THE IMPORTANCE OF the ranches to the Kendrick family cannot be denied. It was the prominence that Kendrick gained through his affiliation with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association that allowed him to attain his influential political position in Wyoming. It was the very knowledge that the ranches existed that made it possible for Manville to endure his time away at prep school, Rosa-Maye her time at finishing school, and John his time in Washington. Finally, it was the money raised through the sale of the ranches' cattle that made the construction of Trail End possible.
In 1889, Kendrick - as manager of the Converse Cattle Company - purchased the Grinnell Range on Hanging Woman creek in southeastern Montana. As one newspaper reporter noted, "This is one of the best ranges in the whole country." Kendrick acquired additional acres through a variety of means. Some were purchased outright from neighbors, for example, while others were obtained through the purchase of soldiers' homestead allotments.
Following the Civil War, one of the benefits given to soldiers was the right to file for additional homestead acres on government lands. In partnership with Zachary T. Hodges of Little Rock, Arkansas, Kendrick arranged to have soldiers (or their survivors) file for homestead claims on government acres near the OW, then sell their claims to Kendrick for eight to nine dollars an acre (well above the going rate). Although this practice is often considered questionable at best, it served the purposes of all parties involved. The soldiers, most of whom never intended to move west anyway, got a tidy sum of money, while Kendrick got title to the land he needed to run his herds.
Following the same basic tactics, Kendrick also obtained land through his employees; they would file for homestead acres, Kendrick would pay for the improvements, and then buy the land from them (whether they wanted to sell or not).
THE MAIN RANCHES
When the OW outfit arrived on Hanging Woman in 1889, Kendrick found very little in the way of facilities for either his cowboys or his cattle. He quickly began an expansion program and by late 1891 had a ranch house, bunkhouse, ice house, horse barn, blacksmith shop and open-shed cow barn, plus circular corrals, outhouses, wells and gardens. As the "home ranch," the OW was where John brought his young bride in 1891 and where they raised their children. Although not a very impressive structure, the main house was jokingly called "The White House" because of the many coats of whitewash applied to it over the years. Eula Kendrick furnished it with an expensive array of carpets, curtains, furniture and silverware. She even had a piano and a six-foot high upright music box.
The OW has quite a number of substantial outbuildings. In the early 1900s, stone mason Oscar Husman was employed to build a series of stone buildings into the hillside east of the bunkhouse. These included a meat house, ice house, root cellar, coal house, bath house and spring house. Though meat was butchered on site, most other supplies had to be brought in from Sheridan – a good two-day trip by wagon. The water for the bath house and spring house came from a natural spring located in the hills above the OW. In addition, there was a well dug near the corrals. This water, pumped by a windmill, was used for watering both the gardens and the livestock.
The second of the three main ranches was the LX Bar, located along Powder River northeast of Sheridan in neighboring Campbell County. Founded in 1878 by the Stanton-Howard Livestock Company, the LX Bar was sold ten years later to A. J. Collins, who in turn sold it to Kendrick in 1902. In 1910, Kendrick hired master stonemason Oscar Husman to construct new buildings on the river-side ranch, including a five-bedroom house, a large bunkhouse, a solar-heated chicken coop, a hospital shed, several barns and assorted storage buildings. All were sturdily built with eighteen-inch-thick sandstone walls and two-foot wide foundations.
The third main ranch was the K, the center of the winter range area and principal headquarters for the Kendrick Cattle Company's extensive irrigating operations. Kendrick purchased land containing the K Ranch acreage in 1911 and continued for many years after to acquire adjacent holdings. Located next to Powder River, the K Ranch buildings were also built by Oscar Husman, starting in 1924. Whereas the LX Bar buildings were built with square blocks of beige sandstone, the K is constructed of odd-shaped, soft yellow stone quarried nearby.
Two other ranches, the Ceded Strip (near Hardin, Montana) and the E Bar U (northeast of Sheridan on Badger Creek), featured Husman-built stone edifices. The E Bar U was where the company raised award-winning Belgian draft horses for use on the other ranches.
THE OTHER RANCHES
Eventually, the various Kendrick ranches encompassed over 210,000 acres in two Wyoming counties (Sheridan and Campbell) and four more in Montana (Powder River, Custer, Big Horn and Rosebud). In addition to those listed above, the properties included the Forks, the 76, Hanging Woman, the 77, Cabin Creek, and Horse Creek.
Unlike the aforementioned ranches, these properties did not have elaborate buildings. Their structures were built of log in a purely utilitarian style. Consisting of small cabins, barns and assorted corrals, these were the camps where cowboys stayed for months at a time, repairing fences and working with the cattle.
It was for purely practical purposes that Kendrick had so many buildings scattered throughout his holdings. In the days before automobiles and consistently good roads, it took up to a full day to ride from the OW to the LX Bar. Even though each ranch had a full-time manager, Senator Kendrick, Manville Kendrick and Clarence Wulfjen frequently traveled from ranch to ranch, checking up on operations. There had to be adequate housing not only for the permanent ranch staff, but for overnight guests, itinerant workers and, of course, the horses and cattle as well.
THE END OF THE EMPIRE
John Kendrick did not believe in absentee ownership. Nor did he care for the idea of outside involvement. Therefore, in 1923, he entered into a partnership with his wife and children, called the Kendrick Livestock Company (later the Kendrick Cattle Company), in which:
... at all times during the continuance of said partnership (for fifty years and so long as any two of said partners shall survive and desire to continue such partnership), each partner shall give reasonable time, attention and attendance to and use reasonable endeavors in the business of said partnership and shall exert himself for the joint interest, profit and advantage of said partnership.
But legally binding contracts do not themselves provide the heart and will needed to keep a ranching empire intact. Kendrick's children and grandchildren clearly loved the ranches and wanted to spend time on them, but most had lives away from the ranches and interests that had nothing to do with cattle. In late 1988, almost one hundred years after John Kendrick first brought his thirsty herds to the waters of Hanging Woman, family members made the decision to discontinue the operation. Livestock and equipment were disposed of at public auction. The Kendrick Cattle Company land, divided into six properties, was sold for an estimated eight million dollars. At the time of the sale, the KCC employed twenty to thirty people and ran about four thousand head of cattle on over 209,000 acres. The company was also involved with mineral production, having several oil wells situated on KCC land.
(Kendrick, Hoff & WSA Collections, TESHS)
LX Bar Ranch (Georgen)
State Historic Site