Herndon Middle Magnet School Story | Herndon/Raines Cemetery | Emancipation of Lou Patsy


John Frederick Herndon was born in Virginia in 1796 and migrated to Louisiana around the late 1830’s Records for his oldest child Mary Ann show she was born in Louisiana in1837. Not much is known about his life prior to that but we do know that he brought a slave woman with him by the name of Lou Patsy Charles, nothing is known of her parentage, she is listed in census as born in Virginia around 1817 and her last name comes from the death certificate of her son Joseph, her maiden name is listed as Charles. She is said to have been part Blackfoot but I’ve found no records for her parents and can’t confirm. I’ve found some slave owners by the name of Charles and Chiles in Virginia at that time but haven’t been able to connect to the Herndon’s or find any documents on her prior to 1840 in Caddo Parish. We know for sure that in 1840 John Frederick petitioned the Caddo Parish Court with a request to free his slave Patsy; the petition was for her freedom and all of her offspring. Even though he did free Lou Patsy and her children John continued to own slaves, he had 81 in the 1840 census, down to 10 in 1850 and 2 in 1860. Another emancipation record from 1845 states Patsy’s 5 children that John promises to take care of: Mary Ann, Sarah Jane, Joseph, John, and Jacob. John Frederick and sons became quite wealthy from various investments in real estate, farming cotton, timber, buying gold and having oil wells on their properties.

A native of Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania, Virginia, where his family had been substantial citizens since the 1600s, at least one of JF’s relatives was intermarried with the prestigious Randolph family of early Virginia history. It is believed by some historians that Herndon was a relative of Meriwether Lewis, the personal secretary of Thomas Jefferson and leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (there’s a few marriages between the Herndon & Lewis family at that time). John Frederick’s parents were John Herndon & Mary Fleetwood, both of his parents died in the early 1800’s and he had 7 other known siblings. The Herndon’s had a long history in Virginia dating to the first Herndon on record in the US William Herndon who came from Kent England to Virginia about 1673 and married Catherine Digges, the daughter of Gov. Edward Digges. There is some controversy on this marriage, although most historians accept it as fact, along with the marriage of William’s son Edward to a Mary Waller, this also is disputed by some but accepted by most historians. The controversy is due to the fact that both Mary Waller and Catherine Digges are linked to the Neville family and long lines of English Royalty. A book that explores this marriage of William Herndon and Catherine Digges is; Metts Ancestors in America - The Direct Line. You can read the book here at familysearch.org. DNA testing done by other Virginia Herndon's show Y-Chromosome R1b sub-clade R1b1b2 which is the most common R1b sub-clade in Western Europe. This Herndon family has produced a few notable people:

  • Commander William Lewis Herndon (25 October 1813 Fredericksburg, Virginia – 12 September 1857) was one of the United States Navy’s outstanding explorers and seamen. He chose to go down with his ship while other lives were still aboard and while in command of the steamer Central America's 44th trip, which sank in a three day and night hurricane off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. His daughter Ellen Lewis Herndon/Arthur was the wife of future U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, she died just before he took office. The city of Herndon, Virginia is named after him as well as a few other towns’ named Herndon in the US.
  • William Henry Herndon (December 25, 1818, Kentucky- March 18, 1891, Springfield, Illinois) was the law partner, friend, and biographer of Abraham Lincoln. The city of Herndon, Kansas is named after him.
  • Alonzo Herndon: Son of a white slave owner Francis Marion Herndon and a slave, this African American barber and entrepreneur, Alonzo Herndon (1858-1927) was founder and president of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, one of the most successful black-owned insurance businesses in the nation. At the time of his death in 1927, he was also Atlanta's wealthiest black citizen, owning more property than any other African American. Admired and respected by many, he was noted for his involvement in and support of local institutions and charities devoted to advancing African American business and community life. Alonzo Herndon Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, is named for him. His son Norris Herndon built the family wealth to one hundred million dollars by his death in 1977.
  • John “Johnny” Herndon Mercer (November 18, 1909 – June 25, 1976) was an American songwriter and singer. As a songwriter, he is best known as a lyricist, but he also composed music. He was also a popular singer who recorded his own songs as well as those written by others. From the mid-1930s through the mid-1950s, many of the songs Mercer wrote and performed were among the most popular hits of the time including “Moon River”. He wrote the lyrics to more than fifteen hundred songs, including compositions for movies and Broadway shows. He received nineteen Academy Award nominations, and won four. Mercer was also a co-founder of Capitol Records. His grandmother was Ann Maury Herndon, daughter of Brodie S Herndon of Fredericksburg VA.

