Homepage of "Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, & Other Highlights of Lincoln, IL"

Site Map


A Long-Range Plan to Brand the First Lincoln Namesake City as the Second City of Abraham Lincoln Statues

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in Lincoln, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville Courthouse,
including a William Maxwell connection to the Postville Courthouse

About Henry Ford and the Postville Courthouse, the Story of the Postville Courthouse Replica,
Tantivy, & the Postville Park Neighborhood in the
Route 66 Era


The Rise of Abraham Lincoln and His History and Heritage in His First Namesake Town,
also the founding of Lincoln College, the plot to steal Lincoln's body, and memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn

Introduction to the Social & Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois,
including poetry by William Childress & commentary by Federal Judge Bob Goebel & Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht

"Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois" (an article published in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, winter 2005-06

Peeking Behind the Wizard's Screen: William Maxwell's Literary Art as Revealed by a Study of the Black Characters in Billie Dyer and Other Stories

Introduction to the Railroad & Route 66 Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois

The Living Railroad Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois: on Track as a Symbol of the "Usable Past"


Route 66 Overview Map of Lincoln with 42 Sites, Descriptions, & Photos

The Hensons of Business Route 66

The Wilsons of Business
Route 66
including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial Park
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek & Cemetery Hill,
the highway bridges, GM&O bridge, Madigan State Park, the old dam (with photos & Leigh's memoir of "shooting the rapids" over the old dam), & the Ernie Edwards' Pig-Hip Restaurant Museum in Broadwell

The Historic Logan County Courthouse, Past & Present

Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District,
including locations of historical markers
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Vintage Scenes of the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District

The Foley House:  A Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Agriculture in
the Route 66 Era

Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
including the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the 1950s

Business Heritage

Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era

including the hometown churches of Author William Maxwell & Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

Factories, Past and Present

Food Stores of
the Route 66 Era


Hospitals, Past and Present

Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66 Eras

Lincoln Developmental Center
(Lincoln State School & Colony in the Route 66 era), plus
debunking the myth of Lincoln, Illinois, choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois

Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities


Museums & Parks, including the Lincoln College Museum and its Abraham Lincoln Collection, plus the Heritage-in-Flight Museum

with Distinction

News Media in the Route 66 Era

The Odd Fellows' Children's Home


Memories of the 1900 Lincoln Community High School,
including Fred Blanford's dramatic account of the lost marble fountain of youth

A Tribute to the Historians and Advocates of Lincoln, Illinois

Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era

The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois

The Festive 2003 Sesqui-centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois,
including photos of LCHS Class of 1960 dignitaries & the Blanfords

Why Did the State Police Raid Lincoln, Illinois, on October 11, 1950?

The Gambling Raids in Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)


Pages in this section tell about Leigh Henson's Lincoln years, moving away, revisits, and career:

About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; & Me

A Tribute to Lincolnite Edward Darold Henson: World War II U.S. Army Veteran of the Battles for Normandy and the Hedgerows; Brittany and Brest; and the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

For Remembrance, Understanding, & Fun: Lincoln Community High School Mid-20th-Century Alums' Internet Community
(a Web site and email exchange devoted to collaborative memoir and the sharing of photos related to Lincoln, Illinois)

Leigh Henson's Pilgrimage to Lincoln, Illinois, on
July 12, 2001

Leigh Henson's Review of Dr. Burkhardt's William Maxwell Biography

Leigh Henson's Review of Ernie Edwards' biography, Pig-Hips on Route 66, by William Kaszynski

Leigh Henson's Review of Jan Schumacher's Glimpses of Lincoln, Illinois

Teach Local Authors: Considering the Literature of Lincoln, Illinois

Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life


Pages in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of other Lincolnites:

A Tribute to Bill and Phyllis Stigall:
Exemplary Faculty of Lincoln College at Mid-Twentieth Century

A Tribute to the Krotzes of Lincoln, Illinois

A Tribute to Robert Wilson (LCHS '46): Author of Young in Illinois, Movies Editor of December Magazine, Friend and Colleague of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson, and Correspondent with William Maxwell

Brad Dye (LCHS '60): His Lincoln, Illinois, Web Site,
including photos of many churches

Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois

J. Richard
(JR) Fikuart
(LCHS '65):
he Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of family fun at Lincoln Lakes

Jerry Gibson (LCHS '60): Lincoln, Illinois, Memoirs & Other Stories

Dave Johnson (LCHS '56): His Web Site for the Lincoln Community High School Class of 1956

Sportswriter David Kindred: Memoir of His Grandmother Lena & Her West Side Tavern on Sangamon Street in the Route 66 Era

Judge Jim Knecht
(LCHS '62): Memoir and Short Story, "Other People's Money," Set in Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in the Route 66 Era

William A. "Bill" Krueger (LCHS '52): Information for His Books About Murders in Lincoln

Norm Schroeder (LCHS '60): Short Stories

Stan Stringer Writes About His Family, Mark Holland, and Lincoln, Illinois

Thomas Walsh: Anecdotes Relating to This Legendary Attorney from Lincoln by Attorney Fred Blanford & Judge Jim Knecht

Leon Zeter (LCHS '53): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1953
including announcements of LCHS class reunions

(Post yours there.)


