Kimball Plains: Exploring the history of a former western Shasta County settlement

Above: Major Gorham G. Kimball a co-owner of the Cone & Kimball Company of Red Bluff, Tehama County, California. From the Red Bluff Daily News newspaper edition of Red Bluff, December 22, 1904.

Kimball Plains was one of the smaller settlements of the Bald Hills in western Shasta County, which was located seven miles west of Cottonwood. Business partners, Joseph S. Cone and Major Gorham G. Kimball, of Tehama County, were the first owners of the tract of land which the community was developed on. Originally, the settlement started as a stock range for grazing purposes. This settlement was possibly named after their flock tender, William Kimball, no relation to Major Gorham G. Kimball.

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Cone & Kimball soon discovered their land to be extremely valuable to new settlers who wanted to purchase the land for farming purposes. After many offers, the land was sold to a number of newcomers during the latter part of the 1870s. The first residence was located on the south side of Gas Point Road about one mile west of Dry Creek. At this location a water well from that first family still existed when local historian, Myrtle McNamar, published her book Way Back When in 1952.

Three or four families with young children settled, early on, at Kimball Plains which helped the residents establish the Kimball School District on August 5, 1879. Eventually, a one-room schoolhouse was erected in the area. It’s first teacher was A.R. Eldridge. Later, a Baptist congregation was formed in the area and they met inside the Kimball Schoolhouse on Sunday morning’s. This church was led by my paternal great-great-great grandfather, the Reverend William S. Kidder, a resident of Eagle Creek (now Ono).

Kimball Plains lacked a post office to send and receive mail. The nearest post office to this settlement was located at Gas Point. The mail was delivered from there by their postmaster to the local residents of this community. Then in 1882, Major Gorham G. Kimball and a man named J.C. Tyler sold 640 acres of land to woman named Mary Wright who bought the land for grazing purposes. The following year, A.R. Eldridge was still the teacher of this community who enrolled thirty-seven students at that time into his class.

In April of 1885, the agricultural scene at Kimball Plains changed a little when the discovery of a quartz ledge was made at Kimball’s stock range, and the Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, reprinted the following article from the Red Bluff Sentinel newspaper of Red Bluff:

New Discovery – Major Kimball and Will Lunning returned last evening from the Bald Hills country, where they have been for several days surveying the outside lines of the Major’s  stock ranch, preparatory to fencing the entire tract. While surveying they ran across a quartz ledge, and knocked off some rock, which they brought with them to be examined by experts and possibly sent to San Francisco  to be assayed. For outside, surface rock, it looks very good, and in fact, native silver can be detected with the naked eye. The rock looks like croppings that come from the Bully Choop mines. The Major further states that frost cooked the leaves on oak trees, and great damage was done to fruits of all kinds. – Red Bluff Sentinel.”

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Kimball Plains wasn’t known as a mining community, but mainly it was settled for agricultural purposes, and when the assessments of the ore returned the ore wasn’t as lucrative as Kimball & Lunning hoped for. The mining excitement ceased and it did not create a new boom to the area. During the 1890s, Franz Venzke, a native of Germany, settled at Kimball Plains as a farmer with his wife Sally (Alberg) Venzke.

Then in September of 1894, the Kimball Plains Schoolhouse caught fire and burned down. After the fire, the students were transferred to the Cottonwood School to advance their education. In February of 1901, this excerpt of an article from the Red Bluff Daily News newspaper of Red Bluff reported the following news:

Within the past few days parties representing two large oil companies from the East, one from Massachusetts the other of Pennsylvania have been trying to secure the sheep range of Major G.G. Kimball, located about thirty miles north-west of this place in what is known as the Bald Hills of Shasta County, and comprising of something like 5500 to 6000 acres for the purpose of boring oil. Their proposition to him, as it was learned, was to sink wells on the place at their own expense and offering him large inducements for the privilege, believing from their experts’ opinions that a gusher will be unearthed on these lands.

Just like the earlier mining excitement, this discovery ceased action as well. The Bald Hills didn’t produce a lucrative oil strike as it was originally opined by the experts. Major Gorham G. Kimball held onto his land, and there was no new boom to the area of Kimball Plains. During that same year, local resident Franz Venzke was remarried to Mary Rockhold. Then in 1912, Venzke’s eldest daughter was married at the home of the bride’s father at Kimball Plains to William B. Moore. Beside’s being a farmer, Franz Venzke, was also a land owner who kept buying numerous pieces of land in the area.

