Featured image: Street scene in Hendricks, circa 1910
The first settler arrived in what is now the town of Hendricks in 1803, when a Revolutionary War soldier named Henry Fansler made his homestead there. The town was not incorporated until 1894, and is named for Thomas Andrew Hendricks, who was the vice-president at the time the town was incorporated.
Hendricks was primarily known as a timber town, dominated by companies like the Otter Creek Boom and Lumber Company. By 1860 the town already had a sawmill, but it didn’t really begin to boom until the arrival of the rail line in 1888. The railroad offered a direct link to timber processors and markets, and shortly after the rail was completed Hendricks experienced major growth. A new mercantile store, an apothecary, a cafe and a hotel were added to the few pre-existing businesses. Unfortunately, the town was vulnerable to both fire and floods, and there was a lot of rebuilding to go with the new construction. The original town hall burnt down, as did the first railroad depot. The current town hall once also housed a jail on the lower floor, which is no longer used.
One of the notable features of Hendricks is the swinging bridge over the Black Fork River. It was first built in 1901, around the time that Hendricks voted to become a “dry town”, meaning that no alcohol was sold within city limits. The small settlement on the other side of the river, called Brooklyn Heights, was not dry, and the bridge served as a link to the distilleries and saloons on that side of the river. The bridge has been replaced several times since then, most recently in 1986.
As the timber industry declined in the early to mid 1900s, Hendricks’ population also steeply declined. From over 600 people in 1920, the population had fallen to barely 400 in 1960, and continued to decline from there. According to the 2016 census, there are just 211 people living in Hendricks.