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Weston Wagons West - Ep. J22 - The Joseph Kinnick Family in Montana

Updated on August 1, 2017

They arrived in Montana along the north bank of the Yellowstone River in 1888

One view of the Yellowstone River
One view of the Yellowstone River

Joseph Kinnick and fellow travelers arrived in Montana Territory

In 1882, the town of Billings was founded as a western railhead for the farther westward expansion of the Northern Pacific Railway (NPW). The NPW president was Frederick H. Billings. In 1888, Billings was a growing town on the north side of the Yellowstone River in Montana Territory. The Joseph Kinnick family and their fellow travelers arrived in Billings in the early summer of 1888 by covered wagons with some cattle, horses, and mules. Statehood was a hot topic of discussion in Billings, but seeking a good piece of homesteading land was the priority of our travelers from Iowa. Alonzo and Rachel Edick had come out in 1885, and their letters back to their son, William, and wife, Maggie (the oldest daughter of Joseph and Rachel Kinnick) had been instrumental in the decisions of the recent arrivals from Iowa to make the journey.

With their arrival in Billings, the different families took different directions, of course. The Kinnick family destination was ranch land about 25 miles west southwest along the Yellowstone River (today it is the location of Park City, a census-designated place (CDP) just across the Yellowstone County line in Stillwater County, Montana). Young Lyman Weston, 18 years-of-age, a farrier, blacksmith, and horse breeder and trainer, accompanied the Kinnick family to their new location to help them get settled. Their family now included in addition to Joseph, 49, and his wife, Rachel, 50, three sons, William, 22, John, 20, and George, 10, along with youngest daughter, Mate, 18. Oldest daughter, Maggie, and her husband, Bill Edick, accompanied them as well, though they planned to eventually settle further south, closer to the location of his parents, Alonzo and Rachel Edick.

Lumber was plentiful at nearby sawmills, so the first priority of the Kininck family, once their homestead location was identified, was to build a two-story ranch house before the weather turned bad. With everyone’s assistance the house was built and a modest winter wheat crop was put in while the weather was good. Young Lyman Weston helped out the families in these tasks. In the meantime, however, he was scouting the territory for his own future, and found it in Laurel. Laurel was a bump in the trail about 8 miles back up the trail they had taken from Billings. It was another railroad depot town, but it was also the location, a couple of miles south of town, where there was a ferry across the Yellowstone River. This ferry led the way south, among other places, to the Red Lodge area where Alonzo and Rachel Edick had settled. Lyman realized that there was need for a blacksmith, and both locals and travelers through the area always needed horses. By winter, he had acquired a small acreage and built a small cabin, horse shed, and shop for his needs.

1890 Montana Marriage License of John Kinnick and Ida Elizabeth McAfferty

Scan of the actual paper license form from the Montana Archives...they were about to throw them out when I requested a copy. They asked if I would accept the actual document.
Scan of the actual paper license form from the Montana Archives...they were about to throw them out when I requested a copy. They asked if I would accept the actual document.

Some of the Kinnick Family moved south to the Red Lodge Area

In the Spring of 1889, William and Maggie Edick, aged 33 and 26, with their three young children, Helen, 6 going on 7, Clarence, 4 going on 5, and Mark, just turned 3, headed south. Their destination was the Mill Creek region north and west of Red Lodge, which was just a newly founded community. They were going to join his parents, Alonzo and Rachel Edick, now 66 and 53 years of age. Red Lodge was located in what had long been nomadic Crow Indian country and there were still many around. [Montana magazine reported that in 1889, “there were three Indians to every white man and four men to every woman.” An 1888 arrival had reported “only three decent houses, and one store. The school, for a dozen pupils, was conducted in a log shack, and the only enterprises not affiliated with the coal company were saloons, some set up in tents.”]

Though the Edick’s were there to ranch, it was the coal mines and the recently introduced railroad spur (owned by the same company) back to Laurel/Billings that brought economic growth to Red Lodge and the county in the coming decade or so. Montana became a state on November 8, 1889.

On November 19, 1889, Joseph and Rachel Kinnick’s youngest daughter, Mate (Mary Eppenetes) married Martin Luther Jones (born in Illinois!) and they made their home initially in Red Lodge, Montana (they would a bit later move south to near Cody, Wyoming, just east of Yellowstone National Park, founded in 1872).

Joseph and Rachel Kinnick’s son John married Ida Elizabeth (Lizzie) McAfferty in November 1890. They had known each other in Madison County, Iowa. Her family had moved to Kansas, but they kept in touch. She had come from Kansas, on the train, to Billings, in order to marry John. They initially moved to Red Lodge where John worked in a market and learned the trade of Sheep Shearer, a popular skill. Their first child, a daughter, Myrtle, was born there in 1891. The following year they moved back north to a ranch west of what was then beginning to be called Park City. Their first son, Ernest, was born there in May of 1893 followed by a second son, John, in October of 1895. Joseph and Rachel’s sons William and George continued to work their ranch land near Park City during this period. Lyman Weston had married Lynette Adams in November of 1892 and their first son, Luther, was born in March of 1894.

Marriage Certificate signed by both the Pastor and by John's mother, Rachel Kinnick

The actual marriage certificate, completed after the ceremony. Bottom half of the same sheet of paper as above. Note, even though more than a year later, they didn't have new forms saying STATE of Montana. So neat!!
The actual marriage certificate, completed after the ceremony. Bottom half of the same sheet of paper as above. Note, even though more than a year later, they didn't have new forms saying STATE of Montana. So neat!!

Inevitable changes came to our families of interest as the 1890s came to an end

William had begun to take temporary jobs on railroad bridge construction projects in his off seasons. When John and Lizzie returned to the area, and with George able to take on more responsibility, William went full-time in the business. He soon became a railroad bridge contractor and traveled throughout the western states and Mexico.

Meanwhile, down in Red Lodge, Mate and Martin had their first child, a daughter, Mabel, born in July of 1892. In 1895, they found new opportunities in Wyoming to the south, and moved to Ishawooa in Park County, about 20 miles west of the new town of Cody. Martin soon became the Postmaster of the newly established Ishawooa post office.

Meanwhile, in the Edick family, Alonzo died in February of 1897. William and Margaret had divorced. Margaret and her three children moved to Ishawooa, Park County, Wyoming, where she became a Hotel Keeper. Son Mark, split his time with her and his father, William, who continued to live with is mother, Rachel (per 1900 census information).

Horses were still critical to Montana ranching

Morgan Horses on the run in the pasture
Morgan Horses on the run in the pasture

Historical notes by the author

All members of the Weston family are fictional, of course. All Kinnick, Edick and Jones family members were historical figures, but were used here fictitiously. [An, example: Individuals is this story moved around more than could be included in this brief narrative, even though they moved around a lot here. Some dates were adjusted a year or two, to help the story flow, as well.] The relationships between the Kinnick and Weston families therefore were created fictionally for this story. Joseph Kinnick was a brother of Walter Watson Kinnick, a 2nd great-grandfather of the author. Each of the relationships within which these historical figures appear in these episodes is totally consistent with known historical facts for each such person in the official records of the State of Iowa and Illinois.

Learn more about this Kinnick family at:

Video Book Trailer

Video Book Trailer


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