McHenry family leaves landmark home, legacy in Capital City

In addition to building a home that became a city-designated Landmark at 1427 Green Berry Road, Houck McHenry also built "one of the finest telephone systems in the United States," according to the Oct. 28, 1936, Jefferson City Post Tribune.

"It was in this accomplishment that he found his greatest satisfaction and pride," the newspaper went on to say upon reporting his death at his home. "He lived to see a telephone in practically every home in Jefferson City, a thoroughly modern building and an unexcelled service."

The Capital City Telephone Company was organized in 1900 by G.A. Fischer, Ed O'Rear, Dr. J.P. Porth, Ed Hogg, Judge A.M. Hough, Sam Jeffries and Houck McHenry with a headquarters in the 200 block of East High Street and 100 subscribers.

At that time, Southwestern Bell had a branch, but organizers "felt a local company could better fill local needs," according to the June 9, 1935, Sunday News and Tribune.

Within a few years, the Bell company withdrew.

Houck McHenry became manager and company secretary in 1905. He continued with the company for 30 years until his death.

"His unceasing devotion to its welfare meant much to the company," the Sunday News and Tribune said.

"Guided by Mr. McHenry, the Capital Telephone Company grew and prospered."

The local phone company grew to 3,604 subscribers by 1925.

Lester Parker, president of the Capitol Telephone Company, died in 1925 when the Capital City phone company bought it. Houck McHenry was then named president and treasurer of the new organization, his wife vice president and son, Foster, vice president and assistant treasurer.

In 1930, the company headquarters moved from 315 Madison St. into the building that now houses CenturyLink, erected at 317-319 Madison St.

Houck McHenry was president of the Missouri Telephone Association, and its predecessors, for 31 years. He served several years as a director of the U.S. Independent Telephone Association, being elected first vice president in 1930.

Before joining the phone company effort, Houck McHenry had been "well-known in the railroad circles of Missouri," according to the 1901 Missouri History Encyclopedia. He worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad's freight department.

He has "thoroughly familiarized himself with this branch of transportation business and was advanced from one position to another until he was made soliciting freight agent and delivery contractor at Jefferson City," the encyclopedia said. "He is known as one of the most thoroughly capable and popular young railway men on the Mo-Pac system."

Houck McHenry apparently made quite the impression no matter the endeavor.

"Ever a man of high ideals and staunch integrity, he has been active in the welfare and community development of Jefferson City for years," the June 9, 1935, newspaper said.

Houck McHenry served 15 years on the school board and two terms on the City Council. A Democrat, he ran in 1918 for the House of Representatives.

A Sept. 11, 1918, Jefferson City Post Tribune editorial said: "He is a good business man, a splendid speaker and a cool man on his feet."

He served four terms as president of the Commercial Club, later the Chamber of Commerce, from 1913-15 and 1919.

He was active in the Capitol removal fight and helped secure permanent locations for local shoe factories, according to an Aug. 18, 1923, newspaper.

He was past president of the Rotary Club, on the board of trustees at First Baptist Church and a member of the Jefferson City Country Club.

Houck McHenry also was president of Farmers and Mechanics Bank and president of Missouri Central Building and Loan Association.

In December 1927, he was named an honorary colonel by Gov. Sam Baker.

Houck McHenry moved to Jefferson City at age 9 with his parents, James and Kate McHenry, from his birthplace at Westport. The McHenrys had been among the first settlers at the old Missouri River landing and relocated to the Capital City when James was named the state registrar of lands in 1876, according to the Cole County Historical Society's records.

He married Thenia Bolton, daughter of Waller and Martha Bolton, in 1890. She was known for the beautiful parties she would host at 1427 Green Berry Road. After Houck's death, she became president of the Capital City Telephone Company.

She was a promoter of preservation and Missouri history, the May 19, 1943, Jefferson City Post Tribune said following her death. She was a charter member of the Cole County Historical Society; served as regent for both the William Greenway Chapter of the Daughters of American Colonists and the Jane Randolph Jefferson Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution; and also was a member of Chapter XII Colonial Dames of America.

During World War I, Thenia McHenry was the administrator for Cole County's food and defense projects. Afterward, she was a charter member and president of the local chapter of the American War Mothers. She also was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars auxiliary.

Upon Thenia's death, their son, Foster, became the phone company's president, having already been named general manager in 1936 after his father's death. At that time, he and his wife, Madge, moved into the 1427 Green Berry Road home.

During World War I, Foster was awarded the Purple Heart as a result of shrapnel wounds received in action at St. Mihiel in 1918, serving with Company M 356th Infantry 89th Division, according to the Oct. 22, 1961, Sunday News Tribune.

Foster McHenry became the first commander of the local American Legion Post 5 and also served as commander of the local Disabled American Veterans chapter. He was on the St. James veterans home board of trustees.

During World War II, Foster McHenry was a Missouri War chest member, chairman of the Missouri USO Fund and served on the Cole County Council of Defense.

He graduated in 1914 from William Jewell College, where he was a track star and named a distinguished alumni in 1961. And he studied public administration at the University of Missouri.

Before investing himself fully in the family's phone business, Foster worked in insurance and hotel management. But once he took it on, he exceeded his father's successes.

Between 1949-60, Foster McHenry served as president of the Missouri Telephone Association, the Theodore Gary Chapter of the Independent Telephone Pioneer Association, National Independent Telephone Pioneer Association and the U.S. Independent Telephone Association.

In 1965, Foster McHenry was named to the honors court of the Independent Telephone Hall of Fame.

Foster McHenry retired from the phone company in 1968 and died in 1975.

In the community, he was an original planner for Memorial Community Hospital and active in the 1956 campaign. He also was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club.

Foster's wife, Madge, was state registrar and national officer in the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was an organizer and regent of the William Greenway Chapter of Daughters of American Colonists and a founder of the Cole County Historical Society.

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