I’ve had a hard time getting around to posting Part II of William and Rosa’s story.  It turns out that putting myself in their place and trying to tell their story without veering in to fiction is harder than I thought it would be.  Nonetheless here is Part II. This is the story of William and Rosa Martin’s years together.  You can read Part I here.

      Following financial reversals in Michigan William Martin moved his family to Dayton, Oregon. I have no idea why he chose Dayton, but he did, and moved the family to a small house there.  Soon William bought a 15 acre plot of land east of Dayton on the Yamhill River.

Rosa Blood martin in the early years of her marriage

Rosa Blood martin in the early years of her marriage

    What did Rosa think about living in this isolated place?  All we have to go on is Amy’s memoir.

      She describes the land as “back of another farm, but my father had purchased a right of way out by way of a gulley.  The struggle to make a living in those days of not much market was hard and we never had money for building that road out so followed a path along the riverbank along the edge of the other farm to get out.  Some of the families on that farm were nice about it, but one was downright mean.    

      We always had something to eat but no dietician of this state would have approved of it at times.  If our cow went dry we had to go without butter.  We raised some meat and salted it away.  There was very little money and we had no fruit jars, or not enough to can many vegetables or fruits, so my mother dried as many berries and other kinds of fruit as possible.  Often we had no sugar and tried to eat the stewed fruit without it.

      Clothes were a problem.  My brother and I went barefoot every summer and sometimes had to go to school that way.  It hurt our pride more than our health.””

      Rosa was sufficiently discouraged with life on the farm that she moved to Portland hoping to earn money by taking in borders.  When this didn’t work she moved back to the property near Dayton. All of Rosa’s daughters received teaching certificates and began teaching by the age of twenty.  This helped the family finances, but they still lost the 15 acre homestead.

      By 1900  Rosa was living with her children in Dayton, William was not with them and was presumably somewhere in Oregon.  In 1900 Rosa came into some money left to her by her father, Francis Blood. The story of what became of this money is a bit odd.  Again, I quote Amy,  “Then it was that Grandfather Blood passed away and Mother came into some money.  In the meantime, J. and Rosa had kept up the interest on the loan we had from a woman teacher who was money mad.  So, having heard that some money was coming to mother, she appeared with a shyster lawyer even before we had not yet received anything from my grandfather’s estate.  She signed a document and my sister Rosa witnessed it.  This was sent back to Michigan and the lawyer there discovered it had been tampered with so wrote to mother about it.  This rascal had raised the amount, but Michigan being so far away it was going to cost us more to fight it than to pay it. The “teacher” would do nothing about it ether.”

     So Rosa and her children continued to support themselves by teaching and struggled along with very little money.

    William Martin died in Yamhill County, Oregon in 1904.  He had $50 and owned 160  acres of land in an isolated spot. I don’t know how he came into possession of that land.  I do have his probate papers.  William died intestate.  His daughter, Jessie, claimed $500 for “money advanced for incidental expenses and support of family.”  Jessie then purchased the acreage for $550.  I assume that no money changed hands and that she received the land to settle the debt she claimed. 

      By 1905 Rosa and her children had moved to Salem Oregon where Rosa and her daughters taught.

      By the time the 1910census was taken  Rosa was retired and was living with and supported by her daughters, Amy and Jessie.  Her daughter Rosa and her son Francis had married and were starting their own families.

The house on Lee Street

The house on Lee Street

Rosa died in 1920.  Her two daughters continued to live in the house on Lee Street until they were no longer able to care for themselves.

      Perhaps if there had been more opportunities for women to work and support themselves Rosa and William’s story would have been different.  We say that money can’t buy happiness and that may be true, but lack of money certainly brought this family buckets of sadness.  Not all stories have happy endings.



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.


We have the boat out of the water, the bathtub filled with water and everything off the deck.  There’s enough peanut butter to survive on and the flashlights are ready and so we sit here in coastal Connecticut watching the winds pick up and hoping for the best.

We hope that our friends who live directly on the shoreline and who have already evacuated will return on Wednesday to find their homes intact.  I hope that this is not the storm when I lose the perennial argument with my spouse about taking down my favorite backyard tree.  He sees it as a menace to health and safety and I see it as the beautiful, iconic sheltering maple that everyone wishes they had in their backyards.

Our little town is already 25% out of power.  We are tiny and have no industry or healthcare facilities, so we are always the first to lose power and the last to be restored.  I am hoping to get this up today, if not you will see it next week.

Of course, all this makes me think of the weather events our ancestors survived without benefit of three days of constant updates from the weather channel.

In Sprague, Washington the Costellos and their kin survived the flood of 1909.

Our Martin relatives first survived the storm that sank their Great lakes schooner, the Jessie Martin, and then the 1894 flooding of the Willamette River in their new home of Portland, OR.

