Henkel Family Papers, 1801-2008

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Summary Information

Special Collections, JMU Libraries
Henkel family
Henkel Family Papers
Collection No.:
SC 0253
3 boxes, 1.08 Cubic Feet
Language of the Material:
English, German
The Henkel Family Papers, 1801-2008, document the influential Henkel family of Rockingham and Shenandoah counties in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The collection, primarily documenting the Siram and Margaret Koiner Henkel line of the family, is comprised of correspondence, personal and financial papers, and genealogical research materials.

Preferred Citation

[identification of item], [box #, folder #], Henkel Family Papers, 1801-2008, SC 0253, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

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Bio/Historical Note

Several complete and thorough genealogies have been written about the Henkel family and their contributions as doctors, printers, entrepreneurs, millers, and religious leaders. As such, this biographical note does not serve as an exhaustive rehashing of previous scholarship. Researchers are encouraged to review published secondary sources for additional information on the Henkel family.

The Henkel Family of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley descends from Rev. Paul Henkel (1754-1825) and Elizabeth Henkel (d. 1843). Siram Peter Henkel, who along with his immediate family is primarily documented in this collection, was the fifth child of Dr. Solomon Henkel (1777-1847) and Rebecca Miller Henkel (1780-1854) and grandson of Rev. Paul Henkel.

Siram was born March 16, 1809 in New Market, Virginia. In an attempt to follow in his father's footsteps, Siram attended, but did not complete, medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He married Margaret Koiner (variously spelled Coiner) Henkel (1820-1899) of Augusta County, Virginia on June 30, 1835. The couple settled at "The Plains" – located between New Market and Timberville – in September 1835 and their thirteen children, many of whom are also documented in this collection, were born and raised there. Siram farmed various crops and also operated a store and mill at The Plains. The Plains Mill was erected between 1847 and 1849 under the direction of Siram and his father Solomon, prior to his death in August 1847.

During the American Civil War, two of Siram and Margeret's sons served for the Confederacy. Lewis Philip (1837-1904) served in the Ordance Department of the Confederate Army. Around 1863, Lewis became a member of Co. H (Valley Rangers) of the 10th Virginia Cavalry. Luther Melanchton (1841-1919) was also a member of the Confederate Army and wrote home to his father from various camps. Lewis and Luther's brother Samuel Augustus (1840-1885) was exempt from military duty due to medical reasons. He became epileptic after sustaining injuries from run-away horses in 1855.

In 1878, one year prior to Siram's death, he sketched the plans for a new house at Plains Mill. The house was built in 1882 and served as the residence for Siram's widow, Margaret, until her death in 1899. The aforementioned sketch and photographs of the completed house are found in this collection.

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Scope and Content

The Henkel Family Papers, 1801-2008, document the influential Henkel family of Shenandoah and Rockingham counties in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The collection, chiefly documenting the Siram and Margaret Koiner Henkel line of the family, is comprised primarily of correspondence written to Siram P. Henkel and includes letters from his sons Lewis and Luther during their service in the American Civil War. The collection also includes personal and financial papers of various Henkel family members including Siram's children and genealogical research materials, much of which was used to inform Mildred Renalds Wittig's Henkel – Renalds Connection: with Ancestral Scripts and Collections (2014).

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The collection is arranged in four series. All series are arranged chronologically.

Series 1
Correspondence, 1827-1913
Series 2
Personal Papers, 1801-1881
Series 3
Financial Files, 1832-1894
Series 4
Genealogy and Research Files, 1890-2008

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Administrative Information

Revision Description

Books from 2019 accrual were cataloged and manuscript material was interfiled. 2021-05-12

Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Acquisition Information

Acquired from Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates' November 10, 2017 Americana & Fine Antiques Auction, Featuring Virginia and the South auction. A second accrual to this collection was acquired directly from Mildred Renalds Wittig in May 2019. This accession comprised mostly books from the family's collection and were cataloged separately. A second copy of the August 1835 letter from Siram Henkel to Margaret Henkel regarding a large group of enslaved persons being marched through the Shenandoah Valley was included and interfiled. An arithmetic book belonging to Samuel A. Henkel, 1854, was also interfiled.


Material was property of a Henkel family descendant, presumably Mildred Renalds Wittig, great-granddaughter of Siram and Margaret Koiner Henkel.

Processing Information

Much of the collection was received in three-ring binders with the manuscripts in plastic sleeves. The correspondence was generally arranged in chronological order. The documents were removed from the binders and plastic sleeves and placed in Mylar when necessary.


Special Collections, JMU Libraries

880 Madison DriveMSC 1704Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807library-special@jmu.eduURL: https://www.lib.jmu.edu/special/

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Related Materials

Related Material

The following list includes related Henkel family manuscript collections.

Henkel Family Papers, 1783-1916, SC 0099, Special Collections, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Henkel Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Henkel family records, 1838-1903. Business records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond.

Henkel-Miller Family Papers, 1793-1910, #14434, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

Henkel Plain Mills Store Daybook, 1835-1849, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

Multiple collections under the accession number 8653, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library.

Many of the documents in this collection are copied and transcribed in Mildred Renalds Wittig's Henkel – Renalds Connection (2014).