Highway Sign of
the Times:

The Route 66
Association of Illinois

The Illinois State Historical Society

Illinois Tourism Site:
Enjoy Illinois



      April 24, 2004: Awarded "Best Web Site of the Year" by the Illinois State Historical Society: "superior achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater public"

Marquee Lights of the Lincoln Theater, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois

  You can go home again. Email Leigh Henson at DLHenson@missouristate.edu.

About Lincoln, Illinois; This Web Site; and Me

     "When I dream about Lincoln[,] it is always the way it was in my childhood. Or rather, I dream that it is that way--for the geography has been tampered with and is half real, half a rearrangement of my sleeping mind."

     William Maxwell, So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980), p. 130. This nonfiction novel received the American Book Award and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

     "I will hunt you down until you cease to haunt my eyes with hunger. I heard your foot-falls in the desert, I saw your shadow in old buried places, I heard your laughter running down a million streets, but I did not find you there. . . . But in the city of myself, upon the continent of my soul, I shall find the forgotten language, the lost world, a door where I may enter, and music strange as any ever sounded. . . ."   --Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel   

     On this page I first tell the story of how I came to create Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois. I also portray the years I lived in Lincoln.

     Postville Courthouse Historic Site: At the Center of the World of the Darold Henson Family (Father Darold, Mother Jane, Son Leigh, and Daughter Linda) on the West Side of Lincoln, Illinois, in the Late Route 66 Era (1942--1964)

     (Photo adapted from Gleason, Lincoln:  A Pictorial History, opposite title page. The photo is undated, but most likely is from the early 1960s.)

 A Story of Running Hot and Cold on a Hometown

First, the Warm Up   

     When I was about 8 or 9, I was with one of my three sets of aunts and uncles in Lincoln when they were taking family members for a ride in a new (used) car they had just bought (this was a custom in those days). Although it was night, I could tell that I was in an unfamiliar part of town. We passed an intersection with a street that had a divided pavement. In the median were streetlights on lampposts, and their light shining on tall, thick bushes made mysterious shadows. In later years I figured out we had driven on Union Street past Lincoln Avenue in one of Lincoln's proud traditional neighborhoods. At the time I first saw Lincoln Avenue, I remember thinking how wonderful Lincoln was to be large enough to have beautiful places I had not seen, and I wondered what other places I might discover.

     While growing up in Lincoln, I continually found new and interesting places and people associated with home, family, and school. From childhood through adolescence, my perception was that life promised an ever-unfolding process of new discoveries and experiences. My world continually expanded. My bicycle took me first around the block, then around the neighborhood, and then into new neighborhoods, including the area near the Logan County Fairgrounds (some called it Podunk). There, I was sometimes chased by packs of dogs and was once bitten on the ankle, but did not tell Mom and Dad because I was afraid they would curtail my exploration.

     My parents built their family home at the corner of Seventh and Monroe in 1948. School life took me from kindergarten at Central School in 1948 (when my parents rented half of a house--three rooms--on Third Street) to Jefferson School for first grade through sixth. I went back to Central for junior high (1954-56), then to the Lincoln High on Broadway (for two years: 1956-58) and to the "new" LCHS on Primm Road (for two years: 1958-60). I attended Lincoln College my freshman year (1960-61), and long before then I thought I had Lincoln all figured out: I knew its geographical layout and boundaries, and I was convinced I also knew its people. 

Then, the Cooling Off

     I had some of the typical adolescent rebelliousness and began to develop a critical attitude toward Lincoln that fortunately lasted only a few years. From about the age of 18 to 25, I thought I knew what made Lincoln tick. I understood that the highest social status was bestowed upon those who had the most money.  Ideally that money was earned by people who fulfilled the American Dream in its most noble form--by people who were smart enough to have professions or to have good ideas for products and services needed by society (Yankee ingenuity) and who had the work ethic and business intelligence to take advantage of the opportunity (freedom) this county gives people to make their good ideas pay off big.  Ideally, all of this was done by people who lived according to Christian values. 

     A few people were rich because of inherited wealth, and in Lincoln, Logan County, and all of central Illinois that status usually meant they had inherited or could buy rich farmland. These few also enjoyed high social status. Ideally, they lived by Christian ethics, including a willingness to share some of their good fortune through philanthropy, especially at the local level--or at least be civic minded. 

     Of course, most people could not become rich, and so respectable social status was granted to those who earned money in more modest degrees, including those who worked at hourly wages, who did not squander their income, and who lived virtuous lives.

    Like many adolescents, I began to see discrepancies in my world between the ideal and the real. I knew that sometimes people who lived according to the code of the American Dream could suffer misfortune due to no fault of their own. Too many good people simply have bad luck. 

     Another kind of discrepancy that troubled me was the gap between the image that people projected and the truth of their lives. I began to see that some people were not as virtuous or prosperous as they appeared and pretended to be. I became troubled because I sensed a conflict in this society:  one voice said to be honest (reject hypocrisy), but another said it's all right to project false appearances.

