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The Mutineer who named Madera

Madera County Historical Society
William H. Thurman.


Of all the mutineers in the rebellion of 1893, William H. Thurman was the most indispensable. Without him, there would have been no Madera, and without Madera there would have been no secession.


Thurman came to California from Nevada in 1869 and started a lumberyard in Snelling, That is when he came up with the idea of floating lumber down from the mountains in a “V” flume.


Firmly convinced that this method would work, he organized the California Lumber Company and took up claims in the mountains to the east of what is now Madera. He selected a site for a sawmill in the mountains and another one on the banks of the Fresno River, and presto, Madera came into existence.


Thurman’s lumber company went broke, but his town of Madera grew, and by 1893, its leaders wanted to secede from Fresno County. Although he was advanced in age, Thurman joined the rebels. For that he was honored by being elected sheriff of the new county.


Thurman served until January 1895, at which time ill health forced him to retire.


Thinking that the climate in Southern California might restore him to good health, he moved to San Diego. Alas, it was for naught. The old warrior died in October 1895.


They brought him back to Madera, the town he named and helped build. His fellow mutineers joined his family as he was laid to rest in Arbor Vitae Cemetery.


And that is where he is today. A rebel emeritus of sorts.