John Frederick & Lou Patsy originally settled just a little north of Shreveport in Caddo Prairie in one of the earliest settlements documented there. They lived in the area now called Erwin's Bluff and are documented there in the 1840 census where JF had 81 slaves and had Lou Patsy and his first 2 children Mary Ann and Sarah Jane living as free persons of color. It's written in some Caddo History books that JF had a 1,000 acre plantation at this time on Red Bayou. The family finally settled in Pine Island a nearby community between Vivian and Belcher-Gilliam. At the time of his Will in 1880 he owned 600 acres of land; this property was divided up in his Will. JF and Lou Patsy listed themselves in their census reports as married in 1835 which has never been verified but would be highly unlikely, plus in John Fredericks Will the children are called his "natural children" which means children out of wedlock. JF never married a white woman nor had any known children other than with Lou Patsy.  JF and Lou Patsy had many children, some we know that were living with them but were grandchildren, and some could possibly be adopted freed slaves of his that took his name but not actual children of his. His Will mentions 8 “natural” children, 7 living and lists Isabella as “not my daughter” and as a half sister to Mary Ann, so this would mean that Lou Patsy had at least this one child with someone else, Isabella’s father is unknown. The only child mentioned in his Will that had died was Jacob and it’s due to his heirs’ inheritance. John and Sarah Jane are mentioned in the 1845 Emancipation document, so there are 10 verified kids of JF and Patsy and Isabella makes 11. I think some of the others died young with no offspring so therefore wouldn’t be mentioned in the Will. His Will is also the main document to prove his parentage; in the Will he gives $500 to his niece Louisa Connery (b1827) of Lewisville, Arkansas. She was found and verified in the census as the daughter of Fleetwood Herndon born and living in the exact area of Lewisville in 1880 when the Will was made, Louisa Jane Herndon married William Connery (Connevy?), so this would make Fleetwood and JF brothers. This is the only solid link to his parents. We know that JF traveled to Arkansas to visit family also, so from the Will naming his niece and her location I was able to pin down the relationships. John Frederick died on Jan 3, 1881 in Pine Island.

