HENRY CLAY KING, Co. B. 24th Regt. Tx. Cav.


© Karen McCann Hett  All Rights Reserved 2003-2014


Portrait from the book, History of Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin

Henry Clay King was born January 16, 1834, in Ohio.

He was enumerated with his parents in Newton, Trumbull County, Ohio, in 1850, son of Lyman King, a joiner, and his wife, Sarah (Sally) Powers.

According to his life story, as published in History of Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin, Henry left Ohio when he was seventeen and went to Mobile, Alabama, to live with an older brother. There, with his brother, George, he learned the trade of carpenter and joiner.

Henry then went to Galveston County, Texas, in the early 1850s, and, according to his biography, he went into business as a contractor for general building, doing quite an extensive business.

We know that in Galveston, he met Susanna (Susan) Mellor, often entered as Miller. Susanna was born in Manchester, England on May 22, 1838. She was the daughter of Robert Mellor, an 1837 immigrant to Texas, and Susanna Bostick. Robert had left England after becoming notorious in the Chartist Movement for political reform. He migrated to Galveston and became the proprietor of a boarding house. Robert was the subject of a magazine article by Percy B. St. John, published in England in 1844. Robert died in Galveston in 1845.

In the census of 1850, Susanna was enumerated as the daughter of the widow Susanna Mellor, whose family resided in a working class Galveston neighborhood composed primarily of immigrants.

A biography of Susanna's brother Robert Mellor was published in History of Texas, Biographical History, 1895

Henry and young Susanna married July 11, 1854, in Galveston (Marriage Book B, page 152). She was sixteen and Henry was twenty. Henry does not mention his marriage to Susanna in his biographical sketch.

Following their marriage, the couple moved to Danville, Montgomery County for reasons that are unknown to us, but likely due to friends or family already living in the community. By the time of the 1860 census, they had three children.

Henry did not render and pay taxes in Montgomery County until 1860, at which time he owned one lot in Danville valued at $500.00 and a horse valued at $100.00. He also paid a poll tax.

Typical Mechanics Shop of 1860

In 1860, he was occupied as a mechanic. It is likely that the Danville lot contained his mechanic’s shop. Living in his household at the time of the 1860 census was David E. Roten. David was also enumerated as a mechanic and was probably employed as Henry's helper. Next door was Augustus Richards. Next door on the other side was M. A. McCrory.

Henry's biographical sketch does not mention Danville. However, we read:

On the outbreak of the civil war, business was suspended. Mr King being a northern man by birth was identified with the south. His situation was a trying one to him, his loyalty was perhaps divided, but he always believed that the appeal to arms was unnecessary; that the ballot box could and should have settled all differences between the two sections.

On April 24, 1862, Henry enlisted in Company B, Second Texas Lancers, under Captain Samuel Dunbar Wooldridge. This regiment later became the 24th Texas Cavalry. He was enrolled by John E. George at Danville. Henry was elected First Corporal, a testament to his popularity and leadership ability.

Henry gives his biographer a version of events that indicates he was conscripted. In truth, he was a volunteer under Col. George Washington Carter, a ploy to avoid infantry conscription used by the 3,000 or so mounted men who joined Carter at Hempstead. They were not Texas Rangers.

Henry left for Arkansas with his regiment in May, 1862, and was dismounted there with the others, subsequently being forced to serve as an infantryman. Henry fought in the Battle of Arkansas Post and was captured there by the Union troops on January 11, 1863.

In 1862 under the Confederate government conscription act, Mr. King was drafted into the confederate army, and placed in the 24th Cavalry (Texas Rangers) and the regiment was placed in drill school at Shreveport, La, in July. The regiment made part of a confederate force of 10,000 men under orders for Little Rock, Ark. Later his regiment was dismounted and the force ordered to Arkansas Post, there going into winter quarters. In January 1863 when Gen. McClernand and Shermans forces made their attack upon the post, he was in line of battle outside the fort. During the engagement which preceded the capitulation, Mr. King had a slight wound in his head, which caused permanent deafness in one ear. His chum was killed by his side by the same shell which injured him.

Surrender of Arkansas Post

Henry's biography continues with some interesting details:

After the surrender, while in line, marching to the transport of the Union fleet, hardly able to walk, he thought of the fine revolver his comrade had on his person. Leaving the line he obtained it. Soon after returning, noticing a fine looking Union officer nearing him he hailed him and sold the revolver to him for a five dollar greenback, which, in his penniless condition, was a fortune. He was taken by way of Alton to Camp Butler Ill.

We might note here the names of the four men of Company B who were killed in the battle that day, any one of whom might have had a fine pistol: Milton Estill, Peter B. Irvine, James B. Thomason, and Reuben B. White.

H. C. King's name is on the Roster of Troops Captured at Ft. Hindman, Arkansas Post. He is also on the Roll of Prisoners at Camp Butler.

