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The family life, the farm life, the mystery and the vision are revealed in “The Story of John Hendrix: Prophet of Oak Ridge” exhibition opening Nov. 9, the 145th anniversary of the birthday of John Hendrix, at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge.
Utilizing family records, oral stories passed down through generations and artifacts related to Hendrix, Jack and Myra Mansfield of Oak Ridge collaborated with the museum to develop the exhibit, which will be on display through Jan. 30, 2011, in the museum lobby.
While the Mansfields were cleaning up property for an easy one-half mile historic nature trail along Hendrix Creek to develop the John Hendrix Memorial Prayer Walk, they found some early 20th century gates, a saw, canning jar and washboard which will be in the Hendrix display.
There will also be two sketches of what Hendrix may have looked like based on his son’s photo and one of him building his house included.
Hendrix, born in to Luke and Jane Hendrix, on Nov. 9, 1865, was the eighth child in the family and was named after Jane’s father. Prior to his birth in Robertsville, the family moved in 1862 from Morgan County, where Union soldiers and bands of militia harassed the community for food, clothing, horses and weapons.
At risk of the family farm being pillaged, they traveled by wagon as their older children walked beside it for two or three days on the old road from Morgan County to Anderson County.
The family settled in Robertsville (a community in today’s Oak Ridge) and found a tenant house to rent in Bear Creek Valley, where today’s Y-12 Plant is located.
During the next few years, the older Hendrix children left home to work for families in the community as housekeepers, marry and farm, and young Luke moved to Oliver Springs to operate a store.
With the departure of the six older siblings, Hendrix and his sister, Sarah, remained at home with their parents.
During his childhood, he trapped a red fox and took its pelt and redeemed if for $1 at the Anderson County Courthouse. This was an important kill, becausewolves and foxes carried off the farmers' calves, pigs and chickens.
Hendrix’s mother died when he was a young teenager.
Eight years after her death, he married Julia Ann Griffith, a former Morgan County resident.
Hendrix obtained 35 acres off Emery Road in Robertsville, near a ferry crossing.
He gathered supplies from around the property to build a primitive one-room oblong-shaped cabin made of rough-hewn logs.
He would become a partner in a logging and construction buisiness, where he was paid 50 cents a day.
He and his wife had four children, and it was said that Hendrix was a good husband and father — a hard-working man who never missed a day of work.
With the death of his youngest daughter due to diphtheria, the departure of his wife and three remaining children to Arkansas and his inability to maintain his farm, Hendrix became very religious.
To search for understanding, he began taking long walks in the woods.
According to George Robinson’s 1950s “The Oak Ridge Story,” an astounding thing happened.
“On one occasion, John emerged from his beloved woods with a strange and wondrous story,” Robinson wrote. ‘In the woods,’ he said, ‘as I lay on the ground and looked up into the sky, there came to me a voice as loud and as sharp as thunder. The voice told me to sleep with my head on the ground for 40 nights, and I would be shown visions of what the future holds for this land.’”
Although Hendrix's birth and death are recorded, there is no documentation by John Hendrix about his vision about the building of Oak Ridge to end a great war.
Here is the legendary description of Hendrix's vision of the foretelling of Oak Ridge:
“Bear Creek Valley some day will be filled with great buildings and factories, and they will help toward winning one of the greatest wars that will ever be. There will be a city on Black Oak Ridge, and the center of authority will be on a spot middle-way between Sevier Tadlock's farm and Joe Pyatt's place.
“A railroad spur will branch off the main L&N line, run down toward Robertsville and then branch off and turn toward Scarbrough.
“Big engines will dig big ditches and thousand of people will be running to and fro. They will be building things and there will be great noise and confusion and the earth will shake. I've seen it. It's coming.”
Hendrix died in 1915 at age 49 and is buried in Hendrix Creek, a subdivision in Oak Ridge.
The American Museum of Science and Energy is at 300 S. Tulane Ave.
It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.