Margaret M. Henderson, 105, restored 17th-century home, active Episcopalian

August 22, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Margaret M. Henderson, who was active in Episcopal Church affairs and lived in a historic 17th-century Eastern Shore home that she had restored, died Friday of undetermined causes at William Hill Manor in Easton. She was 105.

Mrs. Henderson had lived since 1949 at Lloyd's Landing, a 550-acre working farm on the Choptank River near Trappe, until moving last year to the nursing home.

The farm, which had been in her family since 1850, originally had been a land-grant from England's Queen Anne.

Mrs. Henderson and her husband, Charles English Henderson, a retired Baltimore stockbroker whom she married in 1915, restored the house and gardens, which had fallen into disrepair. He died in 1961.

They planted trees and designed gardens, and the house for many years was featured on the Maryland House and Garden tours.

Born in 1890 into the Victorian era, the former Margaret Murray Hardcastle was the daughter of an Army officer who fought in the Mexican War and, after resigning his commission, returned to the Eastern Shore to farm and raise a family.

Her father was a member of the famed West Point Class of 1846 that produced about 20 generals, including George B. McClellan, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, A. P. Hill and George E. Pickett.

After graduation, her father went to Mexico as a staff officer and member of Gen. Winfield Scott's staff and fought from Veracruz to Mexico City, and helped record the border between Texas and Mexico.

"I met her grandson at a book signing and he asked me if I wanted to meet the daughter of a member of the Class of 1846," said Jack Waugh, a retired journalist whose book "The Class of 1846" was published in 1994.

She lived at Lee Haven, her father's Talbot County estate, until moving into Easton after an 1892 fire destroyed the house. She was educated at home until she was sent to Oldfields School, from which she graduated in 1908.

Her lifelong relationship with the Episcopal Church began during her early years in Easton, when she was a member of Christ Episcopal Church. She was involved in mission work, made dolls for poor children and taught Sunday school there until she was 80.

"Of course, I didn't have movies, I didn't have television and I didn't have radio. I didn't have any of that and my life centered, really, very much around church activities," she said in an interview published in May in the Eastern Shore Episcopalian.

Described as "aristocratic looking" by family members, Mrs. Henderson was known for her fine sense of manners, gentility and generous Eastern Shore hospitality.

"A character. That would begin to describe her," a granddaughter, Maggie Murray Maynadier DeLamater of Charleston, S.C., said with a laugh.

"She was broad-minded and had a high sense of manners and morals and she respected honesty and integrity," said Ms. DeLamater.

"She loved entertaining and showing people through her house," recalled her daughter, Margaret Murray Henderson DeLamater of Oxford.

"She used to make her own sausage and smoked country hams and bacon in her smokehouse along with terrapin stew. She ate the food that came out of Eastern Shore rivers and fields -- good old-style country food like muskrat, rabbits, wild geese and ducks and crabs. At 95, she was still picking crabs," she said.

Mrs. Henderson claimed that her longevity was most likely linked to her "good genes" and the fact that she enjoyed a daily cocktail of bourbon and water or an old-fashioned and never smoked.

"Everything in moderation," is what she used to say, her daughter said.

Family members praised her interest in contemporary events and the fact that while in her 90s, she still liked being around men. "Boy, could she be flirtatious but in a gentle way," said the granddaughter.

Known as an inveterate letter writer, Mrs. Henderson prided herself on answering her mail promptly and writing to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Services for Mrs. Henderson will be held at 11 a.m. today at Christ Episcopal Church, 11 S. Harrison St., Easton.

In addition to her daughter and granddaughter, she is survived by 13 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the church's endowment fund; or to the Historical Society of Talbot County, 25 S. Washington St., Easton 21601.

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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