     These realizations affected me in two ways. 1. I rebelled against the part of the American Dream that measures prestige according to material success or the appearance of it. In Lincoln, Illinois, the American Dream has always taken on special importance because of the town's association with a man who is internationally regarded as a  symbol of American ideals: the need for hard work and honesty. During adolescence and early adulthood, I was contemptuous of pretense in others but blind to my own (the capacity for self delusion is endless). 2. I became keenly interested in human nature and society. This interest in turn led me to the study of literature in college.

    At Lincoln College and Illinois State, I enjoyed the various ways in which writers depict and interpret human nature, society, and life itself. While I pursued this study for personal satisfaction, I also had the good sense to realize I needed to prepare myself to be "a productive member of society" and earn a living, so I also studied to become a teacher of my favorite subject. I knew that life requires a degree of material success (man does not live by ideas alone). 

     At the time I began my teaching career in the fall of 1964, I still held conflicting views about the culture of Midwestern life. Besides the overemphasis on materialism, I found fault with the social inequities associated with prejudice and discrimination. Yet, my teaching career required me to work for the public, including the kinds of people whose materialism and narrow-mindedness I found undesirable. Fortunately for me, I began my teaching career in Pekin, Illinois, another central Illinois small city, but about twice the size of Lincoln (Pekin's population was about 35,000, and Lincoln's about 18,000.  Pekin High was one of the largest high schools in downstate Illinois). 

     Curiously, in Pekin I found more of the things that offended me than I found in Lincoln, but Pekin also had many citizens who valued education and appreciated teachers. In Pekin, teachers could enjoy a drink in public, but in Lincoln teachers seen in taverns were forced to resign. In my early years in Pekin, I learned to adapt--to compromise--(man does not live either by bread or ideas alone), but one of my young colleagues in teaching was unable to adjust, and his aversion to middle-class values led to anti-social behavior. As a result, he was eventually fired.

     My adjustment meant that I kept my job and continued to enjoy opportunities for professional and personal growth and development. While teaching at Pekin High, I helped to raise a family; and I earned master's and doctor's degrees and taught part-time at Illinois Central College. 

     In my last few years in Pekin, I became curious about business and industry as a result of my study of technical and business writing in graduate school  -- business and industry, the very element of society that I had earlier associated with nothing more than chasing dollars. I especially wanted to find out if I had learned anything in graduate school that had practical application, so I sought and found part-time work as a freelance business writer, editor, and writing consultant. I pursued this interest part time for nearly seven years, earning money to help pay for my children's college educations and learning a lot about how business people think and work. I found some of this work to be very challenging and intellectually stimulating (clink this link to see a summary of my experience in the world of business and industry). I found some business people who were exemplars of the American Dream, and I found others who were less noble (every facet of society has its good and bad apples).

     By 1994, I had decided to retire from my career as a high school English teacher and my part-time professional writing career and begin a new career teaching technical communication in higher education. University employment offered more opportunities for me to do the things I enjoy most--read, write, and teach.

     Throughout my thirty years at Pekin High, I maintained an interest in the culture and history of the Midwest. Growing up in a small city, I knew the advantages of small city life over big city life. Yet I was curious about larger cities and wanted to introduce my children to them, so we sometimes visited the zoos, museums, and other attractions of Chicago and St. Louis.

Later, the Hometown Fever Spike

   Throughout my years at Pekin High, I often returned to Lincoln to visit family (parents, grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins). During this time I drove around to see what had changed and what had remained (knowing that what had remained was really not the same). I always wished I could spend more time to observe and visit with old acquaintances. Time and experience had broadened by interests in the culture and history of Lincoln. 

     I renewed my curiosity of Lincoln. I began to wonder more about the history of the city: about the people who had lived there--where they came from, their places of work, and the businesses they had owned and operated. What else could I learn about Abraham Lincoln's connection to his "namesake" town?  About Postville and the Postville Courthouse? The Chautauqua? The railroads? The factories? Route 66? Lincoln College? The Logan County Courthouse? The old county jail and a thousand other places, things, and the people I had known as a kid?

     Pursuing the answers to questions like those had been delayed because the years immediately after I left Pekin were concentrated on getting established in my second career. I devoted a lot of time and effort to gaining tenure and promotion at Southwest Missouri State University--developing and teaching new courses, researching in my academic field of technical communication, and writing for academic publication. I also struggled to overcome non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), a life-threatening form of cancer. In 1999 I gained tenure and promotion at Missouri State University.

     Tenure has provided increased academic freedom and the opportunity to combine personal and professional interests. In the last couple of years, now with job security, remission, and remarriage, I have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn more about Lincoln, Illinois. To help in this activity, I have acquired many printed sources about the history of Lincoln and Logan County. I have also established email communication with several present and former Lincolnites, and I have traveled to Lincoln to visit my dad and other family, always asking questions and taking photos of places in Lincoln that interested me.

     This Web site is a career capstone project: Here I  merge personal interest in Lincoln, Illinois, and professional interests in research, history, literature, writing, visual design, photography, graphic arts, and technical communication. 

