‘Scotch Castle’ built by elite Minersville family
By Cynthia Scheer Telescope News
Minersville was once home to two stone castles: The French Chateau of Charles Murray, and the 1878-built Scotch Castle of Alexander Henderson. The Hendersons, who came from Scotland, were prominent miners lived in a still-visible dugout until Alexander Henderson built the family a stone house. The house was so large that “strangers” would board there during the mining season. The home was last lived in in the 1940s, and it is now a pile of stones.
Alexander Henderson and his wife, Janet “Jessie” Doctor Henderson built their stone house a section west of the Murray chateau.
The couple moved from Scotland to New York City with their young children, David, Margaret and Jean. Son Alexander was born in New York City. Henderson worked as a stone mason and cutter there before traveling to Minersville in 1870 to homestead two 80-acre parcels of land in Cloud County’s According to Agnes Tolbert in her 1963 book “The Rock Houses of Minersville,” Henderson made a dugout to live in before returning to New York City to his family to continue making money in his trade. The dugout is located northwest of the stone house, and the remains are just off the road. Debi Aaron, of Hebron, Neb., has done extensive research on Minersville and said the Henderson dugout is one of the best preserved dugouts in the Minersville community.
Jessie Henderson and her four children, along with a Mrs. Helen Chalmers, of Scotland, came to Kansas to hold down the homestead, Tolbert wrote, while her husband worked in New York City.
The family took the railroad to Waterville and then traveled by wagon to Minersville, Tolbert wrote. It was very cold. Before Minersville began thriving, Jessie Henderson walked to Seapo to get groceries, according to Tolbert, and when she needed flour she hired someone to bring it to her.
Tolbert said Alexander Henderson returned to Minersville permanently in 1872 and went into the coal mining business. Most of Minersville is on the Henderson place, Tolbert said. Henderson was a prominent miner and stonemason and built his own house in 1878. Tolbert said the basement of the stone house was built first, and the family moved from the dugout to the basement, which had a flagstone floor. The couple’s fifth child, James Doctor “Pete” Henderson, was born in the basement in 1874. The house was built over the basement.
In “Homeland Horizons,” Doris DeweySmith said the house faced the east and was located on the west side of the line dividing two-80-acre-pieces. Iron rods added extra support to the roof, Tolbert wrote, and the walls were more than two-feet thick. The house also had a cellar. DeweySmith said a large living room was located above the basement on the south side of the house. A bedroom was located on the north side. A kitchen was built onto the west side of the house.
The house was so large that “strangers,” Tolbert wrote, often showed up at the house and spent the winter. They worked in the mines. The Hendersons had two more children while living in the stone house. A daughter died before age two and a son was stillborn. The children were buried in the hill south of the house and eventually moved to Zion Cemetery to the Henderson plot.
Alexander Henderson built a long stone barn south of the house. People had dances in the barn’s hay loft. Henderson’s stallions were kept in the south end of the barn in a pen built with high poles, Tolbert wrote.
According to an 1882 article in The Belleville Telescope, there were three mine shafts operating on the Henderson farm. They produced 12 tons of coal daily. The Hendersons were offered $10,000 for a quarter section of their Minersville land and refused to sell.
The Hendersons donated land southeast of their house for the Minersville Store. The first store was in a tent. George Demarts later built a wooden structure, according to Tolbert. The foundation of the store remains, said Conrad Trost, whose family owns the land. The store may have also housed the post office.
Alexander Henderson’s wife was the second postmaster of Minersville and operated the post office out of her house.
Jessie Henderson died in the stone house in 1894; her husband died there in 1897, according to Tolbert.
The Hendersons’ west 80 was given to son Pete, and the east 80 was given to daughter Margaret Henderson Struthers except for the small area belonging to the Lodge Hall. The stone barn was on the line between the 80s, so neither owner used or cared for the barn, Tolbert said, and it fell down.
Pete Henderson and his wife, Rettie Murray – she grew up in the chateau in the next section – lived in the stone house. Four of their five children were born in the house. The date the family moved to Oklahoma is unknown, but the couple’s fifth child was born there.
Pete Henderson died in Oklahoma in 1936.
Despite that, Rettie Murray Henderson bought Margaret Struthers’ 80 in 1961 and put the Henderson land back together.
The last people to live in the Henderson Scotch Castle were the Hendersons’ grandson – and Margaret Henderson Struther’s son – Alexander, and his wife, Maude Struthers – Maude was the granddaughter of nearby neighbors William and Mary Jane Williams. They moved out in 1942, Tolbert said.
Eldon and Tana Trost purchased the Henderson property in the 1970s.
The house is a pile of rocks now.