Among the finest specimens of the hardy yeomanry of our country, there are few that are the peers of the representatives of the Scotch-Irish race, who are so materially helping in the development of our country. These people are essentially Scotch, and Ireland to them has been but a temporary abiding place, as they seldom assimilate with the natives of that island. To their descendants this country is much indebted for one of its most inflexible and unswerving elements of probity and uprightness. Their sturdy physical strength and inborn frugality, thrift and industry, are characteristically developed in their representatives in America. The subject of this sketch, who is one of the most extensive land owners and stock raisers of Granville township, Putnam county, is a magnificent specimen of this hardy race.
Mr. Henning was born in County Antrim, Ireland, September 15, 1826, and is a son of William and Catherine (Nickolls) Henning, the former a native of Dumfriesshire, Scotland, and the latter of County Antrim. For twelve years his father served in the British army, being with Wellington at the battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was so badly defeated, and after his discharge he rented a farm belonging to an Irish officer. He had secured a life lease, but on coming to America this he sold.
The boyhood of our subject was passed upon a farm in his native land, but in 1845, at the age of nineteen years, he accompanied his parents to the United States, and at once proceeded to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where his brother William was working in a rolling mill. There he was also employed for five years, during which time he became familiar with every detail of the business, and received from two and a half to three dollars per day for his services. On account of a lack of business, the mill closed down for a while in 1849, and with a little money which he had saved he came to Illinois. At Chemung, McHenry county, for two years he was employed as teamster and in the grist mill and general store for a gentleman who was extensively engaged in business at that place. The following two years he again worked in the mill at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, but since 1854 he has been a permanent resident of Illinois. His brother William also came to this state, and for twelve years carried on the grain business at Lostant, where his death occurred. Another brother, Robert, lives at Hennepin, while Samuel has always been with our subject, and John lives in Granville.
While a resident of McHenry county, his parents had come to Putnam county, Illinois, settling in Granville township, where his father died, and on his return to this state, Mr. Henning joined his mother, who made her home with him up to the time of her death about eight years ago. For six years he rented land near his present farm, and then for three vears he rented the latter place of Ralph Ware, who owned a half section here. On the death of Mr. Ware the farm was divided into three parts, two of which our subject secured, making two hundred and ten acres, for which he paid forty dollars per acre, but was only able to pay a third of the amount, going in debt for the remainder. At the present time, however (in 1896), he owns one hundred acres north of Granville, forty acres one mile south of Florid, which is a timbered tract, and one hundred and sixty acres in Hand county. South Dakota. In 1895 he met with a heavy loss, having his sheds destroyed by fire, and all their contents, including six head of horses, agricultural implements, harness, etc., on which he had no insurance.
Mr. Henning has given considerable attention to the raising of cattle and horses, feeding about a car load of the latter per year. He has found the breeding of heavy draft horses a profitable source of income, making a specialty of the Clydesdale and Shire horses, and has exhibited some fine thoroughbreds at fairs. He sold one two-year-old animal for four hundred and fifty dollars. From eighty to one hundred acres of his land is devoted to corn. Upon his place he sunk a well thirteen hundred and fifty feet deep, when he reached artesian water, but it lacks one hundred feet of coming to he surface, so that he has had to put in a wind pump. He has a tank of three hundred barrels' capacity, which he keeps filled and in this manner his stock are always well supplied. It is the same water as is found at Hennepin and Spring Valley. The cost of this well was three thousand two hundred dollars and four or five men were employed an entire year in its construction. Gas was struck when nine hundred and seventy-four feet down; two veins of coal, from four to five feet in thickness, at three hundred and seventy and four hundred and seventy feet, and a three-foot vein of plumbago at five hundred feet.
Mr. Henning is what may be termed a self-made man, as he had no capital when he crossed the breast of the stormy Atlantic and landed on the shores of America. His excellent business tact, coupled with his industry, frugality, and the other noble traits common to his people, are the only architects of his substantial fortune. He is one of the representative men of the county and a credit to the land that gave him birth. In political sentiment he is a republican.
Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois published in 1896, page 488.