Yoakum, Henderson King (1810–1856)

By: Thomas P. Yoakum

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 1, 1995

Henderson King Yoakum, historian, son of George and Mary Ann (Maddy) Yoakum, was born in Claiborne County, Tennessee, on September 6, 1810. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1832. On February 13, 1833, he married Evaline Cannon of Roane County, Tennessee; they became the parents of nine children. In the spring of 1833 Yoakum resigned his lieutenant's commission in the army and began to practice law in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He became captain of a company of mounted militia in 1836 and served near the Sabine River under Edmund P. Gaines. In 1837 Yoakum was mayor of Murfreesboro. In 1838 he reentered the army as a colonel in the Tennessee infantry and served in the Cherokee War. He was a member of the Tennessee Senate from 1839 to 1845 and as senator urged the annexation of Texas. On October 6, 1845, Yoakum established residence at Huntsville, Texas, and on December 2, 1845, was admitted to the Texas bar. In 1846 he was instrumental in making Huntsville the county seat of Walker County. At the outbreak of the Mexican War he volunteered as a private under John C. (Jack) Hays and served at Monterrey as a lieutenant under James Gillaspie. With the expiration of his enlistment on October 2, 1846, he returned to his law practice at Huntsville, where Sam Houston was his close friend and client. Although a member of the Methodist Church, Yoakum, in 1849, wrote the charter for Austin College and served as a trustee for that school from 1849 to 1856. He helped establish the Andrew Female College in Huntsville and in 1849 was appointed director of the state penitentiary there. In 1853 he became "master mason" and then "high priest" of the Huntsville Lodge. In July of that year he moved to his country home, Shepherd's Valley, seven miles from Huntsville, where in 1855 he completed his two-volume History of Texas from Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846, for which Houston was said to have given him much of the information. In the fall of 1856 Yoakum went to Houston to deliver a Masonic address, attend to some courtroom duties, and visit his friend, Judge Peter W. Gray. While attending court he suffered a severe tubercular attack and was treated after being taken to Judge Gray's home, but weakened and died there on November 30, 1856. Yoakum County, established in 1876, was named in honor of Henderson King Yoakum. In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission erected a marker at the site of the Yoakum home in Shepherd's Valley.

George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York (8 vols., New York [etc.]: D. Van Nostrand [etc.], 1868–1940). Dallas Morning News, August 21, 1932. Dictionary of American Biography. Harold Schoen, comp., Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence (Austin: Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, 1938). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas P. Yoakum, “Yoakum, Henderson King,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/yoakum-henderson-king.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995