This from  the Oregan History Project,    “In late May and early June of 1894, the Willamette River rose well above 30 feet, flooding the central business district of Portland.  The water remained for days, inspiring some Portlanders to accept the situation with the humor as displayed in this shot of “hunters” taking aim at decoys floating down the street. ”

My Silver relatives got through the blizzard of 1914 in Philadelphia , not to mention the more recent “snowmageddon”.

We do our best to create a safe environment.  Architecture, communication, and law have greatly reduced the loss of life from weather events, but mother nature still decides to do massive damage every once in a while.  I’m sure we will get through this year’s hurricane.  I mourn the loss of lives in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, and hope everyone on the East Coast has heeded the warnings and reached a safe place.  See you after the storm.


On Thursday, July 19th I was finally able to visit the Willamette Heritage Center and meet all of the people who have done so much for me. I have written about the wonderful file of 80 family photographs and their journey to our generous donor, Mary O’Meara and finally to me. If you haven’t read that post please click here and read this great story.

I was lucky enough to be visiting Portland, Oregon for the wedding of a good friend’s daughter. The wedding was a wonderful excuse for a meeting with a group of old friends, so I was accompanied to the museum by my husband and three good friends, including the mother of the bride.

Before our visit to the museum Norman and I were able to visit the family graves and the house that Amy and Jessie Martin lived in  during much of their time in Salem.








Kylie Pine, the director of acquisitions was waiting for us at the museum. She was accompanied by Mary and Mary’s friend Carol and our fabulous volunteer Kaylyn Mabey.

Mary, Judy, Norman, and Kaylyn

I can’t begin to tell you what an exciting day this was for me and for my husband, the actual descendent of the Martin sisters. We had a good look at all of the photographs, talking and laughing and telling some family stories with the entire group.
My dear friend Pat, the alternate author and administrator of this blog was in Portland with her husband for the wedding. She was unable to make the trip to Salem, but thoroughly debriefed me on my return to Portland.

As we looked through the photos we were all struck by the excellent state of preservation. My new best guess is that these photographs were cherished and protected by Amy Martin, until her death at 101. At that point there were no family members in Oregon and the photos probably came to Mary’s neighbor when he was given the task of cleaning her room. I don’t have any idea if this is true but it seems a good guess.

Before we arrived Kaylyn went above and beyond my wildest expectations.  She assembled death certificates, cemetery info, and William Martin’s probate file.  Thanks to Kaylyn I now have information about William Martin’s first wife, daughter and grandsons.

After viewing the photos and talking we were able to tour the museum.  It is a wonderful place with permanent and changing exhibits.  This month’s exhibit about beer brewing in the Willamette Valley was enjoyed by all, even though there were no samples.  There is even a small glass case with photos and information about the Martin sisters.

If you live near Salem or are traveling through I highly recommend a stop at the Willamette Heritage Center.  I will look back on my visit with the warmest of memories for many days.

If we could take a trip back in time it would be very much like a visit to another culture.  Cultures are living entities and like families and the individuals that comprise them cultures change.  What was common, acceptable, even expected and lauded 100 years ago may well be unacceptable and even a bit nauseating to us today.  Sometimes change is good, sometimes it is bad, and sometimes it is just different.

An old photograph can take us on a journey to another culture.  I took such a journey recently thanks to a photograph I received from the Willamette Heritage CenterI have already written about the journey this photograph took to find me, now I am writing about where the photograph has taken me.

William F Martin

This photograph caught my eye because, in our modern world, it is quite macabre.  It is a photo of a beautifully dressed child in a stroller. It looks fairly normal at first, but the child is dead.

The child is William F. Martin.  He was born in August of 1877 in Muskegon, Michigan and he died there in September of 1881 of “congestion of the lungs”.  He was one of six children born to William Martin and Rosa Cleantha Blood.  One of his older sister’s was my husband’s grandmother. What drove them to take their dead child, dress him in his best clothes, put him in a life-like pose and have this picture taken?  The answer is custom.  Postmortem photography was quite common in the Victorian Age, for both children and adults.  An early photographer’s advertisement said, “secure the shadow, ere the substance fade”.  Securing the shadow slightly after the substance had faded became the custom.  Adults were generally pictured in bed or in the coffin, but children were posed, often with their families. Here is another example from Stanley Burn’s Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America.  These are two postmortem daguerreotypes of the same child.
















Another oddity of Victorian mourning is  jewelry fashioned from the deceased’s hair.   These pieces might just be a lock of hair encased in glass or truly elaborate necklaces and bracelets of woven hair.  A bit repulsive to us , but a declaration of love and loss to those who wore it.

Here are two examples.  Both are made of human hair with gold embellishments.












The young William Martin lived in a time when people did not die in order as we expect today.  Most of us expect to bury and mourn our parents, but not our children.

It has been said that in times when medicine was mostly useless and death was common that life was cheap and the pain of loss less deeply felt. Anyone who has wandered through an old cemetery and read the tender inscriptions on the tiny tombstones or considered the photographs and jewelry on this page will be forced to a different conclusion.


Thanks to the Willamette Heritage Center for the use of the picture of William Martin, their catalog number P 2012.011.0023