WITH ALL HIS business and political connections, it was important that John Kendrick do a certain amount of entertaining. Therefore, it is no surprise to learn that Trail End was the scene of many a social gathering during its early years.
One favorite way for a man to entertain his friends and associates was the “Bachelor Dinner.” A byproduct of a time when there were more men in a community than women, the first bachelor dinners were usually held for unmarried men by a married couple. After dinner, if any unmarried women were in the vicinity, they would join the men for conversation and dancing. One such dinner was described by The Sheridan Enterprise in 1890:
[Six] bachelor friends were invited by Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Brooks to partake of a bachelor's dinner at their residence south of town on Sunday last. The meal, a sumptuous and bountiful spread, was served by the hostess in her usual charming and pleasing manner. ... [Several young ladies] assisted the hostess in entertaining the "unfortunates" after dinner by social chat, vocal and instrumental music. The bachelors, so generously treated, are lavish in their expressions of praise of the hostess' ability to satisfy the appetite of a hungry bachelor.
By the early 20th Century, the bachelor dinner was not just for bachelors. In the parlance of the times, a bachelor dinner was for men of every marital status – married, unmarried, divorced or widowed. The “bachelor” part meant that no women were in attendance. Wives, fiancées, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and cousins were strictly forbidden.
In September 1920, U. S. Surgeon General Hugh Smith Cumming came to Sheridan on an inspection tour of nearby Fort Mackenzie – a trip that included dinner at Trail End with Mayor Meredith B. Camplin, Sheridan Inn manager Sherman Canfield and businessman H. E. Fryberger. In a letter to his wife, written in his room at the Sheridan Inn, Dr. Cumming described the evening:
I have just now come into this famous old hotel of Buffalo Bill’s from a delightful bachelor dinner at Senator Kendrick’s magnificent house. ... The house is in perfect taste, the dining room in mahogany paneling, the sitting room raftered, a big Davenport English fashion in front of a great wood fire.
The Sheridan Inn itself was the site of many a bachelor dinner. Some were hosted by married men with homes too small in which to formally entertain their friends, but the earliest were organized and paid for by the many unmarried men living in the young community. These bachelor dinners almost always included dancing. In 1901, following the annual Bachelors' Ball, The Sheridan Enterprise described the evening's festivities from "a cowpuncher's point of view":
The whole round-up was mighty well fixed for fine clothes and fancy riggin' and there was just as many women and girls as there was men and boys. They called it a bachelor's ball but there was just as many old maids in the herd as there was stags and they wore dresses that were all mixed up with flowers and buttons, and double-rigged throughout. The men wore single-rigged coats with just enough tail a'hangin' to 'em to cover the pistol pocket.
Dinner parties at home were a great excuse to have a cocktail; not everyone wanted to go to a saloon to have a drink. In fact, many people enjoyed having a cocktail in the comfort of their own home. To do so, they had to purchase their liquor at a liquor store.
One of Sheridan’s first retail liquor stores was operated by Hardee & Smith, in conjunction with their pool hall. Along with Forest & Lord (who built an impressive brick building on Main Street), Hardee & Smith opened their doors in the late 1880s. Neither business survived past 1900, but they were soon replaced by others eager to provide “good treatment” to tipplers.
Between 1920 and 1933, when it was illegal for Americans to make, sell or possess alcoholic beverages, liquor stores had to close their doors. Those who wished to continue drinking had to make other arrangements. Manville Kendrick, for example, found a local source for moonshine, an illegal homemade alcoholic beverage closely resembling gin in taste and color. (For more about the Prohibition Era, visit our Days of Wonder exhibit.)
ON THE ROCKS
Of course, if you’re going to have a drink, you might want to serve it in a tall glass full of ice. We get our ice in cubes from the freezer, but how did people get ice in the days before refrigeration? Like everyone else, the Kendricks got their ice from the iceman. And where did the iceman get his ice? From local creeks, of course – and there was plenty to go around!
In January 1912, Crystal Ice and the Sheridan Ice Company harvested a combined 7,500 tons of ice from the Goose creeks, while Burlington Railroad crews harvested an additional 7,000 tons from Tongue River: "The pure water of Tongue River and the extreme cold combined for unusually good quality of ice. All the ice cut measured twelve inches and up in thickness and clear as a crystal."
In the early days, man-powered saws and horse-drawn wagons were used to harvest the ice crop. In 1919, the Sheridan Ice Company introduced the electric ice saw – much faster than the old method. In the interest of a better quality product, the company also switched from river ice to specially frozen pond ice, and stopped using sawdust and straw to insulate the frozen blocks (relying on thick walls and artificial refrigerants instead). Lest anyone worry about product contamination, Crystal Ice (located near Leopard Street) advertised “pure, clean ice harvested above sewer outlets and beyond city limits."
The ice – enough to last until the next winter – was stored in large double-walled “barns.” It was delivered to households via horse-drawn insulated wagons. The cost? About twenty cents per hundredweight (just under five dollars in today’s money).
State Historic Site
Trail End overlooking Sheridan, circa 1912 (Gwinn Collection, SCHS)
John B. Kendrick with guests at Trail End, 1925 (Hoff Collection, TESHS)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2014 - December 2015