Archived Story

Dear John: Henderson Hill, Part III

Published 10:43pm Thursday, August 16, 2012

How did Henderson Hill get its name?

— Jan Personette, Niles

Samuel Henderson, a Niles merchant who met with “business reverses,” owned Henderson Hill, also known as Henderson Bluff.

He bought the farm in Wayne Township in the 1830s. The house he built was converted to a stage coach stop called the Wayside Inn.

The inn was at the bottom of the hill, just beyond the radio station.

The house is still there, though looks much different.

George Stockwell lived there at one time.

At the inn, horses had access to fresh spring water.

Customers could buy meals and whiskey for a nominal fee, according to Sharon Kurdelmeyer, whose grandparents, Myron and Kittie Carman, next owned the property.

They remodeled the inn for their farmhouse on their fruit farm.

Not only don’t I associate that area with growing fruit, Sharon said her grandparents raised grapes and cherries. Family lore has it that a vineyard was a handy thing to have during Prohibition.

Sharon, who many know for her years in radiology at the hospital, has an undated newspaper article telling about stage coach routes through the area and their other stops. I never realized they were as prevalent as Dial-A-Ride buses.

A picture of the house she has in her album is dated 1909.

I also received some follow-up info from Plucieniks, including daughter Marnie.

Their research shows Levi Sylvanus and Clarissa Amidon Henderson coming from New York to Wayne Township in 1851 with five children; Frank, the fourth, was born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1841.

Clarissa died in 1858 and Levi married twice more. He and his wives are buried in Riverside Cemetery.

As Connie shared with us Aug. 10, a Sylvanus Henderson was Wayne Township supervisor in the late 1850s.

Frank went to school in Dowagiac and moved to Kalamazoo in 1860. He married Mary Taylor in 1868 and they had five children.

He built Henderson Castle on West Main near Kalamazoo College in 1895, but only lived there for four years before his 1899 death.

Mary lived there about five years after Frank’s death.

Today Henderson Castle is a bed and breakfast.

“It’s beautiful,” Connie said. “If you ever get a chance to tour it, do so.”

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  • Julius Van Oss

    I found the Henderson Hill story very interesting. I lived there during 1939-41 when it was owned by E.G.Swanson of Chicago, who my dad worked for.
    St thst time is was s3everal acres of apples and peaches and 28 acres of alfafa. I graduated from Dowagiac High Shool in 1941.

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