was detailed to head off enemy commands from interfering with the movements of the Confederate army and destroying towns in Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. Two years later the regiment resumed its fighting service. It took part in the second battle of Corinth and helped blockade the Mississippi River at Grand Gulf. When the Federals constructed the new channel across the Vicksburg bend the Grand Gulf had to be evacuated and the troops went on toward Jackson, and at Bakers Creek Mr. Hennen was wounded for the first time, being shot in the leg with a minnie ball as he ran across an open field ;in full view of the enemy. Throwing away his military equipment, he quickly sprinted to safety. reaching the Big Black River. He attempted to swim across, but his strength failed, and he only saved himself by grasping a willow limb. In that situation he was made a prisoner, was sent to Camp Morton, Indianapolis, thence with other prisoners to Fort Delaware, New Jersey, and to Point Lookout, Maryland, where he was exchange three months later. He rejoined his old regiment at Dalton, Georgia, and took part in the first battle for the defense of Atlanta. He was in battle every few days from Dalton to Atlanta, including Peachtree Creek and Jonesboro. His company then started with Hood's army for Nashville, though he never reached that city. At the great battle of Franklin a piece of shell struck him on the thigh, and during the maneuvering which followed he was knocked unconscious by the explosion of a shell from a Parrot gun. When his regiment went in;to the battle of Franklin it was four hundred strong, and at the roll call next morning only twelve responded, including Mr. Hennen. After much skirmishing and fighting and being pursued from Duck Creek on the Tennessee almost to Mobile by the Yankee Cavalry, bent pm capturing or destroying the Missourians, his command got through, reaching Mobile without severe loss. At Mobile occurred the engagement at which the regiment was overcome and Mr. Hennen was again taken prisoner, but eighteen days later was paroled at Vicksburg because of the surrender of General Lee. At the Mobile fight he failed to hear the order to surrender and keep on firing not knowing that the enemy was behind him as well as in front. When he finally turned and realized the situation he threw his gun at a Federal, who attempted to run him through with the bayonet, but both movements were frustrated by comrades, and thus Mr. Hennen was again saved.

From Jackson, Mississippi, Mr. Hennen was furnished by the Government transportation home. He declined to take advantage of this, since he knew it was not safe to return to Missouri, where in fact guerrilla warfare continued for a year or more, resulting in the death of soldiers on both sides. Mr. Hennen reached his old home locality in the fall of 1865, and soon resumed farming. For four years, however he spent his wages in roving and rambling, his last trip being made to Texas. He sought a new place in Texas to avoid the partisan troubles in Missouri.

His journey to Texas was made by the Mississippi River to New Orleans, thence by rail to Brashear City, by boat to Galveston, by railroad to Calvert, and thence by walking to his destination in Hill County. After working there a month he found he was in bad company, and went over to Meridian, where he accepted twelve dollars a month to gather horses and later at a higher wage as a farm hand. These experiences preceded his further journey north, bringing him to Lewisville in Denton, County. He reached here a stranger, though he was accustomed to beina a stranger in strange places. He came to build his reputation and make himself useful to the community, and his first work was as a cotton picker, an employment he accepted while choosing a location for a place to make a crop of his own. He found such an opportunity with Mr. Crawford, with whom he spent tow years.

In 1872 Mr. Hennen married and the following year he bought the land including the site of his present home. He and his young wife came to this land when it was in an absolutely virgin state, and they could not begin ;housekeeping until their log cabin was erected. That humble home sheltered them five years, when it was replaced by the more commodious dwelling in which they now reside. Mr. Hennen began here with eighty acres, and from his prosperity added other land until he had a well proportioned farm of two hundred acres, buying and paying for it all before he had a child large enough to assist him. Farming and stock raising has been his forte. He never became a devotee of cotton. His last full crop was made in 1916, and since then he has been gradually retiring, satisfying himself with the lighter work and chores and keeping up improvements.

On December 12, 1872, Mr. Hennen married Mrs. Sarah Ann Derrick. She was born in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, October 29, 1849, daughter of Washington and Alabama (Fry) Derrick, who came to Texas when she was an infant. She was reared in Lamar County, and her people moved to Denton County in 1864. Her father died in Jack County, Texas, and her mother at the home of Mrs. Hennen. Mrs. Hennen was more fortunate in the matter of schools than her husband, though her education was limited because her labor was needed in the home. She is the eldest of eight children. The others still living are: Mrs. Nannie McCarroll of Live Oak County, Texas; John of New Mexico; Mrs. Samantha McGallard of Dallas; Uriah of New Mexico; and Lewis of Tatum, New Mexico.

Mr. & Mrs. Hennen have seven children, and there are also twenty-one grandchildren to do them honor. The children are: Annie, wife of William Smith, of Denton; Virgil, present mayor of Denton; Marvin, a teacher in the Garza schools; Bertie Lee, wife of Kice Walker, of Lamar County; Leonard, who operates the old homestead farm; Olin, a farmer in the same community; and Allie, the wife of Balford Couch of Emery, Texas.

Mr. & Mrs. Hennen have been identified with the Methodist Church, and have always sought to maintain good religious and moral influence in a community in which many ungodly people lived fifty years ago. When this venerable old couple joined their fortunes and their lives together "for better of for worse" they adopted a code of domestic procedure from which they have never deviated. They determined to abandon the "credit system they were brought up under" and substitute for it the motto "pay as you go."Mr. Hennen has studiously avoided the pitfalls of "security" which has swept away so many fortunes and friends, and has kept as free from the courts as from debt. Their lives have been joined more closely with the experiences and association of half a century as husband and wife, and all who know them for what they have experienced and for what they have been would say that they have "fought a good fight and have kept the faith."
From the files of Dorothy Rinehart Taylor, 111 Racove Drive, West Monroe, Louisiana 71291. E-mail Address is