I believe I’ve mentioned my maternal great-grandmother, Martha Jane Stern, in previous posts. She was the mother of my mother’s mom, Vesta Christena Wilt. Martha was born on February 9, 1872 in Clarksville, Hamilton County, Indiana to Emanuel Bushong Stern (descendent of the Stern and Bushong families) and Nancy Caylor (descendent of the Kohler/Caylor and Kinsey families).
When Martha was 18, she married 22 year old Joseph Napolean Wilt in Delaware County, Indiana on September 10, 1890. Between July 1891 and April 1906, the couple had 4 sons and 2 daughters (it is also reported that they had a son who died at birth – but I have yet to find proper documentation). My grandmother, Vesta, was the oldest daughter and fourth child.
When the youngest, Clifford, was a little more than two years old, the couple had separated. I’ve written about the bench warrant that was sworn out for Joe Wilt in “An Early Divorce”. Martha’s sister, Margaret Ellen Stern, had married William Franklin (Frank) Clawson in 1882 but Margaret died in April 1908. On New Years’ Eve 1910, Frank and Martha married and combined their families.
The family ran a store in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana. When my great-aunt, Nellie, was diagnosed with asthma, Martha and Frank took her and Clifford to Leaburg, Oregon. My grandmother had already married and they were living with my grandfather’s parents. It was many years before my grandmother saw her mother again because people just didn’t cross the country for a “visit”. She took her grandson, my brother, to visit Grandma Clawson (which is what we all called her), when he was just a few years old. My mom has always said that my brother met Grandma before she did.
Frank passed away on May 23, 1923 – not too many years after they arrived in Leaburg. After John returned from WWI, he moved to Oregon to be close to his mother. Frank’s son, Ralph, also spent time in the Northwest. Frank’s daughter, Nancy Clawson Welch, had moved to California and died two years before her father.
I don’t know if Martha’s sons, Jesse and Clarence, ever saw their mother again. I’ve not heard or read anything that mentions either one of them taking a trip out to Oregon to visit her and I know she didn’t travel east after she’d moved.
Martha died on November 6, 1956 of congestive heart failure. She was 84 years old. Funeral services were held at Buell Chapel and she was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Leaburg, Oregon.
I wasn’t able to meet my great-grandmother and only know her through the stories my grandmother and my mom have told me. I also have several letters she wrote to my grandmother. She was highly respected by her children and loved very much.