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Henderson laid foundation for Oakwood development

On the 15th day of November 1889, the people of Oakwood held a meeting at Edmonsdson’s Hall, when it was decided to erect a church in that suburban village. The lot on which to erect the building was donated by J.B. Price, and a subscription paper was started. About May 1st, the contractors completed the building which was accepted by the church committee, and arrangements were at once made for the dedicatory services.


A Bible school class, meeting in an upstairs room over the Link mercantile store during the late 1880s, served as the precursor to what would become the first church in the little hamlet of Oakwood. Charles O. Ransford wrote a story, “Looking Back in Methodism,” published in a Hannibal newspaper on Nov. 1, 1933. He described how people of all faiths worked together, providing volunteer labor in order to construct the little church on the corner of 36th and St. Charles streets, on land donated by John B. Price.The stone masons who volunteered their labor to build the foundation were Messrs (possibly Addison) Haggard and (possibly Patrick) McMahon. The article’s author noted that Mr. Mahon was a Catholic.

Among the charter members of the Oakwood Methodist Church were John J. Henderson (who later served as the second Sunday school superintendent) and his son-in-law, Pearl Rutherford. These two men are little more than faint memories today, but are noteworthy in the fact that Henderson was an attorney and an Oakwood real estate developer, who lived in Oakwood for nearly 20 years, and his son-in-law, Mr. Rutherford, a prominent ice dealer in Hannibal before the days of refrigeration.

To this day, two subdivided tracts of land and a street, developed well more than a century ago, exist in the neighborhood of Oakwood, bearing the name of Henderson.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, John J. Henderson created Henderson’s Subdivision and partnered with W.F. Chamberlain to establish Chamberlain & Henderson’s Subdivision. Both additions are to the west of 36th Street and to the South of Tilden Street, and are divided by Ruby Street. (Oakwood School, in adjacent Tilden Subdivision, is directly to the west of Chamberlain and Henderson’s Subdivision. )


John J. Henderson served Oakwood as its postmaster and justice of the peace in 1892.

He lived in Oakwood at the time of the 1901 great fire, which was described a previous edition of this history series, and his father-in-law, H.A. Owens, was Oakwood postmaster at the time of the fire.


John J. Henderson was born during the years leading up to the Civil War, in September 1856, near the tiny railroad town of Bushnell, in McDonough County, Ill. He was the son of Nathan and Elizabeth Cline Henderson, who had married the year prior.

By the time of Nathan Henderson’s Civil War draft registration in 1863, he and his young family - including 10-year-old John - had moved to a farm near Cedar, in Monroe County, Iowa.

As a teen, John J. Henderson worked as a farm hand for his father. On Dec. 12, 1880, when approximately 24 years old, he and Lizzie Owens were married, in nearby Monroe County, Iowa. She was the daughter of Harrison A. Owens, a merchant (photographer) of Marysville, Iowa, who served the Union Army during the Civil War, enlisting as a musician.

The first child born to John J. and Lizzie Henderson, Ethel, arrived circa 1885 in Iowa. Three subsequent children, Ruby, William and Irma, were born in Marion County, Mo.


Henderson was an active member, and for eight years chair of the Republican Central Committee of Marion County. He worked for the establishment of good roads for the Oakwood neighborhood, all the while maintaining a real estate and law office at 228 Broadway in downtown Hannibal.

When Henderson and his family left the Oakwood neighborhood in 1907 for a move to Tulsa, Indian Territory, he took with him a vast array of knowledge and experience gained during his Hannibal area residency. A Hannibal newspaper bemoaned Henderson’s departure:

“During his residence in Hannibal he has greatly entered himself to the citizens who regret that he is going away. He is a lawyer of acknowledged ability, and authority on the title of real estate and a splendid citizen generally. In politics he is an uncompromising Republican, but has ever conducted himself so as not to antagonize the opposite party.”

GAR address

Three years after his move to Tulsa, Henderson was asked to speak at the fraternal organization, the Grand Army of the Republic’s annual convention, scheduled for Sept. 22, 1910 at Pawnee, Okla. His speech was so well received that it was subsequently reprinted in a Tulsa newspaper.

Henderson, who was a child during the battles fought for the preservation of the Union, spoke eloquently and respectfully of the men in his presence, as well as those long represented by white crosses in cemeteries across the land.

He spoke directly to the bent and aged Union Army veterans, who: “sacrificed your business, your home and loved ones and all that was dear to you that our nation might stand.”

The Civil War remained within the generational memory of those gathered together on this date to reminisce and mourn, some 45 years after the last cannons fired. “A few more years and a few tottering figures shall represent the marching files of the Grand Army; a little beyond that and there shall flutter by the window the last empty sleeve,” Henderson said.


John J. Henderson died in August 1940 at his home in Tulsa, which was located at 1160 N. Cheyenne. He was 83. His wife died just a few months later. They are at rest at Tulsa’s Oak Lawn Cemetery.

Note: The Hannibal newspaper article describing Henderson’s tenure in Hannibal was reprinted in the Morning Tulsa Daily World on Feb. 24, 1912, when Henderson was a candidate for mayor of Tulsa.

Note: The Tulsa Race Massacre/Riot took place in 1921, during J.J. Henderson’s residency in Tulsa. It is unknown by this writer what, if any, impact this historic event had on the Henderson family. During the time frame of the riot/massacre, the Henderson family relocated from 1110 South Gutherie (along the historic route of Route 66) to1717 S. Rockford, located south of the Greenwood District.

Tulsa’s skyline serves as a backdrop for the resting place of John J. Henderson and his wife, who before moving to Tulsa in 1907, lived for some 20 years in Oakwood, a neighborhood of Hannibal, Missouri. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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