HPL and Hennessey’s History

In 1938, the Hennessey Public Library was born thanks to the efforts of Dr. H. Violet Sturgeon and Mrs. Burla Snyder. We began as a collection of books in Dr. Sturgeon’s office for children to borrow.

Hennessey Public Library located in Memorial Hall.

Books were then temporarily housed in the old high school before finding a permanent home in the Library Room at Memorial Hall (old town hall).

Today the Library spans more than 13,000 square feet of the old school building on Highway 81, also known as the Chisholm Trail.

Chisholm Trail marker

It was brief, the glory day of that dirt track from Texas to the railhead in Kansas. It was the stuff of legend: difficult terrain, wild men, wild cattle, and a road headed north. And it was mythic, leaving us with a defining ethos that frames the way we see our best selves, and our worst. To drive the Chisholm Trail Byway is to follow the journey that gave us the American West.

Hennessey’s place in that story is defined by the cowboys, the Buffalo War, the Land Run of 1889, and the grass.

How does a point on a trail become fixed in the mind of the drovers who traverse it? Maybe it has water or perhaps there is an outpost offering supplies, entertainment, or the ubiquitous tobacco.  In the case of Hennessey, it was location, the narrowing of the trail along the western bluffs, and a historic event, the death of an Irish wagon master freighting supplies from Wichita into Indian Territory in the 1870s. It was one of the final scenes of the Buffalo War, the beginning of the final act of the dramatic confrontation between the native tribes and the invading whites.

Pat Hennessey and his mule driven covered wagon on the Chisholm Trail

The final resting place of Pat Hennessey, a well-liked immigrant, became a marked site along the trail with cowboys and freighters adding a stone to the cairn that covered his shallow grave each time they passed. His story was told and retold around the campfires and when the land was opened for settlement and the boys who had driven the cattle down the trail determined to win good grazing land for themselves, the talk was all of running for “Hennessey’s place”, that lonely grave along the bluffs where the grass was rich.