The History of Henry Strong

 
 
 
Although Henry Strong died a wealthy man, he started at the bottom of the economic ladder. By his own industry and by prudent investments, he was able to provide the money for the establishment of the Henry Strong Educational Foundation. While doing so he reared and educated four children, and took an active part in civic and charitable affairs.

Henry Strong was born May 2, 1829 in Helensburg, Scotland, the son of Harvey Strong and Janet Gillespie. His parents brought him to The United States when he was a small boy. He received his A.B. degree from the University of Rochester in 1854 and an LLB degree from the Albany, New York Law School (later part of Union University) in 1856. After a short stay in Louisville, Kentucky he moved to Keokuk, Iowa because he did not sympathize with the Southern viewpoint, and also he thought that Keokuk would be the head of river navigation on the Mississippi River. At that time the rivers carried most the west-bound traffic.

His plans were soon changed when he found that the rapid extension of the railroads westward would make Chicago the rail hub of the country. He moved his family to Chicago where he became a leading railroad lawyer. After serving as attorney for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, in 1872 he became President of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, with headquarters in Boston, Mass. After two years in Boston, he returned to Chicago and the practice of law. Like other men of his time, he invested heavily in real estate, both commercial and residential. Consequently, his estate was mostly real estate, and his will made elaborate provisions for the retention of these holdings. In 1879, Henry Strong retired from active legal practice and spent more of his time at his large country home on Lake Geneva, and at his winter home in Santa Barbara, California. There being no railroad to Santa Barbara at that time, the family took a steamer from Los Angeles on their annual visits to the West Coast. He once considered buying Monticello, Jefferson’s home, for $10,000, which was a tidy sum at that time.

Henry Strong gained a wide reputation as a public speaker and writer on current questions of the day. Some of his writings were published under the title of “Miscellanies”. Both the University of Rochester and the University of Iowa conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Law upon him. He strongly supported the Republican Party during the turbulent days of the Civil War and until his death. One of his grandsons, then a college student, drove his grandfather on a motor trip through New England one summer, and reported that he would not stop at any hotel operated by a Democrat, or that did not serve breakfast by 6 A.M. He thought nothing of discussing politics until midnight with other guests on the front porch. For two weeks they started early, to be able to play a different golf course in the afternoon. Grandfather survived the trip in excellent health and spirits, but the grandson took a week off to rest up.

The marriage of Henry Strong and Mary Jane Halsted, the daughter of a noted New England physician, in Northampton, Massachusetts on July 19, 1854, resulted in the birth of nine children, five of whom died in infancy. The eldest daughter, Ella, married Dr. Charles Denison, and they had three children. The Danisons lived in Denver, Colorado, where their descendants still play a prominent role in civic and commercial affairs. Mrs. Denison gave Scripps College at Pomona, California a beautiful library.

The second daughter, Mary, married Theodore Sheldon, and to this union were both three children. Theodore, the eldest son, is a Chicago investment analyst and President of the Henry Strong Educational Foundation. The second son, Edward, became a famous playwright at the turn of the century, but at the age of thirty, he was stricken with arthritis which disabled him for the last thirty years of his life. A book called “The Man Who Lived Twice” was written about him a few years ago by Eric Barnes. Mary Sheldon, the daughter, married Alfred MacArthur, a prominent insurance executive, whose brother was the husband of Helen Hayes, one of the country’s most beloved actresses.

Colonel Henry Gordon Strong, known as Gordon, the only son of Henry Strong, was head of his own real estate firm which operated in Chicago and Washington D.C. His father had purchased income real estate in the nation’s capital on the theory that when business was poor in the rest of the country it would be good in Washington. He proved to be right. During the later years of his life, Gordon Strong built and lived in a large chateau at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, near Frederick, Maryland. He converted the top of this mountain into a park from which could be seen many of the important battlefields of the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt liked to take his guests up here for his famous hotdog picnics, and at one time attempted to have the government buy this tract to establish a Shangri-La for his use. Due to Colonel Strong’s friendship with Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior, he was able to divert the President’s attention to the Rapidan River where the retreat was established, later to be known as Camp David. The park on Sugarloaf Mountain, appropriately named “Stronghold”, has been left for public use under Colonel Strong’s will.

Janet Jameson, the youngest daughter, lived many years in the Santa Barbara home with her husband, John Alexander Jameson, and their three sons. To be entertained at this old Spanish Casa on the hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by immaculately kept gardens was a treat long to be remembered. When the devoted couple who help keep up the place were no longer able to work, she reluctantly gave it up and moved into the Mission Inn, located near the famous old Santa Barbara Mission, one of the largest and best preserved on the original chain built by the Spanish padres. A son, Owen, is an attorney in San Francisco.

Henry Strong died in Denver October 21, 1911, leaving a detailed will to be administered by The Northern Trust Company of Chicago and under the terms of which The Henry Strong Educational Foundation was later to be established. 



