Robert James Henderson was born 16 February 1858 at Lake Bird, Taylor County, Florida, the sixth child of "Judge" Robert Henderson and Sarah Minton McMullen. Robert James Henderson and Annie Helena Cox, born 4 February 1869, second child of Eli Cox and Nancy Lucinda Poppell, were married 15 October 1885 in Taylor County, Florida. Their home was about one mile from Lake Bird and eight miles from Perry, the County Seat of Taylor County.
Robert James owned about 160 acres of land. About 40 acres was cleared and used for farming. The rest was timber and brush. The main crops raised were corn, cotton, sugar cane, and peanuts for the hogs. They raised quite a few hogs each year. They just ran loose in the swampland and they were rounded up in the fall. Those suitable for market were turned into the peanut fields to be fattened and made ready for market. Their farming was done with a mule and a light walking plow. At one time they did their farming with an ox. He also kept 50 to 60 head of cattle. He cut and peeled the logs to build his home. It was a three roomed house with a porch on the north and south side. It had what was called an adobe chimney and a large fireplace. Their cooking was done in the fireplace which was their only source of heat. Actually it was the heart of their home. The house was completed a year or two before he was married and it was used for a school.
Robert took a great deal of pride in his good hunting dogs, and he tried to keep his swampland clear of predatory animals. He was an excellent shot with a rifle. He used to hunt the wild cats that killed little pigs and the opossums that killed the little chickens. Raccoons were hunted for their fur. He used to have what was called a "yelping box." It made a noise like the wild turkeys and when the turkeys heard the call they would come within shooting range. Alligators were hunted for their hides. Pennies were scarce but they always had plenty to eat. Almost everything they ate was raised on their farm.
Robert James Henderson was Deputy Sheriff of Taylor County at one time and he also served as School Trustee.
Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were welcomed at their home the first time they called. They were Elder Nebiker and Elder Blood from Salt Lake City. The Elders spent the night at their home and left him a Book of Mormon. He was greatly impressed. His faith and the faith of other members of the family in the truthfulness of the Church began to grow. As a result Annie Helena Cox Henderson was baptized 12 August 1901 and Robert James Henderson was baptized the 21 November 1901.
The missionaries in Florida at that time were not well received and were often persecuted by the people. At one time a mob drove two missionaries right out of the County. Often times people who were friendly towards the missionaries were also persecuted. Robert James Henderson's barn was burned to the ground two different times. One time a noise woke Annie Helena in the middle of the night. They arose immediately to find different fires burning, one at each end of the barn. It was too late to save the barn from burning to the ground. When daylight came they found fresh foot prints leading to a place where a saddle horse had been tied to the fence in order that the culprit might make a fast get-a-way. There was no doubt in their minds that the fire was deliberately set by someone because of friendliness and connections with the Latter-day Saint missionaries.
Sarah Minton McMullen, Robert James Henderson's mother, was the second person to join the Mormon Church in Taylor County, Florida. She had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Church and it's teachings.
Missionaries there at that time encouraged people to leave that part of the country and live where the church was more firmly established. Robert James was a pioneer at heart and at this time Western Canada was being opened for settlers. Many of the pioneers were members of the Latter-day Saint Church. He felt the new land was full of opportunity and would be a good place to raise his family. He sold most of his belongings in Florida and the family travelled by train to Raymond, Alberta, Canada. They arrived 5 May 1904. On the 29th of June 1907 he moved to Purple Springs, Alberta, Canada, where he took up a a homestead. It turned out to be a very dry part of the country and Robert James worked hard at his farming to provide for his family. They had eleven children, eight of them were born in Florida. They were: Leona Gertude, Oswald Clayton, Effie Corrine, Lucius Bernard, Lorenzo Guy, Nancy Minton, Eunice Valentine, and Euphemia Belle. The last three children were born in Canada. They were: Robert Buren, Loretta June, and Laura Florida.
Annie Helena Cox Henderson died 7 December 1916 at Purple Springs, Alberta and is buried in Taber, Alberta, Canada. Robert James Henderson died 31 July 1917 in Magrath, Alberta, Canada at the home of his daughter Leona Henderson Bingham. He is buried in Taber, Alberta, Canada.
They were sturdy pioneers. Their descendents are grateful to them for their courage and faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in this new land of Alberta, Canada.
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