Henderson: Then and Now

October 18, 2010

Grain elevator, Henderson, MI

According to an Owosso Argus Press article, when my grandparents George and Ruth Larson moved to Henderson in 1946, it was a village of about 250 people. A small community, yes, but a community nonetheless.

Henderson’s history goes back even further, of course. Wikipedia tells us it was originally known as Hendersonville and a post office opened there in 1868. This Shiawassee County History site shows an interesting undated photo of the village. I wonder if the Main Street building closet to the railroad cars is George and Ruth’s store? I wonder how old this photo is?

Small as it was, in days gone by Henderson was a thriving community. There were stores, a grain elevator, a school, a church and a post office.

These days the village isn’t quite the same. The elevator, shown above, is boarded and vacant. Instead there’s much larger operation located south of the village limits. The only store left is a floral shop and it looks like the others have been converted to residential dwellings.

The 2005 census shows Rush township, where Henderson is located, as having a population of 1469 people. I spoke on the phone with Debbie, clerk for the township, and she estimated Henderson’s population today is probably only 150.

“It’s just a small little burg, kind of run down,” says Debbie. “It’s nothing like it used to be.”

I imagine Henderson is indicative of many areas of Michigan. Every time I return to nearby Owosso, my hometown, I see grim reminders of the economic pain brought on by an ailing auto industry. When I drive the winding six miles on Chipman Road from Owosso to Henderson, I see houses I remember from my childhood, many of them now rundown. I also see newly built mega-mansions invading the farmland and monopolizing riverfront acreage.

My step-mother Jan confirms this. She describes the area as having become one of “upper class and lower class, with nothing in between.” She speaks of hundreds of homes that are foreclosed upon and vacant.

Looking for good deals on Henderson-area property?

I checked out the real estate and came across a couple fixer-uppers. On Bingham Rd., there’s a 600 sq. ft., 2-bedroom, 1-bath on .5 acres  for the bargain price of $10,000. On Ridge Rd., there’s a slightly larger 850 sq. ft. house on .9 acres for $40,000.

Bargain prices for the buyer, yes. But unfortunate for the sellers, who likely paid more for these properties in years past.

The store today, Henderson, MI

George and Ruth’s grocery store, now a residential property.

The store today, Henderson, MI

Photo by my sister Rebecca

The store today, Henderson, MI

George and Ruth built the enclosed fire escape stairway. I remember finding it so intriguing as a child. Whenever we heard the whistle of oncoming trains, my grandmother opened the fire escape door so there were plenty of spectator windows. On its left is the living room window where for years my Great-Grandmother sat. On the right is a window for a back bedroom.

Henderson, MI, Post Office

Photo by my sister Rebecca

Just two doors down from my grandparents’ store, we regularly walked to the post office. It was such a highlight! I still remember the fascinating dippy bird the postmaster kept on the counter.

Methodist Church, Henderson, MI

Although my grandparents were Lutheran, Ruth participated in many community events sponsored by Henderson’s United Methodist Church, a Main Street presence still today.

Seeing this church brings a tug to my heart. I remember so well the excitement of attending mother-daughter banquets here. I remember sitting in the church pews for the entertainment program and then moving to the basement where pillow mints and the most creative place settings awaited each of us. To a small girl, dressed in her Sunday best, this was comparable to a high school prom.

What are your memories of Henderson? What do you know of Henderson today?


10 Responses to “Henderson: Then and Now”

  1. Terri Says:

    I remember going to Henderson Park with Mom to collect pine cones for the pine cone wreaths she was making. That was the neatest park. I just loved Henderson. Some of my earliest and strongest memories are from Henderson. I loved sitting on the steps of the store is the summertime when Grandpa had the screen door up in the front entry. Sitting there there with a bottle of grape pop from the old coke cooler. The bottles sat in icy water.

  2. Rhonda Martinez Says:

    Sounds like a real neat place with great memories, Di. Obviously I have NO memories of it since we’re not related and I’ve never been there but on the plus side.. my grandma had a dippy bird too!
    I’m just a stalker enjoying your blog! :)

  3. John Says:

    My dad grew up in Henderson and certainly visited the store many times as a boy. He attended school there. He still owned the house just two blocks from the store when I was younger, its pretty run down today. I remeber the Michigan bean elevator still being open, buying grain there, and having rail cars parked on it’s siding. I have lot’s of memories of the county park. I have ridden trains through town, lot’s of great memories. Like you say though, the area is struggling economically, I live in Kansas now but still drive through Henderson when I visit home.

  4. adunate Says:

    John, thanks for your memories! As kids spending the day at my grandparents’ store, we often went for walks “around town.” We must have walked past your father’s house many times. Thanks again!

  5. Deanna Says:

    I actually am living in the old bank, kinda dissapointed not to see any pictures of it.. I’ve been looking for more info. about it, just for fun. My Grandma told me my Great Grandpa had told her about banking here before but I want to know more than that! haha … yeah, the town is pretty run down, but it’s so peacefull it pays off! They’ve been talking about closing the post office out here.. :/ and the neighbors said that someone used to have a store going across the street a few years back.. But I guess that didn’t work out too well. I also know that whoever split up the land ripped a lot of people off.. I have pictures of how the survey is now, and it goes through half of my house! I know it never used to be that way because the courthouse in Corunna says different.. but anyway, I figured I’d share what I know about it!

    • Di Says:

      Thanks for commenting! How interesting that you live in Henderson. What building was the bank, in comparison to my grandparent’s store? Same side of the street? Across the street?

      Your grandparents or great-grandparents must have known my grandparents George and Ruth Larson, the grocery storekeepers, do you think?

  6. Deanna Says:

    Let’s see how good I can explain this!! In the third picture you have of the store, you can see part of my house in the background to the left… My neighbors house is right next to the left of the store…I’m on the same side of the road. after you cross West st… I’m right on the corner of S.West st. and Main St. Okay, now that I have you all confused,,, I believe ( I could be wrong ) the bank is the only red brick building on main st. & at the very top it says 1916 ..

    I wouldn’t doubt it if they did know each other, or at least met each other at some point!! The majority of my family was&is from the Ovid Elsie area…

  7. Deanna Says:

    OH, and I’d also like to add, the store has a For Rent sign on it right now!! :)

  8. Jo Archer Says:

    I grew up in Henderson in the house across from the town hall.
    I remember as a young child, perhaps not yet in school, sneaking some change from my mother’s little cabinet and going to visit Mr. Larson’s store. We were given an allowance once a week to get a treat there, but this was great! I could get whatever I wanted! I purchased some candy, and went home to enjoy the sweets. That gone, I again got some more money from Mom’s drawer and went back to the store. I took my treats home, but this time Mom was waiting for me. It seems Mr. Larson was suspicious and called my mother to ask if she knew I was buying all this candy. I got a good swat for that! Now I tell my Sunday School kids this story, as I’ve told my children, so they know I was a kid once too. I loved the store and remembered the meat counter, soda pop cooler, stick pretzels in the jar, pickle barrel, bubble gum dispenser, and aisles of grocery items. We even got our first puppy on the steps of that store! Great memories!

  9. Di Says:

    Jo, what a fun story! Thanks so much for commenting. I’d forgotten about the gum ball machine. It was right by the door, wasn’t it? And those pretzels in that round container. I think of that still today when I eat stick pretzels. And wow, a puppy! Such special memories.

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