My great grandfather, Rev. James Washington Monroe Henderson was born 30
December 1878 in BonneTerre, St. Francois County, Missouri. He was the son of Emaline
Lawson & George Washington Henderson. In 1897 James married Martha (Mattie)
in St. Francois County, Missouri and they eventually became the parents of ten children.
Rev. James was a Baptist preacher having been converted in 1919 at the Free
Will Baptist Church at Cherryville, St. Francois County and was a member of the
Fredericktown Free Will Baptist Church in Madison County. It is said that he learned
how to read and write by studying the bible. He was also pastor of a mission on
South Broadway in St. Louis. One evening in 1944 while crossing the street in St.
Louis enroute to church James and Mattie were struck by an automobile driven by John
Lyons. James was seriously injured and later died. Mattie
suffered a broken wrist.
The Henderson family reunions were held anually at Desloge Park in St.
Francois County. I remember one year in the 1960's or '70's a particularly humorous
incident occured. All of the food had been set out on tables under the pavilion and
everyone was standing in line waiting their turn at the food. An elderly man with a
cane came hobbling down the sidewalk by the edge of the park. When he looked over
and saw all those people filling their plates with delicious home cooked food he
toddled over and got in line then he sat down and ate his plate of food. Everyone at
the reunion kept whispering, "Who is he?" Then he just got up and wandered
off down the street continuing his afternoon stroll! No one ever did know who he
One time after another reunion some of the Martin clan decided to go
back to Berdie's home in Flat River. Everyone arrived at her house and Mattie, who
was so old she could barely walk, see or hear, was helped into the house and seated in an
armchair in the living room. Someone had a small sleeping baby which they put on a
bed in the adjacent bedroom. Then everyone filed into the kitchen for coffee and
gossip. After awhile I decided to go back into the living room where it was quieter
as I had one of my usual migraines. I sat near Mattie but she did not even seem to
be aware of my presence. I did not try to speak to her as one had to shout directly
in her ear to be heard. Soon the baby in the next room woke up and began to
cry but no one paid any attention. Suddenly Mattie spoke up loudly, "SOMEONE
GET IN THERE AND TAKE CARE OF THAT BABY!!" About a half dozen people
immediately flew into the bedroom to tend to it. It has always amazed me how this
deaf little old woman could hear a tiny baby crying clear off in the other room!
Mattie died in 1974 at the age of 95. She is buried next to her
husband, James, in Big River Cemetery at Irondale, Washington County, Missouri.
Mary Emaline - Born 1898 in St. Francois County, Missouri. Married
John (Willie) Harris.
William Robert - Born 1902 in St. Francois County, Missouri.
Married Pearl Miller in 1922. Killed in mine accident 26 Sept. 1942.
Death Cert. states: killed by falling rock in National end of
Birdie Mae - Born 1904 in St.
Francois County, Missouri. Married Guy Thomas Martin in 1921. Died 1986 in
Washington County Missouri. Buried Big River Cemetery.
Gertie Hazel - Born 1908 Wayne County, Missouri. Married first
Otis Johnson. Second husband was Charles Winfrey.
Virgie Isabell - Born 1911 in St. Francois County, Missouri.
Married Fred Harris.
Cora Marie - Born 1914 in St. Francois County, Missouri. Married
Arnold Clayton. Second husband Herb Engelkenjohn. Died 1980 Farmington, St. Francois
Ora Lee - Born 1914 in St. Francois County, Missouri. Twin of
Cora Marie. Died 1915. Could not find a death cert. for Ora.
Eugene Debs - Born 1916 in St. Francois County, Missouri. Married
Pauline Dunn. Died: 2009
Arthur Alfred - Born 1919 in Reynolds County, Missouri. Married
Elvie Thornton. Died 1993.
Loren James - Born 1922 in St. Francois County, Missouri.
Married Nadine ???