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Tour Through Time

Tour Through Time: Dickinson College alummus was well-known lawyer and banker

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J. Webster Henderson.

J. Webster Henderson believed that education was the key to upward mobility.

As an 1876 Dickinson College graduate, the Carlisle native gave a commencement speech titled “The Elevation of the Masses.”

“The present calls for social reorganization on the principles of a higher life – a unity of purpose and community of interests,” the future lawyer and banker told his classmates.

“We would not limit education to any question of dollars and cents, but only by the satisfying of the cravings and longings of the immortal spirit,” he added. “We would place within the reach of the humblest citizen the highest honors of the state and nation. We would open the doors of the best society to the refined of any class and condition in life. Room…Room for all.”

Then as now, there was a wide disparity between the wealthy and the poor – the haves and have-nots. In his speech, Henderson challenged capitalists to “give to labor its due reward” while calling on workers to stand up, champion their cause and not just let statesmen, orators and poets define happiness for them.

“Man is a social being, his nature requires sympathy, variety and enthusiasm,” Henderson said. “But under the present system of labor the man of toil is stinted, companionless and selfish – his highest motive – his daily aim a dollar. Lift him up. Lift him up to the full station of his being.”

Henderson died around 8:45 a.m. on July 24, 1922, following a long and severe illness. The Sentinel published a detailed biography later that evening.

Born May 18, 1856, the son of local judge Robert M. Henderson, J. Webster graduated from Carlisle High School before going to Dickinson College.

He studied law and, in 1879, was admitted into the Cumberland County Bar Association. His practice on North Hanover Street focused on the Orphans Court and the disposition of estates.

Tour Through Time: CCHS opened Hamilton Library annex expansion in late May 1966

On July 24, 1901, Henderson was elected as a director of the Carlisle Deposit Bank. Two years later, he was named board secretary before becoming the bank vice-president in 1910.

Following the death of his father Robert, J. Webster was offered the post of bank president. He turned it down in favor of serving as vice president until June 28, 1914 when he resigned.

“Mr. Henderson was a loyal church man, an able lawyer, trustworthy banker and a citizen such as the town can ill afford to lose,” The Sentinel reported. “He was greatly interested in local history, was well posted and an able writer and was an occasional contributor to the local newspapers.”

Tour through Time runs Saturday in The Sentinel print edition. Reporter Joseph Cress will work with the Cumberland County Historical Society each week to look at the county through the years. Send any questions, features ideas or tips to

Destination Carlisle's secretary, Jennifer Oswald, tells the story of Carlisle's Old Town Pump, her choice for the "Legends & Lore" grant program.

Email Joseph Cress at


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