He was age twenty-eight, his hair was brown, his eyes were blue, he was 5 feet 9 inches, and he was a resident of Montgomery County, Texas.

Henry's story continues:

The severity of the weather, and change of climate brought him very low and the sickness following, with prison hospital care, came very near being his last. In March, being a little improved in health but still suffering by inward trouble in his head, caused by the wound, he began to study upon the future and concluded to take the oath of allegiance. This he did and in his old rebel uniform and the greenback in his pocket he made his way to Springfield, Ill.

Next, we find H. C.’s name on an undated parole noting when and where he was captured, and also noting that he was "liberated." This parole gives his rank as Second Corporal.

We know that Henry was not with the other 508 Prisoners of War who were sent by rail to Virginia for exchange. Instead, he had been liberated--freed--upon taking the oath of allegiance to the Union, even though the rest of his company was sent to City Point Virginia as per a notation printed on the card: "This parole bears the following endorsement:City Point, Va., April 17, 1863. Rec’d this 17th day of April from Capt. R. W. Healy, Co., A, 58th Illinois, five hundred and eight Prisoners of War and fifteen Citizens, the fifteen citizens claimed the privilege of citizens and are receipted for as such. J. H. Thompson, Capt. Comdg. at City Point, Va."

After the regiment was paroled for exchange, the muster roll of the Confederate forces noted that H. C. King was “absent without leave having taken the oath of allegiance at Camp Butler.” The final muster roll mentioning H. C. King in June, 1863, states, “Deserted, Took the Oath of Allegiance at Camp Butler.”

In looking at the situation in which Henry found himself, it is possible to understand why he may have wanted to “take the oath” and be freed. The prisoners were living in cold, miserable conditions without enough food. Many were very ill and many were dying. Others were taking the oath daily. In addition, Henry was born in Ohio, and it is possible that his sentiment lay with the Union from the beginning. Henry’s next-door-neighbor, M. A. McCrory, also took the oath. These two men may have influenced each other in their decisions to desert the Confederate cause.

There has long been a question among his Texas descendants as to whether Henry came home from the war.

In examining the Montgomery County tax renditions, we find that in 1862, Henry King rendered one lot in Danville, one slave, two horses, and one poll. This rendition was undoubtedly made before Henry left Danville with the troops in May.

In 1863, H. C. King rendered $1100 in total taxables, and one poll.

A careful search of the tax list for 1864 does not show any listing for H. C. King. However, in 1865, his lot in Danville was rendered by a former soldier friend and Danville merchant, J. S. Thomason, showing a value of $266.00. No poll tax was paid, indicating that Henry was not living in the county.

The following year, 1866, the lot in Danville is rendered under his own name with no agent rendering for him; but again, no poll tax was paid.

Finally, in 1867, the lot in Danville was rendered under the name of Susan King, his wife.

Since no other soldiers on the battlefield rendered their taxable property, let alone themselves as a taxable poll, we think that Henry must have come home after his release from Camp Butler. He has to have physically been present in Danville in order to pay a poll tax in 1863.

His biographical sketch infers otherwise, however, never once mentioning Danville nor his wife and children in Texas. It says that he made his way from Camp Butler to Springfield, the largest Illinois city near Camp Butler.

His health improved rapidly and he was soon at his old trade. In the meantime, by correspondence, Mr. King learned in May, that his father, Lyman King, had moved, in 1856, from Ohio to Wisconsin and was then living in Bridgeport, Crawford county. He immediately joined them and has from that time resided in this town.

In any case, Henry disappeared from Texas. A Texas descendant, Phil Whitley, tells a story passed down in his King family to the effect that an ancestor (was it Henry?) smashed a piece of marble with his fist, and this piece of marble is still owned by a descendant of the family.

Delving into the history of the community, we find that the sentiments of Danville residents lay strictly with the South. A Confederate law made it mandatory for any soldier who made his way home to immediately re-join a Confederate fighting unit. Deserters were not tolerated. Posses composed of local militia were routinely ordered to round up deserters and force them back into service.

For any number of reasons, Henry may have felt obligated to honor his Parole pledge to the Union: We, the Undersigned prisoners of War, do give our parole of honor, that we will not take up arms, or do any hostile act against the United States until regularly exchanged.

According to research of a descendant of his brother George, it was Henry's desertion that led to his separation with Susan.

We know now that, whatever the actual circumstances of his departure, Henry went north to join his father, Lyman O. King, and his brother Lyman King, Jr., a Union veteran, in Crawford County, Wisconsin.

Henry's wife, Susan King, was enumerated in the newly established town of Willis, Montgomery County, in 1870. She was head of family and had four children: Theodore, Petts, Ida, and Susan. Susan and family lived near Captain Wooldridge and his family, who had also moved to Willis from Danville.

Henry himself was enumerated with his new wife in Crawford County, Wisconsin, in 1870. He was married to Mary Seaman on November 21, 1869. By the time of the census, he was a produce dealer. Mary was 23 and Henry was 36. They were to be the parents of six children, only two of whom would survive to adulthood.

