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The Henry Clay Memorial Tablet


One hundred years ago this month, the newly chartered Richmond chapter of the Kiwanis Club memorialized the incident in 1842 at which visiting politician, Henry Clay, was confronted by Quaker abolitionist, Hiram Mendenhall, at a large gathering held north of the current corner of North 7th and A Streets.

The idea for such a monument originated with William Dudley Foulke, who spoke to the club at its regular June 1921 meeting. Foulke stressed that any city’s history and art are important for ‘boosters’ to promote. He listed several things that Wayne County could point to with pride, and one of these was the incident between Mendenhall and Clay. Within a few weeks the local Kiwanians appointed a committee and made arrangements to commemorate that moment in 1842. The committee ordered a bronze tablet with the following text:

On October first, 1842, in what was then an open tract in this city square, Henry Clay, the leader of the Whig Party, delivered an address to an immense multitude and Hiram Mendenhall, a Quaker abolitionist, presented to him on behalf of the Indiana Anti-Slavery Society, a numerously signed petition, asking him to free his slaves. Clay in an eloquent reply, criticised this act as a breach of hospitality, described the difficulties and perils of immediate emancipation and advised Mendenhall to begin his work of benevolence at home.
Clay’s rejoinder was then overwhelmingly applauded, yet the incident was afterwards an important factor in the growth of the Liberty Party; in the defeat of Clay for the presidency in 1844; and in the spread of an anti-slavery sentiment, which contributed to the dissolution of the Whig Party, the organization of the Republican Party and finally to the Civil War and ultimate emancipation.

Erected by Kiwanis Club, October 25, 1921

Workers at the F.N. Watt Casket Company at the corner of North 10th and J Streets found a large boulder that was ‘flat as a table’ on one side, and this boulder was chosen to be the base for the tablet.  The tablet itself says that it was dedicated on October 25, 1921, but the newspapers reported that the dedication took place on Thursday, October 13, after the weekly Kiwanis luncheon. The ceremony featured several speakers, including Rufus Allen, president of the Kiwanis Club, William Dudley Foulke, and Harlow Lindley, Earlham professor and member of the Indiana State Historical Commission.

In 1921, the building on that corner was the former First English Lutheran Church, which was later occupied by St. Mary’s Catholic Church. When St. Mary’s built the new church around 1913, this building became a community house or parish hall.

In the late 1930s, this building was torn down to make way for St. Mary’s Catholic School, as seen in the 1950s postcard below. The monument is just barely visible on the far left edge.

1950s postcard view of St. Mary's School

Today the building is part of the Seton Catholic School, and the Henry Clay Monument is in the same spot, as it has been for one hundred years.

Seton Catholic School, Oct 2021