George Hitchcock: A Generous Rebel (Critical Essay)
Northwest Review 2008, Fall, 46, 3
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By character and ancestry I have always been a rebel, George has written. Although he didn't elaborate in that 1978 article on kayak in TriQuarterly, (1) the facts back him up. George's maternal great-great-grandfather, United States Senator John Henderson (1797-1857) of Mississippi, had a reputation for being a radical. The senator's son worked as an attorney in New Orleans and was murdered there in 1866 for being an abolitionist. Within a decade of his father's murder, George's maternal grandfather, Louis F. Henderson, (2) moved west. In 1880, he became the first white man to scale North Sister in the Cascade Mountains. He worked as a teacher, but took trips into the wilds to collect botanical specimens every chance he got. Even with a wife and two small daughters (one of whom would become George's mother) at home, he would regularly rush back from work on Friday, "jump a train" that evening, and travel to some remote part of Oregon. At the age of 40, Henderson became the first professor of botany at the University of Idaho. He was invited to be curator of the new University of Oregon Herbarium in Eugene when he was 71 and held that position for 15 years. George remembers going on specimen-collecting trips with his grandfather, climbing mountains, walking from one of Oregon's spacious counties to another, camping out for weeks at a time, and carrying his grandfather's heavy equipment for pressing the botanical specimens they gathered.