The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 4, January 27, 2008, Article 14


[On an unrelated matter I put dealer Wayne Herndon from
my northern Virginia numismatic group in touch with Alan
Weinberg this week.  Alan was curious (as was I) to learn
if Wayne was related to Captain Herndon of the S.S.
Central America.  Alan has an example of the Herndon medal
in his collection.  Below is Wayne's reply.  -Editor]

"All of the U.S. Herndons are believed to be related and
are descendants of emigrants from the early 1600s.  The
only exceptions are believed to be some former Herndon
slaves who took the Herndon name upon emancipation (as
was apparently quite common at the time).   One researcher
identified Thomas Herndon, 23, as having sailed on October
13, 1635 for St. Christopher's aboard the Amitie.  Other
researchers believe John and Rhodes Herndon were the original
emigrants having come in the early 17th century, one to
Virginia and the other initially to North Carolina before
also moving to Virginia.

As one can imagine, documentation from the 1600s is quite
scarce and difficult to establish reliable lineages.  The
first Herndon for which there is an authentic record is
William Herndon who patented lands in St. Stephen's parish,
New Kent County, Virginia in February 1674.  In 1677 he
married Catherine Diggs, the youngest daughter of Edward
Diggs, (Governor of Virginia in 1655).

Captain Herndon was a sixth generation descendant of William
Herndon.  I am an eleventh generation descendant of William
Herndon.  While we are both descendants of William, we are
from separate branches.  Beyond William, the only descendant
common to us both is William's son Edward.

Captain William Lewis Herndon had only one child, Ellen
Lewis Herndon.  Ellen married Chester A. Arthur but died
before he became president. Following the sinking of the
Central America and Captain Herndon's heroic death, there
was quite an outpouring in the D.C. area and a number of
things happened to memorialize him, including a the naming
of Herndon, VA.

The Arthur connection nearly provided the Herndon family
with another connection to numismatics.  Had Ellen lived
to become first lady during Arthur's tenure as president,
she would have been eligible for depiction on a first spouse
$10 gold coin.  However, the legislation provided that for
presidents who were unmarried or widowed, a contemporaneous
depiction of Liberty would appear on the coin.  Arthur alone
was subject to a second exception in the legislation.
Instead of Liberty, the act provides for suffragist Alice
Paul to grace the coin.  This is somewhat curious as Alice
Paul was not even born until the last few months of Arthur's

Here's a funny story. I visited the S. S. Central America
exhibit at the Atlanta ANA several years ago.  The exhibit
was part of a promotion to market the recovered gold and
it was heavily staffed with salespeople to speak to anyone
and everyone who visited the impressive exhibit.  As part
of the promotion surrounding the exhibit, they also had a
descendant of the first mate on hand to meet and greet.

I was predominately interested in the exhibit from a
numismatic standpoint being only a distant relative of
Captain Herndon at best.  So I wasn't thinking of Captain
Herndon when I walked up to see the exhibit.  As I approached,
one of the attendants greeted me with his name.  Out of habit,
I responded with my name. It seemed as if I had no more than
spoken my name than I was shoved up against the descendant
of the first mate and someone was yelling for a photographer.
The promotion-minded folks running the exhibit were all over
the opportunity to photograph the two 'relatives' together.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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