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~ Kathy M.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sepia Saturday #90: Sisters Martha and Talitha Letsom

For this week's Sepia Saturday post, I have chosen to highlight two very special sisters, Martha and Talitha Letsom (aka: Litha Letsom Hedrick ... my great-grandmother).  I don't have time to research all the dates right now, because I getting ready for a camping trip to celebrate the holiday weekend.  I'll check back and read your comments and visit your sites when I get back, for sure.

When you are all through here at Oregon Gifts, please "CLICK HERE"  to visit other great old photos with neat stories over at Sepia Saturday.Hope you all have a wonderful Sepia Saturday!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

I am guessing that these photos were taken around 1877 and 1878.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

The girls grew up in this home with their parents, (my Great-Great Grandparents) John Thomas Letsom and Sarah Jane Harer Lewis Letsom.   

Their children were: Thomas M. Letsom (1851-1949), Margaret Letsom (1858-1887), Mary Davis Letsom Goodall (1862-1942), John E. Letsom (1864-1906), Lewellen Letsom (1866 - ?), Martha Letsom Harris (1868-1959), Evan "Uncle Kit" Letsom (1870 or 71 to 1957) and Talitha Letsom Hedrick (1873-1962).

Sarah was a widow with three living children when John met her.  A baby, Ivan, had died at the age of only a few months in 1852, as Sarah and her husband Stephen M. Lewis traveled over The Oregon Trail.  Stephen died in 1855.

Sarah and Stephen had three children, half-siblings to the eight above, bringing Sarah's childbirth total to twelve.  Those kids were:  Sarah Jane Obedience Lewis (1850-1888), Ivan L. Lewis (1852), Amanda Ellen Lewis Conley (1853-1922) and David Elijah Lewis "Cougar Dave" (1855-1936).

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

Talitha is my great-grandmother, my mom's Granny.  Martha is her sister, my great-aunt.  Granny Litha was born in 1873 and died when I was 4 years old, in 1962.  She married Ben Hedrick,  became a step-mother to Hobart Hedrick, and had three children of her own, John, Florence and Homer.  Florence is my Mom's mom, or aka: Grandma T.  Ben and Talitha lived in Oregon and Washington; settling in the Tin Pot Valley area at Jack Creek Ranch, and then in Drain, after the farm was sold.

Aunt Martha married James William Harris in 1901, when she was 32.  She died in McMinnville in 1959. Aunt Martha always referred to her husband as Mr. Harris, at least to others.

Their parents, John Letsom and Sarah Harrer Lewis Letsom, are shown below, with a bit of family history following.  Poor Sarah was just worn out by the time that this picture was taken, and died in 1898 at the age of 69.  John lived on until 1922, dying when he was 94 years old:

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews


"John Letsom, who came to this state in 1850, is one of the few surviving representatives of the early pioneers of southern Oregon and  is one of the most highly esteemed citizens of Douglas county, residing on a ranch six miles northeast of Yoncalla.  As an agriculturist he has won  a gratifying measure of prosperity, owning three hundred acres of valuable land in Scotts Valley.  His birth occurred in Shropshire, England, on the 13th of March, 1828, his parents being Thomas and Margaret (Davis) Letsom, both of whom  were Natives of Wales.  The came from England to the United States in 1845, and after two years' residence in New York City, removed to Wisconsin, purchasing a farm near Racine, on which they spent the remainder of their lives.

