“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Athens in Henderson County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)

J.B. Henry

"The Pea Man"

J.B. Henry Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brian Anderson, November 20, 2021
1. J.B. Henry Marker
Inscription.  Introduced in the United States in the early eighteenth century, black-eyed peas, also known as cowpeas, served primarily as animal feed on farms. The hardships of the Civil War, including the scarcity of food in the south, led to increased human consumption of black-eyed peas. John Benjamin Henry, Sr. capitalized on this phenomenon and pioneered a nationwide commercial market for the peas as a staple of southern cuisine.

Born in 1866 in the Pine Grove community, southeast of Athens, J.B. Henry worked in a general merchandise store where he saw the economic opportunities in shipping dried black-eyed peas. Around 1900, he started receiving negative feedback from customers who complained of weevil damage to the peas. Through trial and error, he and his wife, Josephine, solved the problem by creating his first commercial dehydrating process in 1906. Henry dissolved his general merchandise partnership in 1910 to focus on his wholesale distribution of black-eyed peas. Shortly thereafter, he placed a large ad in the Athens Review proclaiming that he was “the pea man.”

In 1913, Henry leased land from the Cotton Belt Railroad
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for a new processing plant capable of handling and storing forty carloads of peas. By 1924, the Henry Pea Company handled several hundred cars annually. To highlight the growth of the business, he shipped a sack of peas via the barge Texas Steer from Trinidad, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi River and on to Chicago, Illinois. He never retired but passed away in October 1940 from heart trouble and is buried in the Athens City Cemetery. J.B. Henry revolutionized the humble cowpea into a traditional southern staple.
Erected 2017 by Texas Historical Commission. (Marker Number 18655.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AgricultureIndustry & Commerce.
Location. 32° 11.482′ N, 95° 51.13′ W. Marker is in Athens, Texas, in Henderson County. Marker is on South Palestine Street (State Highway 19) 0.2 miles north of East Cayuga Drive (Farm to Market Road 59), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Athens TX 75751, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Athens (here, next to this marker); Henderson County (here, next to this marker); Henderson County Pottery Industry (a few steps from this marker); Machinery From First Factory in Athens
J.B. Henry Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brian Anderson, November 20, 2021
2. J.B. Henry Marker
Marker is the middle of the five markers visible in this photo.
(a few steps from this marker); Henderson County C.S.A. (approx. 0.3 miles away); John Matthews McDonald (approx. half a mile away); Athens Cemetery (approx. 0.6 miles away); Dulcinea Ann Holland Thompson Avriett (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Athens.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 29, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 29, 2021, by Brian Anderson of Humble, Texas. This page has been viewed 183 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 29, 2021, by Brian Anderson of Humble, Texas.

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Apr. 20, 2024