Separated Material

Several issues of serials including the Lutheran Church Visitor and the Southern Churchman have been removed from the collection and cataloged as part of Special Collections' rare book collection. Additionally, the facsimile publication of the Day Book for Solomon Henkel at the Plains Mills, Rockingham County, Virginia (2013) and Mildred Renalds Wittig's Henkel – Renalds Connection: with Ancestral Scripts and Collections (2nd ed., 2014) were removed from the collection and cataloged separately. Additional books and a broadside from the 2019 accession were cataloged separately.

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Index Terms

Corporate Name

  • Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates

Family Name

  • Henkel family -- Correspondence

Genre and Form

  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Songbooks
  • Copybooks (instructional materials)
  • Personal papers
  • Financial Records
  • Promissory notes
  • Receipts (financial records)
  • Daybooks
  • Account books
  • Genealogies (histories)
  • Research notes
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
  • Family papers

Geographic Name

  • New Market (Va.) -- History
  • Rockingham County (Va.) -- History
  • Rockingham County (Va.) -- Genealogy
  • Rockingham County (Va.) -- Social life and customs
  • Shenandoah County (Va.) -- History
  • Shenandoah County (Va.) -- Genealogy
  • Shenandoah County (Va.) -- Social life and customs
  • Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.) -- History
  • Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.) -- Genealogy
  • Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.) -- Social life and customs
  • Virginia -- History
  • Virginia -- History, Local
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865

Personal Name

  • Henkel, Siram Peter, 1809-1879
  • Wittig, Mildred Renalds


  • Slavery -- Virginia -- 19th century
  • Sawmills -- Virginia

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United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Plains Mill, VDHR File No. 082-5403, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. 2014.

Wittig, Mildred Renalds. Henkel – Renalds Connection: with Ancestral Scripts and Collections. Harrisonburg, Va.: Custom Printing, 2014.

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Collection Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1827-1913

Series 1: Correspondence, 1827-1913, chiefly contains letters written to Siram P. Henkel with correspondents including members of the Koiner/Coiner family of Augusta County, the Miller family of Winchester, and the Rupert family of Augusta County. The correspondents report on family and community news, marriages, health and illnesses, deaths, weather, harvest and planting updates, crop yields, and include fellow merchants requesting advice on the market of certain goods and numerous requests for Dr. Henkel's pills. Of particular interest are the letters written to Siram by his sons Lewis and Luther while serving in the American Civil War. The sons, and Luther in particular, write about camp life and general updates related to the war. In a December 21, 1861 letter to his father, Lewis P. Henkel writes from Winchester and mentions General Stonewall Jackson. He also refers to General Gilbert S. Meem as "Genl. Drunk."

This series also contains correspondence to/from other Henkel family members including Dr. Solomon Henkel, Samuel G. Henkel, Solomon D. Henkel, Maggie Henkel Renalds, Lillian Henkel, and Margaret Koiner Henkel.

The documentary record confirms that Margaret Koiner Henkel's family were enslavers and given the date of much of the correspondence, a portion relates to slavery and enslaved persons. Delia Koiner Overholt wrote to her sister Margaret Henkel on May 28, 1847 relaying the news of their grandfather's death. She goes on to write that "eleven or twelve blacks are to be sold and a great deal of property." In a January 24, 1857 letter to Siram Henkel, Delia Koiner Overholt writes again to describe in detail describes the sale of enslaved persons from her grandfather's estate. A similarly noteworthy letter, dated August 13, 1835, was penned by Siram Henkel to his wife Margaret in which he describes a large "drove" of enslaved persons that passed through the Valley. He describes the scene as follows: "There were eighty-four chained together to one long chain; there were also a great many women and children that were also in company; the whole number of men, women & children was two hundred and forty." There are two original copies of this letter in the collection.

All correspondence addressed to Dr. Solomon Henkel and/or Solomon Henkel P.M. is filed with Solomon Henkel (1777-1847), who was a practicing physician and served as Shenandoah County's first postmaster. A concerted effort was made on behalf of the archivist to not confuse his papers with those of his son Solomon David Henkel (1815-1872).

Much of the correspondence includes envelopes or address leaves. The correspondence is arranged primarily by recipient, but in cases where the recipient is unknown (e.g. non-specific salutations and greetings or lack of return address), the correspondence is filed with miscellaneous correspondence. Some of the letters have non-original annotations on the address leaves relating to content or the correspondents.

