November 3, 2017 – A recent book release written thirty years ago by Ruth Henning, wife of Paul Henning, creator of The Beverly Hillbillies, has put the Beverly Hillbillies and Paul Henning locally in the news.
When the Beverly Hillbillies first show appeared on television, the critics lambasted it, saying it wouldn’t last a year. Variety Magazine said it was painful to sit through, and said that if television was America’s wasteland, Beverly Hillbillies must be Death Valley. By the third show, it was Number 1 on TV and stayed there. It ran for nine years.
My mother’s family was close to the Hennings, who lived north of Bates City. Consequently, I have always been a fan of Paul Henning. I believe he is one of the most brilliant people to ever be born in Lafayette County.
The internet and most references say Paul Henning was born in Independence. Not true. Paul was born on a farm west of Concordia, near where the trucker’s rest stop is on I-70. The Henning’s came from Germany and settled in the Concordia area. Paul’s grandfather gave Paul’s father, William Henning, the farm where Paul was born. His father wasn’t a very good farmer, and his mother took all the children including Paul, who was the youngest, and bought a boarding house in Independence. Paul’s father William, remained on the farm in Concordia.
I am sure of one thing. Had Paul remained in Lafayette County, he would not have been known as Paul, but would have had a nickname. An older brother was a famous Indianapolis 500 race car mechanic and owner, and had the nickname “Cotton.” Another older brother involved in the automobile industry was called “Major.” Paul’s uncle Henry Henning settled north of Bates City, owned a large farm, and had seven sons, who were Paul’s cousins, all with nicknames: Brush, Shorty, Cotton, Broad, Pegleg, and Humpy Henning. The seventh son was named Ed and I am not sure of his nickname.