Fleetwood Herndon (1792/1871- Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania, Virginia) had settled in Lafayette County Arkansas by the early 1820’s and owned much land, he married Martha Bradley cousin of Mary Jane “Polly” Bradley (wife of the first Governor of Arkansas) they were married in 1818 in Louisiana. By 1823 he had become a magistrate in Roane Township, succeeding Tom Dooley, who was elected Sheriff. Later, he would be one of the three officials who would select the site and plat (old) Lewisville to be the seat of the new Lafayette County. In the 1830s, recognizing the advantages of the upland in the Walnut Hill area, he purchased several hundred acres along the Old Shreveport Road between Walnut Hill and Louisiana. He was Postmaster for Walnut Hill in the early 1840s. He was also a veteran of the War of 1812 listed as a Lieutenant in the Louisiana Militia. I believe that John Frederick followed his older brother to this area and moved further south on into Caddo Parish to set up his plantation. The other known siblings of JF and Fleetwood are, William - 1782/1788, Elizabeth – 1784, Polly – 1795, Fanny – 1799, Augustus Gaines – 1801/1868, Richard William – 1803/1854, all born in Virginia.  
Note: Richard William Herndon moved to Kentucky where most of his children were born then settled in Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois. This is the same town that William Henry Herndon lived in (our family lore had always said that JF was the brother of this William but I found he was a 3rd cousin) so this is why I think JF knew and talked about his connection to William Henry. His brother lived in the same town and I’m sure they at least knew of each other. I’ve seen documents/memoirs from the time mentioning Richard William’s son Richard Fleetwood Herndon and his family connection to William Henry Herndon.
JF and Lou Patsy’s first child Mary Ann Herndon 1837/1905 married John Raines in 1859 and they had one son David Herndon Raines (b1860) before John died around 1869. David became a successful and prosperous farmer in Pine Island, Louisiana. He later moved to 1419 Peabody Street in Shreveport where he established himself as a person of prominence in the neighborhood as a community builder and a business and cultural promoter. By 1936, David Raines was worth more than a million dollars, most of which came from oil holdings and properties owned. An article in the 1920 Negro Year Book entitled "Louisiana Farmer Purchases $100,000 Worth of Liberty Bonds" refers to David H. Rains (Raines). The article states that "David H. Rains, a wealthy Negro farmer, living near Shreveport, Louisiana, walked into the Liberty Loan Headquarters in that city, purchased $100,000 worth of the Fourth Liberty Loan Bonds and said that if they fell short of the quota, he would make up the deficiency". The article further stated the "Mr. Rains owns several hundred acres of land and has oil wells on his plantation from which he receives royalties." David Raines first marriage was to Gracie Ann Williams and they had 12 children; his second marriage was to Mattie Brown, they had 1 child. David is Mary Ann’s only known child. The David Raines Community Center’s in the Shreveport area are named after him.
Joseph Henry Herndon was born on March 19, 1840 in Gilliam. Before his death, on November 25, 1924, he gave a monetary donation of $12,000 to the Caddo Parish School Board. The amount was given in order that a school would be built for Negroes in the northern area of the parish. Mr. C.E. Byrd was Superintendent at that time. Mr. Herndon’s contribution and his strong belief in the educational process benefited the lives of many children both black and white. Also, sharing this belief was his nephew, David Tyson. It was the visionary Mr. Tyson who was later instrumental in carrying forth the wishes of Joseph H. Herndon’s Estate of which Mr. E. B. Herndon (a distant cousin of JF’s) was the Executor in 1926. On July 2, 1953, the site of 80 acres was purchased for the school from C.W. Lane Corporation for the amount of $28,000.00. The property is located on the Gamm Road in Belcher, Louisiana. Construction began on February 2, 1955 and was completed before the projected date of September 1956. Mr. Roscoe H. White was Superintendent of the Caddo Parish Schools when Herndon High School opened in 1956. One of Dave Tyson’s daughters was part of the first graduating class. Note: The amount of Mr. Herndon’s donation in 1924 of $12,000 grew to $125,000 in 1955 due to inflation, accumulated and compound interest. Mr. Herndon’s wealth can be attributed to an inheritance from his parents. Joseph H. Herndon was able to continue his parent’s legacies of wealth. The first bank in Vivian, Louisiana was the recipient of his financial support and deposits. Even though he was a man of wealth, for most of his life he lived humbly in a small community between Vivian and Gilliam, Pine Island. His home was a simple frame house, he wore patches on his pants and his kitchen floor was clay dirt. Before his death, he built a brick home in Texarkana and resided there until his death in 1924. He is buried in Rodessa, Louisiana at the Tyson Family Cemetery, Sugar Hill. Herndon High, which is now Herndon Middle Magnet, was named after him. Joseph married Annie Taylor and had no known children except for an adopted daughter Polly Payne.  
Jacob “Jake” Herndon 1843-abt 1875 married Mary Hamlin (1850) and had 4 children, Louella 1866/1899 married Robert “Sambo” Tyson, Alfred 1868 – married Mary Baisle and re-located to Gatesville Oklahoma, Joseph 1872/1938 married Henrietta ?, and Harriet 1873. Jacob had died by the time of JF’s Will and the heirs were given land. Jacob was shot and killed by a white man on his fathers plantation in Feb of 1874 possibly due to political violence happening at the time. It's known that many blacks were killed that tried to vote for a Republican during this era. The source for this is : House Documents, Otherwise Publ. as Executive Documents: 13th Congress, 2d Session-49th Congress, 1st Session

James B Herndon 1848/1934 married Minnie Hammett and they had 12 known children. James worked with JF and his brothers in the family business. Not much else is known on James. James first marriage was to Pricilla Smith and they had 3 children.

