Vos: horse trainer owner of a café | Opinion
Jason Henry, who would become the best known of all of Sheldon’s racehorse trainers, was born on June 21, 1872 on a farm near Hanover, Illinois.
When Jason was 9, his family moved to a farm 17 miles west of LeMars. Jason attended school at LeMars and helped his father on the farm. Jason’s parents had eight children. In the early 1890s Jason left the farm and walked 17 miles to LeMars to look for a stable job and found one successfully.
His brother, Bob, followed Jason to LeMars. Both boys were boxers, but Jason became his brother’s trainer. The boys used their father’s tent and organized a boxing match with Bob Black, a well-known baseball player, as the referee. Bob Henry won the game. Later Bob was well known for raising and selling purebred pigs.
Jason married Grace Lemon of St. Catherines, Niagara Falls, Canada on May 2, 1896, and began farming in the LeMars area, but after a year they moved to town and he began to train horses.
He participated in his first race with horses harnessed by accident. The man who was supposed to be driving the horse had indulged in the holiday spirit and was not fit to participate in the race according to the race judge. The judge refused to let the intoxicated man participate, but let Jason lead the substitute horse, even though Jason was only experienced in training horses. Jason took second, but there were only three in the race.
Jason Henry met Hank Runger at the Orange City Fair. Runger’s sulky couldn’t run, so Jason loaned Runger a sulky so he could run.
In 1905 Jason and Grace moved to Sheldon and the first person he met was Runger. Jason rode Runger’s horse named “Teddy-Oh-So” in Mendota, IL, and won second place in the harness race.
Jason continued to train racehorses for harness racing and took them to races in the central states and Canada.
The Sherwood farm located west of Sheldon raised horses that Jason trained. There was the nicest half mile running track on the property. The Sherwood farm consisted of two complete sections of land. “Lockhart” was a handsome stallion, owned by Sherwood Farm, who never raced among the local horses. Locally, the only thing he did was trot past the Sheldon Fairground grandstand, so the crowd could see how good-looking he was, but he did run in other places and states. Riders called him “the cheerfulest horse that ever looked through a bridle”.
At the western end of Sheldon, there was a race track with a grandstand seating 2,400 people where many races and fairs were held. Horse racing was extremely popular at the district fairs held in Sheldon.
Sheldon was known for his annual horse show. The judge was Steve Garner of Oskaloosa and the announcer was Harlan Conoly of Des Moines with “Doc” Lawson and his Hammond organ providing the background music.
One year at the Sheldon Fair, Jason entered three different horses in three different races and all three won. The horses belonged to Judge Hutchinson, Muilenburg and Jason himself.
Horses played a big part in Sheldon’s growth. The city council passed a law prohibiting people from driving or riding fast with horses on the streets of Sheldon. Many families were known for their sophisticated driving teams. Louis Peterson had a thriving business as a blacksmith and horse shoe maker. Jason trained seven horses from different owners at the same time.
Paullina’s Dr. Earl Van Tyl owned a horse called “Miss Minta” that Jason, a sulky driver, rode for 11 years.
Jason ran for about 48 years and won $ 500 and $ 1,000 scholarships on several occasions.
The first cafe owned and operated by the Henrys was called the Fritts Cafe, located under the old post office for about six years in Sheldon.
Jason and his wife rented the old bank building at the corner of Ninth Street and Third Avenue (now Edward Jones) for $ 140 a month and opened the Henry Cafe in 1925 after they were out of business. the Fritts Cafe. The Henry Cafe was later known as the Corner Cafe. Jason also had a training and riding stable that he operated as well as the cafe.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry had four children: Grace (Mrs. Ivan Brewster); Mildred (Mrs. G. E, Van Tyl); Ruth (Mrs. Thorstein Anderson); and Richard, who died April 8, 1917, when he suffered fatal injuries in a coffee urn explosion while preparing to open the Henry Cafe one morning.
In 1930 they sold the Henry Cafe to Gus Klindt and Harry Morgan and moved to Spencer. Jason trained racehorses for 18 years when they lived there.
Their next move was to Alta and Jason continued to train racehorses for another six years.
When Jason retired, he and his wife decided to return to Sheldon where they had many friends and relatives. Shortly after their return, Ms Henry suffered a stroke, was bedridden and needed more treatment, so they moved in with their son-in-law and daughter, Mr and Mrs Ivan Brewster, to Sheldon. Bonnie Hanna was Jason’s granddaughter and Bonnie was Grace Brewster’s daughter.
When Grace died in 1956, Jason Henry remained with his daughter until her death on Wednesday November 30, 1960 and was buried in East Lawn Cemetery.
Millie Vos is the Secretary / Treasurer of the Sheldon Historical Society and the Museum Director and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Sheldon Prairie Museum. This is part of a series of historical articles on Sheldon. Members of the Sheldon Historical Society receive an annual newsletter with articles like this one. To join the company, call them at 712-324-3235.