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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Kendrick

Friday, June 1, 2018  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Kendrick Post Office on Main Street. Photo courtesy of Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation.

Kendrick is in the fertile and beautiful Palouse region of Northern Idaho. Rolling hills of wheat, lentils, peas, oats and barley interspersed with tree-covered ravines and forests of pine and fir surround the city. The Potlatch River forms the city’s eastern and southern borders. Moscow, the Latah County seat, is 18 miles northwest.

Twenty-five miles east is the Clearwater National Forest and the fabulous Dworshak Recreation Area.

Historical Tidbits

For centuries, the Nez Perce and Palouse Indian Tribes would leave their winter camps along the Clearwater and Snake Rivers and come into the land of the Palouse to dig camas and kous roots, fish, hunt and pick huckleberries.

Fur traders and trappers first entered the area around 1810. Two decades later, Christian missionaries, seeking Indian converts, came into the area.

As the California gold discoveries that started in 1848 played out, many fortune hunters left California to prospect throughout the Western United States. In 1860 Captain Elias Davidson Pierce led a party of 10 prospectors through what is now Kendrick and then east for about 50 miles near what is now the city of Pierce. There they found large quantities of placer gold.

Another gold rush ensued. Prospectors swarmed into Northern Idaho looking for gold. Some were impressed with the land and returned. In the late 1860s the first permanent settlers began filing homestead claims in the fertile Palouse.

In 1887 Lon Nichols homesteaded the land that would become the townsite of Kendrick. Nichols sold to Thomas Kirby, and in 1889 Kirby platted the town which he named Latah. He built a drugstore on one of the lots and on May 24, 1889, he received approval from the postal authorities to place the Latah Post Office at the rear of his drugstore with himself as postmaster.

Several months later, Kirby gave land to the Northern Pacific Railroad in exchange for the promise that they would build their line through town. In May 1890 J.P. Kendrick, the railroad’s chief engineer, made a new plat for the town. Out of respect for the chief engineer, the community changed the name of the town to Kendrick.

One of the early residents of the new town was J.M. Walker, president of the Hardware Implement Company and founder of the town’s first bank. Other businesses at the time included a flourmill, a lumber mill and an electric power plant on the Potlatch River.

On October 15, 1890, Kendrick became an incorporated village with Kirby and Walker among the five trustees.

In accordance with the change in municipal law enacted by the 1967 Idaho Legislature, Kendrick became a city.

The Railroad Comes to Town

The first train arrived in Kendrick on February 4, 1891. The route ran from Pullman, Washington, through Moscow; east to Troy, then called Vollmer; and southeast to Kendrick. The last 14 miles into Kendrick had a 1,525-foot drop in elevation.

A few months later the railroad reached Juliaetta, where it halted construction. The Nez Perce Indians would not approve a railroad right-of-way through their reservation. As a result, Juliaetta became a railroad terminus and the Kendrick rail yard became an operational center on its end of the line. Lewiston merchants, who desperately wanted the railroad, cured the right-of-way problem by acquiring the rail corridor from the Nez Perce for $75,000.

Unfortunately for the railroad and the Lewiston merchants, "the Panic of 1893" and the general economic collapse that occurred caused the railroad to delay construction for six more years.

With the ability to ship commodities to distant markets, the Potlatch River Valley thrived, and area shippers filled the railcars with timber, livestock, various grains, flour, dairy products, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

In 1965 the town was shocked to learn that the railroad was discontinuing passenger service. In 1985 the railroad also ceased freight service.

Amenities and Attractions Today

Kendrick has three city parks covering two acres. Kendrick Memorial Park is downtown and features children’s playground equipment, a gazebo and the Living War Memorial Pool built in 1947 to commemorate area residents who served in the military.

Wallace Park, on the west end of town, is the site of the city’s domestic water well and a sign welcoming visitors to Kendrick. Travis Park has RV sanitation facilities.

Locust trees, a few of which were planted in 1910, line Main Street and add beauty to the downtown business district.

The Kendrick Museum and Research Center opened in April 2015 in the magnificent restored 1905 Fraternal Temple on Main Street. It is a must-see when you visit Kendrick

A 5.3-mile paved walking trail along the Potlatch River was built on the abandoned railroad bed between Kendrick and Juliaetta in 2002.

The 850-acre Dworshak State Park is located 25 miles southeast of the city on the western shore of the 16,000-acre Dworshak Reservoir. The reservoir extends 54 miles northeast of the dam into the heavily wooded Clearwater National Forest.

The Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, located at the confluence of the North Fork and the main Clearwater Rivers, about 25 miles southeast near Orofino, captures steelhead trout and Chinook salmon that are returning to spawn. The hatchery spawns the fish and raises them until they are large enough to start their migration to the Pacific Ocean.

The entire Dworshak Recreation Area offers exceptional boating, fishing, camping, swimming, water skiing, hunting, hiking, recreational vehicle parks, ATV and snowmobile riding and wildlife viewing.

Hells Gate State Park is about 30 miles southwest just south of Lewiston. This 960-acre park is part of the 652,488-acre Hells Canyon National Recreation Area which includes North America’s deepest river gorge. This Snake River gorge forms the Idaho/Oregon border. On the Oregon side, the gorge plunges more than a mile below Oregon’s west rim. On the Idaho side, the gorge is more than 8,000 feet deep at He Devil Peak of the Seven Devils Mountains.

The Nez Perce National Historic Park, managed by the National Parks Service and partially staffed by tribal members, is 22 miles south in Spaulding.

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