The beautiful Historic Hill Country
The Kendall in Kendall County
George Wilkins Kendall wasn’t born in Texas, and didn’t make his first trip through until the age of 32, but after that first visit in 1841, he always held an affinity for Texas. Many years after that first experience and after several “land searches”, he finally found the Texas land he was seeking: located in the Hill Country, it was seven miles northwest of New Braunfels. In a letter to his young wife he described a pleasant and verdant valley, surrounded on all sides by rough, rocky and rugged mountains. The year of his find was 1852.
What George Wilkins Kendall had accomplished up to this point in his life was truly remarkable. First, in 1837 he founded the Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper. He was also part of the ill-fated 1841 Texas – Santa Fe expedition. After surrendering to Mexican troops in New Mexico, he and his fellow expedition members were marched 2000 miles into Mexico and imprisoned. After gaining his freedom in 1842, Kendall wrote a 900 page two-volume book on the experience and published it in 1844, selling thousands of copies. His writing skills were beyond accomplished. Renowned for his reporting of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), he was called America’s first war correspondent.
Mr. Kendall had also started a family. While on a European trip he met his future wife Adeline de Valcourt, whom he married in Belgium in 1849. After establishing a household for his soon-to-be growing family in Paris, he traveled back and forth from France to the United States for business purposes, and maintained a flow of domestic and foreign articles to the Picayune.
With the acquisition of the New Braunfels land he now had his own ranch where he could relocate sheep that he had pastured at the Nueces River. In 1853 & 1854, Kendall embraced the ranching lifestyle, raising nearly 3,000 sheep. All the while, he continued his “land searches” still looking for his picture-perfect land. By 1854 he had found it. One of his flocks was pastured at the new site: Post Oak is where the connection with our early citizenry begins. This large piece of land was one of those early Republic of Texas surveys (1840) on future Kendall County land. Consisting of 4106 acres, its listed owner was one of Kendall’s business partners in the sheep enterprise and in the Picayune, editor, Alva Morris Holbrook. Kendall
brought his family from Europe in 1855 and after getting them to his New Braunfels spread in 1856, he plowed more time, energy and money into the sheep-ranching industry. Flocks were kept at both ranches, and Kendall would continually visit the shepherd-maintained Post Oak.
When casting about for a new county name, it is easy to see how George Wilkins Kendall’s name would have been placed at the top of a “short list”. He gained significant acclaim for his raising of sheep, and testing methods in breeding, while at the same time with his connection to the Picayune he promoted the sheep industry and praised the region for opportunity, climate, the soil, cheap land, bubbling springs and riches with hard work. The response to his articles generated an endless stream of letters seeking his advice. Since he replied to all the inquiries, the extensive demand on his time caused him to stream-lined his routine: in 1858 he prepared and had the Picayune print out a thirty-six hundred word letter, that he could simply pen a note onto and mail back to the interested parties. His local status well-established, in 1859 several newspapers, and the German residents of both Boerne and New Braunfels, launched a campaign to elect him governor, which forced him to publish: "I have no taste for the calling of a politician, have never been in the business, and am too old to learn a new trade."
In In February 1861, he finally relocates his family from New Braunfels to permanent residency at Post Oak Ranch. After Kendall County was established in 1862, we are told that despite the press of work, the ranch staff took time out to vote for the choice of county seat. The Kendall County Commissioners put him to work, as he was selected as a Grand Juror in May 18, 1863, as well as one of a three-member Board of School Examiners. George Wilkins Kendall rolled up his sleeves during his time in Kendall County, experiencing the ups and downs of working the lands through droughts, floods, locusts, wolf attacks, Native American attacks, through loss of animals, loss of employees and loss of lives, through northers and intense heat. He quietly died at his ranch on October 21, 1867 at the age of 58.
Compiled by Bryden E. Moon Jr. - Kendall county Historical Commission
Original Kendall County Commissioners notes, Original Petition Documents , Original Legislative Documents , Kendall of the Picayune - Fayette Copeland* , The Lands of Texas - Volume III Kendall County - Delray Fischer
From the Texas State Library and Archives and Patrick Heath Public Library – Dietert Archives
*With all his accomplishments, George Wilkins Kendall was certainly worthy of his own book, Kendall of the Picayune, which Fayette Copeland wrote nearly 70 years ago. First published in 1943; it is still the standard on Kendall and served as the major source of background material for Kendall of Kendall.
The Kendall County Historical Commission meets generally the third Monday of each month at 5 p.m. at the Patrick Heath Public Library. Please call the chair, Robin Stauber, at 830-249-3053, for information about the meeting and to confirm the date. Guests are always welcome and encouraged!