House Speaker David A. Henderson, at the turn from the 19th to 20th centuries, had a reputation for spontaneously breaking into a patriotic song when making speeches.
But when it came to newspaper reporters, he kept silent, even during an extended tour of New York state in summer 1902.
“I don’t talk to reporters in Washington for publication, and I can can’t do in New York what I will not do in Washington,” Henderson, of Iowa, told reporters in New York City.
St. Lawrence County reporters were a bit more persistent, with about the same result, when Henderson and novelist Irving Bacheller stayed several days at the home of state Sen. George B. Malby in Canton.
“A man’s visitors are his own, even if the man is our senator and his guest is next in point of political power to the president,” The Northern Tribune of Gouverneur editorialized. “But in this instance, it must be pardoned if the home circle is invaded, and our honorable senator’s guest advertised.”
It was an honor to have the prominent politician visit.
“While we as citizens of a great country rejoice and pay our respects to the distinguished Iowan, we are glad that he shows good judgement in the selection of the place of his outing.”
The visit was a vacation, not a political trip. Henderson’s wife and daughter came along with him on the trip.
Activities included relaxation at Bacheller’s summer home in the Thousand Islands, a boat trip on the St. Lawrence River, a reception, and visits to Massena and Montreal, Canada.
“General Henderson comes to St. Lawrence in search of rest and quiet after a long and arduous round of official duties in Washington,” The Ogdensburg Journal reported.
The title general came from Henderson’s Union Army service during the Civil War. He was injured in battle and lost his foot, and eventually his lower leg.
Shortly after the visit, Henderson would announce in September that he was retiring from politics at the end of the term.
The 10-term congressman was elected speaker in 1899, the first speaker from a state west of the Mississippi River.
The two weeks Henderson and his family spent touring the St. Lawrence and Thousand Islands region with Bacheller was the focal point of Henderson’s visit to New York in July and August.
Henderson and Bacheller had met the previous year when both were guests, at the same time, of Andrew Carnegie at Skibo Castle in Scotland.
A few months later the two came in contact again at a luncheon President Theodore Roosevelt held in Washington, and Bacheller invited the House speaker to visit New York’s North Country.
Henderson, while in New York, also visited Rep. Louis A. Emerson, a Republican, at Warrensburg, in Warren County.
“In the evening an informal reception was held, at which a number of Glens Falls gentlemen were present,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on July 10, about a week before Henderson’s visit to St. Lawrence County. “This morning Mr. Emerson will take his distinguished visitors through Lake George and back, and will take the afternoon train to Albany and by next train to New York, where he has engagements for tomorrow.”
Henderson stayed at least one night at Rogers Rock Hotel in Ticonderoga, visiting with Carl Schurz, a statesman, journalist and former U.S. Senator.
In August Henderson dined with President Theodore Roosevelt at the President’s home at Oyster Bay on Long Island.
Photo of David Henderson courtesy Library of Congress.