May 13, 2007 Pocono Record Newspaper, Monroe County by Al Zagofsky Headstone Research Question Answered
Memorial: Illustrated tombstone
Location: about 1/8th mile west of Route 903, at the intersection of North Old Stage Road and Henning Road
Victim: Aquila Henning (male)
Cause of Death: shot in back
Accused: Robert Wilkerson
Verdict: Justifiable homicide
About the Cemetery: Originally on land owned by the Henning Family, now maintained by St Paul's Lutheran Church of Kidder township, Pennsylvania
Earliest burial 1850's Most Recent Burial: 1976
All gravestones tell a story, but this one goes way beyond that.
The following e-mail was recently received from Steve Sauchinitz of Lehighton. "I see from time to time your articles on history or unique events. I was wondering if you knew the history behind the large black tombstone at the Henning's Cemetery at Albrightsville. On the headstone it states, 'Here lies an innocent soul' and has men peering out of what looks like laurel bushes."
The cemetery is less than a half mile off Route 903, just south of the Monroe County border.
Contact was made with Jack Sterling, a Jim Thorpe historian and genealogist who has extensive postings of cemetery information, including a Web page dedicated to the Old Albrightsville Cemetery.
On the site, he writes, "Though most of the stones are the typical type of gravestone found in old cemeteries, there is one stone that stands out as very unusual. That is the stone of Aquila Henning."
"The gravestone of Aquila Henning tells the story of the event that got him killed; at least, one version of that story," writes Sterling. He describes the tombstone: "The stone's back is to the road, and a passerby won't notice it unless they walked across the cemetery to see. The stone is one of the largest in the cemetery; it stands about 4 feet high and is about 5 feet wide. The color is a powdery gray. Instead of saying 'Died' with the date of death, the stone says 'Shot.'"
The text is brief and small in comparison to the illustration. It reads, "AQUILA A. HENNING, BORN JUNE 7, 1892, SHOT NOV. 24 1932. AN INNOCENT SOUL SENT TO ETERNITY."
In the lower right corner: "WE DESIGN AND CUT IMPRESSIVE MEMORIALS — WENZ CO. INC. ALLENTOWN PA."
As to the illustration, let us return to Sterling's description: "The stone shows a man, Aquila, walking through the woods with his hunting rifle. In the background, there are trees and bushes." The central figure is a one-armed man holding a pistol. In the bushes behind Aquila are seven peering faces.
"The scene depicts an ambush, which is what some maintain happened that day," noted Sterling, who is in a unique position to recount this story. At the time, his mother was a student at Palmerton Nursing School.
"She trained on-duty at the hospital," said Sterling. "One of those she cared for was Henning. He only lived a short time once he got to the hospital ... but when the case came to court, she paid attention."
Sterling discovered the stone in the early 1960s on the Old Stagecoach Road shortcut to Hickory Run Park. A neighbor suggested that when Henning's widow had the stone created, she was unsettled emotionally.
Harry Wilkinson, a Meckesville schoolteacher, had Aquila Hennings' son, Aquila Jr., arrested for illegal hunting. This led to bad feelings between the Hennings and the Wilkinsons.
On Thanksgiving Day 1932, the Hennings and the Wilkinsons were hunting, or, as alleged, the Wilkinsons were preparing an ambush. Harry Wilkinson's party consisted of his brother, Robert, and seven friends. Aquila Henning was hunting with his son.
"According to court testimony," Sterling reported, "Henning's son shot and wounded one of the dogs of the Wilkinson party. When Harry Wilkinson knelt to examine the wounded dog, Aquila Henning Sr. stepped from the woods and mounted a stump, taking deliberate aim at Harry."
Robert Wilkinson, who was hunting in the nearby brush, claimed he saw Henning Sr. shoot at Harry Wilkinson and miss. Then, when he saw Henning reloading, he took his only shot, hitting Henning in the back.
Harry Wilkinson had Henning driven to Palmerton Hospital. He died a few hours later. "That was the story given by the Wilkinsons," noted Sterling. "However, in the hospital Aquila gave a statement shortly before his death denying shooting the Wilkinson dog and denying shooting at Harry Wilkinson."
Robert Wilkinson was acquitted.
"There was no disputing that Robert Wilkinson shot Aquila Henning, causing his death, but the shooting was deemed justifiable, for Robert had witnessed Aquila shoot at his brother, and he felt he had no choice to stop him from shooting again," explained Sterling.
"Though Robert Wilkinson was acquitted, it can be said that Aquila's widow had the final word, and her version of the story was etched in stone," Sterling concluded. "She must have felt that it was Harry, not Robert Wilkinson, who shot Aquila, due to his being the most prominent person depicted on the stone, and the others in the Wilkinson hunting party were part of an ambush."
A somewhat different story is told in "The History of Carbon County" by Thomas D. Eckhart. The book recounts Henning shooting Harry Wilkinson's dog, then adds, "A hunting gang was prepared to enter the woods when the game warden shot Henning, causing him to stumble forward and discharge his gun."
It concluded, "Wilkinson became irate when Wenz Monument Company of Allentown provided a sizable tombstone for Henning. Wilkinson sued Wenz for $50,000 in 1938 because of its graphic display portraying Henning's innocence."
I am not related and have no other information. Happy Hunting!
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