State Historic Site
Trail End overlooking Sheridan, circa 1912 (Gwinn Collection, SCHS)
Newspaper clipping, 1893 (TESHS Collection)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2014 - December 2015
TRAIL END WAS built in a residential subdivision known as Nielsen Heights, 120 acres on the northwest side of town. Annexed to the city in 1893, Nielsen Heights was the economic brainchild of Andrew J. Nielsen (sometimes spelled Neilsen or Nielson), an early Sheridan area pioneer.
ANDREW J. NIELSEN
Born in Columbus, Indiana, in 1857, Andrew Nielsen was left an orphan at the age of thirteen. Like his future business associate John Kendrick, Nielsen had to leave school to strike out on his own at an early age. He drifted west, working as a commissary clerk at Cheyenne's Camp Carlin in 1879. A year or so later (according to The Sheridan Enterprise),
He was offered and accepted a position in the government pack train and after becoming an expert packer was sent with the outfit on Gen. Sheridan's first and memorable trip to [Yellowstone] National Park, over what has since been known as "bottle trail." The year 1882 found him in the employ of the Union Pacific railway, but not liking the business, he returned to Camp Carlin, and the summer following took another trip with the packers to the National Park.
Nielsen came to Sheridan in 1883, taking a job with the Grinnell Land & Livestock Company (in 1889, John Kendrick would buy the Grinnell land in Montana, renaming it the OW Ranch). In 1887, Nielsen purchased a ranch adjacent to Sheridan which included the bluffs northwest of downtown. Five years later he subdivided the land into smaller parcels and called the new neighborhood Nielsen Heights.
In 1895, Nielson married Nebraska native Anna Lee Sears, who died unexpectedly in 1900 following routine surgery. That same year, Nielsen was elected Sheridan County Sheriff. He served in that position until 1904 and in 1906 was appointed chief of police, a title he held until 1910.
Nielsen left Sheridan in 1917 and eventually found himself in Los Angeles, California, where he died in 1931. He never remarried. His ashes are interred beside the remains of his wife in the Sheridan cemetery.
WHY NIELSEN HEIGHTS?
In 1893, The Sheridan Enterprise described Nielsen's new addition to the city thusly:
The land lies on an eminence overlooking Sheridan, and rises to a height of from 80 to 100 feet above the water level. It commands a superb view of the Big Horn range, Cloud's Peak, Wolf mountains, the Prairie Dog and Dutch creek bluff, the city of Sheridan, Big and Little Goose creek valleys, the line of the Burlington railroad, depot, shop and yard. ... The land on the Heights is naturally terraced, and, platted as it has been to the best advantage and to preserve all its natural advantages, affords beautiful residence sites. The coming summer will make it one of the most desirable and beautiful residence portions of the city.
The Heights included more than just residential properties. Two entire blocks were set aside for schools, while several acres along the banks of Big Goose were reserved as parklands (later Pioneer Park; see below). When John Kendrick bought Nielsen Heights in 1895, it was called “one of the most important real estate deals in the history of the city” because, "The property consists of about 100 acres and is very desirable. Mr. Nielsen realized a handsome sum, and Mr. Kendrick secured an investment which is bound to yield him a big profit."
But what was so special about Nielsen Heights? Why was it considered an important neighborhood; much more important, for example, than Residence Hill (the neighborhood south and west of the Courthouse). The answer was simple: location, location, location! Before the construction of U. S. Highway 87 put emphasis on the areas north and south of Sheridan, the rich agricultural lands of Soldier Creek and Wolf Creek west of town were considered to be of greater economic importance. Nielsen Heights formed the city's western gate to these communities. When the streets leading in and out of the area were improved in 1906, The Sheridan Enterprise noted:
The importance of this city street [now Lewis Street] and Neilsen Heights grading can scarcely be overestimated, as, via Nielsen Heights, there comes to Sheridan the wagon road travel and traffic - commerce and custom - of Soldier and Wolf creeks, Tongue river, Dayton and, in fact, all the northern portion of Sheridan county. In late addition to the above advantages of the now excellent Neilsen Heights road, is the fact that it leads directly to and from the new and great Sheridan county fairgrounds.
Kendrick purchased his interest in Nielsen Heights long before he moved his family to Sheridan. But when he decided to build, the view looking south across the Big Goose Valley and into the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains was one reason to build there. It really was the most desirable residence location in Sheridan.
Located just south of Trail End is Kendrick Park, once known as Pioneer Park. Donated to the city by John Kendrick and Andrew Nielsen, the fifty-seven acre park has been a popular picnicking and recreational area for over a century. Kendrick felt that parklands were important to the well-being of a community. As he told a friend in 1919, "I know of nothing that offers a more direct opportunity for sane and healthy recreation and comfort than such playgrounds located right in the town where people can get to them without any delay or any long journey."
Towards that end, he worked with city officials and professional landscapers to make the park a "Pleasure Ground for the People of Sheridan." More than just a collection of trees and shrubs, the park was professionally landscaped to include a number of water features, grottos and recreational areas. It had a lake stocked with bass (now a parking lot) and a zoo containing bears, buffalo, elk, wolves, coyotes, deer, antelope, lions, monkeys and alligators (permanently closed in the 1960s).