     Another personal and professional interest of mine is contributing to the central mission of the university where I teach. Missouri State University's central mission is to advance public affairs, which includes public service to develop good communities. In the spirit of advancing this mission, I have developed this Web site as a "distance" public service project. The purposes of this Web site are (1) to educate viewers about the rich heritage and promising future of Lincoln, Illinois, and (2) to foster community development by strengthening civic pride and increasing heritage tourism. I am also experienced in marketing communication and will, as health and time allow, promote this Web site and its stated purposes.

     Now that this "labor of love" project has reached an advanced stage, in some ways I feel I know Lincoln better than ever. Someone in American literature said that the best way to come to know a native place is to leave it.  Sometimes I have felt that way about my hometown. Certainly I understand its culture and history now better than ever.

     Regardless of my new-found understanding of Lincoln, Illinois, I have not lived there since 1961, so I really have a lot more to learn about contemporary Lincoln. I sense the loss of factories and other sources of employment has brought difficult economic challenges. Yet, I sense that Lincoln continues to offer many of the advantages it has always enjoyed--central location, good transportation, plentiful natural resources, and many capable and decent people.

     The bottom line of my take on Lincoln, Illinois, is that it is a most remarkable place, unlike any other. Throughout much of its history, Lincoln, Illinois, has had enough resources--natural, human, and technological resources--to stand as its own city state. It had the agricultural operations to feed itself; an effective infrastructure for transportation; its own providers of utilities; factories that made everything from china to clothes to cars to cigars to ice; producers of all kinds of food and beverages; schools and colleges; people and organizations devoted to the professions and arts; and lakes, streams, and parks and other facilities for recreation.  

     The resources that have given Lincoln its measure of self sufficiency also bless it with the potential for growth and development -- "The Past Is But the Prelude."  I hope this Web site captures some of this distinction.

Growing up in Lincoln, Illinois

Author's Certificate of Lincolnite Status

Earliest Years: Darold Henson Family Living at His Mother's Home at 548 Fifth Street (Business Route 66)

     I have portrayed life at the Ruth Henson home at 9. The Hensons of Business Route 66.

1945--1948: Life on Third Street Near Maple

      Beginning soon after my father had been wounded in WW II at the Battle of the Bulge and was discharged from the Army, my parents rented half of a house on Third Street. The landlady, Mrs. Miller, lived in the other side of the house. Each side of the house had its own front and rear entrances. The house was essentially a duplex, but I don't think people used that term in those days.  Across the street at the corner of Third and Maple Streets lived the Nugents, who published the Lincoln Evening Courier. While we lived on Third Street, my sister, Linda, was born at Evangelical Deaconess Hospital. In the last year we lived on Third Street I attended kindergarten at Central School. My teacher was Mrs. J.O. Hodgson, and my good friend was Fred Martin, whose family lived just two doors west on Third Street.

     My memory of the Nugents is mostly limited to their two black Great Danes. As large as horses and with pointed Satanic-looking ears, they romped and bounded menacingly in the yard behind the stone fence, which seemed too low to contain them. They scared me, and I was uncomfortable playing in the front yard when they were outside. I spent a lot of time in the backyard; but the landlady and closest neighbor, Mrs. Miller, also had a dog, which she tied to the close line.  I don't remember liking that dog, either, and stayed out of its territory.  Maybe I just resented having to share the yard. 

     I recall one time playing with Fred in the shed at the back by the alley.  Backyard sheds in those days often held corncobs used to help start fires in stoves. From the shed's window, we threw countless corncobs at the dog and covered the backyard. Later, our parents compelled us to pick up all the cobs and return them to the shed.

      I did not entirely avoid the front yard because I remember a prank I played on Fred from that location.  Well, it did not begin as a prank, but it became one. I had a red plastic whistle shaped like a cardinal. 

Leigh in Front Yard on
Third Street in Approximately 1946

     The Nugents' house cannot be seen here, but it was right across the street to the right on the corner. The background shows the casket factory, its smoke stack, and water tower. The water tower of the Armour Company appears above the back of the house at the right. Cousin Jerry Gibson says there was a fire at the former casket company building when his dad, Ted Gibson, was on the city Fire Department in the 1940s. Ted was ordered to climb the water tower in order to aim the fire hose stream on top of the flames. The water tower collapsed, and Ted was moderately burned as a result. Soon after this incident, Ted resigned his position.

     The whistle was hollow and had a hole at the top so water could be poured in. The whistle worked when I blew into the hollow tail, and the air passed into the chamber, over the water, producing a sound. By blowing with quick, short breaths, I could simulate the red bird's call fairly well. 

      Quite innocently one day, I was in my font yard playing with the whistle.  I noticed Fred and his dad came out of their house into the front yard and were looking up into the trees there. They were trying to see the red song bird that had apparently honored them by performing a concert in their yard.

     They did not see me because trees in the neighbor's yard blocked their view. Once I realized the situation, I crept behind a tree and continued to blow the whistle while they walked around their yard craning their necks.  After a while, I stopped because I was afraid they would catch me. Many years later in high school I told Fred the story, so that sin is no longer on my conscience.

Redbird Water Whistle

     Above is a version of this toy that I found in Dick's Old-Time Five and Dime in downtown Branson, Missouri, one of the places I visit for nostalgic adventure.

