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The war that never was a war

Frontier DiaryWilla SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum

James C. Kendall was a tall, slim, affable former Confederate soldier who came to Colorado in the 1880s. He was the superintendent of a cattle ranch 10 miles south of Meeker, but when the hard, solitary work of ranch life became disagreeable, Kendall turned his many talents to politics. In 1885, Kendall was elected Garfield County Sheriff. However, while in office, he spent the majority of his time and attention patronizing saloons, gambling establishments and “resort houses.” His reckless behavior alarmed his constituents and the Garfield County Commissioners, making his re-election doubtful. However, instead of reforming his ways, Kendall created a military scheme certain to polish his tarnished image. In August 1887, Kendall and his men went to the White River country to arrest two Ute Indians wanted for horse stealing. Kendall did not find the wanted men within a peaceful Ute hunting camp. Nevertheless, a skirmish developed between Kendall’s men and the Utes. As gunshots were fired by both parties, Kendall concocted the story that the Utes had broken from the reservation, and the lives of white settlers were in jeopardy. Most would believe his tale. The memories of the 1879 Meeker Massacre were still fresh in the public’s mind.The sheriff knew that driving the Utes from Western Colorado would make him a hero. He hurriedly and smoothly convinced the governor that troops were needed to quell this newest uprising.Governor Adams bought Kendall’s story. He sent a small army to reinforce Kendall’s brigade, which now consisted of nearly every able-bodied man in the region. As the Utes retreated to the reservation, a gunfight ensued near Rangely, and, on Aug. 24, 1887, two men were killed in battle.With the retreat of the Utes and the glory of death, the “Ute War” was declared won by Kendall. He was elected to a second term, and again the constituents were disappointed. A year later the sheriff skipped town, taking funds from the county treasury with him.Kendall was never seen again.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


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