Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb


W. A. McHenry

McHENRY, W. A., son of James and Sarah (Allen) McHenry, was born in Almond, N. Y., on the 6th of March, 1841. He is of Scotch-Irish descent.

His grandfather, John McHenry was born in Coleraine, County Antrim, Ireland, and came to America in 1730, on the same ship with the father of DeWitt Clinton. He served as major of the First New York battalion in the French war of 1756-7.

His son, Henry McHenry, was born at Wallkill Valley, Orange county, N. Y., July, 1752, and served as captain in the Second United States (or Continental army) infantry during the war of the revolution.

His son, James McHenry, was born at Fishing Creek, Northumberland county, Pa., in 1788, and in 1797 the family moved to McHenry Valley, Allegany county, N. Y. In the war of 1812 he served as first lieutenant in Captain Van Campen's company of rifles, and died in June, 1841.

W. A. McHenry was his youngest son. He lived in the old homestead until he was 14 years of age, when he went to Milton, Wis., with his brother, Vincent McHenry. He received a common school education, and, in 1860, removed to Ogle county, Ill., where he worked on a farm until the commencement of the civil war.

Thrilled with patriotic fire he volunteered, September 5, 1861, as a private in Company L, Eighth Illinois cavalry. The regiment was immediately sent to Washington and attached to the army of the Potomac, participating in all the important battles in which that army was engaged until January, 1864, when the regiment was veteranized and transferred to the department at Washington. It was then made their duty to look after Mosby's band of guerrillas, and the regiment gained for itself great distinction in hand to hand encounters with the enemy. During his service Mr. McHenry personally captured eight of the enemy and had many narrow escapes, but escaped without injury. He was mustered out of the service as first sergeant, July 23, 1865. He was previously recommended by Captain Bradley to fill a vacancy of lieutenant in the company but owing to the close of the war did not receive the commission.

At the close of the war he formed a partnership with his brother in the real estate business at Denison, Iowa. Emigration rapidly followed the extension of railroad lines to the Pacific and the firm of McHenry Bros. did a large and profitable business in the selling of land. Banking was added and success attended both enterprises.

In 1877, Mr. W. A. McHenry purchased his brother's interests and conducted the business alone until the W. A. McHenry bank was merged into the First National bank of Denison, with a capital stock of $100,000. Of this bank Mr. McHenry is president and principal stockholder. In business methods he is conservative, and, during the panic of 1893 he was not obliged to borrow a single dollar. The rapid accumulation of deposits testifies that the people in his vicinity have the utmost confidence in his ability and integrity and the Iowa bankers have honored him by electing him president of their association. During his long experience in the real estate business Mr. McHenry has bought and improved many valuable tracts of land, some of which he still retains.

Of late years he has engaged extensively in feeding cattle for market, and on his fine valley [p.183] farm, of 600 acres, adjoining the city of Denison, he has a large herd of thoroughbred Aberdeen-Angus cattle which have a world-wide celebrity as the "McHenry Park Herd." They carried off the highest honors at the World's Columbian exposition in Chicago, taking twenty-four prizes. He served three years as president of the American Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Breeders' association, and takes great pride in everything pertaining to the improvement and advancement of cattle.

Politically, Mr. McHenry is a republican and cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln. His great business interests, however, prevent him from entering the political arena. He is an enthusiastic member of the G. A. R., and always meets with the "boys" in the state and national encampments. He is a past department commander of Iowa. He is a prominent member of the Baptist church and has for many years been one of the most earnest supporters and generous contributors.

While at home on furlough, in 1864, he married Miss Mary L. Sears, of Rockford, Ill. She preceded him to Denison and served as deputy county treasurer and recorder until the close of the war. She is prominently identified with the Woman's Relief Corps of the G. A. R., was elected department president in 1887 and national president in 1890.

Mr. and Mrs. McHenry have four children, two sons and two daughters. In 1885 Mr. McHenry built the elegant residence he now occupies, and surrounded by congenial friends and a happy family he enjoys the comforts of a well earned fortune.

Source: Gue, B. F. Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa. Des Moines: Conaway & Shaw Publishers, 1899.

Submitted by Phyllis Heller