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The Abandonment of Henning, Tennessee

001 Henning002 Henning003 Abandoned Mansion, Henning004 Abandoned Mansion, Henning005 Abandoned Mansion, Henning006 Juke Door, Henning007 Abandoned Juke, Henning008 Noel's Bar & Grill, Henning009 Abandoned House, Henning010 Henning011 Noel's Bar & Grill012 Henning013 Henning014 Henning015 Sir Charles' Place, Henning016 Sir Charles' Place, Henning017 Sir Charles' Place, Henning018 Sir Charles' Place, Henning019 Welcome to Henning020 Henning021 Main Street, Henning022 Poe's Bar, Henning023 Main Street, Henning024 Sonny's Smooth Jazz & Old School, Henning025 Sonny's Smooth Jazz & Old School, Henning026 Henning027 Henning028 Main Street, Henning029 Sir Charles' Place, Henning030 Sir Charles' Place, Henning
Back in the 1980’s, Henning, Tennessee became famous as the hometown of writer Alex Haley, whose genealogical novel Roots was a best-seller in the late 1970’s and which was later made into a television mini-series. A museum was opened on the Main Street of the little town just across the Forked Deer River from Tipton County, and residents of Henning waited for the tourists they hoped would be coming. They even renamed State Highway 211 “Chicken George Trail” after one of the characters in Haley’s novel.
But the tourists never arrived, and Henning seems to be in the grip of a depression, for some reason. Abandoned houses and ruins are everywhere in the little town, and many of the downtown storefronts along Main Street are vacant, or seem to be so. A block west of Main is a street lined with abandoned juke joints that were undoubtedly once full of large crowds, as Henning was a party destination for Covington, Ripley, and even Dyersburg and Brownsville. A couple of the bars seem to still be open, such as Sonny’s Smooth Jazz and Old School, or Uncle Charles’ Place, which has an elaborate painted mural that mentions Prince’s old movie Under The Cherry Moon, but the town has clearly seen better days.


  1. Veta Frazier Banks

    Something I was doing propelled me to look up Henning. I also worked with a late, former city councilman of a city we used to live, who had ties to Henning, through his family. He was a Henning, and his family were founders.
    I was saddened to see the abandonment, of such a historical place.
    I wonder how one goes about getting interest in raising funds to not only restore buildings & services, but to get Henning on the registry of historical places.

    1. Kyeasiha J Mitchell

      It hurts my heart to see such an historic place abandon like this, after watching Roots, it motivated me to look up this place that once was the land of the free and even visit one day but to see this (abandon) hurts my heart. Smh
      We need to restore this town and give back it’s life.

        1. Dawn M Boysen

          I just saw your post and I know it’s a long way off and I’m sure you’ve already gotten responses to this but if you haven’t I purchased some property in Henning in 2020 out in the country. And Names mentioned include the following with the last name of Lewis, Dorean, Evelyn, Erline, Andrew. I can tell you Evelyn,Erline and Andrew have all passed away . And Doreen Lewis ward and her husband Bruno currently currently reside in the county of Mecklinburg North Carolina. .. By the way the town is still abandoned and has actually gotten worse and since the 2010 shooting at the Post Office,

  2. Cocco B

    I grew up in a Rural area of Henning and truely loved my youth. I have since moved away but of coarse family is still there and often travel home. I too am saddened by the abandonment. it is my desire to help rebuild my hometown as it has so much history.

  3. Mark Kellerhall

    It is very sad to see a place that I remember so well as a child. My mothers side of the family (Sellers) all grew up in Henning and some still live in the Covington and Ripley areas. My grandparents lived above the old grocery across from the city hall. I would go over and play on the old fire truck and police car. This was back in the early 1960’s and it seems like a lifetime away. I cant help to feel that when they built and diverted Hwy 51 that it was the begining to the end. Although I do remember my mom telling me that a lot of the youth that were graduating at the time could not move away quick enough to places like Memphis and the larger cities.

  4. Lukas

    My father was born & raised in Henning. I only visited once, on account of his funeral. I’m hoping if someone sees this they may know some of my family that still (I think) reside there. So if anyone knows of any Harding’s of Henning please let me know. Thank you in advance.

    1. Belverly

      Yes my mother Kathryne Farmer married Roosevelt Farmer whose mother Irene Campbell Green married Alonza Franklin Green Sr in 1965 that was my step father and step grandparents a street we lived on they named it Green St

  5. Valerie Henning

    Saw this on the map and had to look into it more as my Daddy was a Henning. But the Henning family we have resides throughout a lot of Wisconsin and other places scattered around the US. Would love to see this town come back to life.

  6. ReGina

    There is a vision of huge development throughout Tennessee. Many are considering revitalizing small abandoned towns to avoid having these historical, often painful regions being bulldozed over. It’s a time to truly ponder how deep the roots of many who migrated away to greater prosperity really mean. My granddad worked hard in Henning. His legacy stirs a baton from one hand to another. Anyone else sensing a stirring let’s ponder.

