Among the hearty stock in the Kimble family whose members were prominent in the settlement of the Paupack, was Isaac Rosa Kimble, a sawyer who made his living on the Dyberry Creek north of Honesdale.

HONESDALE - Among the hearty stock in the Kimble family whose members were prominent in the settlement of the Paupack, was Isaac Rosa Kimble, a sawyer who made his living on the Dyberry Creek north of Honesdale. In 1849* he and a group of other men from the Honesdale area answered the call to mine for gold in California Territory.

(*Another reference said they left in 1852.)

The storied Gold Rush had begun in 1848, and with gold fever at its peak, these fellows would be known as among the “Gold 49ers.” Kimble was the last living of this prospecting party, and he told his story in detail for The Citizen, a Honesdale newspaper, February 16, 1912 edition. He died two years later, at the age of 84.

Honesdale and Hawley were both bustling with the transport of another mining product at that time, coal. The D&H Canal has recently been widened. Coal shipments on the gravity railroad to meet the canal had greatly increased. A new gravity railroad had recently opened at Hawley to add to the volume of black coal being shipped on canal boats. Jobs were plentiful.

Lumbering was another chief industry in Wayne County’s hills and valleys. Isaac Kimble worked a sawmill at Dyberry, above the present site of the fairgrounds. His brother William rafted the logs down the Lackawaxen to the Delaware River.

Nevertheless, there was the lure of glittering, yellow gold beckoned, and the promise of adventure that was calling thousands of easterners westward.

Party of six

Along with Kimble, Jacob Schoonover, William Miller, Digery Buckingham, Robert and John Beardslee were among the Honesdale prospectors. Kimble was about 22 - 25 years old.

They likely keep abreast of the gold rush through the Wayne County Herald and other papers. Established routes were well advertised. Rather than attempting a cross-country trip in covered wagons and areas populated by Native Americans hostile to trespass, steam ship lines advertised an alternative.

The Honesdale party left for New York - probably by stage and picking up the recently established Erie train service at Narrowsburg. At New York City they boarded a steamer for the Isthmus of Panama.

At that time there was no railroad yet crossing the nearly 60 mile wide isthmus and the famed Panama Canal would not be opened for 65 years.

Most of the men crossed Panama riding astride jack asses (male donkeys), except for William Miller who chose to walk. After waiting a reasonable time, Kimble volunteered to go back after him. It took them three days to cross to the Pacific Ocean.

At that point they boarded another steamboat, which sailed for San Francisco. From there the Honesdale men headed to Stockton. They went inland several miles to central California to stake out claims. Kimble shared what happened:

“The boys staked out their claims and commenced to dig sluiceways to wash the gold so as to free the dirt from it. We received on good claims from $8 to $10 per day in gold ore, while other days our work would not average over $5. We could get the gold anywhere, but for any reason we left our claim one day and went somewhere else, another man coming along would lay claim to it. I have seen a number of squabbles over this and sometimes men would shoot others. Our diggings were confined chiefly to the low grounds.

“We experienced a freshet a little while after we were mining, which did considerable damage and disheartened several miners. I did not stay with the boys long, but went out in the woods and lumbered and hunted. I got a job in a saw mill that paid me $100 per month. We remained out there until 1853. While in the mining camp I saw two gamblers strung up for shooting men. The government soon put a stop to that.

“When we returned a railroad was in operation on the isthmus, and we came across by rail, thence by boat to New York and home.”

Saw mill operation

Isaac Rosa Kimble was a son of Asa Kimble and was born January 1, 1825 (his head stone reads 1827), at Middle Creek. He was named for John Rosa, a prominent physician of New York City.

He worked at the sawmill at Dyberry most of his life, for his brother “Bill,” who owned the mill.

“I undoubtedly have sawed millions of feet of lumber in my day, and in ally experience I never met an accident,” Kimble told the interviewer. “Since working in a mill I have broken my hip and a finger. One day I sawed 40,048 feet, it being the largest number of feet of lumber ever cut out of one saw in day-light. It was hemlock lumber and was taken by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company.”

The same issue where The Citizen featured Isaac Kimble on the right side of page 1, his brother William was featured on the left side.

William Kimble, who was 81 said he had floated a record 3,500 log rafts down the Lackawaxen River and Delaware River, to Trenton. He started rafting at 17 and kept it up until the canal closed in 1898 - except for four years when he acted as pilot for the rafts at the dam on the Delaware River at Lackawaxen. He partnered with Elias B. Stanton at Dyberry for 30 years, during which time he operated three  sawmills. They harvested trees from a 7,000 acre tract.

William Kimble died February 20,1912, only four days after The Citizen published his story.

His family

Isaac R. Kimble was married to Mary Scantebury, a native of Cornwall, England. She was 51 when she died, April 25,1852. They had raised two sons, Frank C. Kimble and Calvin P. Kimble.

Frank Kimble served as sheriff of Wayne County, 1912-1915. Isaac went to live with his son Frank and his wife at the sheriff’s residence on 10th Street, next to the stone jail in Honesdale.

A news report from September 1912 told of a fierce thunderstorm, with a bolt of lightning striking a pole in the jail yard. The elder Mr. Kimble was standing in the kitchen of the house, and fell in a heap. Three prisoners and two other family members were also stunned.

During the 1912 interview, Isaac made mention that his son Calvin was employed as a government engineer helping to build the Panama Canal. He was still living in the Panama Canal Zone in 1914, the year the canal was completed.

The California Gold Rush had pumped wealth into the American economy and the sudden population boom in California quickly led to its statehood. There were severe effects on the Native tribes in Northern California. Approximately 300,000 people had rushed to California to seek gold.

Isaac R. Kimble, last of the Honesdale Gold 49ers, died after an illness on February 11, 1914. The Presbyterian minister presided at the funeral, held at the sheriff’s residence. Mr. Kimble was laid to rest at Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale.

Main Sources

Vintage newspapers at Fultonhistory.com

Ancestry.com at the Hawley Public Library

History of Wayne, Pike & Monroe Counties, Pa. (1886) by Alfred Mathews

Wallenpaupack Historical Society

Articles cited at Wikipedia