Henry Richardson

Henry Richardson

May 30, 1870 – November 19, 1948

Last updated March 7, 2023; Click here for a printable pdf of Henry’s story

Henry Richardson was born on May 30, 1870[1] in Georgia.  He was the son of CY (SY) and Betty Richardson.  According to the 1880[2] United States Federal Census taken in Polk County in Cedartown, Georgia, Henry had three older siblings: Josephine (23), Martha (20), William (12), and one younger sister, Rena (4). In 1880, Henry’s age was listed as eight.

Henry did not attend school because Black people were not allowed to earn an education during this time period.  His education consisted of the knowledge he obtained through his every day walk of life.  He learned the skills of smoking meat and farming which he used to support himself.

According to the 1900 United States Federal Census[3] taken in Polk County in Cedartown, Georgia, and a marriage certificate, Henry married to Etta Jones. Their union took place on July 1, 1894.

They had three children:  Wesley Richardson, Horace/Harris Richardson[4], and Essie Richardson.  Due to conflicting information, the exact year of Henry and Etta’s children’s birth is not clear, but we know they were all born before 1900.  It is not known when or why Henry and Etta went their separate ways, but in 1907, Henry married another woman.

According to the 1910 United States Federal Census taken in Polk County in Cedartown, Georgia, two of Henry’s children, Horace/Harris Richardson and Essie Richardson, lived with Henry and Fannie.  It is not known what happened to Henry and Etta’s oldest child Wesley Richardson.

While in Georgia, the union of Henry and Fannie K. Richardson produced five children:  Moses Richardson born May 25, 1908; Wilson Richardson born September 26, 1909; Noble Richardson born December 24, 1911; Kathryn Richardson born March 29, 1913 and L. C. Richardson born approximately in 1915 (L. C.’s name is just the initials L and C and is not an abbreviation for two names).

In Georgia, Henry became involved in a major conflict with some white people.  The actual subject matter of the conflict is vague.  Supposedly some white people were killed and their homes burned to the ground.  Henry’s home also was supposedly burned to the ground.

Henry’s grandson, Charles E. Richardson visited Georgia while on vacation around the year 2003.  Charles met some people there who knew of Henry Richardson.  They told Charles that Henry Richardson had cut off a white woman’s head and was marching through town holding her head in his hand.  They said by the time the sheriff arrived with his horse and buggy, Henry had gathered his family, hopped a train and fled.  Charles E. Richardson said the people he met in Georgia considered Henry Richardson a legend.

Regardless of how or why, in 1917, Henry Richardson moved to Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife Fannie and their children.  It is not clear if Henry’s children, Horace/Harris and Essie, from his prior marriage who were living with Fannie and Henry relocated to Indianapolis with them.  After Henry left Georgia, there has been no information uncovered about what happened to Horace/Harris, but Essie did live in Indianapolis.  It is not clear if she came to Indianapolis in 1917 or sometime later.

Henry and his family’s primary residence was located on the southeast side of town at 1323 Golay Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46203.  Henry supported his family by earning money working at the Glass Plant as a laborer.  He built a smoke house at his home on Golay Street.  The smoke house was used to cure ham and bacon which was used to feed his family.

Henry maintained a strawberry garden on Golay Street and a larger garden in Beech Grove, a city located on the southeast side of Marion County, Indiana.  His family consumed some of the crops and sold the rest for profit.  Henry used mules to plow the fields for his gardens.  When a mule refused to pull the plow, Henry would hit the mule with his fist and knock him out. 

On January 1, 1918, Fannie gave birth to their daughter Alice Ruth Richardson.  The following year, a son, Wesley Richardson was born August 30, 1919. 

On May 24, 1921 tragedy struck Henry’s family.  His oldest daughter, born from the union of Henry and his first wife Etta, passed away from a gangrenous appendix.  At the time of her death she was married to Bud Green and lived in Indianapolis.  She was taken back to Cedartown, Georgia for burial.

The year following his daughter’s death, a son Clarence Richardson was born January 4, 1922 to Henry and Fannie.  Later, they had two more sons Ralph W. Elwood Richardson born May 15, 1926 and Roosevelt James Richardson born July 5, 1930. 

One day, Henry and his son Nobel were arguing.  Henry asked Noble, “Do you think you can take me?”  Noble replied, “Yes.”  They went into the front yard and had a fist fight.  Nobel knocked out his father’s left eye. 

When Henry’s son Clarence was coming into manhood, Clarence refused to work or look for a job.  Henry had his sons Moses and Wilson tie Clarence up with a rope.  Henry then beat Clarence with a strap.  Afterwards, Clarence found and maintained a job until he was able to retire.

Due to the immediate after effect of slavery on the Black race, Henry did not have a role model or mentor to pattern himself after in regard to being a husband and father.  Although Henry was not formally educated and subsequently unable to read or write and had no role model, he was still able to find a way to buy a home and provide for himself, a wife and his children.

Henry was known as Papa to his children and they have all said Papa refused to take pictures.  There are no known photographs of Henry Richardson. 

Henry was dedicated to his family and stayed faithful to his wife Fannie until his death.  Henry passed away on November 19, 1948 at the age of 78.  His cause of death was cardiovascular disease.  Henry’s funeral was arranged by his family and was held in the front room of his son Moses’ house.  His final affairs were settled by his daughter Alice Ruth.  Henry was laid to rest in New Crown Cemetery, 2101 Churchman Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana 46203. It is not known whether Henry’s dreams and goals in life were met.  The one fact that is known was Henry was loved and respected by his entire family.

[1] On Henry’s death certificate, his second wife reported his birthdate as May 30, 1883.  Due to the ages of Henry’s oldest three children, we know he could not have been born in 1883.  This year also contradicts the age Henry reported himself as being on some of his children’s birth certificates.  In Indiana, for a period of time, the ages of parents were recorded on their child’s birth certificates.  Based on multiple sources, it has been concluded that Henry was probably born in 1870.

[2] The 1800 US Federal Census is the only record that has been found thus far detailing who Henry’s siblings were.

[3] The US Federal Census Records, including Henry and his family, have been included at the end of this document.

[4] The second child born to Henry and Etta Richardson’s name was spelled both Horace and Harris on US Federal Census documents. We included both spellings since we are not sure which name is correct.