Missouri News

Marker cites Pike County couple for historic efforts

Posted: Apr. 17, 2019 9:50 am

LOUISIANA, Mo. -- A Pike County couple from the 1800s, who made significant national contributions, will be honored as part of a new historical marker in St. Louis on Thursday.

The "Long Roads to Freedom" memorial will recognize John Brooks Henderson and Mary Foote Henderson. The dedication ceremony will be held 10 a.m. Thursday in J.B. "Jet" Banks Memorial Park at Olive and Cardinal Avenue on the north side of the Harris-Stowe University campus.

The Missouri Humanities Council donated the $1,500 tribute, which is 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall. Funding came from the council and a grant by the Gertrude and William A. Bernoudy Foundation.

Greg Wolk, Heritage Programs Coordinator for the Humanities Council, said the site once featured a home owned by the Hendersons in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Also featured on the sign is Hiram Reed, a Union soldier who the first slave freed during the Civil War.

"The marker is being placed in a very prominent location on Olive Street in St. Louis, and the theme encompassed in Long Roads to Freedom' covers what is best known about John Henderson's life -- his role in the drafting and passage of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery," Wolk said.

"Also highlighted is his role and Mary's family's role in the cause of women's suffrage. We believe that this marker will increase, exponentially, public awareness of the importance of the role of John B. Henderson and family in these, and other, remarkable advances."

Henderson was born in Virginia and moved with his family to Missouri at age 6. Four years later, both his parents were dead. Henderson lived with a farm family until he could strike out on his own, first as a teacher and then as a lawyer while living in Pike County. He became a state lawmaker and a brigadier general in the Union Army before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1862.

Henderson met regularly with President Abraham Lincoln, who wanted to keep Missouri from seceding. Though once a slave owner, he introduced the 13th Amendment on Jan. 11, 1864, and it was approved by Congress a year later.

Henderson was one of seven Republicans who broke party lines and voted to acquit Democrat President Andrew Johnson of impeachment charges in 1868. It marked the end of his political career, and he left the Senate the next year.

Mary Foote Henderson was 15 years younger than her husband. Born to a prominent family in upstate New York, her father was a lawyer and judge. Her mother was a scientist and social reformer. An uncle, Samuel Foote, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

Mary met John on a trip to Washington, D.C., and they were married in June 1868. They first lived in Louisiana, Mo., before moving to St. Louis and later Washington.

Mary Henderson wrote books on health and social activities, championed women's voting rights, became a real estate developer and was a strong temperance advocate -- famously pouring dozens of bottles of expensive wine from her husband's decades-long collection into the gutter outside their Washington home.

John Henderson died at age 86 in 1913, and Mary Henderson passed at 88 in 1931. A bust of John Henderson was dedicated during Louisiana's bicentennial celebration on July 4, 2018. It stands in Henderson Riverview Park, which is land the couple donated to the city in 1903.

Information for this story was provided by Brent Engel.

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