Eula Wulfjen Kendrick at the OW Ranch, circa 1920s (AHC Collection, TESHS)
(Kendrick, Hoff & AHC collections, TESHS)
State Historic Site
BORN IN THE Texas ranching community of Round Rock on April 26, 1872, Eula Wulfjen was just fifteen months old when she moved with her family to Cheyenne, the bustling capital of Wyoming Territory. Eula's father, Charles William Wulfjen, was then in the process of becoming one of the largest cattle ranchers in the region. When not attending school in Cheyenne, Eula spent her days at the family's Muleshoe Ranch.
The family moved to Austin, Texas, in 1882 but headed north again in 1884, settling permanently in Greeley, Colorado. No matter where they lived, Charles and his wife, Ida Peeler Wulfjen, maintained a genteel lifestyle. It was this upbringing that allowed Eula Wulfjen Kendrick to successfully navigate the tumultuous seas of life as a woman married to an ambitious man.
HOME IN WYOMING
In 1889, following time at finishing schools in Boulder, Colorado, and Austin, Texas, seventeen-year-old Eula was reintroduced to one of her father's former employees, a cowboy named John B. Kendrick. She remembered meeting him before: at age seven she had climbed into the lanky cowboy's lap and announced that when she was old enough, she intended to marry him. In 1891, she did just that.
Following a church wedding in Greeley and a reception at the Wulfjen residence, the newlyweds left immediately for New York on the afternoon train. When their two-month wedding trip through the Eastern U. S. was over, Eula had to face the reality of her new home: a mud-chinked log cabin fifty miles from the nearest town. It would be several long weeks before Eula would get to live in that cabin, however. Upon their return from the East, Eula went back to her parents' home while John went to Montana to finish construction. He felt that the rough bachelor digs he'd left behind were not good enough for his cultured bride. It was a lonely time for both John and Eula and letters flew back and forth between them. For a man accustomed to solitude, separation from a loved one was a new thing for John and he expressed his loneliness eloquently and often during this period:
Do you miss your old man? Not one half so much as I miss "the girl I left behind me." Somehow the feeling of loneliness is inexplainable. Everything lacks interest: the scenes along the road, the different views of the snow peaks of the Big Horns, things that I used to enjoy so much.
By the end of April 1891, the cabin was still not finished. Fed up with living apart, Eula announced to her husband that she was going to Montana, even if she had to sleep on the floor and cook for herself. This response delighted John to no end:
You can never know how many false notions you have driven from my mind in your proposal to come out and do your own cooking, not that I want you to do it, but I did want so much for you to show the spirit of a true little wife and helpmate and the one thing needed to fill my cup of happiness you have supplied.
The OW Ranch in southeastern Montana was Eula's home for the next eighteen years. Though isolated and far from friends, she had no time to be bored: she cooked, cleaned, ironed, sewed and did all the bookkeeping for the ever-growing Kendrick Cattle Company.
After her children were born, Eula took on the responsibility of providing them with an education. Without assistance or formal teacher training, she prepared Rosa-Maye for the seventh grade and Manville for fifth. In addition to reading, writing, math, science and geography, the two children were also taught to swim, shoot, skate and ride. As Eula later wrote in her memoirs:
There were no near neighbors or school house nearby, hence no playmates, so mother had to be teacher and companion. Rising before six o'clock in keeping with country customs, Rosa-Maye and her brother were at their lessons by seven, which in winter would mean before good daylight. As the afternoons were given over to long horse back rides, the lessons were completed by noon, and then the fun began. If it was summer, the three would go for a swim in a not too deep hole in Hanging Woman, the little creek that wiggled along circuitously from the divide ... In the early evening, too, they often went shooting for prairie dogs – surprising one (as well as themselves) occasionally – or skating in the winter, when the country was frost bound. Always about five they would gather around the lighted table for an hour of reading before the early supper, which was often followed by one or two hours of reading afterwards.
In 1908, the Kendricks decided that it was time to build a house in Sheridan and spend winters in town. The move allowed the children an opportunity to attend public school and gave John Kendrick better access to the local business community, one in which he had become increasingly active over the years. It also offered Eula new opportunities. After nearly two decades of isolated rural life, she seemed ready to return to the active social life she'd known as a young girl in Greeley. She was soon busy with the Cecilian Club, the Methodist-Episcopal Church and the Sheridan Women's Club. When it was finally finished in 1913, the family's home, Trail End, became the scene of many teas, receptions, parties, dances, open houses and dinners attended by businessmen, politicians, ranchers and cowboys alike.
THE POLITICAL LIFE
With her husband's entry into state and national politics, Eula easily took on the role of political wife. Her will to succeed, her strong desire for acceptance and her unerring eye for detail allowed Eula to go from ranch house to executive mansion with extraordinary efficiency. At the Governors' Mansion and later in Washington D.C., Eula proved a gracious hostess and tireless worker.
Aside from her position in society, Eula also occupied a spot in Washington's feminine political world. She was a charter member and treasurer of the Women's National Democratic Club and was an active member of the Congressional Club as well. In 1923, Eula served as acting president of the Senatorial Women's Club – also called "The Ladies of the Senate" – a position traditionally held only by the wife of the vice-president of the United States.
In 1933, at the relatively young age of sixty-one, Eula's entire world was turned upside down when she suddenly became a widow. Despite her apparent popularity, her husband's death resulted in the end of Eula's active role in Washington society. Eula returned to Sheridan and for twenty-five years lived at Trail End with her son and his family. There she worked on her scrapbooks, made notes for memoirs that were never published, and fiercely guarded her husband's political and personal memory.
Shortly before her death at the age of eighty-nine, she moved to San Antonio to live with her daughter. She died in her native state of Texas in June of 1961 and is buried next to her husband in the Sheridan Municipal Cemetery.