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Texas Trails-Feb. 17, 2023

published: February 17th 2023
by: Clay Coppedge
source: Southern Livestock Standard

America’s first war correspondent

The man for whom Kendall County is named was America’s first war correspondent, the father of the sheep business in Texas and a survivor and chronicler of the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition.

George W. Kendall was born in New England where he learned the printing trade. He drifted south, eventually settling in New Orleans where he helped found the New Orleans Picayune, a daily newspaper described as “a saucy little sheet which sold for the price of a Spanish coin called a picayune that was worth 6 ¼ cents.”

Kendall took on the role of correspondent when he signed up for what sounded like a good story and a rousing adventure: an expedition to Santa Fe that would claim New Mexico for Texas. Mirabeau Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas, sent the men on their way toward his version of manifest destiny despite the fact that Congress hadn’t signed off on the deal. The story took an ugly turn when Lamar’s soldiers of fortune were captured by Mexican authorities and marched off to Mexico and held in a leper colony.

Out of that experience came Kendall’s first book, Narratives of the Texas Santa Fe Expedition. The book was a best seller and remains in print today. J. Frank Dobie considered the book “journalistically verbose” but most critics give it high marks as one of the earlies and most authentic campaign narratives ever written.

Kendall made his way back to New Orleans, where his book was serialized in the Picayune. He used the newspaper to drum up support for a war with Mexico and when that came to pass he served as a correspondent, riding and reporting with Ben McCullough’s Texas Rangers and as an aide de camp  to Gen. William Worth, for whom Fort Worth is named.

Kendall used the Pony Express along with ships and the telegraph to get his stories back to New Orleans, immortalizing himself in the process as the country’s first true war correspondent. He was on the scene when McCullough’s troops stormed Monterrey and he was there at the landing of Veracruz and the Mexico City campaign. A book about his experiences in the war with Mexico was a best-seller and a critical success.  

Kendall went to Europe and met his wife-to-be, Adeline de Valcourt, in France. The couple lived in that country for several years. It was in France that Kendall started studying sheep breeding and raising in earnest.

Six years after the Kendalls moved to Texas, in 1861, he bought the Post Oak Ranch near Boerne and did much to promote and expand the sheep industry. In a sketch of Kendall written for the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Frances Lipe wrote:

The greatest innovation Kendall gave to the sheep industry was crossbreeding the Mexican Churro ewes with the fine-fleeced Merinos, to produce a new strain with the stamina needed for the Texas hill country and the fine wool of the Merinos… He found that the local Germans made excellent shepherds.  He paid them in sheep and taught them the skills of sheep ranching.  Thus, they built the sheep industry to its present-day huge proportions in this area.”

Kendall kept writing, including some memoirs of his colorful life on the frontier, but mostly he wrote about sheep, including a book on sheep husbandry written with business partner Henry S. Randall.

After Kendall died of pneumonia in 1867, Randall wrote of him, “He loved Texas with an absolute devotion.  He never was tired of writing or speaking in its praise. He loved its vast expanses of solitude, its majestic plains, its noble rivers, the green hills of the county named after him, and its masculine energetic population…He did Texas and the sheep industry a great service.”



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