Whether or not Henry and Susan were legally divorced has not been determined.

The Home of Henry and Mary King at Bridgeport, Wi.
Thank you to Descendant John King for sharing this photo

In the words of Henry King's biographer:

Mr. King owns a very fine farm, the old Atherton place, about one and one half miles from the village. His residence is upon this farm. He was married in 1869 to Mary Seaman. Four children have been born to them, only one of whom is living...Mr. King is one of the prominent men of the county, is serving now (1884) as chairman of the town board. He has served five years as town treasurer--1873-1878.

In addition, Henry served as postmaster of Bridgeport from January 20, 1873, to May 9, 1887.

Meanwhile, funds were sent to Susan through Henry's brother George Franklin King. “At one time Susan came to Mobile to seek further help from George Franklin King in her behalf. Details of this were kept secret from the rest of the family.” The foregoing was told to family historian Frances Green by a granddaughter of George King.

In 1875, one of the daughters of Henry and Susan King, Ida Melissa King, married Warwick Whitley. Warwick Whitley was a first cousin of two of Henry's fellow cavalrymen, Charles Mills Lawrence and William B. Lawrence. The other children who survived to adulthood were Sarah Pett and Susan. By all indications, Theodore died after 1870.

This photo is The Willis Hotel, about 1900, courtesy of F. Carlton Cranor
It was owned and operated by Ed Wooldridge son of Captain Wooldridge
and was on Block 3, lots 1 & 2, nearly adjacent to the King Hotel
It was typical of a hotel or boarding house of the times.

In 1880, Susan was still living in Willis and was enumerated as a hotel keeper. A descendant, Philip D. Whitley, tells us that the King Hotel was located near the railroad station and was convenient for people traveling by train. In her home are an adopted daughter and a boarder, Alex Chambers, a saloon keeper. In this census, it is noted that Susan was widowed.

In 1880 and 1881, Susanna King purchased parts of lots 6, 7, 8, and 9, of Block 4 in Willis, and on this location the King Hotel was built, according to the research of descendant Phil Whitley. Susanna's father had been a boarding house proprietor in Galveston, and it was a profession she was familiar with.

Susan was enumerated as Mrs. S. King, a hotel proprietor in Willis in 1900, and she still had the same boarder as in 1880, Alex Chambers, though now he was a Justice of the Peace. He was apparently well liked by the family, as one of the Whitley sons was named Alex Chambers Whitley.

Susan died June 7, 1902 and was buried in the old section of Willis Cemetery.

Thanks to Bobby and Carol Babin Estes for their findagrave photo of Susan's grave stone
in the Willis City Cemetery

In 1890, according to Mrs. Green, Henry and wife Mary moved to Lynxville to operate a general merchandise business. Later, they moved to Ferryville, and then to Mt. Sterling, Wisconsin.

Henry Clay King died March 20, 1911 at Mt. Sterling, Crawford County, Wisconsin. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery. There appears to be a Union symbol on his grave, for some unknown reason.

Obituary provided by John King, compliments of Linda Wetmore Bauer

Henry “left a will leaving each of Susan's three children a small sum. It has been said, by his granddaughter to have been $10 each.” (This is from the work of Frances Green.)

Mary Seaman King lived to be one hundred years old. She died November 26, 1946, and is buried with Henry.


Thanks to Find-a-Grave Contributor "D." at harleyblue for the use of Henry's monument photos.

Thanks to descendant of Henry and Susan, Philip D. Whitley, for his information on Susan King's life and death and for information on her children and the connection to the Whitley, and thus the Lawrence family. Thanks also to Phil for sharing his research of the Montgomery County deeds, confirming the locations of the King Hotel and the Willis Hotel.

Thanks to John King, descendant of Henry and Mary, for contacting me with the information that our soldier Henry King lived out his life in Crawford County, Wisconsin, and for his assistance in obtaining supporting documents. Thanks also to John for sharing the very interesting research of George King's descendant, Frances Green. These detailed stories lend much depth to our understanding of the effects of the Civil War on the warriors and their families. More recently, John found an article on Susan's father, Robert Mellor, which was published in a British literary journal in 1844.

Thanks to Frank Johnson for sharing his expertise in Montgomery County's Civil War history, and for providing insight into Henry's community relationships.

Thanks to researcher and Genealogist Supreme Thomas Adkins of Adkins9.net for locating the downloadable copy of History of Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin, and for his unfailing support of my efforts to expand the biographies of our shared kin of Walker and Montgomery Counties.

For further information and records of all Confederate soldiers of Montgomery County, Texas, as well as histories of the regiments they served in, see Montgomery County, Texas, CSA by Frank M. Johnson. The book may be purchased by visiting Frank's website at frankmjohnson.net or by contacting Frank at [email protected]

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