Martha Simmons – May 15th, 1940
Martha Alameda Rowe was born on November 8th, 1887 in Plattsmouth, Nebraska to Louis Michael and Lucinda Jane (Curtis) Rowe.
In the 1900 census, Martha was listed as attending school. She could read and write and had five brothers and sisters. The family lived in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Nebraska City is located on the banks of the Missouri river and was a good place to cross, so river trade was a big part of the community. The Burlington and Missouri River railroad also came right through town, making Nebraska City a bustling place for industry. Right around the early 1900’s, river trade slowed and the railroad pushed west. These two things combined to slow the growth of industry in Nebraska City. The population of the town lagged, many families pushing west with the railroad.
This picture shows Nebraska City in the 1880’s, about the time that Martha was born.
By 1904, Martha, who was just 16 years old, was in Oregon. She married Thomas W. Sagers in Harney county, Oregon. Thomas was thirteen years older than Martha. I would really love to find out how Martha and Tom met and why she was in Oregon, seemingly without her family at such a young age.
On the 24th of December, 1905 the couple welcomed a daughter, Alta Isoline Sagers. They were living in Soda Springs, Idaho.
Four years later, on September 1st, 1909, a son Estel Thomas Sagers joined the family.
The family must have moved back to Oregon shortly after Estel was born. In October Martha was entering handiwork in the Harney county fair!
From the Times-Herald (Burns, Harney County, OR) dated 16 Oct 1909:
‘A list of premium winners at the county fair last week:
Mrs. Thos. Sagers, first on embroidered center piece, first on embroidered cushion.’
On the federal census of April 1910 Thomas is working as a bookkeeper in a store and Martha’s mother has come to live with them.
Two years later, the local newspaper reported that Martha has filed for divorce.
From the Times-Herald (Burns, Harney County, OR) dated 13 Apr 1912:
Circuit Court Work:
Martha Sagers vs. Thos. Sagers – Divorce. Referred to official reporter.’
In October Martha’s mother, who was still living with her, passed away. It seems like it was a tough year for her. She not only became a single mom, but lost her own mother as well.
About 1916, Martha married Clay Taylor Simmons. The couple had a son, Rolin Clay Simmons, born on February 20th, 1918 in Ontario, Oregon.
From The Times-Herald (Burns, Harney County, OR) dated 02 Mar 1918:
‘Born – Feb. 20 to Mr. and Mrs. Taylor Simmons at Ontario, a son. Mrs. Simmons was formerly Martha Sagers and is a sister to Mrs. Ed. Springer.’
Martha was an active member of the local Eastern Star chapter. The Eastern Star is a Masonic group that is open to both men and women.
From The Times-Herald (Burns, Harney County, OR) dated 01 Mar 1919:
‘The installation of the officers of Burns Chapter, O.E.S., took place last Wednesday evening at the Masonic lodge rooms. The ceremony was followed by a social meeting and refreshments. This event has always been an occasion of much enjoyment in former years but because of the “flu” ban the election was not held on the usual date and the installation of the Masons, which had been customarily held jointly with the Star before, had already taken place, it did not bring together the usual number of members. However, it was an affair that will be remembered by those present.
The following were installed:
Virginia Gemberling, Worthy Matron; Fred Williams, Worthy Patron; Etta Jones, Secretary; Eugenia Faulkner, Treasurer; Martha Simmons, Conductress; Leona Thompson, Associate Conductress; Ellen Geer, Ada; Enid Gowan, Ruth; Neva Geer, Esther; Helene Dalton, Martha; Edith Sizemore, Electa; Inez Geer, Warder; I.S. Geer, Sentinel; Florence Dalton, Chaplain; Ella Voegtly, Marshal; and Sarah Farre, Organist.’
As Conductress, I believe that Martha would have been in charge of any new visitors to meetings and would have conducted all new initiations. This whole thing is interesting to me, because all the documentation has the Simmons family living in Ontario, yet it seems that Martha is still active with this organization in Burns. The two towns are a little over 100 miles apart. That would have been quite the commitment and must have been a very important group for her.
The 1920 census shows the family in Ontario. Taylor is listed as a Farmer and Martha’s uncle, George Curtis is living with them.
Somewhere in the next few years, the Simmons’ moved to northern California, where Taylor was from. They lived in Oroville when the 1930 census was taken. Martha was 43 years old and taking ironing in to help with the household funds. Taylor was doing bridge work and the family had a boarder living with them. By this time, Martha’s daughter Alta had been married and divorced. She and her young son, Norman, were living back at home with her parents. Rolin was twelve years old.
Taylor, Martha, and Rolin. Date unknown.
1940 found Martha and Taylor still in Oroville, but their household had shrunk to just the two of them. Martha was no longer working and Taylor was still building bridges, working as a carpenter.
Taylor and Martha in their garden. Look at those sunflowers!
Martha A. Simmons – 1940 – Oroville, California
Martha passed away on December 26th, 1943 in Redding, California from complications of diabetes. She was only 56 years old.
From family members, I understand that both Martha and Taylor are buried in a cemetery in Redding, California. I haven’t been able to verify that. I will update this when I find the correct information.
“Grandma Martha passed when I was about two or younger. She had diabetes. She was 4’10”. She could walk under Grandpa Rolin’s arm when he held it straight out. She was short.” ~ MJ Simmons