Family saves Archibald Henderson monument for future generations
By Mark Wineka
Bobby Gaulden says it’s probably the most challenging project he has ever tackled.
How the Archibald Henderson monument, the largest in the Old Lutheran Cemetery off North Lee Street, remained upright was a mystery.
The Salisbury bar erected the monument in 1825 for one of local history’s more respected figures. Decades later, concerns surfaced about the monument’s condition.
A passage in the Jan. 28, 1886, edition of the Carolina Watchman newspaper noted “the old monument … is leaning considerably and will soon fall if the foundation is not repaired.
“It should claim special attention.”
It turns out the really special attention didn’t arrive until this year, more than a century later, when members of the Messinger family, including Dyke Messinger and his mother, Mary, financed a total transformation of the monument that could see it through another 183 years.
“It’s wonderful,” said Janie Allen, one of the private citizens who has worked tirelessly on the Old Lutheran Cemetery’s behalf. “The response from the family was great, and it was very expensive.”
Gaulden, manager of Salisbury Marble & Granite Co. on South Main Street, led the physical effort that deconstructed the monument and built it anew from the ground up.
It’s difficult to call it a restoration. Only the inscription in the middle and the urn on top ó both Georgia marble ó are original. Everything else has been replaced, including four column pieces that make up the middle and encase the marble inscription.
The original sandstone columns crumbled when the men took the monument apart. The new columns are a multi-color red (not polished) granite shipped here from China. The key part of the monument’s reconstruction involved fitting the columns around the inscription.
“That’s what was most difficult,” Gaulden said. He had to make some additional cuts into the columns to make it all fit.
The remade monument carries the same dimensions as the original, just fewer pieces. For example, the base of the original had been six pieces. The new base is one solid hunk of granite, as is the piece on top of the base.
Gaulden, aided by Jacob Ellis and Miguel Ricarez, took a day to dismantle the old monument and three days to assemble the new one, all during the spring.
The Old Lutheran Cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is maintained by the city of Salisbury. But it has its unofficial guardians and overseers in folks such as Janie and Sonny Allen and Betty Dan Spencer.
Janie Allen has raised nearly $20,000 toward the repair of many of the stones, not including the Archibald Henderson monument, and Sonny Allen has been fixing the mortar and repairing bricks in the cemetery’s long walls ó inside and outside ó for years.
Janie Allen and Randy Hemann, executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc., approached the Messingers about helping restore the Henderson monument. The Messingers are direct descendants of Henderson.
“I have to hand it to the Messingers,” Hemann said. “They were quite receptive. This is something that did not have to be done.
“Their attitude from the beginning was, ‘We want to do something that will be here for the next 200 years.’ ”
A number of specialists had inspected the old monument, whose various pieces had long lost the mortar holding them together and in some respects looked like a pile of stones miraculously staying together by their sheer weight.
“Ever since it was put up, it seemed to be falling down,” Janie Allen said.
About 500 monuments in the Old Lutheran Cemetery have been documented with the help of Mary Jane Fowler, Spencer and the late Martha Agner, among others.
Archibald Henderson ó one of several men who bore that name in Salisbury history ó died Oct. 21, 1822.
In his day, he was considered one of the most brilliant lawyers Salisbury had produced, serving in Congressman, the Legislature and as Granville County clerk of court.
Born Aug. 7, 1768, in Granville County, he came to Salisbury and set up a law practice in 1790. He was the son of Richard Henderson, a land speculator famous for financing the western expeditions from Salisbury of Daniel Boone and other frontiersmen.
Chief Justice John Marshall once described Archibald Henderson as one of the greatest lawyers of his day.
Spencer said he was an Aaron Burr Federalist who was elected to Congress in 1798 and served two terms. He spent five terms in the state Legislature from 1807 to 1820.
The Henderson law office, dating back to 1795-96, still stands at West Fisher and South Church streets.
The marble inscription on the Henderson monument pays homage to his contribution as a lawyer, man and citizen “who elevated by the native dignity of his mind above the atmosphere of selfishness and party, pursued calmly, yet zealously, the true interest of his country.”
The hand-etched letters in the inscription have faded with time and are difficult to read in the marble. An aluminum plaque with the words from the marble will be attached to the base in coming weeks, Gaulden said.
Another famous Archibald Henderson in Salisbury history lived from 1877 to 1963 and is buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery. A noted mathematician, historian and biographer, he was an acquaintance of Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw.
In fact, he was the authorized biographer and friend of Shaw.