Historical Markers
Richard Henderson Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Richard Henderson

Lake Erie Region


Marker Location:
Liberty & Arch Streets, Meadville

Dedication Date:
June 1, 1980

Behind the Marker

An 1875 map of Meadville shows the residence of Richard Henderson, where fugitive slaves were harbored.
Map of Meadville, PA, showing the residence of Richard Henderson in 1875.
Exterior and grounds
Bethel AME Church, Meadville, PA, 2011.
According to local tradition, Richard Henderson was the first permanent black resident of Meadville. He had escaped from slavery at the age of fifteen with his two brothers and a sister. The brothers survived, but the sister died after catching pneumonia during the journey. One of the Henderson brothers continued north to Canada. The other two, Richard and Robert, established a barbershop in town.

While his brother Robert eventually left to establish his own barbershop in nearby Brookville, Richard remained in Meadville. There, he was a leader in the local Underground Railroad network from the 1830s to the 1860s. A prominent member of the black community, Henderson also helped to form Meadville's Bethel A.M.E. Church in 1849 and served as an early trustee.

Henderson married twice, and with his second wife, Mary, raised two sons, Edward and Lincoln. Edward Henderson recalled that he saw as many as twenty fugitives at a time hiding in his parents' home. Richard Henderson died in 1880 at the age of seventy-nine and is buried in Meadville.

When Henderson's marker was approved in 1980, it represented only the third time a black Pennsylvanian had been honored by a state historical marker.
Back to Top