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Henkel Family Papers

Identifier: SC 0253
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Henkel Family Papers, 1801-2008, document the influential Henkel family of Shenandoah and Rockingham counties in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The collection, chiefly documenting the Siram and Margaret Koiner Henkel line of the family, is comprised primarily of correspondence written to Siram P. Henkel and includes letters from his sons Lewis and Luther during their service in the American Civil War. The collection also includes personal and financial papers of various Henkel family members including Siram’s children and genealogical research materials, much of which was used to inform Mildred Renalds Wittig’s Henkel – Renalds Connection: with Ancestral Scripts and Collections (2014).


  • Creation: 1801-2008


Language of Materials

English, German

Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

Several complete and thorough genealogies have been written about the Henkel family and their contributions as doctors, printers, entrepreneurs, millers, and religious leaders. As such, this biographical note does not serve as an exhaustive rehashing of previous scholarship. Researchers are encouraged to review published secondary sources for additional information on the Henkel family.

The Henkel Family of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley descends from Rev. Paul Henkel (1754-1825) and Elizabeth Henkel (d. 1843). Siram Peter Henkel, who along with his immediate family is primarily documented in this collection, was the fifth child of Dr. Solomon Henkel (1777-1847) and Rebecca Miller Henkel (1780-1854) and grandson of Rev. Paul Henkel.

Siram was born March 16, 1809 in New Market, Virginia. In an attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps, Siram attended, but did not complete, medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He married Margaret Koiner (variously spelled Coiner) Henkel (1820-1899) of Augusta County, Virginia on June 30, 1835. The couple settled at “The Plains” – located between New Market and Timberville – in September 1835 and their thirteen children, many of whom are also documented in this collection, were born and raised there. Siram farmed various crops and also operated a store and mill at The Plains. The Plains Mill was erected between 1847 and 1849 under the direction of Siram and his father Solomon, prior to his death in August 1847.

During the American Civil War, two of Siram and Margeret’s sons served for the Confederacy. Lewis Philip (1837-1904) served in the Ordance Department of the Confederate Army. Around 1863, Lewis became a member of Co. H (Valley Rangers) of the 10th Virginia Cavalry. Luther Melanchton (1841-1919) was also a member of the Confederate Army and wrote home to his father from various camps. Lewis and Luther’s brother Samuel Augustus (1840-1885) was exempt from military duty due to medical reasons. He became epileptic after sustaining injuries from run-away horses in 1855.

In 1878, one year prior to Siram’s death, he sketched the plans for a new house at Plains Mill. The house was built in 1882 and served as the residence for Siram’s widow, Margaret, until her death in 1899. The aforementioned sketch and photographs of the completed house are found in this collection.


1.08 cubic feet (3 boxes)


The Henkel Family Papers, 1801-2008, document the influential Henkel family of Rockingham and Shenandoah counties in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The collection, primarily documenting the Siram and Margaret Koiner Henkel line of the family, is comprised of correspondence, personal and financial papers, and genealogical research materials.


The collection is arranged in four series. All series are arranged chronologically.

  1. Correspondence, 1827-1913
  2. Personal Papers, 1801-1881
  3. Financial Files, 1832-1894
  4. Genealogy and Research Files, 1890-2008


Material was property of a Henkel family descendant, presumably Mildred Renalds Wittig, great-granddaughter of Siram and Margaret Koiner Henkel.

Acquisition Information

Acquired from Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates’ November 10, 2017 Americana & Fine Antiques Auction, Featuring Virginia and the South auction. A second accrual to this collection was acquired directly from Mildred Renalds Wittig in May 2019. This accession comprised mostly books from the family's collection and were cataloged separately. A second copy of the August 1835 letter from Siram Henkel to Margaret Henkel regarding a large group of enslaved persons being marched through the Shenandoah Valley was included and interfiled. An arithmetic book belonging to Samuel A. Henkel, 1854, was also interfiled.

Related Material

The following list includes related Henkel family manuscript collections.

Henkel Family Papers, 1783-1916, SC 0099, Special Collections, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Henkel Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Henkel family records, 1838-1903. Business records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond.

Henkel-Miller Family Papers, 1793-1910, #14434, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

Henkel Plain Mills Store Daybook, 1835-1849, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

Multiple collections under the accession number 8653, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library.

Many of the documents in this collection are copied and transcribed in Mildred Renalds Wittig’s Henkel – Renalds Connection (2014).

Separated Material

Several issues of serials including the Lutheran Church Visitor and the Southern Churchman have been removed from the collection and cataloged as part of Special Collections’ rare book collection. Additionally, the facsimile publication of the Day Book for Solomon Henkel at the Plains Mills, Rockingham County, Virginia (2013) and Mildred Renalds Wittig’s Henkel – Renalds Connection: with Ancestral Scripts and Collections (2nd ed., 2014) were removed from the collection and cataloged separately. Additional books and a broadside from the 2019 accession were cataloged separately.


  • United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Plains Mill, VDHR File No. 082-5403, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. 2014.
  • Wittig, Mildred Renalds. Henkel – Renalds Connection: with Ancestral Scripts and Collections. Harrisonburg, Va.: Custom Printing, 2014.

Processing Information

Much of the collection was received in three-ring binders with the manuscripts in plastic sleeves. The correspondence was generally arranged in chronological order. The documents were removed from the binders and plastic sleeves and placed in Mylar when necessary.

A Guide to the Henkel Family Papers, 1801-2008
Tiffany Cole
December 2017, May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021-05-12: Books from 2019 accrual were cataloged and manuscript material was interfiled.

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612