 
Although Henry Strong died a wealthy man, he started at the bottom of the economic ladder. By his own industry and by prudent investments, he was able to provide the money for the establishment of the Henry Strong Educational Foundation. While doing so he reared and educated four children, and took an active part in civic and charitable affairs.

Henry Strong was born May 2, 1829 in Helensburg, Scotland, the son of Harvey Strong and Janet Gillespie. His parents brought him to The United States when he was a small boy. He received his A.B. degree from the University of Rochester in 1854 and an LLB degree from the Albany, New York Law School (later part of Union University) in 1856. After a short stay in Louisville, Kentucky he moved to Keokuk, Iowa because he did not sympathize with the Southern viewpoint, and also he thought that Keokuk would be the head of river navigation on the Mississippi River. At that time the rivers carried most the west-bound traffic.

His plans were soon changed when he found that the rapid extension of the railroads westward would make Chicago the rail hub of the country. He moved his family to Chicago where he became a leading railroad lawyer. After serving as attorney for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, in 1872 he became President of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, with headquarters in Boston, Mass. After two years in Boston, he returned to Chicago and the practice of law. Like other men of his time, he invested heavily in real estate, both commercial and residential. Consequently, his estate was mostly real estate, and his will made elaborate provisions for the retention of these holdings. In 1879, Henry Strong retired from active legal practice and spent more of his time at his large country home on Lake Geneva, and at his winter home in Santa Barbara, California. There being no railroad to Santa Barbara at that time, the family took a steamer from Los Angeles on their annual visits to the West Coast. He once considered buying Monticello, Jefferson’s home, for $10,000, which was a tidy sum at that time.

Henry Strong gained a wide reputation as a public speaker and writer on current questions of the day. Some of his writings were published under the title of “Miscellanies”. Both the University of Rochester and the University of Iowa conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Law upon him. He strongly supported the Republican Party during the turbulent days of the Civil War and until his death. One of his grandsons, then a college student, drove his grandfather on a motor trip through New England one summer, and reported that he would not stop at any hotel operated by a Democrat, or that did not serve breakfast by 6 A.M. He thought nothing of discussing politics until midnight with other guests on the front porch. For two weeks they started early, to be able to play a different golf course in the afternoon. Grandfather survived the trip in excellent health and spirits, but the grandson took a week off to rest up.

The marriage of Henry Strong and Mary Jane Halsted, the daughter of a noted New England physician, in Northampton, Massachusetts on July 19, 1854, resulted in the birth of nine children, five of whom died in infancy. The eldest daughter, Ella, married Dr. Charles Denison, and they had three children. The Danisons lived in Denver, Colorado, where their descendants still play a prominent role in civic and commercial affairs. Mrs. Denison gave Scripps College at Pomona, California a beautiful library.

The second daughter, Mary, married Theodore Sheldon, and to this union were both three children. Theodore, the eldest son, is a Chicago investment analyst and President of the Henry Strong Educational Foundation. The second son, Edward, became a famous playwright at the turn of the century, but at the age of thirty, he was stricken with arthritis which disabled him for the last thirty years of his life. A book called “The Man Who Lived Twice” was written about him a few years ago by Eric Barnes. Mary Sheldon, the daughter, married Alfred MacArthur, a prominent insurance executive, whose brother was the husband of Helen Hayes, one of the country’s most beloved actresses.

Colonel Henry Gordon Strong, known as Gordon, the only son of Henry Strong, was head of his own real estate firm which operated in Chicago and Washington D.C. His father had purchased income real estate in the nation’s capital on the theory that when business was poor in the rest of the country it would be good in Washington. He proved to be right. During the later years of his life, Gordon Strong built and lived in a large chateau at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, near Frederick, Maryland. He converted the top of this mountain into a park from which could be seen many of the important battlefields of the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt liked to take his guests up here for his famous hotdog picnics, and at one time attempted to have the government buy this tract to establish a Shangri-La for his use. Due to Colonel Strong’s friendship with Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior, he was able to divert the President’s attention to the Rapidan River where the retreat was established, later to be known as Camp David. The park on Sugarloaf Mountain, appropriately named “Stronghold”, has been left for public use under Colonel Strong’s will.

Janet Jameson, the youngest daughter, lived many years in the Santa Barbara home with her husband, John Alexander Jameson, and their three sons. To be entertained at this old Spanish Casa on the hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by immaculately kept gardens was a treat long to be remembered. When the devoted couple who help keep up the place were no longer able to work, she reluctantly gave it up and moved into the Mission Inn, located near the famous old Santa Barbara Mission, one of the largest and best preserved on the original chain built by the Spanish padres. A son, Owen, is an attorney in San Francisco.

Henry Strong died in Denver October 21, 1911, leaving a detailed will to be administered by The Northern Trust Company of Chicago and under the terms of which The Henry Strong Educational Foundation was later to be established.