Digest>Archives> June 2000

Hennessey mystery solved!

By Timothy Harrison


You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
The Hennessey Memorial Lighthouse, Hennessey, ...

By In the February issue of Lighthouse Digest, we pictured the lighthouse in Hennessey, Oklahoma from an old post card asking if anyone knew anything about this facsimile. Boy, were we surprised by the amount of mail we received. We had no idea how many subscribers to Lighthouse Digest live in Oklahoma.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
The Hennessey Memorial Lighthouse in Hennessey ...
Photo by: Y’Vaughan Ramsey

Here’s what we found out from all the mail that was sent to us, and it really is an amazing story.

On July 4, 1874, Pat Hennessey, a government freighter, and three of his drivers were killed on this site of the Chisholm Trail. Hennessey’s charred body was found tied to a wheel in the burning remains of his wagons.

In 1939, when the town of Hennessey celebrated its 50th anniversary, William E. Malaley, a former United States Marshal, and the man who buried Pat Hennessey after he was murdered, purchased a plot of ground around the grave and proceeded to build a memorial to the memory of the man for whom town is named.

Quoting from the book, Echoes of the Chisholm Trail by Annette B. Ehler, former U.S. Marshal Malaley is quoted as saying, “I built a rock lighthouse twenty-four feet high in the top of which there is a large light, and out of many little windows from the top to the bottom of the lighthouse shines electric light through bulbs of all colors, thus lighting that end of town. I built a rock fence around the plot, erected a five-ton granite slab upon which I have a history of the massacre, showing that Hennessey was not killed by the Indians but by White Outlaws. In the corners of the lot I built pergolas and covered them with vines and roses, built an out-door oven, and the Study Club placed a cement table nearby. I had a nurseryman landscape the place, filled it with trees, shrubs, and flowers, erected a flagpole; placed over the entrance an archway upon which the words, ‘Pat Hennessey Memorial Garden.’ All of this surrounds the grave of the Irish freighter who was massacred here on the old Chisholm Trail in 1874, and in whose honor the Town of Hennessey was named.”

He went on, “One evening after I finished the work, and was standing in this garden looking across the valley below the Hennessey Bluffs and on to the sinking sun, there seemed to be something lacking, Ah, yes it was music! So I placed a beautiful music set up, with automatic control, in the top of the rock tower. At seven o’clock each evening, the chimes would peal out over the countryside for miles around, and thus the memory of Pat Hennessey lives on, and we hope the world will help us lift the charge of this murder from the long accused Indian race. On Decoration Day, 1941, I presented this Memorial Garden to the City of Hennessey. There are so many tons and tons and tons of rock in this Garden, that I feel Pat now has his final resting place.”

However a lot has changed since the old U.S. Marshal built and dedicated this memorial to the man who founded the town of Hennessey. The stone fence around it is gone, what happened to it is unknown and not recalled, the gate-posts are all that is left of the fence. As a matter of fact, many of the local residents have no idea why the lighthouse was built.

However, our original story about the lighthouse drew lots of inquiries and stirred up some interest in the old lighthouse. Hopefully the town will restore this historic monument and maybe even put a light back in the tower. Maybe some of our readers will send a donation or two to help restore it.

This story appeared in the June 2000 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History