My biggest fan (thanks mom!), let me know that I was remiss in not posting a photo of the historic loo at Trail End. So here it is – check out the shape of that one! And the fittings holding the seat on!
Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018
After my nap, I was tempted to just stay at camp, but there were still things in Sheridan that I wanted to see. That evening, there was an open house at Trail End State Historic Site, which is a 13,748 square foot mansion that was built by John B. Kendrick in 1913. Kendrick was from Texas, and he first traveled to Wyoming as a cow hand with a herd of cattle in 1879; he moved to the Sheridan area in 1889 an then founded the Kendrick Cattle Company. Kendrick married a woman from Greeley, Colorado and they had two children while building their cattle business.
He had the home built as a grand showpiece; construction began in 1908 but labor issues, low cattle prices, arguments between the two architects, and other delays meant that it was not completed until 1913. As I understand it, it was named Trail End because it was meant to be the end of the trail for the family. However, they only lived here full-time for a short period; in 1914, Kendrick was elected to be Wyoming’s Governor and moved to Cheyenne, and then two years after that, became a US Senator, an office he held until his death in 1933. They primarily used the home as a vacation home during that time. Kendrick’s widow Eula lived in the home with their son and his family from 1933 until her death in 1961.
The house is incredible; it is one of the only examples of Flemish Revival architecture in the Western United States. It has all the modern conveniences of the time, including electricity and indoor plumbing, a laundry room in the basement, an intercom system and a built-in vacuum system. The house has ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms, eight fireplaces, and all the usual entertaining spaces, including a ballroom on the top floor. The woodwork is Honduran mahogany, and it has a beautiful custom designed white oak staircase.
After Eula’s death, the family moved out and the home sat empty for 7 years; it was almost torn down! Thankfully, the Sheridan County Historical Society purchased the home in 1968, and it was transferred to the state of Wyoming in 1982. Most of the decor and furnishings are original to the Kendrick family – it truly is a glimpse into what a wealthy cattle ranching family home would look like. There is also information on the family in the home; including the fact that they lived much more modestly as Kendrick was building his fortune as a young cattle rancher.
The open house was well attended; there were lots of people there enjoying the opportunity to do a self-guided tour of the home, as well as cookies and lemonade! I took my time going through the house and checking out the amenities that it had. You could tour the grounds as well, and enjoy the blooming flowers in the gardens around the house. They even had a classic car parked out on the driveway – it was a gorgeous bright blue!
On the way back to the campsite, I decided to make a quick stop at the historic Sheridan Inn, a hotel that was built in 1892 and opened in 1893. Buffalo Bill Cody was a part owner of the Inn, and he held auditions for his Wild West Show on the lawn in front. It was closed for many years, but found new owners who restored it and reopened it in 2015. When I stopped by, the owner, Bob, was there and he welcomed me in warmly, and said I was welcome to wander around the first floor and check it out. I took him up on his offer and saw the parlor and the dining room, as well as the original check in desk in the lobby. It is a beautiful place, and they did a wonderful job with the restoration.
I was so happy that I ventured out, even though I hadn’t really felt like it earlier in the evening. I got to see two historic sites , and talk to some great people who felt passionate about history too! It was a good end to the day.
Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018
After lunch, I drove to Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, which is about 25 miles east of Sheridan. Fort Phil Kearny was a short-lived US Army outpost set up along the Bozeman Trail, the wagon road that linked the Oregon Trail to the gold fields in present-day Montana. It was first constructed in 1866, and was tasked with protecting travelers who were heading northwest along the Bozeman Trail; there were about 400 troops stationed there. However, from the very beginning, the Native Americans in the area had a issue with the fort’s presence, and they ended up fighting several battles over control of the North Powder River in the area.
When the Army first envisioned the forts along the Bozeman Trail, the land was occupied by the Crow tribe, who believed that cooperating with the US Government was in their best interest; they accepted the forts on their land, which had been “granted” to them by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. However, dwindling herds of bison meant that the tribes were moving around more to seek food; the Lakota tribe took control of the area, decided to ignore the treaty boundaries, and were decidedly less accepting of the presence of the US Army.
The tribes had seen the devastation inflicted on the land and the natural resources by white settlers traveling on the Oregon and California Trails, and they were determined to protect this area, one of their last open hunting grounds, which was critical for their way of life. The Lakota, cooperating with the Northern Cheyenne and the Northern Arapaho tribes, launched a series of small scale attacks on troops, travelers, and civilian laborers working out of the forts. One such skirmish erupted further; the Fetterman Fight in 1866. However, as that battle was fought about three miles away from the fort, I will talk more about it in a later post; I visited the battle site the next day.
It costs $5 to visit; $3 if you are a Wyoming resident. When you visit, the Visitor’s Center has a brief film that goes over the details of the fort, the Fetterman Fight and the Wagon Box Fight that occurred in 1867. There is also a diorama of the layout of the original fort. There is a lot of imagination that goes into your visit; the original fort was burned in 1868 and the replica buildings have not been constructed. The fort site has had some excavations; a map and signs mark out where the original buildings were located. There is a rebuilt section of the fort wall, so you can try to imagine what it would have looked like. The cemetery down the hill also contains burials of some of the soldiers and civilians who were killed during the Army’s short occupation here.
Today it is a peaceful grassland, and it is still a sparsely populated area. I can only imagine how remote it was back in the 1860s; the fort was 236 miles from its nearest neighbor, Fort Laramie. That would have been an incredibly difficult journey on horseback or in a wagon trail even in the best weather, not to mention temperatures of 30 below zero during a harsh winter.
I saw magpies and pronghorn in the grass beyond the fort’s boundaries when I visited, and imagined what it would have been like when the area had large herds of bison. It was worth the visit to see the wildlife I did see!
After my wanders at the fort, I went back to camp for a nice nap!