David Henshaw

 1. William Henshall  m Margerie Gyll 
 2.. Thomas Henshall (?-c1631) m - Kendrick 
 3... William Henshawe (c1608-1644) m Katherine Houghton (1615-1651)
 4.... Joshua Henshawe (1643-1717) m Elizabeth Sumner (?-1728)
 5..... Joshua Henshaw (1672-1747) m Mary Hay Webster (1672-1747)
 6...... Daniel Henshaw (1701-1781) m Elizabeth Allen Bass (1703-1774)
 7....... David Henshaw (1744-1808) m Mary Sargent (1755-1831)
 8........ David Henshaw (1791-1852)
David Henshaw     [ID 04527] Click here to switch to Ancestror Tree view: Tree View

Born Apr 2 1791, Leicester, Massachusetts.1,2,3,4,5  

David received a rudimentary education in the Leicester schools, became a druggist's apprentice at age 16, and at 21 he went into business for himself.1  

After making a sizable fortune as a wholesale druggist he branched out into banking, railroads, and politics.  Before he was 33 he had acquired means to become a banker and to establish an insurance company.  The panic of 1837 forced his Commonwealth Bank into bankruptcy.1  

David was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1826 and served as Collector of the Port of Boston from the late 1820s until 1838.5  One of the founders of the Massachusetts Democratic Party in the early 1820's, he led its Boston faction.  He represented the town of Leicester in the state legislature in 1839.1  

David obtained President John Tyler's nomination to be Secretary of the Navy and administered the department from July 23, 1843 to Feb. 19, 1844.1  (David Henshaw was never actually confirmed as Secretary of the Navy by the United States Senate, as were so many of President Tyler's Cabinet nominees).6  

During his brief term in office, he addressed shipbuilding problems, selected senior officers for important seagoing commands, revised supply arrangements in the Navy Yards and attempted to establish a school for Midshipmen.5  Another accomplishment during his tenture was saving the USS Constitution from the scrap heap.6  His recess appointment as Secretary failed to receive Congressional confirmation, requiring that he leave office when Thomas W. Gilmer was confirmed to succeed him.5  (His successor Secretary of the Navy was killed, after only nine days in office, by a canon explosion while firing a salute to a ship passing in review).5,6  

After he left this post he dominated Democratic affairs in Massachusetts until the slavery issue began to disrupt parties.1  

David is shown in the 1850 census, Leicester, Worcester County, Massachusetts, living with his sister Anna:7

David Henshaw, age 59, born in Massachusetts; farmer; $8000 real estate.
Anna Henshaw, age 73, born in Massachusetts.
Eight other unrelated people, apparently hired workers.

David Henshaw died Nov 11 1852, Leicester, Massachusetts; buried Pine Grove Cemetery, Leicester, Massachusetts.1,2,4,5,8  

David was conservative, he was a capitalist, a Mason, an opponent of prohibition and a friend of slaveholders.  He read much and possessed a keen knowledge of men.  Although he never married, he dispensed a generous hospitality at his country home in Leicester.1  

The USS Henshaw (DD-278), 1919-1930, was named in honor of Secretary of the Navy Henshaw.5  For more about the USS Henshaw see the U.S. Navy's Naval Historical Center: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-h/dd278.htm

Also see: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/mhr/4/earle.html

(photo)Photo: David Henshaw 5

(photo)Photo: David Henshaw Lithograph by Charles Fenderich, 1843; collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 9


  1. Contribution from David H. Henshaw citing:
    "Dictionary of American Biography", Charles Scribner's Sons and
    "American Secretaries of the Navy", Navy Institute Press.
  2. "Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans",
    Johnson, Rossiter, ed.; The Biographical Society, 1904.
  3. "History of Henshaws in Scotland, in England and in America to the Present Time", Edith Henshaw Kuntz, 1956; contributed by Don Henshaw.
  4. "Genealogy of the Denny family in England and America", Denny, Christopher Columbus; Leicester, Massachusettes, 1886.
  5. U.S. Naval Historical Center:
  6. Contribution from Tom Henshaw.
  7. 1850 census, Leicester, Worcester County, Massachusetts; roll 342, page 322, dwelling #195.
  8. "Where They're Buried"; http://www.ancestry.com.
  9. http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/mhr/4/earle.html.

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