From the museum
Although the KARK-Channel 4 official totals for the October rains measured 19.72 inches, we received much more rain at my house - but that’s another story for another time!
The most memorable rain may be the deluge that thoroughly drenched Monticello on October 13 and brought down part of a landmark. At approximately 12:15 p.m. during that “gullywasher,” a significant portion of the rear of the old Fish Drug Store building at the corner of North Main and West Gaines gave way under the weight of the water and tumbled to the ground.
Fortunately, no vehicle passing through was caught in the rubble. City workers quickly blocked that portion of South Main and began to clear the debris from the street.
When the rain subsided, and the dust settled, a lone, silent and mysterious artifact could be seen hanging eerily from the remaining parts of the noble building.
This silent remainder from days gone by was a half-glass paneled door with the words “Patrick Henry” painted on its frosted surface. As passersby noticed the old door hanging haphazardly on one hinge above the pile of broken bricks, many wondered, “Who was this Patrick Henry?” More than a few called to ask that very question.
Thus began a quest for information about Mr. Henry and his place in Drew County history. Although details are sketchy at best, the following paragraphs reveal gathered facts about the Patrick Henry long gone from the streets of Monticello and the memories he left to us.
Patrick Henry was born on August 10, 1879, in Brandon, Miss., to Congressman and Mrs. Patrick Henry. (Congressman Henry was a Civil War veteran who also served in the Mississippi state legislature before representing the state in Congress.)
Monticello’s Patrick Henry enrolled in the University of Mississippi and graduated from their literary department in 1899. He then entered the law school there and completed the two-year course of study in one year, receiving his law degree in 1900. In September of that year, he came to Monticello to practice law with his friend from school, Walter Weatherford. He was 21 years old.
The next year, Mr. Weatherford died and Mr. Henry went into practice with the Hon. H.W. Wells. In 1902, Judge Wells was elected prosecuting attorney for the county and lawyer Henry practiced alone.
In 1903 the young Mr. Henry was elected mayor of Monticello and was reelected for three successive terms. (Evidently the terms ran for only one year because Henry also finished the term of his successor, the Hon. J. G. Williamson, after Williamson’s resignation in mid-1907.)
Since 1902 Patrick Henry had also served as deputy prosecuting attorney. In 1906, he ran for prosecuting attorney and carried Drew County. However, he was eventually defeated by B.L. Herring of Warren.
While establishing his practice and serving in Monticello-Drew County political offices, Patrick Henry also met a young lady, Miss Ione Thompson of Little Rock, and they were wed in 1905. Although the occasion of their meeting is unknown, Lamar Williamson Jr., now of North Carolina, remembers a distant family relation, Aunt Reola Thompson, and a cousin, Ione Henry. The Henrys may have met through Ione’s relatives in Monticello.
The Henrys had at least two children - a son, Patrick Henry Jr., who had a successful naval career; and a daughter, Martha. (They may have had a second son, but, so far, I have learned nothing about him.)
The Patrick Henrys lived in a big house on West Bolling behind the house probably best known as the Walllick-Jett house and in the area we now call Hutchinson Drive. At some point years ago, the house burned, but Monticellonian Marsha Wells Daniels remembers playing in their long drive as a child.
One source said Mr. Henry served on the Monticello school board in 1917. He was a practicing attorney who also served as Circuit Judge for the Tenth Judicial District from 1931 to 1935. Judge Henry was serving when the current courthouse was built in 1932 and is listed on the “nameplate” on the first floor.
Local residents say Judge Henry had come home for lunch one day in early 1935. Ione was hosting a bridge party, so the judge probably ate and sat down in his chair to rest before returning to the office. He died there after a sudden heart attack.
Judge Patrick Henry is buried at Oakland Cemetery. It has been said that Mrs. Henry and her daughter went to live near the son(s).
Little else is known about our Patrick Henry, but I am still seeking information for our archives’ files and for my own information. I do know that in April of 1935, Judge Patrick Henry was replaced as Circuit Judge by DuVall L. Purkins who served until 1942.
Now, as for the door to his office, it hung precariously there from the October 13 rains until Thursday, October 29. I had called property owner Leslie McKiever after the building’s partial collapse and asked if I could have the door for the museum. Ms. McKiever graciously said that she’d like to see it preserved and that I could have it if I could get it down.
I had been pondering “cherry pickers,” bucket trucks, trackhoes, etc., and had hinted to several people that I wanted to save and preserve it. Last Thursday, Sheriff Mark Gober went to the site to check out the possibility of rescuing the door for me. He came back carrying the intact door on his shoulders!
Sheriff Gober said it was mainly a matter of removing the nail that had been used as a hinge pin and lifting it up. (He didn’t mention his precarious lean into space!) I truly appreciate Sheriff Gober’s willingness to help and his rescue of the historic door.
So, thanks to Sheriff Gober and Ms. McKiever, another piece of Drew County history is now safe and sound! The door from the law office of our own Patrick Henry now resides securely at the Drew County Historical Museum for all to see.
(If you have further information about Mr. Henry, please contact me. For more information about the history of the old building it, see the 2009 Drew County Historical Journal when it debuts later this year.)