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
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.