Local gas station owned by son of inventor

Henderson's Phillips 66 Station on North Broadway.
By : 
Mary Jo Dathe

A long time ago there was a Phillips 66 gas station along North Broadway owned by Don Henderson.  He also operated the 66 Motel.  In the photo accompanying this column shows the empty lot with a trailer to rent, now the Spring Valley Chevrolet/Buick truck stop, and the Kwik Trip on the corner.  The motel is now rental rooms.

We also see the two gas pumps awaiting to fill gas tanks and the signs B.F. Goodrich on the back of the pickup and over the double door.  One has to smile at the "ladies" signs, so necessary, but where did the guys go?  Inside, obviously.  The car at right and the pickup, maybe 1930 era, and the bulk truck with the five-gallon can that you carried from the bulk truck to wherever...

Don Henderson had a fascinating life here in Spring Valley.  His dad, Charlie Henderson, was an inventor, designer, locksmith and skilled in all kinds of metalworking.  Charlie and his wife, Annie, moved to Cherry Grove from Kansas.  He worked initially at the Frankson-Christianson Neckyoke Mfg. once located where the cheese factory is on South Section.  Mr. Henderson's mechanical genius produced many innovative devices including the "silent shutter" used by the Conley Camera Co. of Spring Valley.  A check of the 1908 Sears catalog included several pages of Conley cameras including the silent shutter, a much-acclaimed invention.  The original patent is on display at the museum in Winona.

Eventually Charlie invented the 'bag tier' that tied up bags of grain, and the J.G. Bates Co. of Chicago persuaded him to produce the "stapler" for tacking labels on boxes -- he could do that!  He was soon designing and producing staples from his small machine shop on West High.  City fathers were soon persuaded to invest $5,000 in a suitable building, which was constructed along the Chicago Great Western tracks on Pleasant Avenue.  A partnership was soon formed — The Henderson & Bates Co. — where he could employ 15 to 20 men.  Charlie, with little business acumen, soon sold his stock to Bates.  Tragic: Charlie's blue prints were all in his head, and the company moved to Chicago, soon floundered; Charlie continued to serve the community and died in 1942.  Charlie's big story is told in the considerable display right inside the lower level of the Methodist Church Museum on West Courtland.  It includes his tool chest, bag tiers, the staples, etc. 

The original building (staple factory) is still standing along Pleasant Avenue, later used by Reid Murdoch as a base for its mule farming.  The firm had a canning factory, (later Libby, McNeil & Libby,) in Rochester under the fascinating ear of corn water tower, and leased thousands of acres in the Spring Valley area using Missouri mules.  But that's another story.

Don Henderson was born in Nebraska in a sod house, he married V. Brownlow; and opened and ran the Phillips 66 Station for over 25 years.  He also operated the 66 Motel for at least 11 years.  He was a long time Mason, and highly respected businessman.  His funeral was at the Faith United Methodist Church with Pastor Norm Witt officiating.  Irma Rathbun played the piano, Claire Churchill sang, and pallbearers were John Osterud, Bill Majors, Art Larson, Arnold Molstad and Keith Hagen.  Don died at age 77.