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Jesse L. Henley


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/15/2021 at 11:32:04

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895


IT is probable that there is no man now living in Scott County who has a better recollection of pioneer days than the venerable gentle. man whose name heads this sketch. Though seventy -three years of age his mind is clear and he can relate incidents which occurred over half a century ago with as much accuracy as if they were recent events.

Mr. Henley was born in Clark County, Indiana, March 22, 1822. His parents were Stephen and Rebecca ( Work) Henley, of English descent, though his father was a native of North Carolina, who came to Indiana in 1802 and was a farmer and lumber manufacturer by occupation . In 1836 he removed to Stevenson ( now Rock Island) and for about four weeks lived on Rock river, but later purchased one claim and took up another in Pleasant Valley on the prairie north of Valley City. Here he lived for two years, when he purchased a claim at the mouth of Crow creek, on which a sawmill. He paid three thousand dollars cash for this claim and subsequently purchased the land when it came on the market. He and his son Jesse operated the mill until 1853, when the water power had failed to such an extent that they found it unprofitable to continue its operation . Mr. Henley died the same year. He was a Democrat and a member of the Campbellite Church . Mrs. Henley died in 1865. They were married in 1818 and were the parents of eight children , four of whom are still living and are Jesse L., Stephen H., Samuel A., and Mary J. , now the wife of William Black of Clinton. She is one of the first children born in Scott County, 1837 being the date of her birth.

The following is a copy of a commission from Henry Dodge, Governor of Wisconsin, appointing Stephen Henley Justice of the Peace in 1838 :

HENRY DODGE, Governor of the Territory of Wisconsin.

To All to Whom These Presents May Come, Greeting : Know ye, that reposing special confidence in the integrity and ability of Stephen Henley, I have nominated and by and with the advice and consent of the legislative council appointed him Justice of the Peace for the County of Scott, and I do hereby authorize and empower him to execute and fulfill the duties of that office according to law, to have and to hold the said office with all the rights and privileges and emoluments thereunto belonging for the term of three years from the date hereof, unless the Governor of said Territory for the time being should think proper sooner to revoke and determine this com mission. In testimony whereof I have caused these letters to be made patent and the great seal of the Territory hereunto affixed . Given under my hand at Burlington, this third day of January, in the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and thirty -eight and of the independence of the United States of America, the sixty-second.

By the Governor, HENRY DODGE. W. B. HAUGHTON, Secretary Wisconsin Territory.

The subject of this sketch received his primary education in the County of his nativity, and after his parents removed to Scott County, on account of there being no school here, he was sent to New Washington, Clark County, Indiana, where he attended the academy during the winter of 1844. This was all the opportunity to obtain book knowledge he ever had. He returned home that spring and worked in his father's sawmill all the time except during the harvest time, when he would help on the farm. After his father died and his property had been divided he paid some attention to farming. He entered a forty acre tract of land joining his farm, as well as some wild land in other parts of the State, in 1857 and subsequently sold these lands. He learned the carpenter's trade after he quit running the sawmill and worked the first year at $1.25 a day. In 1865 he moved to Davenport, where he continued working at his trade for ten years, when he retired from active business life. He built his present residence at the corner of Fifteenth and Rock Island Streets, and that of his son , Hadley M., on a lot adjoining his own property, his son's residence being the last building he erected.

Mr. Henley was united in marriage April 19, 1852, to Miss Sarah Beggs, daughter of James and Matilda Beggs. To them were born two children , Hadley M., a prominent attorney and loan agent, with offices in the Masonic Temple, who married Miss Ella Van Fleet ; Lillie H., who resides with her parents, is the second child of Mr. and Mrs. Henley.

Prior to 1855 Mr. Henley was a Democrat, since which he has affiliated with the Republican party. December 26, 1841, Mr. Henley, in company with a party, left Stevenson for the pineries of Wisconsin to get out a raft. They took three yoke of cattle and a large wagon loaded with provisions ; they also purchased a steer from Colonel Davenport and drove it through for the purpose of killing it for beef when their larder was depleted. On arriving at Galena, a good snow fell and they built a sled and left the wagon in care of Captain Harris, for whom they had brought up two hogsheads of sugar. They went to Wisconsin river, which was not frozen over, so they remained there for a week laying in a stock of feed for their cattle, etc. The river subsequently froze over, but was hardly safe, hence they carried their effects across on the ice and led their cattle one at a time until they were all over, when they proceeded on their journey. On arriving at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, they learned that another company was making preparations to go to the Kickapoo river country, and a closer investigation evinced the fact that the latter company intended to occupy a shanty belonging to Mr. Henley and party, who prior to their starting had sent two men in the fall to make hay and get things in readiness for their winter's work. The two companies consolidated and employed a guide to the woods, and on arriving there found two hardy woodsmen in possession of the shanty and living on the provisions stored up, awaiting the arrival of Mr. Henley and his company. The trespassers were given employment by Mr. Henley and his associates, who left Wisconsin the following June with a raft consisting of one thousand five hundred logs, the first raft ever brought from Wisconsin to Moline, Illinois .

Mr. Henley also has the honor of floating the first flat boat loaded with produce from above Davenport to New Orleans. April 5, 1844, he started out with a boat loaded with onions, potatoes and oats. He could have sold the entire load at Davenport or St. Louis to an advantage, but was anxious to try the Southern market, which he did at a financial loss of seventy - five dollars. He was almost two months enroute. He returned to St. Louis on the Alexander Scott, which was a floating palace. He was attacked by chills and fever before arriving in St. Louis, but managed to reach home safely. Mr. Henley is an entertaining conversationalist, and can relate many interesting stories of struggles and hard times incident to the early settlement of Scott County.


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