IN 1897, SIX years into their marriage, John and Eula Kendrick became parents. The little girl, born in private nursing home on Sheridan's Coffeen Avenue, was given two names: "Rosa" after John Kendrick's sister (who had died of typhoid in 1893), and "Maye," his mother's maiden name. She quickly became the apple of her father's eye and her mother's favorite companion. When she was five weeks old, Rosa-Maye was introduced to the OW Ranch where she lived for the next twelve years. It was during this time that she developed a deep and abiding love for ranch life.
She later grew up to become a college graduate, a society debutante, a published author, and a supportive Army wife who lived all over the country with her husband and children. Unlike her brother, she was able to spend very little time at Trail End during her adult years.
HOME & SCHOOL
No matter where she lived later in life, Rosa-Maye would always long for a return to those simple days on the ranch. After moving to town in 1909 and later to Trail End in 1913, Rosa-Maye worried about what would happen if her father succeeded in his political pursuits:
They spoke about Dad selling the Ranch at the table today. Such conversation is more than I can stand. Makes me want to crawl away and die. Guess its only a question of time until he sells the Ranch anyway. Uncle is sure he is going on Cheyenne Trip. Spoke about it yesterday. Guess we'll go too. Wish I was "home" tonight.
After spending a little more time away from "home," however, Rosa-Maye grew to appreciate the many opportunities of city life, particularly the social ones. Giddy descriptions of dances, teas, parties and overnights soon replaced the lamentations in her diaries.
Although she was allowed to come back to Sheridan to graduate with her class in 1915, Rosa-Maye received the bulk of her high school level education at the Ely Court School in Greenwich, Connecticut, which she entered immediately following her father's election in November 1914. Following graduation from Ely, Rosa-Maye attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. The home-schooled girl from Wyoming was quite popular and very active on campus; her diaries and scrapbooks are filled with the details of her busy social life. With a number of military academies nearby, the ladies at the all-female schools were never lacking for adequate male companionship.
After graduating from Goucher in 1920, Rosa-Maye experienced one of the grand institutions of the American upper class: her coming out. This formal introduction to society lasted for a year and was a way for young ladies to circulate, meet eligible bachelors and consider proposals of marriage, all under the watchful eyes of respectable female guardians.The typical debutante married shortly after her debut. Rosa-Maye, however, did not. Neither did she pursue a career, although she did work for some time in her father's Senate office chambers, learning about the issues with which he was interested. Instead, she became involved with a variety of charitable organizations, wrote newspaper articles pertaining to western issues such as irrigation, land use and range practices, and dreamed about returning to the West.
Although she made several trips to Europe, Cuba and Panama, Rosa-Maye's summers were almost always spent in Wyoming and Montana. When she wasn't in Sheridan taking care of her invalid grandmother, accompanying her mother on endless rounds of social calls or playing golf on the south lawn of Trail End, she was at the OW, going on roundups and cattle drives.
Though she certainly loved her mother and brother, Rosa-Maye was definitely "Daddy's little girl." She spent as much time with him as possible and when they were apart, wrote long letters describing what she was doing and with whom. When she went to Europe in 1920 (her first time overseas), Rosa-Maye sent many letters to her father, who had gone back to the Wyoming ranches without the rest of the family for the first time since his election to the Senate. In the first of these notes, she affectionately expressed her beliefs concerning a father's purpose in life:
You may wonder why Daddys are, when you come home from a hard day's work and see a frivolous daughter just going out for the evening. Still I assure you that daughters aren't as frivolous as they seem and Daddys are to remind them that there are other things in the world besides play. Most of all they set standards (at least for this little daughter) by which all other men are judged; perhaps, this is their best "raison d'être."
Whether it was the high standards embodied by her father or a perceived lack of available candidates, Rosa-Maye seemed in no rush to get married. It wasn't until she was nearly thirty years old that she agreed to marry the man who had courted her steadily for five long years. Major Hubert Reilly Harmon was a White House aide when Rosa-Maye met him in 1922 at the wedding of mutual friends. Their courtship was a turbulent one: he asked her to marry him several times, both in Washington and in Wyoming, before she finally accepted his proposal in 1926.
Born to a military family in Chester, Pennsylvania, Hubert Harmon had a distinguished military career. He graduated from West Point in the same 1915 class as future president Dwight David Eisenhower, served in France and Germany in World War One and went to the South Pacific during World War Two. As the capstone to his active military career, Harmon – by then a lieutenant general – served as the first Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Shortly after their 1927 Washington wedding (attended by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge and a bevy of political dignitaries), the Harmons moved to London where the Major was assigned to the post of Military Air Attaché at the American Embassy. After London, the Harmons were posted at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Following Hubert's promotion to the rank of General, the family moved to Randolph Field in Texas where he commanded the Gulf Coast Air Training Center. During the course of his career they also lived on military bases in California, Georgia, Kansas and several other states.
Though living far away, Rosa-Maye never lost her love for Wyoming. She and her two children frequently visited Trail End and the Kendrick ranches while Hubert was stationed out of the country. Although he hoped otherwise, her father was well aware of the fact that Rosa-Maye would never again live full-time in Wyoming, either at Trail End or at any of the ranches. As he told his son in 1931, "Your sister will never find it possible to do this. An army officer is not unlike a Methodist preacher who has neither a home nor even a native state, but is constantly moving from place to place until the age of retirement."
Despite her physical absence, Rosa-Maye maintained an intense interest in the family business. In hundreds of letters to her father, mother and brother, sent from wherever she and Hubert were living, she never failed to mention some aspect of ranch business, even in her most personal correspondence.
Rosa-Maye died at the age of eighty-one (in 1979) in San Antonio, Texas. She is buried alongside her husband on the grounds of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
State Historic Site
(Kendrick, Hoff & AHC collections, TESHS)
Rosa-Maye Kendrick Harmon & bridesmaids, Washington DC, 1927 (Hoff Collection, TESHS)