It almost seems as if the David B. Henderson statue on the Upper Iowa University Fayette Campus is standing even taller after the sculpture of one of the University’s favorite sons was recently conserved. The refinishing work was completed by Max-Cast Inc. of Kalona, Iowa, two employees of whom were among those to first install the statue in the ’90s.
“David B. appears even more noble and distinguished than he did before as he looks out across the community from the steps of the campus library,” smiled Becky Wadian, director of library services. “Although a magnificent statue to observe at any time, I have always believed he is especially captivating to view during the evening hours as he elegantly stands under the lights.”
“We’re so fortunate to have this statue, which honors a portion of this university’s long, rich history, and so many other beautiful sculptures openly displayed across our campus,” added UIU President William Duffy. “The Reflective Tribute military memorial gifted by alumnus Stan Lee and the 13 sculptures installed after a generous endowment by alumni Bill and Betty Andres also pay homage to faculty and students who once walked these grounds.”
David B. Henderson attended UIU in 1861, but his pursuit of a college education soon ended when he joined the “University Recruits,” who served the Union Army as Company C of the 12th Iowa Voluntary Infantry Regiment. The Company fought in 17 major battles, including the Battle of Shiloh.
After being discharged in February 1863 due to wounds from separate battles to his neck, a foot, and leg, Henderson studied law and was eventually elected the first speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from west of the Mississippi. Originally from Clermont, Iowa, Henderson died at the age of 65 in February 1906.
In 1902, Iowa Governor William Larrabee, who also lived in Clermont, commissioned sculptor J. Massey Rhind to create at least one statue in Henderson’s honor. The original bronze rendition is still located on Main Street in the Fayette County community.
The State Historical Library & Archives recently confirmed that a plaster statue mold made by Rhind also arrived at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines over 100 years ago. Every indication is that the museum did not solicit for the statue and the historic record implies that Rhind was not pleased that the sculptor’s working plaster template ended up in the possession of the museum. Although the contents of a letter from Rhind dated Feb. 1, 1905, indicate the statue was in storage, it has not since been uncovered.
Through the generous support of then Clermont Mayor Rod Wagner and the Clermont City Council, Mr. Henderson would return to the UIU Fayette Campus in 1994. Upper Iowa “borrowed” the nearby community’s David B. Henderson statue from which a rubber mold, waxwork, bronze casing, and patina was completed to create the historic replica. UIU’s David B. Henderson statue was then installed in the portico of the original west entrance to Henderson-Wilder Library.