     My work experience with the Courier was limited to substituting for paper boy John Poloney when he was forced to go on family vacations. His route, on Sixth Street, seemed like a lot of responsibility at the time. I practiced folding papers and accompanied John a whole week before he left so I could learn the route and practice throwing. That was not a paid internship. Later, during the real thing, I had to wait anxiously around at home, not free to play into the night, hoping no frazzled customers would call. If someone failed to get the paper or did not get it by a certain time, it was a minor crisis; and collecting required more management skill than this lazy teenager wanted to learn. I preferred the fun anticipation of getting the paper from the my own front steps, skimming it, and reading the comics. 

     Good thing I did not ride my bike to the Courier office and risk having it run over the way William Maxwell's Blue Racer was mangled. A disaster like that just might have pushed me over the edge.

Life at 912 Seventh Street

     In 1948 my parents built their home on the northeast corner of Seventh and Monroe Streets, just a little more than one block north of the Postville Courthouse Historic Site. Every day I lived there, I looked out the front window and saw the Postville Courthouse block and the Courthouse replica after it was built in 1953. 

Darold and Jane Henson Home at Seventh and Monroe Streets

     The Darold Henson home was built by Walter Faster. It is typical of post-WW II construction and representative of homes of families with modest means. My mother's sister, Mariann (Wilson) Wood, and her husband, Loren, built a nearly identical home next door (at right in photo). The building lots were gifts from the sisters' parents, the H.F. Wilsons, whose lives are described at 10. The Wilsons of Business Route 66, Including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station.

     This house had a furnace that burned large chunks of coal stored in the basement coal bin. After a few years, a stoker furnace with hopper replaced the original. The stoker furnace burned smaller pieces of coal. Inside the hopper at its bottom was an auger that moved coal into the furnace. The auger was turned by an electric motor periodically activated by a thermostat.

     As the coal burned, large chunks of ash, called clinkers, formed and were removed with an arm which had a tri-prong claw at one end controlled by a lever at the other end. The hot clinkers, glowing orange white and emitting noxious, sulfuric fumes, were placed in a five-gallon metal bucket and immediately dumped outside near the garbage can to prevent the ghastly fumes from creeping upstairs and choking us.

     Some time in my later high school years, the coal furnace was replaced by a gas furnace. Then, I cleaned out the coal bin, painted its walls white, and occasionally used this area for a study. My desk was a small drafting table that Dad salvaged from the trash pile of the 1900 LCHS building.

     The house had no air conditioning so we tried to keep cool with window and floor fans, homemade ice cream, and frequent evening trips to the Dairy Queen (sometimes in PJs).

Snapshots of Growing up in Lincoln, Illinois

     Having returned from WW II,  my father was working at Lincoln Community High School (see separate Web page for Darold Henson's WW II Army service). Without paper work to drag home, he had evenings free for recreation.  In the late 1940's, his two main forms of recreation were fishing and playing softball on the Lehn and Fink team. He is pictured below with several others with whom he played baseball as a youngster and softball as an adult, including his baseball mentor, Joe Sapp. It's the original photo in the source where I found it that is of poor quality.

Photo from Paul Beaver's History of Logan County 1982, p. 146.

     The photo above left shows Christmas at the Hensons' new home in 1949.  The photo above right is from a few years later on. For many years in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Christmas tree was obtained from Jane's parents' Wilson Grocery on Fifth Street.

     The backyard was the main playground. At left Linda and Leigh pose on the back porch during summer fun. The photo at the right shows the erection of the basketball hoop and backboard that was for many years located at the center of the backyard by the alley. This hoop had been used by Uncle Gib Wilson in the 1930s and was mounted on the garage behind the Wilson Grocery. The photo shows two of the many dogs that roamed freely in the neighborhood. Left to right are Warnie Davis (with bow and arrows); Leigh; unidentified kid but perhaps Warnie's younger brother, David; Darold Henson; Loren Wood (with teamster buttons on hat); his son, Dean; and Linda Henson. The backyard basketball court was often used by the Kirks, Newtons, and Van Bibbers.

     Speaking of the Van Bibbers--my sister reminds me of the time that Lester and Larry returned from the back lakes with a large, black water snake. They convinced me it was harmless and proved it by wrapping the snake around my neck.

     The scene is the backyard of Uncle Loren and Aunt Mariann Wood, whose nearly identical house was next door. At left is Dean Wood; Linda is helping young Cousin Shirley (b. 1953) enjoy her kiddie swing. At the back is the white picket fence that Loren erected to enclose the entire back yard. During a couple of summers, the Woods hired me to paint this fence. I think I earned 25 cents per hour. Painting the narrow slats was a most time-consuming task.

     These photos were taken on the front and back porch steps in 1957, when I was a high school freshman. I am unsure of the occasion for the suit and dress, but probably Sunday school and church. That could account for the sour faces.

     The photo at right shows a frequent and delightful summer ritual: making homemade ice cream the old-fashioned way--turning the crank by hand. Making ice cream was a special treat. My mother used an elaborate recipe of milk, eggs, etc., that required first cooking the mixture. Neighborhood playmate Dale Wheeler helps me by packing the ice. We took turns at the crank, but I was capable of turning the crank throughout the process. During the final phase, the crank became hard to turn, and my arms were tired. The blond kid behind me is unidentified, but perhaps a member of the Emil Ramlow family, who lived behind us across the alley. The other guy on the steps is Jimmy Newton, younger brother of Karl "Fig," Georgia Kay, and Leonard. The lady at the right is unidentified, but probably either Grandmother Ruth or Grandmother Blanch.