Edward Herndon 1850/1895 married Mary Ellen Hawthorn; they are found living next door to JF & Lou Patsy in the 1880 census. I haven’t found any children or info on him other than that he was named in the Will and received land.

Martha Herndon 1851/1928 married Marshall Payne (1853-1900) and they had 4 known children, Scott Payne 1876/1897, Leonard Payne 1879/1882, John Edward Payne 1885/1960 married Lillie Bessie Henderson, Luvenia Payne 1887-1967 married Edgar Davis.

Katie Herndon 1856/1897 married Sam Sewell and had one daughter Patsy Sewell (1889/1959), she also had one other known child named Johnny Jones. I believe Katie died in the late 1890’s and Sam re-married Lucinda Jackson in 1898. They lived in Caddo Parish and also in Miller Arkansas. Patsy Sewell married Dennis Dan Durden and they are the grandparents OJ Simpson.  
Fannie Herndon (my great grandmother) 1857/1893 was born in Gilliam where the old depot once stood, she’s the last born to JF & Lou Patsy. Fannie married Richard Tyson (1844/1907) who was the brother of Louella Herndon’s husband Robert “Sambo” Tyson. Richard & Robert were the sons of Noah Tyson Sr and his slave Louise “Lula” Dunn. Fannie and Richard had 8 children, Mary Ann Tyson 1877/1890, Ellen Tyson 1879/1924 married Lee “Bud” Christian (and also had one child each with Butler Leggins and Coleman Christian), Mattie Tyson 1881/1954 married Cliston Caldwell, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Tyson 1887/1925 married Walter Gipson 1885/? (and had a child with George Collins), Joseph Tyson 1888/1962 married Mollie Boyd, David Tyson 1890/1980 married Willie Lee Hayes/Carter 1902, James Tyson 1892/1930 married Minnie Myles, Richard Tyson Jr unknown birth date, he died at 17 yrs old.

John Frederick’s "assumed" paternal line is as follows: (America only)

    • parents - John Herndon Jr - 1761/1811/Mary Fleetwood –
    • grandparents – John Herndon Sr - 1732/1783/Mary Lewis –
    • g-grandparents – Edward Herndon Jr - 1702/1759/Elizabeth Stubblefield –
    • 2g-grandparents – Edward Herndon Sr - 1678/1758/Mary Waller* –
    • 3g-grandparents - William Herndon - 1649/1722/Catherine Digges* – 1st Herndon from Kent England to Virginia

I’ve traced this line in England back a few more generations to Albert John Herndon 1535/1590 Kent England with wife Martha Ann Broderick 1538/1595.   

Another Herndon named William  (1824-Virginia/1880-Caddo) came into Caddo Parish around 1869 with his wife Mary and 6 children- William D, Jas R, Edward B, John W, Jesse, and Claude. Along with him came 2 black Herndon women named Martha and Ellen (I believe x-slaves of his), Martha had 6 children-Mary, Lucy, Dandy, Fannie, Dock, and Lettie all named Herndon, and Ellen had 3-Sallie, Robert, and Henry again all named Herndon, so I’m not sure but have a hunch that some were children of William or one of his older sons. William’s son Edward Beverly Herndon became a well known local attorney, mayor of Shreveport 1890, and his firm handled the estate for John Frederick. William’s tree goes back to the same Edward Herndon & Mary Waller, making William & JF distant cousins.