In 1914, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Vandalia Union newspaper, the editor asked old settlers to write down their remembrances of Vandalia and submit them to the newspaper for publication in a special issue.
One who took Editor Humphrey up on the request was Judge Beverly W. Henry, who had come to Vandalia in 1859, fresh out of law school. Judge Henry lived in Vandalia until his death on April 21, 1916. His marriage to Sarah Johnson took place on Aug. 28, 1862, in Vandalia, and it was here that they raised their family.
During his years in Vandalia, Beverly Henry left his mark, much as earlier members of the Henry family had left theirs in the early beginnings of our nation.
Beverly Henry’s great-great-grandfather, Fountain Henry, was a brother to Patrick Henry of "Give me liberty or give me death" fame.
Henry wrote: “I was born on May 28, 1835, in which is now the corporate limits of Shelbyville. My father, Bushrod Henry, was a pioneer preacher in the Baptist Church.
“I stayed with my father on the farm until I was 19 years old, when he left the farm and moved to Sullivan, and I went with him. I went to school and read law with the late John R. Eden, and was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1857. The following year, I graduated from Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tenn., and came to Vandalia, arriving on the first day of January 1859.
“I had no single acquaintance in the county; had $7.50 in borrowed money; and about $50 worth of text books. It was a ground hog case. I had to succeed.
“I tried my first case in the circuit court at the April term in 1859, and I have tried cases in that court, in that same room, at its every term since, save five. There was a jury box that would hold just 12 men, right in front of the present judge's stand; that box was paled in like a grave yard lot with palings about three feet high. The lawyers stood outside and talked over the fence.
“At the time I came, there was one newspaper published in the county. It was called The Fayette Observer. The Observer was partly destroyed by fire, in which my office was also burned, in the spring of 1862.
“R.H. Sturgeon was the political editor. He drove a stinging pen, and at every issue we Democrats felt that a fresh nest of yaller jackets had been turned loose on us. All replies had to be published in that same paper. I tried it once myself; the reply came back in the same issue and I felt somehow that I had been through a threshing machine.
“In the spring of 1860, a few of us Democrats determined to have a paper of our own, and that led to one of the most embarrassing little episodes imaginable. We got a young man named Carman to take charge.
“He was a picturesque looking fellow; affected long hair, an open collar, a mincing walk and a little cane, and as we shortly learned, knew or thought more of the boards and footlights than he did of partisan warfare; besides, he not infrequently took a drop.
“An appointment was made for me to make a speech at the Four-Mile Prairie School House one night, which was then in the enemy's country. Some four or five of us went out in a wagon, and Carman wanted to go along. It was just a little after dark, and Carman requested to make a few preliminary remarks to introduce himself and his paper to the audience, as a sort of advertisement. This was agreed to, the house was well filled, about half and half.
“Carman got up to make his few remarks. He had not proceeded far when some stage-struck thought seized him, and off we went. He posed, he struck attitudes, he glared and yelled, he rushed back and forth across the platform, he clawed his long hair down over his eyes and screamed, he fell upon his knees and bawled like a calf; he got on his all fours and batted like a billy goat; and this he kept up for an hour.
“Our fellows, with red faces, slid out, one or two at a time; the enemy stayed to laugh and jeer. He was a new man there, so was I, comparatively so. When he quit, no man on earth could have made a speech to that audience.
“We got back to town about 11 o’ clock, five or six of the maddest, most crestfallen men you ever saw. Carman was fast asleep in the bottom of the wagon, and we let him sleep there all night and wished he would die.
“Half that neighborhood out there was in the town next morning by sun-up, and had the town laughing at us. But we survived even that, and waxed stronger to a substantial victory that fall.
“Shortly after, Mr. Humphrey came here, took charge of or established The Union, and not far from that time C.G. Smith took charge of The Democrat. They waged the battle in a less personal and more dignified way, and managed to keep the peace.
“It is not the same Vandalia now, as it was then; physically or socially. The only remnants of business Vandalia is the courthouse (the former state capitol building), the Blackwell Corner and the Hausmann Corner. Socially, conditions are now both better and worse than in ancient Vandalia. The cleavage in social casts was more marked then, than now; exclusiveness, until you have won your spurs, has been shorn of its prestige.”