Robert Henry
Stefan Bielinski

Robert Henry was born in Northern Ireland about 1735. He was of Scottish ancestry - possibly the son of a trading family that emigrated to America during the mid-eighteenth century. By 1757, he had settled in Albany where he was selling broadcloths from the Court Street home of Dr. Van Dyck in partnership with Thomas Shipboy .

The trader quickly prospered - establishing his own store on Court Street near the city hall from where he supplied goods to frontier traders and opened business connections with New York and Montreal. By 1766, he was counted among the most affluent Albany merchants. Although he would hold no municipal positions, he was a contractor of the city and also acquired a number of Albany lots in addition to his Court Street store and residence - which also housed his younger namesake.

In 1766, he married innkeeper's daughter Elizabeth Vernor. That marriage produced several children including sons who became his business associates and then partners.

Robert Henry was one of the founders of the Albany Presbyterian Church. He was a member, elder, and trustee from 1762 almost until his death.

Beginning in 1766, Robert Henry began to build a record as a supporter of American liberties when he signed the constitution of the Albany Sons of Liberty. Like many Albany men, he served in the provincial militia. Later, that affiliation would endow him with land bounty rights.

With the outbreak of war in 1775, this wealthy, relative newcomer and overseas importer might be expected to have sided with the British. Instead, he applied his business connections to the American cause - securing supplies for the Continental army and frequently being called on to act as "commissary of clothing for New York State."

By the end of the war, he had entered into another business partnership widely known as "Henry, Mc Clallen, and Henry" which "advertized a "formidable array of goods" at their store north of the city hall. During the 1780s, he bought and sold Albany lots and provided contract services for the city.

Elizabeth Vernor Henry died in 1788. Surrounded by children and servants, Robert Henry lived on in his landmark Court Street home until his death in May 1794. A number of Albany children were named in his honor.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany The life of Robert Henry is CAP biography number 8425. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. Perhaps he was a contemporary kinsman of Alexander Henry, a Canadian fur trader who also traded out of Albany.

Real estate: Besides expanding his house and lots on Court Street, he owned lots on the hill in the second ward, on Gallows Hill, and west of what became South Pearl Street - near the Presbyterian meeting house. He also participated in a number of land patents in the Mohawk Valley and in what became Berkshire County, Massachusetts. His real estate holdings probably were more extensive than we now know!

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first posted: 5/30/02; amended 5/1/09