The marriage of William Martin and Rosa Cleantha Blood ended badly with William in an unmarked grave, buried at Yamhill County’s expense, and Rosa and her children 25 miles away struggling to eke out a living.

I have written a lot about the Martin family and didn’t expect to write any more, but the story of the marriage of William Martin and Rosa Cleantha Blood has been on my mind. 

  My earlier stories about the Martins have returned the bounty of two Martin cousins and a treasure trove of pictures and other information from the Willamette Heritage Center. I now have my mother-in-law’s stories and genealogical work, Uncle Gordon’s genealogical notes, a memoir written by William and Rosa’s daughter, Amy, William’s probate file, burial information for William, Rosa and their daughters, and other bits and pieces.

 I have been thinking about how to put together a story that reflects on the emotions and feelings of the players without their actual testimony for some time now. The Martin story is one that might let me do that. I am hoping to read between the lines and accurately tell the story without crossing into fiction.  We’ll see how it goes.

William Martin and Rosa Blood were married on Jan. 5, 1870.  William was 41 years old, Rosa was 29.  It was William’s second marriage and Rosa’s

Rosa Blood Martin in the early years of her marriage

Rosa Blood Martin in the early years of her marriage


What prompted these two people to marry?

 In her memoir Amy Martin says that William’s first wife died in childbirth.   William was caring for his 13 year old daughter  alone. He must have wanted both the comforts of a wife and a caretaker for his daughter, but what of Rosa?

Rosa’s life was difficult at best.  Her mother died when she was twelve years old and she ran the household for a year until her father remarried. Uncle Gordon’s notes, based on his mother’s stories say Rosa was raised in a ” formal, frigid atmosphere masked as Godliness.  Stepmother made a slave of Rosa, large washing and care of family undermined her health.  Rosa started teaching at 16 years of age and kept at it for 11 years. Rosa choked pretty bad at times.  Almost 29 when married-had favorite but didn’t get him-often said she wished she could see him- knew William only a short time.”

Rosa was poor, sick, heartbroken, and growing too old to be marriageable.  Her choices were marriage to an older man she didn’t love or life as a penniless schoolteacher whose family held little affection for her.  Marriage to William was the better of two bad choices.

 The couple prospered for a time.  The Martins had a pleasant home with a live-in servant.  Regardless of what affection they may or may not have shared they had six children over a fourteen-year period. William was successfully invested in logging, a flour mill, a grocery and Great Lakes shipping.   Unfortunately, much of William’s success was based on borrowed money.  When a depression hit in 1885, coupled with the sinking of one of his boats, the family was left with very little.  William and Rosa had watched as their infant son Charles died in 1881 and then lost their four year old son ,William, in 1884.  Now they were faced with  struggling to provide for their four remaining children.

 Finally William went West to Dakota, but found little to support him there.  He continued on to Dayton, Oregon where her rented a small house.  The rest of the family joined him there.  Things were not easy for the Martins in Oregon.  William continued to try to support his family  through both farming and investments.  Rosa and the children helped as well. Economic hardship could not have helped their marriage, but they continued to work together.   I will have more to say about the family’s struggles in Oregon in part II of this narrative.


Two weeks ago I got an email that there was a comment to be approved on our blog.  When I read the comment I was thrilled and then, I have to admit, just a tiny bit suspicious (sorry, Linda!).  The writer said she had come across a copy of a deed showing William Denman buying land in upstate New York in 1795.  She wanted to know if this was my family by any chance.  You can see the comment and my response on the Contact Us page.  I was actually still on vacation and in Canada when I first read this and responded.

As soon as I got back home, I emailed my genealogical genie and we had several emails back and forth about what it was and how she came to have it.  She told me that she volunteers in a non-profit animal shelter that accepts donations which it then sells to help support the work at the shelter.  She had noticed the names on the document and thought she’d try to see if she could find out anything about them.  Her hope was that someone in the family would be interested in it.  She didn’t spell it out, but obviously found the blog and the Denman names I have written about before, so she left a note.

I was very eager to know more about what she had, and she offered to get a picture to email to me.  Her husband took several shots and they showed me that it was indeed a copy of the original William Denman deed.  It shows William and Ann Denman acquiring the 200 acres in New York where they built the homestead that was the place my Denman family first settled in this country.  I have written about this place before, here.

What I haven’t told about is the existence of this original deed.  My sister and I were lucky enough to see it in person when we visited the Denman family in Grahamsville New York two summers ago.  It belongs to our Denman cousins, and has hung on their office wall for a number of years.  The story we were told was that someone had discovered it in an envelope in a safe deposit box in California when its owner had died.  Apparently the executor thought it belonged back in New York and it was sent to the Denmans who still live in the Neversink area where the family first settled.  They framed it and hung it in their office.  I got one picture of our older cousin holding it, but we couldn’t get a copy of it made while we were there.  (I admit to being somewhat concerned that it needed to be re-framed with archival matting and protective glass, and hope that this has been done since then.)  Anyway, I didn’t get a real chance to read the document but I could see the signatures of William Denman and of Ann Denman who signed as a witness.

IMGP4527The good news is that Linda found me and offered me the copy, if I was willing to pay the postage and make a donation to her shelter.  I was glad to say yes.  She got it to a shipper and I found it waiting for me two days later when I returned home from a day out.  It is now hanging in my home office. The good news is also that this piece of family history survived the impact of hurricane Sandy in New Jersey.  The bad news is that it is stuck to the glass and has a lot of water damage.  However, it is still completely readable.  And the stamp on the back of the frame shows it was framed in Pasadena California.  I am hoping to hear from the company, which is still in business.

There is still the genealogical mystery of who made this copy, and when.  Also how did the person who donated it to the shelter come by it and where?  My genealogical genie is going to ask her a few specific questions which may help me figure out if her family is related to the Denmans and if she got the document in California or someplace else.