Title/Description Instances
Miscellaneous Henkel family correspondence, 1827-1913 box 1 folder 1
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1829 box 1 folder 2
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1832 box 1 folder 3
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1834 box 1 folder 4
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1835 box 1 folder 5
Margaret Koiner Henkel correspondence, 18351837 box 1 folder 6
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1836 box 1 folder 7
Dr. Solomon Henkel correspondence, 1836-1846 box 1 folder 8
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1837 box 1 folder 9
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1838 box 1 folder 10
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1840 box 1 folder 11
Margaret Koiner Henkel correspondence, 1840-1849 box 1 folder 12
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1841 box 1 folder 13
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1842 box 1 folder 14
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1845 box 1 folder 15
Solomon D. Henkel correspondence, 1845-1859 box 1 folder 16
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1847 box 1 folder 17
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1848 box 1 folder 18
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1849 box 1 folder 19
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1850 box 1 folder 20
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1851 box 1 folder 21
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1852 box 1 folder 22
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1854 box 1 folder 23
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1855 box 1 folder 24
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1856 box 1 folder 25
Margaret Koiner Henkel correspondence, 1856-1896 box 1 folder 26
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1857 box 1 folder 27
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1858 box 1 folder 28
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1859 box 1 folder 29
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1860 box 1 folder 30
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1861 box 1 folder 31
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1862 box 1 folder 32
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1863 box 1 folder 33
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1864 box 1 folder 34
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1867 box 1 folder 35
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1868 box 1 folder 36
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1869 box 1 folder 37
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1870 box 1 folder 38
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1871 box 1 folder 39
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1872 box 1 folder 40
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1873 box 1 folder 41
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1874 box 1 folder 42
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1875 box 1 folder 43
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1876 box 1 folder 44
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1877 box 1 folder 45
Siram Henkel correspondence, 1878 box 1 folder 46
Heleah Margaret "Maggie" Henkel Renalds correspondence, 1883-1896 box 1 folder 47
Siram Henkel correspondence, undated box 1 folder 48

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Series 2: Personal Papers, 1801-1881

Series 2: Personal Papers, 1801-1881, includes miscellaneous papers from the immediate family of Siram Henkel. School papers and writing assignements from Siram and Margaret Henkel's children, Lewis, Samuel, Julia, Martin, and Maggie are included. The documents include a January 17, 1881 essay on politeness written by Maggie Henkel.

The series also includes a manuscript music book penned by Siram's mother, Rebecca Miller Henkel, a grammar copybook belonging to Siram's brother Slyvanus Henkel, and Siram's 1878 plans for his family's new home place at Plains Mill.

Title/Description Instances
Rebecca Miller Henkel manuscript music/songbook, 1801 box 2 folder 1
Sylvanus Henkel grammar copybook, 1822 box 2 folder 2
Lewis Henkel school papers, 1849 box 2 folder 3
Samuel A. Henkel school paper and arithmetic book, 18491854 box 2 folder 4
Miscellaneous Henkel papers, 1856-1891, undated box 2 folder 5
Julia Henkel school papers, 1867 box 2 folder 6
Martin M. Henkel and Julia A. Henkel copybook, 1873-1874 box 2 folder 7
Siram Henkel sketch of Plains Mill house, 1878 box 2 folder 8
Heleah Margaret "Maggie" Henkel Renalds school papers, 1881 box 2 folder 9

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Series 3: Financial Files, 1832-1959

Series 3: Financial Files, 1832-1894, contains receipts, ledger pages, and promissory notes. Included in Siram Henkel's financial papers is a form of the estimate and assessment of agricultural products to be taxed by the government of the Confederate States. Of particular interest is Paul P. Henkel's 1844-1872 daybook entitled "Sawmill Book No. 3" documenting the sawmill owned by Solomon Henkel. The daybook records prices for sawing and details sawing activities. Elizabeth Garber Renalds' account book and journal documents egg business and other farming and day-to-day activities while the family was living at the Lincoln Homestead on Linville Creek south of Broadway.

Title/Description Instances
Miscellaneous Henkel family financial papers, 1832-1873, undated box 2 folder 10
Paul P. Henkel daybook/sawmill book no. 3, 1844-1872 box 2 folder 11
Siram Henkel financial papers, 1845-1884, undated box 2 folder 12
Solomon D. Henkel financial papers, 1847 box 2 folder 13
Dr. Solomon Henkel financial papers, 1847-1848 box 2 folder 14
Samuel A. Henkel financial papers, 1861 box 2 folder 15
Heleah Margaret "Maggie" Henkel Renalds financial papers, 1885-1890 box 2 folder 16
Heleah Margaret "Maggie" Henkel Renalds account book, 1893-1894 box 2 folder 17
Elizabeth Garber Renalds account book/journal, 1932-1959 box OV 1

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Series 4: Genealogy and Research Files, 1890-2008

Series 4: Genealogy and Research Files, 1890-2008, is comprised of research material, much of which was used to inform Mildred Renalds Wittig's Henkel – Renalds Connection: with Ancestral Scripts and Collections (2014). Documents include family trees, facsimiles of correspondence and manuscript material not otherwise found in this collection, photographs of Henkel family members and properties including Plains Mill and the Plains School, newspaper clippings, Henkel family reunion materials, and blank postcards. An oversize reproduction of a blank family register printed by Ambrose Henkel & Comp. is included.

Title/Description Instances
Photographs, 1890-2007 box 2 folder 18
General genealogy and research files, 1891-1998, undated box 2 folder 19 box OV 1 folder 1
Newspaper clippings, 1953-2003, undated box 2 folder 20
Rev. Anthony Jacob Henkel Family National Association and reunions, 1972-2008 box 2 folder 21
Correspondence and manuscript facsimiles, undated (1822-1910) box 2 folder 22
Postcards, undated box 2 folder 23

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