HICKMAN HENSLEY, one of the leading business men of Jacksboro, was born at the Hensley home on Carroll’s creek, five miles east of Jacksboro, Jack county, Texas, in 1871. His father, John Hensley, was a native of Tennessee, but during his boyhood days came to Texas with his parents, the family home being established in Jack county, and they were numbered among its earliest settlers. The farm was located in the southern part of the county, on Keechi creek, where Hickman Hensley, the father of John, pre-empted a tract of state land and started to carve out a home for himself and family in this then new and unimproved country, this continuing as their place of abode for several years.
At a very early age John Hensley started out to make his own way in the world, his first employment consisting in getting out salt at Salt Hill, in the southern part of the county. He was an industrious lad, saved his money, and when enough would accumulate he would buy a head or two of cattle, and in this way secured his start in the cattle industry. His herd gradually increased, and when a young man he came the owner of quite a bunch of stock and was beginning to be ranked with the successful cattlemen of northwestern Texas. On Carroll’s creek, five miles east of Jacksboro, at the age of twenty years he was married to Miss Kate Sanders, and the young couple immediately took up their abode at the place of their marriage, which land still belongs to the Hensley family and has been their home for many years. Mr. Hensley continued to be successful in his operations, and at one time owned between eight and ten thousand head of cattle this county. He also had extensive ranching interest in northwestern Texas, and was well known among the prominent stockmen of his day. He was a typical westerner, generous hearted to a fault, and form his early manhood was universally known as “Uncle John,” this being probably due to the fact that he raised and educated some of his nephews. When first embarking in the cattle business he adopted the brand “22,” and his cattle were always thus known. As a pioneer Mr. Hensley took a prominent part in the Indian history of Jack and surrounding counties. As a member of the Texas Rangers he was engaged in many Indian battles, and in the early ’70s, when the red men had become intolerable with their murderous and thieving depredations, he was appointed a delegate with others to go to Fort Sill, Indian Territory, and interview General Sherman, who was then at that point, for the purpose of enlisting his aid and getting rid of the savages. They succeeded in inducing the general to come to Jacksboro, although he could not believe the situation as bad as reported, but it happened, however, that a short time after his arrival here a government pack train, with a detail of soldiers, carrying supplies westward to Fort Belknap was attacked by a band of Indians under Chief Big Tree, and almost every one of the government outfit was massacred. This took place in Young county, about thirty-five miles west of Jacksboro, and a monument has since been erected there to their memory. This massacre convinced the general that instant action was necessary, and he put sufficient force in Texas to dismount the red men and drive them back to the reservations in the territory. Previous to this time, in the latter part of the ’50s, when John Hensley was a very young man, he was sent to Austin as a representative of the Rangers to interview Governor Sam Houston with the view of getting state aid in furnishing supplies and equipment to the Rangers. In this he was successful and Governor Houston appointed him quartermaster to receive and attend to the distribution of the supplies and equipment. Although he moved his family to Jacksboro and gave them a home in town, he practically lived all his life at the old place on Carroll’s creek, and there his death occurred form apoplexy on the 29th of November, 1903. During his life he had been importuned many times to become a candidate for high official positions, such as representative, but always refused. Mrs. Hensley is still living. In their family being Mrs. Charity Wilson, Mrs. Lou McConnell, Mrs. Hattie Jackson, Mrs. Maud Wells and Mrs. Angie Briggs.
Hickman Hensley, one of the three sons of the family, was early inured to the duties attending the cattle business, receiving his education in the local schools, while his business training was obtained in Eastman’s Business College at Poughkeepsie, New York. His brothers, Biff and John Hensley, were also educated at that institution, and after the death of the father the three sons were appointed administrators of the estate, having ever since been engaged in the cattle and other industries under the firm name of Hensley Brothers. They own about five thousand acres of pasture and farming land at the Carroll creek place, and are largely engaged in handling and feeding cattle. Hickman Hensley is also interested in the ice and electric light plant, is the owner of the Hensley livery stable and in many other ways is interested in the growth and development of Jacksboro and Jack county. In 1896 he was elected to the position of district clerk, to which he was re-elected in 1898, for two terms, at the present time being the only native son of the county who has been honored with official county positions.
In the city of Jacksboro, Mr. Hensley was united in marriage to Miss Alma Johnson, a daughter of Everett Johnson, an honored pioneer of Jack county, where he located in the early ’60s, coming from New York, and for many years enjoyed the distinction of being the only Republican in the county. To this marriage has been born a daughter, Hazel. Mr. Hensley is a member of the Presbyterian church, and affiliates with the Knights of Pythias fraternity.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 241-242.