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Photo of Joseph.

Joseph Wesley Martin

Joseph Wesley Martin was the sixth child of John I. and Rachel (Reeves) Martin.  He was born 12 October 1871 (or perhaps 1872)* at Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa.  His family moved to Richardson County, Nebraska, in 1878, and census records show him there, in his parents’ home, in 1880 and 1885.  The family subsequently moved to Paonia, Delta County, Colorado, in 1891, and there Joseph married Walsa E. Turner on 24 October 1894.  She had been born 7 July 1873 in Clay County, Missouri, the daughter of John Lee Turner and Jennie L. (Caynor) Turner, and had come to Delta County with her family when she was 10 years old.

The 1900 census shows Joseph and Walsa living in Paonia with their daughters Naomi (misspelled as Naoma), age 5, and Vera, 2.  Joseph’s occupation is shown as “farmer,” and Walsa is listed as the mother of 3, with only 2 living.  The missing child is their son Teddy, who was only 5 months old when he died of whooping cough in 1897.  Altogether, Joseph and Walsa had four children, with the youngest being born 5 months after that census was compiled.  They were:

  • Naomi Fleeta Martin, 1895–1958 (married Raymond Calvin Lewis).
  • Ted Wesley Martin, 1896–1897.
  • Vera L. Martin, 1898–1991 (married Lawrence E. Reshaw).
  • Zenas Beryl Martin, 1900–1989 (married Ethel Lucille Higgins).

Joseph and Walsa were still in Paonia with their three surviving children at the time of the 1910 census (although the census lists Vera as “Veri” and shows Zenas as girl named “Jenas”).  Joseph’s occupation is listed there as laborer on fruit farm.  After a few years, though, he may have been looking for a different occupation.  An item in The Delta Independent of 18 August 1916 announced that Joseph had gone down to Pueblo, Colorado, “expecting to find a location.  He will be gone indefinately [sic].”

It’s not clear how long Joseph stayed away.  Employment records of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, at Pueblo, show that Joseph was hired there on 11 August 1916 and quit 19 days later, but he may have found other employment in that area.  I find no further mention of him in Delta County newspapers until 1920, although they do include a couple of items about Walsa (“Mrs. J. W. Martin”) in December 1916 and February 1917.  So perhaps Walsa stayed on in Paonia while Joseph was working in Pueblo?

The 1920 census shows Joseph, Walsa, and their two youngest children living in Leopard Creek Precinct in San Miguel County, Colorado (about 60 miles south of Paonia).  Once again, Joseph’s occupation is “farmer.”  It’s important to note, though, that in 1920, unlike any other census year, the official census day was January First.  Hence, the report from The Delta Independent of 20 March 1920, that Joseph had moved to a home in the Rogers Mesa area, does not conflict with the census.  Rogers Mesa is an upland area in Delta County, beginning about a mile west of Hotchkiss and continuing another 4 miles to the west.

Subsequent reports in Delta County papers show that, by 1924, Joseph and Walsa had moved south again, to the area of Ridgway, Ouray County, Colorado.  They apparently stayed there until sometime in 1930.  They were not listed in the 1930 census, but two newspapers back in Falls City, Nebraska, mentioned Joseph as one of the surviving siblings of his brother John A. Martin, who drowned near Falls City in July 1930.  One paper gave his residence as Ridgway; the other said he lived in Sams, Colorado, which was a former community on Leopard Creek in San Miguel County, 7 miles northeast of the town of Placerville.  That, very likely, is where Joseph and family had been living 10 years earlier, at the time of the 1920 census, and that newspaper may have gotten its information from some relative whose address book was out of date.

In fact, by July of 1930, even the Ridgway address may have been out of date.  As early as April of that year, occasional references to “Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Martin” began appearing in the Surface Creek Champion newspaper of Cedaredge, Colorado, without specifying where they lived (implying that they were local to Cedaredge).  Walsa’s mother, a brother, and a sister also lived in Cedaredge at that time, and the paper describes many get-togethers between the Martins and the Turners.

Joseph and Walsa may actually have lived about 4 miles south of Cedaredge, as the 1940 census places them at Eckert, Delta County, Colorado.  On current maps, Eckert is just a neighborhood within the incorporated town of Orchard City, Colorado.  According to the census, they were living there with their son Zenas, his wife Ethel, and two grandchildren, ages 17 and 2, and the census reports that all of them except the toddler had lived in the same house in 1935.  No occupation is listed for Joseph, who by this time was 68 years old (even though the census says 69).  Zenas is listed as a farmer.

It appears that Joseph and Walsa remained in the Cedaredge area the rest of their lives. There they both passed away, Joseph on 24 April 1953 and Walsa on 3 February 1962.  They are buried together at the Cedaredge Cemetery.

If you can suggest any corrections to the information above or provide any further details about the lives of Joseph, Walsa, and their descendants, please contact me at the address shown in the image below:

Pete at John Martin Family dot org

     —Pete Martin

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* The 1900 census shows that Joseph was born in Iowa in October 1871, and other census records from 1880, 1885, 1910, and 1920 also show Iowa as his place of birth and give ages consistent with a birth late in 1871.  (Joseph was not listed in the 1930 census, and the 1940 census gave his age as 69, implying an earlier birth date, but it agreed that his place of birth was Iowa.)  Joseph’s tombstone also shows 1871 as his year of birth.  However, a pension application filed by Joseph’s father, John I. Martin, stated that Joseph was born 12 October 1872, and, moreover, that he (and, presumably, his whole family) had not moved from Nebraska back to Iowa until August 1872.  It would be easy to attribute this discrepancy to John I. Martin’s faulty memory, except that the Nemaha Valley Journal of 14 September 1871 (page 3) lists John I. Martin as one of the Petit Jurors selected for the fall term of the District Court in Richardson County, Nebraska, and on the same page, shows “J. J. Martin” (probably a typo) on a list of qualified voters in Falls City Precinct.