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Jackson County, MN
Biographies and Obituaries

Biography of George Kimmel McMath

Submitted by: Gary Franklin McMath

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George Kimmel McMath 1836-1908

George Kimmel McMath and Nancy Maria Woodbridge were married in Niles, Berrien County, Michigan October 8, 1858. In the Spring of 1859 they set out for Jackson, Minnesota by way of Mankato. George alone on foot driving 20 head of cattle and two oxen, Nancy following several days behind with team and wagon.

Early trappers and explorers were the first to enter the Jackson area, which was the ancestral home of the Sioux and other Indian tribes. Between 1857 and 1862 renegade bands of Sioux whom the United States Government had badly mistreated were on the warpath traveling through the Des Moines River Valley killing settlers along the way. Over 800 whites were killed during this period. The first white settlers in Jackson were brothers - William, George, and Charles Wood of Indiana, arriving from the north by way of Mankato. In July of 1856, they establish a trading post and named the proposed town "Springfield". These brothers set up business in a large one-room log cabin near the Des Moines River. Forty pioneer settlers arrived that summer of 1856 and about a dozen cabins were built. On March 26, 1857, there were 11 able-bodied men in the settlement.

Chief Inkpaduta, and his band of warriors came down from the Heron Lake area to this new settlement in search of supplies. This was the band of native peoples that in March 1857, after not being extended hospitality, massacred 40 settlers and took four women hostage in the Okoboji and Spirit Lake area before descending on Springfield. First they visited the store, then after killing William and George, replenished their stock of ammunition and proceeded to attack the other cabins. At the Thomas cabin were gathered the greater number of settlers and a heroic fight was put up. The pioneers succeeded in standing off the Indians. For the first time since leaving the Smithland area, these Indians encountered folks determined to fight off their attackers. Inkpaduta and his band moved on. Casualties among the settlers were seven dead and three wounded. Terrified of a possible second Indian attack, the beleaguered people that survived left for Fort Dodge.

Just two months after the 1857 hostile attack this entire area was completely depopulated of settlers. The Minnesota State Legislature then declared a new political division, naming it Belmont, Jackson, Minnesota. This temporary County Seat was located at the townsite of "Springfield". Resettlement was slow, since settlers still feared the Indians, but by 1862 about 45 separate families of primarily Norwegian farmers had settled in Belmont. On August 24th, 1862 thirteen of these settlers were killed in a well documented fight. In fear the Indians may return in force, the pioneers took flight for Iowa, and for a second time, the county seat was entirely deserted.

George and Nancy McMath and their two children were living in Jackson at the time of the Sioux Indian uprisings. George's records account for burying the families of Minnesota settlers just hours after their having been massacred. The McMath family had moved out of Jackson in the Spring 1861 before the final attacks in August of 1862.

Minnie Bell McMath was born on June 8th,1859 in Belmont, Jackson, Minnesota. Nettie Ida McMath was born in May 1860 in Belmont, Jackson, Minnesota. Nettie died at age two in 1862 in (--) Indiana.

Inkpaduta went west making his way to Montana and helping put an end to General Custer's brutal attacks on Indian villages. In 1877 joining with Sitting Bull's people he went north into Canada. There he found peace after being cheated out of ancestral hunting grounds, betrayed and abused by US Government Agencies, and being pursued by US soldiers.

California 1850's

George headed west to Northern California where his father Archy had twice crossed the plains bringing the McMath family to Marysville in the early 1850's. Nancy followed by sea, either crossing by rail the Isthmus of Panama, or all the way by schooner around the horn of South America. The combined McMath families were at that time operating a general store, running a stageline and later building a railroad north of Sacramento under contract. The menfolk were all teamsters and had also contract built railroads in Michigan. The brothers had developed a fruit orchard in Yuba, ran a stageline, and were active in a number of other enterprises.

The flood of Jan-Feb 1862 destroyed the orchard, knocking it down and burying it 6 foot deep in sand. On October 11th, 1867, age catching up, Archy made a move to Gravelly Valley in Lake County where George and Cyrus had established first a hunting camp, and then a homestead raising horses, sheep, chicken and hogs. Bear and lion raided the farm animals regularly in those early years. Their memoirs include several tales of encounters with mountain lion and bear. The McMaths still hunted game with muzzle loading Kentucky rifles.

The combined families were settled in Gravelly Valley when in the early 1870's on a coin-toss decision with his brother Cyrus, George relocated part of the family further north to Adin, Modoc County, California just a days ride southeast of the Lava Beds and the famous 1873 Modoc Indian War. Cyrus bought the Adin Hotel and George purchased and ran a stageline business.

The GREAT REGISTER OF MODOC COUNTY, California, May 4th, 1874 has George, age 35, operating a stagecoach line with a US Mail contract between Willow Branch, Goose Lake, Surprise Valley and Susanville, and brother Cyrus, age 40, running the hotel in Adin. Oldest daughter Minnie Bell McMath married Edwin C. Parker there in 1874.

After two years George sold the stageline and he, Nancy, and family left Modoc County to return to the Gravelly Valley homestead. Over the years the area had developed into a town, with a school district and Baptist church. The McMath families constructed and operated a hotel, post office and store. This town was named Hullville, and was situated in what is now the Pillsbury Lake region of Lake County, Northern California. McMath families applied themselves with the businesses, subsistence farming and raising livestock, also building mountain roads and servicing US mail contracts for the next seven years before relocating to Willows, California in the later mid 90's.

George and Nancy's children were: Minnie Bell McMath, Nettie Ida McMath, Estella Leona McMath, George Grant McMath, Frank McMath, Elmer Kimmel McMath, Orrin Wesley McMath, Sylvia Elizabeth McMath, NORMAN RAYMOND McMATH, Mary Rosetta McMath, and Josie Dora McMath.

As time went on all of the McMaths had moved from this valley. In 1906 the area was sold to Snow Mountain Water Power Company. Scott Dam was built and Lake Pillsbury was formed. Parts of the old cemetery on a northeast reach of land are under water, and most of George and Nancy's homestead lie below the waters of Pillsbury Lake's south shore.

In the later 1890's George served as Justice of Peace in Colusa near Willows, California, then in 1900 was practicing law in Fort Bragg, Mendocino County, on the Northern California Coast. Norman Ray McMath age 20, and sister Josie age 16 were living at home, and their older brother George Grant McMath was living next door with his family of four. Having been admitted to practice law in the Supreme Court of California George moved his law offices to Eureka in Humbolt county in about 1903. Cyrus McMath, George's brother was living in Willows, Glenn County, California. Sometime later George moved to the town of Davenport, Lincoln County, Washington. McMaths also resided in Spokane and parts of Oregon, Northern Idaho and Montana.

George died on the 17th Nov 1908 at the age of 72. His wife Nancy Woodbridge McMath age 69 is listed as residing at 118 Lincoln Street, Davenport, Lincoln County, Washington (1910 US Census.) She passed away on 15 May 1920 in Vacaville, Solano, California.

Ironically, brothers Cyrus McMath and George Kimmel McMath both married direct descendants of Governor Thomas Dudley's daughters, poet Anne Bradstreet, and Mercy Woodbridge, making both lines of ancestors readily traceable through the American Colonial period, and Old World history.

This page was added: April 2008, updated Mar 2013