Molly Crusen Bishop: The Heneberys were important in local history

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matt henebery
lady henebery

Mathew and Mary Daniels Henebery were extraordinary citizens in Peoria’s history.

Mathew and Mary Daniels were both born in Ireland in 1834 and they helped make up the wealth and whiskey business in Peoria when it turned into the whiskey capitol of the world.

Mathew was educated in County Kilkenny and his parents brought him to the United States when he was 15 years old; they ultimately ended up in Peoria. Mary was brought to Peoria in 1848.

Peoria’s population went from a little over 1,100 in the early 1840s to almost 12,000 just a decade later. Immigrants came from all over the world and U.S. citizens came here from the eastern U.S. as the liquor distilling, railroads, and steamboats brought job opportunities and the chance for the American dream.

Mathew and Mary married in 1857 and they had 12 children. Together they were prominent and successful in business, family, and in charities. Matthew and Mary were extremely liberal with their financial donations for anything and everything for the build-up of the city of Peoria.  

They donated excessively to build the hospitals, Catholic charities, and even Saint Mary’s Cemetery on Sterling in West Peoria. In 1881 they joined Bishop John Lancaster Spalding in purchasing and developing a large tract of land on what was the outer western edge of the city at that time, exclusively for Catholics. There is a large circular plot known as the Heart section where Mr. and Mrs. Henebery and more than 32 members of the Henebery family are buried today.

Mathew rose to success quickly. He was made a superintendent of drays, which were horse- drawn trolleys with low side that held barrels of beer or liquor for transport. He later worked on the first telegraph line between Peoria and Chicago.

He joined the Brandamour Distillery Liquor Business, and eventually took over the wholesale end of the business. He was also one of the organizers and builders of the Great Eastern Distillery so famous in Peoria.

Mathew was part of the origination of the Peoria Stockyards, Peoria Packing and Provision Company, Peoria Opera House, and was the vice president and a director of the First National Bank. Mathew also served as a city Alderman, and later was a member of the Peoria School Board. He was also a member of the Creve Coeur Club.

Mathew died in 1907 and left his loving wife in charge of a trust worth over half a million dollars. She administered this trust in a way that showed her love and devotion to Matthew.

She continued their tradition together of helping the suffering poor in Peoria when she presented the Rev. Quinn of St. John’s Parish a school that was named the Matthew Henebery Memorial School as an honor to his character. Mary saw extreme poverty in this particular parish and the school was extremely beautiful. It was the top-of-the-line in education because she believed as her husband did that investing in the poor helped them lift up and in turn lifted the city up.

Mary passed in 1912 and left a legacy with her husband Mathew of how liberal financing in the poverty stricken areas of a city, as well as charity to hospitals, cemeteries, and other Catholic charities, set an example for those of us living in this fair city today.

About the Author
Molly is a life-long Peorian and an author, speaker, and storyteller. She is married to Doug Bishop and has five children and one grandchild. Molly loves history and Peoria and loves to share her passions with anyone she can get to listen to her. She loves to research, interview, and write or speak about history. The youngest and ninth child of Don and Joani Crusen, she grew up on the West Bluff in the house her great grandparents built in the 1880s. She writes a historical column in Woman’s View magazine, and will be writing a column called The Peorian Perspective in The Peorian.