  7. Erin Sarvarian

    Did anyone know the Lee Harris Burks family? He moved from Virginia to Tennessee. There used to be a Burks Plantation. At one time, one of the sons owned a lot of land in Henning and Ripley. My family line came from William Arasmus “Raz” Burks, and eventually my direct family moved to Arkansas.

    1. VJ

      Just stumbled across this…i. Am a descendent of the same Burks family from Ripley. my great great grandfather was Sabert ‘Sage’ Burks born in Ripley. My sister nad i visited the Riply library a couple of years back to see what was available. Sabert moved to Wlmar arkansas from Ripley. The tradition of nicknames like ,raz, Rafe, bump, etc ran down in the family. We met with a historian at the library. It was a lovely visit. Visited several of the cemeteries in the area- burks relatives are in the same cemetery as chicken george and family. We also enjoyed the alex haley museum.

  8. S. taylor

    Hi ya’ll.

    This is amazing that I came across this, while trying to find some contact information for some relatives who do live in Henning.

    My parent’s knew and grew up with Alex Haley….From the information I’ve come across, my family on my Dad’s (my paternal grandmother gustavia, whose maiden name was harvey) side is related to Alex Haley from Kunte Kinte, Kizzie, and Chicken George (whose father was slave owner harvey).

    any of ya’ll know any taylor’s , young’s or shaw’s?

    the taylor’s and young’s are my family from my maternal and paternal sides .

    the shaw’s are my blood family too (my maternal aunt married my uncle eugene shaw).

    my cousin’s the shaw’s still live in Henning along with some taylor’s, the young’s live in indiana.

    the harvey’s (my paternal family) live in grand junction, tn.

    it broke my heart to have visited henning 2 – 3 years ago and saw it abandoned (Henning is going to have to have some kind of revenue generated to keep it going…..Let’s talk family (for those who are truly interested….It would be a very “worthwhile, deep and meaningful” conversation to be had).

    i used to spend my summer’s with my cousin’s in henning.

    I remember when roots was shown, our family….that’s all of us ya’ll (us posting here, family who still live in henning and those who have moved and passed on….we’re family ya’ll, we are all blood, even if we’re not immediate family….to truly know our history….. biblically speaking……we are all blood related) were so proud of roots….our history.

    one of the cafe’s in downtown henning had proudly painted a mural that covered the entire side of the building that showed home of chicken george (it’s totally faded out…Unless you had known about it, you would never have known it had ever existed) and the other things the family did to display our “roots” with the palmer school and the alex haley museum!

    there is and always has been this feeling i get when i visit henning…..I was never raised in henning, my parent’s stayed so connected to henning….it was their home and they made sure we children stayed connected to henning as well.

    that feeling i get is a connection of family of being…..home, any of ya’ll understand what i mean?

    when I was young, whenever my family would take a trip to henning, mommy would tell me to pick out my clothes to pack, because we were going out of town , I’d ask her where we were going? she would always say “home” , i knew she meant henning.

    after all she and my dad were from henning….it was their home….why would they call home/henning by any other name?

    I got that home connection with henning too….shoot ya’ll that’s a small yet so profound part of our history as being free, our culture….that is the place when chicken george bought his family’s freedom moved them to…..Lauderdale county, henning , tn.

    mommy told me that my grandmother lee alice young and alex haley’s grandmother cynthia were really good friend’s and on some sunday’s the two elder ‘s would visit at elder cynthia’s home.

    my mommy and my aunt would come along, alex haley’s great aunt elizabeth (the daughter tom harvey would not allow to marry the man she loved because tom harvey said his skin was as white as the under belly of a fish , elizabeth said if she could not marry the man she loved, she would never get married and she never did, any of ya’ll remember that in root’s)?

    anyway, mommy said elizabeth would just sit and stare at her and my aunt and it would scare them, i think elizabeth would look at mommy and my aunt and think about the children she and the man she loved would have had if tom harvey would have allowed her to marry him, it’s really sad .

    So family, to those of ya’ll who proposed something should be done to restore henning….I agree!!!!

    i would love to discuss some things….as The saying is……”the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

    The last time i was in henning, about 2 – 3 year’s ago, the closest grocery store (kroger’s) was in the city next to henning….covington?

    Anyway, they were in the process of moving that Kroger’s to the next city….so ya’ll know headed down hwy 51 away from henning, there are no major grocery store’s (unless walmart is still there)?

    otherwise, one would have to head in the opposite direction and go toward ripley.

    with all of that empty land in rual henning, who needs grocery store’s ?!

    there were no grocery stores when our ancestor’s first arrived in henning….that was when food was real, good and wholesome and not turning average day people into zombies!!!

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