Henry A. Hettinger


February 2, 1875 - March 1, 1931


Story from book "How to Conduct a Church Vacation School" by Ralph Gage (Judson Press, ca 1925)
Copied by Ed Stadler, Henry's gandson, 1985




Henry lived in a small city in the southern part of New Jersey. His father had come to this country from Europe and could not speak the English language very well. He worked in a machine-shop. When Henry was two years old his mother died, leaving four little mother-less boys. The father did the best he could for them. He worked hard in the machine shop by day, and at night and on Sundays he made the home as comfortable as he could for the boys. Each boy was taught to help around the home and to do his share of the work.

The boys started to attend the Sunday school in the First Baptist Church. In that church there was a wonderful old man, named Doctor Putnam. He took special pains to know all the boys. They all loved him because he loved them, took them canoe riding and taught them how to paddle a canoe, took them on long hikes into the country, and on rare occasions invited them on long hikes into the country, and on rare occasions invited them to is own home for a dinner of planked shad or fried oysters. The old doctor soon became well acquainted with Henry.

Henry attended the public school until he was old enough to work, then he was hired as an apprentice in a foundry. One day Doctor Putnam noticed that something was troubling Henry. He made up his mind to find what was the cause of his unhappiness. Upon inquiry he found that Henry had been apprenticed to the foundry to learn the trade of iron-molding. He hated this work not so much because it was hard and dirty and hot, but because he wanted most of all to be a machinist like his father. He was even thinking of quitting his job and going somewhere else to find another job. Doctor Putnam found out all these things, and then secured for Henry a position as an apprentice in a machine shop. Henry loved machinery. The day after he had finished his four-years' apprenticeship, he started in business for himself. In his little shop he made an engine, making all the parts himself.

Near the city where Henry lived were the oyster-beds of Delaware Bay. Many of the oyster captains lived in his city. He had often been on their boats and seen the hand-dredges which were used to gather up the oysters from the bottom of the ocean. One day he thought, "I believe I could make an engine that would work those dredges." Se he began to work on it in his little shop. After a while he went to an oyster captain and asked permission to make a test of his new engine on his oyster-boat. This permission was given. So Henry and a few of his friends fastened the engine on the boat, sailed out to the oyster beds and tried his new machine. It would not work. Some laughed at him and said, "I told you so. You cannot dredge oysters with an engine." Henry, who was a quiet young man said nothing only studied carefully the engine until he discovered why it would not work. Then he went back to this shop and worked on his engine until every difficulty had been overcome. Now he was ready for another test. This time it worked perfectly. Now he was ready for another test. This time it worked perfectly. Immediately every oyster-boat wanted an engine because it would do the work of four men and do it more easily and quickly. Henry enlarged his shop, employed more mechanics, and developed a big business.

But that is not all. He remembered Doctor Putnam and his kindness to him when he was a boy and needed a friend. He remembered his Sunday school and all the church did for him. Above all he remembered and honored his dear old father. Today Henry has an office in that church and Sunday school. He has been a member of the city council and has worked for playgrounds and a better city for boys and young men. But best of all, the boys in Henry's city know and love him because he is a good friend to them.

( Henry A. Hettinger died on March 1, 1931 in Bridgeton, NJ at the age of 56, a victim of cancer.)


For Ray Parsons' home page and related stories use your "BACK button".

Send mail to Ray Parsons by clicking here.