TRAIL END WAS not John Kendrick’s only building project in Sheridan. In an effort to increase his adopted home’s importance as a regional center for business and commerce, he financed the construction of several large brick retail buildings:
Before he moved into the second floor of the Sheridan National Bank Building, Kendrick kept offices for the Kendrick Cattle Company above the Golden Rule Store. After the Sheridan Commercial burned to the ground in 1916, John Kendrick funded its reconstruction. He was also a major stockholder in the Sheridan Iron Works Company and Sheridan Flouring Mills.
In 1889, speculating on the coming of the railroad to Sheridan, Kendrick formed a partnership with Nebraska banker A. S. Burrows to start the town's second bank. According to The Sheridan Post, Burrows provided the management skills while Kendrick contributed a good deal of the start-up money as well as considerable acres of investment land:
It will be seen at once that Mr. Burrows is a business man of no ordinary capacity, and that he will be a valuable acquisition to our business circles. Associated with him as president of the bank, is Mr. John Kendrick, the efficient general manager of the Converse Cattle Company ... [Kendrick] has resided in Wyoming for the past eleven years, and is a large holder of Sheridan real estate. ... Together they will make a strong firm, and we bespeak for them a liberal share of the patronage of our people.
The partnership dealt primarily with mortgage loans on farmland and Sheridan real estate. Kendrick's line of reasoning was that when the railroad came to town (no "ifs" allowed), prices would skyrocket and huge profits would be made. His gamble paid off after the Burlington Railroad's first train arrived in Sheridan in 1892. When new settlers started coming to town, Kendrick and Burrows sold their lots for many times the original purchase price.
After a few years spent surviving depressions, recessions and inflations - and after serving a brief term as president of the First National Bank of Sheridan (between 1900 and 1902) - Kendrick liquidated his banking interests and went back to expanding his cattle operations.
No matter where he lived or where he traveled, John Kendrick was always reading a newspaper. Without them, he felt cut off from the world. Once, when he had to spend months on end riding the range and living in dugout cabins, his biggest complaint was that he’d had no news from the outside world and didn’t even know who had won the most recent presidential election.
In the early years of the 20th Century, Kendrick had several local newspaper options to choose from. In addition to short-lived papers such as The Big Horn Sentinel, The Sheridan Journal and The Northern Wyoming Stinger (published for two weeks in the railroad town of Huson), there were The Sheridan Enterprise and The Sheridan Post. Both began in 1887.
In those early days, when a small-town paper’s staff consisted of an owner, publisher, editor and pressman all wrapped up in one person, newspapers tended to reflect that person’s political and social beliefs. Since the owner of The Post was a Republican and the owner of The Enterprise a Democrat, the two were constantly at odds. As the town grew, so did the size of the staff and the readership. The papers had to somewhat soften their sharp rivalry, but it never truly disappeared.
Early in his political career, in an effort to protect his interests (and those of the Democratic Party), Kendrick began to purchase controlling interest in The Sheridan Enterprise and The Cheyenne State Leader. As he told future Governor Leslie Miller in 1912, in regards to The Enterprise, "My own investment in the paper was made … for the sole purpose of promoting the growth and advancement of the Democratic party in the State of Wyoming."
Even so, Kendrick wanted the paper to be a good one, not just a party mouthpiece: "Unless I am very much mistaken, we shall not only overcome present [political] obstacles, but we shall be successful in giving Sheridan far and away the best daily paper that it has ever enjoyed."
The Post and The Enterprise continued uninterrupted until 1923, when they merged to become The Post-Enterprise. In 1930, The Post-Enterprise became The Sheridan Press, which is still in publication today.
State Historic Site
Trail End overlooking Sheridan, circa 1912 (Gwinn Collection, SCHS)
A. S. Burrows (left) & John B. Kendrick (Hoff Collection, TESHS)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2014 - December 2015