Although he was born in Texas in 1857, John Kendrick was a self-made, hardworking Wyoming cowboy in the truest sense.
Kendrick and his younger sister Rosa lost both their parents at an early age. The two young siblings were then shuffled amongst different family members. Young John infrequently attended school until the fifth or sixth grade before striking out on his own around age fifteen. The son of a cotton farmer was a cowboy from the start. One of his first jobs was breaking horses for room and board.
At age 22 Kendrick was hired to help bring a herd of three thousand steers from Texas to Wyoming. That trip took five months, averaging around eighteen miles per day. And although he nearly died of stomach inflammation, it didn’t sour Kendrick on his chosen career as a cowboy.
Kendrick worked his way up from trail cowboy to paid ranch hand north of Cheyenne, and then ranch foreman and eventually foreman for the Converse Cattle Company. In 1897 Kendrick purchased a majority interest in the company which eventually became the Kendrick Cattle Company and encompassed more than 210,000 acres in Southern Montana and Northeastern Wyoming.
The cowboy’s political career got off to a rocky start when Kendrick was defeated for the position of Lance Creek Constable in 1882, receiving only three of 22 votes cast. In 1890, Kendrick was asked to serve in the Wyoming Territorial Legislature, but declined to continue focusing on his ranch business.
In 1910 Sheridan County elected Kendrick to the State Senate where he helped pass some of Wyoming’s first game laws. A few years later in 1912, Kendrick was the democratic nominee to the United States Senate, but lost to republican incumbent Francis E Warren.
Kendrick’s political aspirations continued when he was elected Governor of Wyoming in 1914. In his brief stint as governor, Kendrick worked with the state legislature to establish the state’s first workmen’s compensation system and public utilities commission.
Kendrick was elected to the United State Senate in 1916 where he served a total of 17 years. During his time in Congress, Kendrick rarely spoke on the Senate floor, but he still worked hard for the projects he believed in. Among his many accomplishments, he helped to uncover the illegal leasing of the state’s oil reserves in the Teapot Dome scandal in the early 1920s. Kendrick was also influential in ending the meatpacking monopoly, protecting important Wyoming landmarks, and providing water to farmers through the Alcova, Seminoe, and Pathfinder projects.
As the 1934 election neared, there were rumors that Kendrick would be nominated by both parties assuring him another 4 years in Congress. However, 76-year-old Kendrick said he planned to retire to his home in Sheridan at the end of his term to relax and enjoy his grandchildren. At that time, he was the oldest man serving in the Senate.
On Nov. 1, 1933, Kendrick collapsed at his downtown Sheridan office complaining of a severe headache. He slipped into a coma and died two days later surrounded by his immediate family. Kendrick was buried in Sheridan’s Mt. Hope Cemetery. The cause of death was listed as cerebral hemorrhage.