Jane and Darold on their 25th wedding anniversary, October 14, 1965

Darold and Jane in mid 1960s

Linda Henson at one of her proms
in the early 1960s

Darold Henson, Fisherman and Courier Man of the Month


Darold, About 1950

     Above is Dad with largemouth bass--fishing, his life-long "passionate cause"--and Studebaker. Grandmother Ruth Henson had owned at least two Studebakers and generously shared them with the Darold Henson family.  The Studebaker pictured at the left is perhaps a 1948 or 1949 make.  Even now the wraparound rear window seems sporty. 

Darold in 1977

Click to read Darold's "Man of the Month" story.

      In the photo above at right, note the two "lunker" largemouth bass mounted on the wall. I was with him in the early 1970s when he caught the one just above his head, and I had it mounted for him as he has never been interested in collecting trophies.

     A successful angler has to be both astute strategist (know where and when to fish) and adept tactician (know the right techniques and how to use them). The mounted fish above his head was taken from a small reservoir of a town in southwestern Illinois. Darold had done his homework in finding a somewhat remote lake with plentiful fish and scant "fishing pressure." 

      Because it was springtime, he knew the water temperature was moderate enough that bass would feed near the surface, so he used a top-water lure. The "go devil" technique requires a long, 9-foot pole, which is gripped and braced along the inside of the arm. A lure with a propeller, similar to the lunker lure below, is tied on a heavy line (24-pound test) extending about six feet from the end of the pole. This lure is dragged back and forth on the water's surface near the shore, where fish like to feed before the hot summer sun forces them into deeper, cooler waters. The larger bass are very protective of their territory, and this lure churns the water with a loud gurgle that provokes bass into attacking and devouring the intruder. This method proves very exciting, as hooked fish explode from the water, jumping and thrashing to shake loose, then diving to break the line, and jumping and diving again and again until freed or tired and netted. Often the larger fish do escape, leaving the fisherman with a most empty, frustrating feeling of loss and defeat; but desire for another try soon arises. 

     Fishing, then, can be but is not necessarily a mindless puttering where the greatest challenge is putting a worm on a hook and the fun is dozing in the shade of a willow tree on Salt Creek; it is a sport that can teach the need for thoughtful, skillful perseverance.

     Darold has only two mounted fish, symbols of countless trophy-sized, fresh-water game fish (mainly bass, walleye, and crappie) caught in his legendary fishing career of approximately 80 years.

Lunker Lure Prototype Designed/Fabricated by Joe Trinkle of the
Rocky Ford Region of Salt Creek


     Right at the end of the school year (in the last week of May, first week of June) throughout the 1950s, Ruth and the Darold Hensons drove her car on vacation trips to the North Woods, specifically to Lake Vermilion, forty miles south of International Falls, Minnesota. Driving the last twenty miles on gravel roads without seeing towns and gas stations, we thought we were really in the wilderness. At Lake Vermilion, Dad learned to fish for walleyes and taught me how.

     One indication we were in the wilderness were the mosquitoes. At dusk, when we were on the lake, we could hear their low, menacing drone in the woods and then see them emerge on the points of the lakes as they hovered there in hazy black clouds.

    Another indication we were in the wilderness was that our cabin had an old-time ice box. The Vermilion Lodge supplied its cabins with ice cut in winter months from the lake and stored in an old barn. Sawdust was used as insulation to keep the ice through the summer months. At Lake Vermilion each year we stayed in the same cabin. 

     Grandmother Ruth had written our names on a piece of paper tucked in the rafters of the front screened-in porch, and for many years we checked to see that the paper was still there. Our species is always trying to establish some kind of immortality. The cabin is still there, but the porch is gone.

     One year in the mid 1950s the Loren Woods went to Lake Vermilion with us. Dad and Loren always enjoyed fishing together. The Woods liked Lake Vermilion so well that they moved there in 1958. They bought a farm near Lake Vermilion, and the farmhouse had no indoor toilet, but it did have a classic "two holer." There was also a genuine, old-fashioned sauna in the backyard.  As a teenager, I enjoyed using it. I built a fire in the stove, boiled water, and poured it over heated rocks. I liked the challenge of trying to make it so hot and steamy that I could hardly stand it. Being there in June, however, I could not have the full experience of running from the sauna, dripping with sweat, and rolling in the snow, as Uncle Loren explained the natives liked to do.

Lake Vermilion Fishermen at Vermilion Lodge (mid 1950s)

Left to right: Loren Wood, Darold Henson, Leigh Henson, and Jim Knott

When Does the Past Stop and the Present Begin?

