Thanksgiving always brings on some “turkey shoots,” usually held by sporting clubs. Nowadays, the event is usually a session of target shooting, with frozen turkeys given as prizes.
100 ago, Henry Wilson Sargent (1873-1941) conducted a turkey shoot every fall. For him, it was a money-making proposition. For hopeful shooters, it was a chance to bag a bird for Thanksgiving.
Sargent, known as “Henny Penny,” lived in the Darius Buck house, at the intersection of Wildwood and Woburn streets in Wilmington. He hated the nickname and would say, “My name is Henry Wilson Sargent, and don’t call me Henny Penny.” The reply would come back, “Sure, Henny.”
Henny Penny had a large log in a field, near where Wing Road is today. He would tether some turkeys behind the log and put down some corn for the birds. Once a turkey had taken the corn, it would then have to raise its head to swallow.
Hitting the bird in that brief second was as tricky as a carnival game.
Henny Penny charged a penny a shot. Shooters could only use a .22 calibre rifle; no shotguns were allowed. It was not an easy shot. The small bullet, the small head and the momentary exposure offered the shooter slim odds.
Henry was small of stature and was often bullied, which caused him to leave school. Nonetheless, he was of high intelligence and had exceptional penmanship.
He was a bicycle mechanic and was able to repair many things. He would charge a penny a minute, and would subtract any time spent talking when calculating his fee.
He was also an exceptional craftsman. He made several whirligigs. One had Uncle Sam chopping wood. It sold at auction several years ago for $12,000. It has sold since, but for an undisclosed sum. Other items he made included a ship model and a knick-knack cabinet full of miniature tools.
Henry’s parents had separated and he was raised by two maiden aunts. It is said that he slept between them until adulthood. His parents were close by, though. His mother remarried and settled in a house on Wildwood Street. She spent her last years living with Henry. His father, “Shorty” Sargent, lived in a small house near the railroad tracks.
When he was nearly 50, he married Emma Murray, who ran a store at Perry’s Corner, where Lucci’s is today. For several years, he had a Model T Ford. In 1934, he bought a Willys coupe, which he kept in his barn on Wildwood Street. He and Emma would drive to church on Sundays, but if it was raining, they walked.
He was descended from several old Wilmington families, Butters, Harnden, Jaquith, Eames and Buck. His first name was from his grandfather, Henry Buck. His middle name was from the vice president of the United States, Henry Wilson of New Hampshire.
In 1672, Ephraim Buck built what is now the oldest house in Wilmington, known as the Benjamin Buck house. Benjamin and his brother Jonathan were wealthy farmers, raising hops. Jonathan built a house next door, now known as the Darius Buck house, where Henry spent his entire life. For many years, his shingle hung on the ell facing Woburn Street, bicycle repair.