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Father and son joined in the rebellion

Madera County Historical Society

William B. Thurman, Madera County’s third sheriff.


Like father, like son. That’s how the saying goes. It may not be true for some, but it certainly fit two of Madera’s mutineers during the secession of 1893.

W.H. Thurman has been given credit for founding the town of Madera — if that’s not true, he at least named it. As the head of the California Lumber Company, he had that prerogative.

It came as a surprise to no one that Thurman joined the rebellion of 1893, which created Madera County. Nor was it any surprise that his son would join him in the struggle for secession. Both men had their eyes on the election that would decide who would be the new county’s first sheriff.

The older Thurman had served one term as sheriff of Washoe County, Nevada, and in 1869, he moved to California and started operating a lumber yard in Snelling. William B. Thurman was born there that year. Twenty-four years later, father and son were in Madera waiting on the answer to the county division question.

On May 16, 1893, they got their answer. The people voted to create Madera County, and they also voted to make William H. Thurman its sheriff. The first thing the county’s top lawman did was to choose an undersheriff, and that was easy. On the day William H. Thurman took the oath of office for sheriff, William B. Thurman did the same thing as Madera County’s first undersheriff.

The elder Thurman served until January 1895, and then moved to San Diego where he died 10 months later. The son worked on as undersheriff until 1900 when he ran for sheriff himself and was elected.

W.B. Thurman served as Madera County’s third sheriff until 1902, when he decided to go into business.

William B. Thurman died in November 1953 in Madera’s Dearborn Hospital. Today he lies beside his father in Arbor Vitae Cemetery. It seems only natural that these two mutineers be as close in death as they were in life.

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