The site of Henry was “claimed" in 1831, by Erastus Wright
and Wm. Porter, of Springfield, who procured a license for a
ferry across the river at this point. In the spring of 1833, a
conflicting claim was made by Elisha Swan and A. N. Deming. Maj.
Elias Thompson had just settled in the vicinity, and built a
house a little distance above the present town, where a few
remnants of the foundation may still be seen. The opposing
claimants compromised their difficulties by agreeing to lay off
a town site, and own it jointly. As soon, however, as the
surveyor commenced operations, it was ascertained that the tract
claimed was on the sixteenth section, which could be
appropriated only to school purposes; and the promising
speculation was crushed in the bud. Mr. Swan had prepared the
frame of a store building, and brought it to the site; but, upon
learning that the proposed project was impracticable, he removed
it down the river to Columbia.
The same year the few inhabitants of that region set the plan of a town again on foot, attention having been called to it by the enterprise of the previous claimants. By stretching the limits of the township somewhat, the necessary number of signatures was obtained to a petition which went to the School Commissioner of Putnam county on the 7th of December, requesting him to sell the school section. The petition was accompanied by a certificate setting forth that the number of white male inhabitants in the township was above fifty, and that the voters did not exceed fifteen in number. The whole section was laid off into town lots and out-lots April 22d, 1834, by Chas. Nock, Elias Thompson, and Reuben Converse, Trustees of school lands for the township. In their report of the transaction they say:
"Lots from No. thirty to two hundred and ninety-one, inclusive, .with the streets and alleys within and thereto appertaining, and the public grounds on said map designated, we propose as a town, by the name of Henry, in memory of the late General James D. Henry, deceased, who gallantly led the Illinois volunteers to victory over the hostile Sac and Fox Indians, in the year eighteen hundred and thirty-two, and who lately died of disease caused by that arduous service." *[Done at the suggestion of Hooper Warren, Esq.]
A public sale of lots was held a week after the survey, in Hennepin, and was conducted by Nathaniel Chamberlin, School Commissioner of the county. - They were mostly bought up by settlers in the neighborhood of Henry, and other citizens of Putnam, there being little competition from speculators; and were sold at very low prices, the out-lots going at Government price, $1.25 per acre, and the in-lots generally at $1 each. When the mania for real estate speculation appeared, this property became a lively article of trade, and was dealt in largely by speculators. Very many of the lots were bought by Eastern capitalists through their agents, which retarded not a little the growth of the place. "When the bubble burst, however, they paid no further attention to them, and large part of them were sold for taxes. * [Additions have been made to Henry as follows: Jordan's, on the north-east, Nov. 12th, 1850; Lombard's first, on the north-west, Nov. 7th, 1850; Lombard's second, on the south-west, 24th June, 1852; Hoyt brothers', south of Jordan's, Sept. 16th, 1853; Davis', north of Lombard's first, April 28th, 1854; Tozier's, May 2d, 1854; Heacock's, north of Hoyt brothers', May 10th, 1854; Green's, May 18th, 1854; Warren's May 29th, 1854; E. Hoyt's, Jan. 16th, 1855; Lombard's Railroad Addition, Feb. 10th, 1855; Covell’s, Jan 24th, 1856; Holmes’, Julv 1st, 1856.]
A small cabin had been built on the town site before 1832, by one Hart, which was soon after deserted, and was not standing when Henry was laid off. At that time there were two log houses in the town, and Maj. Thompson was residing above. There was no further improvement until 1837, when the old "Henry House" was put up by Thompson. In the fall of 1839, the first store (in a small way) was opened by Joseph Bradley, alias Burr, who built a warehouse on the river bank, and was the first Postmaster. Two years subsequent, Mr. Hooper Warren moved upon the site, when only three families were residing there. A blacksmith's shop had been set in operation. Thos. Gallaher, Jr., succeeded Bradley in the same line of trade soon after; and in 1844 he was bought out by Benj. Lombard, who brought in a large stock of goods, as also Messrs. Cheever & Herndon, who arrived about the same time.
From this period dates the substantial progress of the place. ln 1846, it contained about 30 inhabitants; in the summer of 1848, it had a population of 71 (twenty-four families); in 1850, 401; fall of 1851, 789; Jan. 1st, 1853, 1,009; same date, 1854, 1,301; Jan., 1855, 1,591; Dec, 1855, 1,523; June 1, 1857, 1,673. Its present population is about 1,800.
The citizens of Henry have always been characterized by public spirit and a high regard for local interests. The first school house was put up in 1846, and the present edifice in 1854, under the first city administration. The first church (Protestant Methodist) was built in 1848; a number of others have been erected at various intervals since. A female seminary was established in the immediate vicinity during 1849, by Rev. H. G. Pendleton, which was destroyed by fire Feb. 16th, 1855, and re-constructed soon after, of brick, on an enlarged scale. In 1854, the North Illinois University was instituted in Henry, under the auspices of the Methodist Protestant denomination, for which a charter was obtained the next winter, and a handsome building erected. The "Marshall County Courier" (now Henry Courier) began its publication Dec. 23d, 1852. During the following season, an active warfare was waged through its columns, and otherwise by the people of Henry, upon the proposition to subscribe $100,000 of county bonds to the stock of the Western Airline Railroad; and the township voted with perfect unanimity in opposition to it. The Peoria and Bureau Valley Railroad, built in 1854, which passes through the city, met with an equally active support the same year; and a large individual subscription was made to its stock. An extensive fire occurred in Henry March 31st, 1853, which destroyed six buildings on one of the most valuable business blocks, causing a loss of $12,000 to $15,000. They were soon rebuilt.
Henry had been incorporated as a town under the general incorporation act ; and at the session of the Legislature for 1854, a special charter was granted, giving it the privileges of a city, which was accepted by a vote of 79 to 4. The first officers under the city organization were Sam'l J. McFadden, Mayor; James Wescott, Police Justice ; Aldermen. 1st ward. John A. Warren, Geo. L. Hoyt; Aldermen. 2d ward, Wm. B. Smith, Alex. Kissinger.
In the spring of 1858, the place of permanent location of the Fair grounds of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Institute of Marshall county was awarded to Henry, its citizens having subscribed $2,600, and
those of Lacon $2,100. An embankment is now being built across the river bottom opposite the town, at an expense of several thousand dollars, in order to facilitate travel thither; and a bridge is in contemplation, for which a company has been formed, and a charter obtained. A heavy trade is carried on in grain and other articles of barter.
Transcribed 04 Feb 2012 from History of Putnam and Marshall Counties, by Henry Allen Ford, 1860