Leigh, Linda, and Darold Henson in his backyard on Seventh Street in 1997

Darold and Judy Henson with Leigh Henson's Beloved Children: 
Daughter, Kendra, and Son, Brandon Henson, in 1996

Darold and Judy Henson on Lake Vermilion in Early June of 2002

Darold with Seven Pound Walleye Caught at Lake Vermilion in June of 2002,
with the Mouth of Spring Bay in the Background

Vehicles I Drove on Route 66

     My first car is being driven in Postville Park in approximately 1944.  Business Route 66 is in the background. The make and model from the early 1940s are unknown. In the background from left to right are my Wilson grandparents' home, their service station, and grocery store. Directly behind my head is the V. Goodman Trucking Company, and at the right is the Illico Service Station, now Dick Logan's Auto Care Center. All businesses were located on Business Route 66.

    In 1944, traffic on Business Route 66 was sparse enough that, under my mother's watchful eyes, I could drive from Wilsons' Corner across the Mother Road to the park.

     The Studebaker shown at the right probably dates to 1953. It was the car that my Grandmother Ruth owned when she taught me how to drive in the mid 1950s when I was about 13 or 14. She often took me out Fifth Street Road. She drove a mile or two beyond the intersection of Fifth Street Road (gravel) and Route 66 and then let me take over, teaching me how to steer and shift. I am unsure if my mother and father knew of these illicit driver education tutorials. 

     On one drive out Fifth Street Road, a vehicle approached at some distance and crossed center of the road so that it started coming directly at us. We were both scared. I had to pull over to the right nearly off the road and stop. I can still see the grin on the guy's face as he came closer and closer and finally swerved back into his own lane.  Grandmother Ruth said it was probably someone who knew Darold and was just playing a joke. My theory is that the guy just wanted to play a joke on driver he could tell was just a kid straining to see over the steering wheel.

     When I was sixteen, my parents took me to Decatur, where they bought me this motorbike. I drove it all over town, of course taking girls for rides and trying to make them hold me tight. I recall the fun of racing around the twists and turns of the cinder roads in Old and New Union Cemeteries, with an occasion spill. Having the motorbike did not inspire me to want a motorcycle, and many years later Dad confided that the idea behind giving me the motorbike was so that I would not later want a more powerful, dangerous two-wheeler. His plan worked.

     This photo shows me at sixteen standing in front of Grandmother Ruth's 1958 Ford, which she bought new. This Ford had a just a six-cylinder motor, but it had spunk. She let me borrow this vehicle for  occasional dates. Our family drove this Ford to Minnesota several years on vacation.

     The date was May 27, 1960, the day I graduated from LCHS (it is mother's purse, not mine, on Grandmother Ruth's front porch step). My parents' blue Nash is in the background. It was an early 1950s make. When my mother and I went to her parents' place, I often drove this car in the driveway for practice before I had a driver's license while my mother was busy in the grocery store. Mother knew I was doing this in the driveway, but I also ventured onto nearby streets without her knowing it. Or at least I thought she was unaware. I drove this car hard and lucky for me it did not blow up. I think the unbuttoned coat and hands in pockets were intended to be a "tough guy" stance. 

     And I was ignorant of the indiscretion of the unbuttoned suit coat. Later in the summer of 1966, as a member of the wedding party of Thom Zimmerman in Belleville, Illinois, the old priest who presided properly corrected me of that bad habit during the wedding rehearsal.

     Darold appears partially in the left background. When I was in the market for my first, car he found this one--actually owned by the proverbial little old lady who only drove it to the grocery store and church. With plans to attend Lincoln College in the fall of 1960 as a "commuter," I bought this 1949 Ford (flathead V-8, standard transmission) with $300 I earned working for the Illinois Department of Conservation in the summer of 1960, a job I got thanks to the kindly political influence of Mr. Joe Sapp. To my father, he was a good-old boy mentor and fellow baseball fan. For most of my 1960 summer job, I mowed grass and cut weeds at the Springfield game farm (long since gone), located on the northwest corner of the Illinois State Fairgrounds (now the site of the new Department of Natural Resources  Headquarters). In other summers at the State Fair, I joined Jeff and Bob Fults, Tom Culnan, Jim Knecht, and others in selling lemonade for Jim McInstry, B.S. from SIU-C (and there are some good stories to be told there).

      During the State Fair in the summer of 1960, I worked in the Conservation Department exhibit, then housed in the Centennial Building (on the east side of the Fairgrounds). There, I replaced the fish in the display tanks when they floated to the surface, belly up.  It was a simple, easy job.  The biologists and Department administrators, the latter then the beneficiaries of a political patronage system, had really cushy positions, too. These bureaucrats conducted the business of making phone calls to friends setting up golf dates and sitting around in the self-importance of their uniforms. I was also important looking as I moved around in sunglasses with dark frames on which I had painted white pin stripes. 

     Of course, my 1949 Ford enabled me to make many trips to various town and rural extracurricular campuses. At Lincoln College, I took two semesters of literature with Mrs. Florence Molen, whose teaching fired my interest in English.  In the fall of 1961, I transferred to Illinois State Normal University to major in English, driving the Ford but using it only on weekends and ordinarily needing only $1.00 per week for gas. Typically during the day I walked the mile or so to campus for classes and then again in the evening to Milner Library.