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The Kimball School District was re-established on November 14, 1916, after a new schoolhouse was erected for their community that year. This school was located on the north side of Gas Point Road just east of Dry Creek and it was their second and last schoolhouse. In 1920, Mrs. Gertrude Carter was the teacher of the Kimball Schoolhouse.

By February of 1920, Franz Venzke had purchased an additional eight hundred acres of land near Gas Point which gave him a total of 2,000 acres in that section of the county. There is also a story which was heralded by the Blue Lake Advocate newspaper of Blue Lake, California about the Kimball School and it describes the following account:

Borrowed Children Keep Shasta School Alive – Redding (Shasta Co.) Jan. 26., Kimball Plains School District, four miles west of Cottonwood has a $1,500 school house but no children of school age within its boarders. Mrs. Alice Stone, teacher, keeps up the school and saves the district by “borrowing” school children from neighboring districts and taking them to school every day in her automobile. There is a fresh crop of children now under school age, coming up in Kimball Plains district and there will be no trouble another year to maintain the school with the district product.” (SIC)

Franz Venzke lived in the area until his death in November of 1946. He is buried in the Cottonwood Cemetery. Two years later, the Kimball Schoolhouse closed down due to poor attendance. Today, not much is left of this early settlement. However, Kimball Plains Road just off Gas Point Road retains the name of this former community.

The Kimball Schoolhouse at Kimball Plains. Teacher: Inez (Moore) Ruddy her students, circa 1945. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

RESOURCES:

The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, December 31, 1881

Our Schools – The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, March 3, 1883

New Discovery – The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, April 25, 1885

The Red Bluff Daily News newspaper of Red Bluff, September 29, 1894

Eastern Oil Companies Looking This Way – The Red Bluff Daily News newspaper of Red Bluff, February 22, 1901

Sheep Feed Burned Out – The Red Bluff Daily News newspaper of Red Bluff, July 19, 1901

Major Kimball Answers Summons – The Red Bluff Daily News newspaper of Red Bluff, December 22, 1904

Shasta Couple Marry – The Sacramento Union newspaper of Sacramento, June 25, 1912

Shasta County Ranch Sold – The Sacramento Union newspaper of Sacramento, February 18, 1920

Cottonwood School Ends Spring Term – The Red Bluff Daily News newspaper of Red Bluff, April 20, 1920

Borrowed Children Keep Shasta School Alive – The Blue Lake Advocate newspaper of Blue Lake, January 31, 1931

Way Back When – Myrtle McNamar, published by C.A.T. Publishing of Redding, California, 1952. 282 pages.

School Districts of Shasta County 1853-1955 compiled by Veronica Satorius

History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the Sacramento Valley, California. An Historical Story of the State’s Marvelous from its earliest settlement to the Present Time. By Prof. J.M. Guinn, A.M. The Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, Ill. © 1906

Franz Venzke: Find A Grave Memorial

U.S., Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971

A Journey Through Time: Ono and the Bald Hills by Jeremy M. Tuggle, with an introduction by Al M. Rocca; copyright 2008, published by Preserving Memories, in Charlotte, North Carolina. ISBN Number: 978-0-9742576-8-6


Meet the writer: Jeremy M. Tuggle
Education and Community Engagement Manager – Shasta Historical Society

Jeremy M. Tuggle, born in Redding, is a descendant of 11 pioneer families who settled Shasta County between 1849-1889. Jeremy attended Shasta College and is the author of two published books, Rooted in Shasta County (2003), and A Journey Through Time: Ono and the Bald Hills (2008), as well as various articles on local history.

In 2017 Mr. Tuggle was awarded a Community Service Award, a prestigious national award for community service in historic preservation, by the Major Pierson B. Reading Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Jeremy is a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, and an Eagle Scout.

Tuggle has been employed at the Shasta Historical Society since November of 2009.   In his present role as Education & Community Engagement Manager, Jeremy conducts research for the historical society’s programs and events, contributes to the Society’s social media presence, and ensures the highest quality guest and patron experience at our programs and community events.

Mr. Tuggle enjoys sharing his knowledge of local history and events, and is available to community organizations to present programs about Shasta County history.  


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Contact the editor: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16, but soon to be 18, grandchildren.

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