Leonard Henkle

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Section A Vignette # 3

While many of us are content living quiet lives of peace and simplicity, others look back on lives teeming with adventure, extraordinary accomplishments, and peppered with chaos. 

One such soul was Leonard Henkle (1834 – 1904) Originally from Ohio, he spent nine years as a young man living with the Sioux Indians.  He was very interested in their welfare, and in turn he was beloved by the Sioux people.  He had incredible marksmanship skills, which were described as “supernatural.”

Leonard Henkle (1834 – 1904)

After his sojourn with the Sioux, Henkle enlisted in the Civil War as a fife player in a military band.  Some records indicate that he spent his Civil War years in hospital duty. While his war duties are not clear, he was discharged for disability in 1865, having served his country, for which he should be commended.

Chapter Three of his life began with his move to Rochester where he lived at 12 Lamberton Park for the rest of his life. He became famous for his many inventions.  One was called “The Rochester Lamp,” an idea sparked by noting tin cuspidors on the floor of the Powers Hotel as potential fuel containers.  He discussed his idea with a friend, Charles Upton, and the lamp was constructed and worked. These gentlemen patented their lamp and many others, formed the Rochester Lamp Company, and Mr. Henkle lived off the royalties he collected from this Rochester lamp for his whole life.

In 1887, he responded to a challenge by the City of Buffalo to invent a way to utilize the waterpower of the Niagara River.  For eight years he worked on this invention which resulted in an engineering phenomenon which he projected would furnish electricity for every city in the United States and Canada. The plant would be located in a building fifty stories high and would cost $38,000,000.  The top floor would be a Grand Hall where the nations of the world could get together to stop wars and focus on peace.  It would be a precursor to our United Nations.

While enjoying the admiration of his colleagues and neighbors, his life became chaotic as he was accused of domestic violence involving his wife and 11-year-old adopted daughter.  The trial became the talk of the town, with lots of newspaper coverage. The charges were ultimately dismissed for insufficient evidence, and Mr. Henkle was exonerated.

Having resumed his respectable life, he became Commander of the C.J. Power Post, G.A.R, a great honor.  He was a prolific writer, publishing a famous tribute to Frederick Douglass, and writing a pamphlet entitled “Inspiration” summarizing his religious beliefs.

After a long illness he died surrounded by his wife and 2 daughters, a reminder that time heals all wounds. Sadly, today his simple tombstone remains broken and barely legible along the UR fence in Section A, hidden by branches and poison ivy.  Fortunately for Mr. Hemple, thanks to the many generous donors in our recent Section A Restoration Campaign, his gravestone will be repaired and the area around his grave will be renewed this summer.

Patricia Corcoran, thanks to the research of Mr. Nicolas Fedorka of Syracuse, published in the Epitaph in 2012 when he was a student at the University of Rochester.