A few days ago, I was looking for an ancestor on one of my grandmothers’ side of the family and came across a sketch of the life of a deceased pioneer of Grayson County whose name was very near my ancestor. The more I read of the life story of Uncle John Hendricks, the more I hoped he might be my ancestor. His story made me laugh, ooh and aah.
I have no idea where the piece came from unless it was in my uncle Judge R.C. Vaughan’s collection of memorabilia that I inherited. He probably kept it because of the slightest possibility that he was our ancestor. There is no date on the piece and the word “copy” is written at the top.
Evidently the article was taken from a newspaper in Sherman at the time. The dateline of the article is DENISON, TEXAS … January 5th, but there is no year, so it’s anyone’s guess. I don’t even know if it is totally truthful, but I certainly hope so because it is such a good obituary sketch of Uncle John Hendricks.
In the very beginning, the article said “Inasmuch as there is a good deal of Texas and Grayson County history connected with the life of Mr. Hendricks, the News correspondent today called on one of the great-grandchildren of the old gentleman and secured the following particulars with reference to his life and his life in Texas.”
The article follows:
“At the time of his death, John Hendricks lacked only 27 days being 94 years of age. He was the oldest citizen of Grayson County and a pioneer of 1845.
“His father, Albert Hendricks, served four years under Washington in the Revolutionary War, and at the end of the term of his service removed from New Jersey, his native state to Rockingham County, N.C. where his son, John Hendricks was born Feb. 7, 1798.”
My ancestor was also named John, but the last name was spelled Hendrix instead of Hendricks. Sometime families chose to spell their last name different, and did so in another of my ancestors. Take the name Vaughan, as spelled like my grandfather did. Several of his brothers and their families chose to spell the name Vaughn. Information going way back even spelled it two different ways.
But let’s get on with John Hendricks. “He left the old homestead on attaining his 20th year. Soon afterward he moved to Simpson County, KY., remaining there a number of years, immigrated to Jackson County, MO., where he resided until 1815 and then came to Texas.
“While on his way and within two days travel of the Red River crossing, he heard the cannonading at old Fort Washita celebrating the annexation of Texas to the United States. At that time all of Texas west of Bonham, including the present area of Grayson County, was called Fannin district. He helped to lay off the county bounds of Grayson and was one of the three commissioners named by the legislature to lay off Sherman, the county seat, which the commission located six miles west of the present city of Sherman.
“The first session of court in Grayson County was held under an old elm tree on his place, and justice was administered there with all the formality and impressiveness that now attend judicial proceedings. The juries on being charged retired to some isolated opening where verdicts were rendered with the same secrecy that obtains in jury rooms.
“The county seat was removed from old Sherman to its present location on account of a scarcity of water. John Hendricks subsequently solved the water problem by sinking what now is known as the ‘white rock well,’ the first well dug in Grayson County.
“He survived his wife, ten years. They were parents of 16 children, ten sons and six daughters, of who nine are living. His descendants number 115, representing five generations. It can be truly said of Uncle John, as he was familiarly called, that he went to his grave at peace with God, and all mankind. He left countless friends – not one enemy.
“He was strong physically and mentally. He possessed a voice that has often been heard at the distance of four miles, each word being clear and distinct as the note of a bugle horn. His memory was wonderful and served him up to the hour of his death.”
As I said before, I cannot vouch for the information in this final tribute to Uncle John Hendricks, but it can be said that if it is true, he was an amazing man. Just fathering 16 children was a lot to be said for him. That along with a voice that could be heard for four miles.
I did find in Graham Landrum’ and Allan Smith’ “An Illustrated History of Grayson County, Texas” John Hendricks listed among a group of early settlers who purchased lots for the new city of Sherman in December 1846. There is a Hendricks cabin at Grayson County Frontier Village and we will pursue that angle as a possible source for Uncle John Hendricks in a future column. If anyone has information about John Hendricks, I hope it can be shared with me.
For now, the voice that could be heard for four miles is what we will have to remember about this unusual man.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her column. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.