     In late summer of 1964, after I had signed a contract to teach English at Pekin Community High School, I bought this low-mileage 1961 Pontiac four-door hardtop. This vehicle enabled me to report for the new teachers' orientation in style at the ultra-modern East Campus in early September of 1964. I drove this car until about 1967. The most memorable trip I remember in this car was the time I drove the PCHS varsity debate team to Illinois State for a tournament.  Two members of the PCHS varsity debate team were students of mine at the time, Joy Friedinger and Patricia Steinke.

     The photo above shows me washing this car in my parents' backyard on Seventh Street. The white picket fence in the background borders the yard formerly owned by my Aunt Mariann and Uncle Loren Wood--the fence is the one they hired me to paint when I was a kid. I was attached to this smooth-riding, smooth-running car as much as any others I ever owned.

     One of my colleagues at Pekin Community High School was the French teacher and dilettante Joe Croney, a graduate of William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, and former graduate student of Kansas University (KU). He introduced me to roots music and urban folk music--Doc Watson and the Greenbriar Boys, for example; Adobe House chili powder from Kansas City, and sports cars. He experimented with homemade wine and beer. His strategy for brewing beer was to convince his friends to store it in their apartments, where it sometimes exploded without his need to clean up the mess. He drove an old Austin Healy. I recall Labor Day weekend in about 1965, when he and I set out for St. Louis in this car, but the fuel pump went out near Springfield, so we spent the weekend in Lincoln.

     Despite the unreliable mechanics of sports cars and the complications of getting them repaired, Croney sold me on the idea of owning one. As a result, I disposed of my 1961 Pontiac and bought this red Triumph (TR-4). With a $200 loan from my parents, I had the motor overhauled in Bloomington, and after that the car ran fine.The above photo of my TR-4 was also taken in the Hensons' backyard in Lincoln.

     After Joe Croney was dismissed from Pekin High in the early 1970s, I never saw him again. He retreated  first to the southern coast of Texas and then to Key West in Florida, where he is seen in the photo below. I used to get late-night, semi-coherent calls from him, but a few years ago the calls stopped. Joe Croney passed away sometime in the late 1990s.

Joe Croney in the 1980s

     One day after school in the fall of 1967, I was driving my TR-4 while leaving the East Campus of PCHS, and I noticed Patricia Steinke walking down the East Campus hill. She was not only the most beautiful student I ever knew, but also the smartest. I offered her a ride home, and she accepted. After we left campus, we drove through Mineral Springs Park toward her parents' home near Lake Arlan on West Shore Drive about a mile away from campus. Pat was a scholar and had several books stacked in her lap. I delivered her directly to her home that day. 

     At my nomination in her senior year, she won the Stella Sherman Stolley award for English studies. (This award honored Mrs. Stolley, who had been a former PCHS English teacher and was the mother of Pekinite Richard Stolley, editor in chief of Life magazine and founding editor of People magazine.) Pat became one of the first students allowed to graduate from PCHS after seven semesters. Three years later, she graduated from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a bachelor of science, double major in journalism and English.  She later earned an MBA from Boston University. 

Patricia Steinke in 1968

     On July 12, 1999, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, she became my bride. Her life between graduating from SIU and her marriage to me is another story--her history is her story. 

Leigh Henson in June of 2003

Photo by his wife, Pat Hartman. Click thumbnail for larger version.

Brief Chronology of Post-Lincoln Years

▪  1961-1964: Student at Illinois State University during spring and fall semesters and the summer of 1963. Other summers spent at home in Lincoln.

▪  1964--1994: Teacher of English at Pekin Community High School. 1972: daughter Kendra Lynne Henson born at Pekin Hospital.  1977: son Brandon Leigh Henson born at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, Illinois. During these years, there were frequent visits to family in Lincoln (at least once or twice a month). 

▪ 1969: Master of Science in English (ISU); 1982 PhD in English Studies (ISU).

▪  1990--1993: Founding co-partner of Technical Publication Associates, Inc.

▪  1994--1999: Assistant professor of English at Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri

▪  1998: Diagnosis of malignant lymphoma, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, remission 

▪  July, 1999: Marriage to Patricia Hartman, Eureka Springs, Arkansas

▪  1999--2005: Promotion to associate professor of English at Southwest Missouri State University

▪  2001: Spring: publication of For Remembrance, Understanding, and Fun, a Web site with mementos about years at Lincoln Community High School

▪  2003: Summer: publication of Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, & Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois

2005--2006: Promotion to Professor of English at Missouri State University (2005--2006) (SMSU became Missouri State University on 8-28-05.), and

▪  2006: Professor Emeritus of English

▪  2006--2008: Teaching technical writing online at Missouri State University, with continued research and publication

2011: Publication of The Town Abraham Lincoln Warned: The Living Namesake Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois

2017: Publication of Inventing Lincoln: Approaches to His Rhetoric

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"The Past Is But the Prelude"

The founding fathers of this town asked their attorney, Abraham Lincoln, for permission to name this new community after him, and he agreed.  On the first day lots were publicly sold--August 27, 1853--, Abraham Lincoln, near the site of the train depot, used watermelon juice to christen the town as Lincoln, Illinois.  It thus became the first town named for Abraham Lincoln before he became famous.