Kendrick, with a current population of 369, is nestled among the pine, fir, and cedar trees in a 1,500-foot canyon valley along the Potlatch River in North Central Idaho in Latah County. The snow-fed river can rage and flood in the spring and dry up to a trickling brook during the hot months. The town is surrounded by ridges, which boast some of the most fertile soil in Idaho. The land produces an abundance of grains, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock thrive on the rich grasses, clean water and intermingled healthy timber stands.

The railroad’s arrival in Kendrick in 1891 (viewed at left center edge in the Kendrick circa 1891 picture below) transformed the town into the area’s service hub. Within a year, the population blossomed to 600. Businesses offered banking, hardware and agricultural implements, building materials, groceries, mining supplies, weapons, medicine, toys, books, stationery, tobacco, fine soaps and even a photographer. Four livery stables holding 50—100 horses provided horse-powered deliveries of the incoming and outgoing items. The elegant St. Elmo Hotel was a popular lodging location. Also serving the community were two doctors (Dr. W.A. Rothwell and Dr. Price), an attorney, a newspaper, and two churches. It had a fine school and a prosperous Post Office. The surrounding small communities of Leland, Cameron, Southwick, Cedarville, Linden, Taney and the Clearwater County towns of Fraser, Weippe, Lolo, Glenn, and Pierce City all did business in Kendrick.

Various Kendrick organizations brought people with like interests together in 1892. Several fraternal organizations including the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Masonic Lodge existed as well as a women's organization, the Society of Gleaners. A Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle had been formed as well.


However, beginning in 1893, numerous large and small disasters provided special challenges to the continuing of the community. The first major adversity occurred on August 16, 1893. A fire that originated at The Advocate newspaper office quickly spread from one wooden building to the next. Kendrick burned to the ground, sparing only the railroad depot. With undaunted courage and determination, the 600 citizens of the three-year-old incorporated town rebuilt. The new 1893 Kendrick gained an electric light system powered by a stream-driven generating plant!

The next big calamity was a double ordeal beginning on December 15, 1899. A freight train, loaded with steel rails, went out of control on the steep 6-mile descent from Troy. When the train came into Kendrick, it jumped the tracks, landing in the Potlatch River. All five crewmembers aboard lost their lives. A 100 feet square twisted pile of wreckage that partially dammed the Potlatch River remained, and the railroad bed fill gave way a month later. Chinook winds on January 10, 1900, brought melted snow raging down the canyons into the river channel that continued to be partially dammed. The rushing waters picked up 40 cords of wood, hitting a buggy carrying a family of five on Main Street. With water rising eight inches every hour, the three daughters in the buggy drowned, at least eight miles of railroad track and two bridges were washed out and the majority of Kendrick, including the business district, was under water. Again, the town rebuilt.

By early 1904, Kendrick had again reached a peak of prosperity and again ruination was eminent. Almost exactly eleven years to the day after the August 16, 1893, fire, Kendrick was again largely destroyed by fire. It happened in three hours on a hot August 5, 1904, morning. This time 43 businesses and 19 homes in a five-block downtown area burnt to the ground. The fire originated in the sawdust floor of the Palace Hotel Saloon at 10:45 in the morning. Because the water main failed to produce pressure, a bucket brigade was immediately formed. However, a brisk summer breeze caused the hotel flames to arch across the street and within minutes, they reached 100 feet in the air lapping up the downwind wood structures. Realizing the town was doomed, merchants only had time to gather their books, invoices, and records and flee up the hillside. The bucket brigade and wet blankets were what stopped the southern travel of this fire. The total loss was $300,000.

Within a week, many Kendrick merchants were back in business working out of tents, temporary wooden shacks, in churches and homes. Following this fire, the town council passed an ordinance requiring buildings in the business district to be constructed of brick, and brick firewalls built between structures. Within a year, 20 brick buildings were erected. The local Fruchtl Brickyard was a major brick supplier. Once again, Kendrick's spirit of survival won out over adversity. Since 1960, a city park that was a 1915 rebuilding result of the 1904 Fire is the hub, on the last Saturday in May, of the annual Locust Blossom Festival. The Festival is sponsored by the Kendrick Lions Club.

For more Kendrick historical details, the Juliaetta Kendrick Heritage Foundation has numerous publications available for purchase--viewable JKHF Publications . Included are town-specific walking historical tour booklets and DVDs as well as larger book size publications. We encourage you to enjoy Kendrick’s and our surrounding area’s rich history.