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Sarah Martin Laird,
the eldest child of Isaac and Mary (Irwin) Martin, was born in Scipio Township, Meigs County, OH, in 1829 (probably July).  She married William Thomas Laird on 26 August 1854 in Fremont County, IA.  He had been born 17 August 1834 in Erie, PA, the son of Johnston Laird and Mary (or Polly) Isabel (Russell) Laird.  Sarah and William both died in Yreka, Siskiyou County, CA — she on 7 April 1908 and he on 10 July 1909.

Sarah’s date of birth is somewhat problematic, owing to inconsistencies in available census records.  Her age is stated as 21 in 1850, 25 in 1860, 34 in 1870, 43 in 1880, and 65 in 1900.  The 1900 census further specifies her month of birth as July 1834.  However, I choose to believe the age on the 1850 census (corresponding to a birth year of 1829) for three reasons:

  1. The 1830 census (which does not name individual family members) shows a female child less than 5 years old in the household of Isaac Martin, and the 1840 census shows one aged 10–15.  If that is not Sarah, who would it be?
  2. I cannot see any reason why her age would have been misstated on the 1850 census.
  3. I CAN see a reason why she may have deliberately misstated her age on the 1860 and all subsequent censuses.  Specifically, in 1854 she married a man 5 years younger than herself.  In the course of their courtship, she may have led her fiancé to believe that she was younger, and she may have wished to keep her true age secret, even after decades of marriage.

The inscription on her tombstone just adds to the confusion.  It is somewhat hard to read, but it appears to say she was 82 years old when she died in April 1908.  Not only is that inconsistent with all of the census reports, but it would give her a date of birth about 2 years prior to her parents’ marriage.

Shortly after William and Sarah were married in Fremont County, they evidently moved across the Missouri River to Cass County, NE.  There, William was a 1st Lieutenant in a local volunteer militia, and he was also appointed to represent Cass County in the 1856 session of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature.

It’s not clear exactly when William and Sarah returned to Fremont County, IA.  Their first son, Charles, was born there in 1858, but Sarah could have gone back across the river to be with her family during her delivery, even if she and William still resided in Nebraska.  By the time of the 1860 census, though, they clearly resided once again in Sidney Township of Fremont County.  In 1861, William ran for Sheriff of Fremont County and lost by 20 votes (History of Fremont County, p. 453), but the man elected then resigned the position a few months later, and William was one of three men who subsequently served as Sheriff between August 1862 and January 1866 (ibid., p. 459).

According to William’s obituary, however, “In 1862, he made the first overland trip to Trinity county Calif with an ox team, the trip lasting five months.”  It’s hard to see how he could have served as Sheriff anytime after August 1862 and still have undertaken the five-month journey to California that same year (especially considering that such journeys usually began in the spring, so that they could be completed before the snows of the following winter would close the passes across the Sierra Nevada).  It seems more likely that William and Sarah traveled to California in 1863 (or even later).

By 1867, the Lairds were clearly established in Siskiyou County, CA.  William is listed on a voter list from that year, and the History of Siskiyou County, California (p. 178), identifies him as one of the founders of the Evening Star Masonic Lodge, established that year in Etna, CA.  He was appointed to be the Junior Deacon of that lodge.  That volume also shows that William:

  • helped found the Etna IOOF Lodge in 1871 (p. 176),
  • was appointed a Siskiyou County Commissioner in 1874 (p. 70), and
  • was elected Third District Supervisor in September 1875 and resigned that position in May 1878 (p. 78).

The History of Siskiyou County also records that Sarah helped organize the Mt. Etna Division of the “Sons of Temperance” in 1870 (p. 181) and that her sons Charles and William H. Laird were officers of the Patrol Council of the “Champions of Honor” in 1880 (p.183).

The 1870 census found William, Sarah, and their two sons living at Etna in Siskiyou County.  William’s occupation is listed as “Farmer.”  Their household also included John S. Beard, a 34-year-old attorney-at-law, and 6-year-old Elie Dawson.  Elie (as Elsie) shows up again on the 1880 census, where she is identified as an adopted daughter.  I don’t know what relationship John Beard had to the Lairds, if any.

Elsie Belle Dawson was the youngest of six Dawson children recorded in the 1870 census of Siskiyou County living with families not named Dawson.  These, evidently, were the children of Martin M. Dawson, who died in 1866, and his wife Tryphena (Noel) Dawson.  Tryphena remarried in 1869, to James C. Campbell, and two of her Dawson children are shown living in her new household in the 1870 census.  The other four were living with families named Shelly, Denny, Carico, and, of course, the Lairds.  By 1880, all of these Dawson children were back in Tryphena’s household (with James Campbell) except for one married daughter and Elsie (who, as noted above, apparently had been adopted by the Lairds).

At the time of the 1880 census, William, Sarah, Charles, and Elsie were in Willow Creek Township of Siskiyou County.  The younger William Laird — William H. — is no longer in the household.  Instead, he is working as a school teacher and boarding with the family of Silas Shattuck in the Village of Henley (still in Siskiyou County).

The 1900 census shows William and Sarah in Table Rock Township of Siskiyou County.  Their son William, his wife Lottie, and William and Lottie’s son John are listed immediately below them on the same census page.  The younger William is identified as a “Post Master.”  Charles Laird, his wife Elva, and their three children are listed in Lake Township.

A work published by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2006, Historical Landscape Overview of the Upper Klamath River Canyon of Oregon and California, gives the following information about a site once called “Laird’s Station”:

It was located about one mile up Willow Creek to the south of Klamathon, California, in T47N, R6W, M.D.M.  The site was developed by William T. Laird as a ranch and stage house on the Oregon-California wagon road.  Laird sold out about 1899 and it was subsequently known as Thrall Ranch.  The site became the terminus of the Klamath Lake Railroad and the site of its junction with the Southern Pacific Railroad.

This site would have been about 4 miles east-southeast of Hornbrook, CA.

As mentioned above, Sarah and William both died in Yreka, Siskiyou County, CA — she on 7 April 1908 and he on 10 July 1909.  Both are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Yreka, and their graves may be viewed on Find-a-Grave here and here.  An obituary for William is posted here.  I have not found any published obituary for Sarah.

William and Sarah had two sons and one adopted daughter, as listed below:

  • Charles Johnston Laird, 1858-1928 (married Elva Catherine Caster)
  • William Harvey Laird, 1860-1938 (married Lottie Marfield)
  • Elsie Belle Dawson (adopted), 1864-???? (married James Homer Skinner)*
If you can suggest any corrections to the information above or provide any further details about the lives of William and Sarah (Martin) Laird or their descendants, please contact me at the address shown in the image below:

Pete at John Martin Family dot org

Thanks,      
     —Pete Martin

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*Siskiyou County marriage records show a marriage date of 22 Jul 1885 for Elsie.  Fifteen years later, the 1900 census shows her husband (as “Homer Skinner”) living in San Francisco with a marital status of “Divorced.”  I can find no further records of Elsie Dawson, Elsie Laird, Elsie Skinner, or of any other “Elsie” born in California about 1864 whose background details match what we know about this woman.