John Letsom was a youth of seventeen when he accompanied his parents on their removal to Wisconsin in 1845 but did not remain  in that state, returning to New York where he obtained employment as a die sinker in a steel toy factory.  In the spring of 1848 he formed one of the first parties to leave for the California gold fields and made the voyage by sailing vessel around Cape Horn, reaching his destination at the end of six months.  During the following winter he worked in San Fransisco and in the spring of 1849 began mining on Stanislaus River, remaining there through the summer.  In the fall he formed on of a company of about fifty men who banded themselves together for cooperative mining, but the venture proved unprofitable and Mr. Letsom left the gold fields.  In the spring of 1850 he came north, to Oregon, spending the following summer and winter in Milwaukee, Clackamas County, where he worked in a blacksmith shop.  In the spring of 1851 he went to the gold fields of Yreka, California, and there spent one year.  In the spring of 1852 he came to Douglas County, locating about six miles northeast of Yoncalla, where he took up a donation claim of one hundred and sixty acres and where he resided for five years or until he had proved up his claim.  During this time, he had married the widow of S.M. Lewis, formerly Miss Sarah Harrer, who was a native of Arkansas and who had three living children by her first husband.  It was in order to give these children the advantages of a an education that in 1861 Mr. Letsom took up his abode in Yoncalla, where he remained for about 10 years.  On the expiration of that period he removed to the place whereon he has resided continuously since -- a fine ranch six miles northeast of Yoncalla.  He owns three hundred acres of valuable and productive land, and has long been numbered among the best known and most highly respected citizens of southern Oregon.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Letsom were born five daughters and four sons.  The six surviving members of the family are as follows: Thomas, who is a resident of Portland, Oregon; Mary, who is the widow of F.M. Goodell and now resides with her father; Lewellyn, living  in eastern Oregon; Martha, the wife of J.W. Harris, of Chelan, Washington; Evan [Kit], who operates the home farm; and Talitha, who is the wife of B.E. Hedrick, of Douglas county.  The wife and mother was called to her final rest on January 19, 1898."

The above article is from page 340 of the book "The Centennial History of Oregon, 1811-1912, Volume 4"The book was written by Joseph Gatson and George H. Hines.  Thank you to Bill Hedrick for giving me the link to this information:  The Centennial History of Oregon 1811-1912

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Little Nell said...

It’s amazing that you have photographs dating so far back. Those little girls looks so solemn in both pictures, I suppose because they were not encouraged to smile. Even in old age it was difficult to break the habit. Even better was that very detailed history and pictures of the house. Wonderful!

Arkansas Patti said...

Very interesting how John got to California by sailing. I thought that was smart to avoid all that walking and indians but 6 months on a ship--- goodness.
I know I have said it before but I am always struck by the posing with serious looks in old time pictures.

Rosie said...

Very interesting old photos and commentary, great stuff.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

So interesting, Kathy. And old photos like that make me feel . . . well, I'm not sure what, exactly, but something. I'm always struck by how serious everyone is and wonder if it is because of the time required to actually take a photo, or because those were serious times. In any event, the information and photos are fascinating. Thanks for sharing. And enjoy your camping trip!

Liz Stratton said...

I'm not certain if what I've read is true, but I've been told they didn't smile because dental work didn't come cheaply back then.

Another possibility I've heard is that they didn't smile because they had to hold the same pose for so long. AnatomyNotes,, says it only takes one more muscle to smile than to frown.

Maybe it was simply the tradition. Regardless, priceless capturing of their history in both pictures and words.

Laraine Eddington said...

I find old photographs so mysterious. How did they all manage such enigmatic expressions?

Bob Scotney said...

This is a tremendous set of old photos. What a great house. The story of John was fascinating to read - quite a man. He earned his reward for his get-up-and-go. Pity so many people today will not move from the neighbourhood where they were born.

Christine H. said...

You have such a rich and interesting family history, and always especially interesting to me because it's Oregon history too. Beautiful pictures. I'm sure those girls smiled and laughed when they weren't posing for the camera.

Postcardy said...

I was really amused by the first photo. The girls look so serious, but their hats remind me of upside down flower pots.

Mike Brubaker said...

Wonderful photos and especially to have two different poses of the young sisters! On the family history I can recommend a book that is a history and eyewitness record of the 1849 California Gold Rush - The World Rushed In by J.S. Holliday.

Brett Payne said...

Wonderful photos, thank you for sharing them Kathy. I particularly like the one with the flower pot hats.

Talitha and Martha's expressions when they were being photographed didn't change much over the decades, did they. I guess once you're in the habit, it's hard to break it.

You hear many reasons quoted for the lack of smiles in old photos - the truth is that it was simply convention to have one's portraits taken that way, nothing more. By the late 1870s when the first portrait was taken (I presume from the tones that it's a tintype), the developments in photographic emulsions were such that exposure times were much reduced, and it was no longer a case of staying still for ages.

What a story of John Letsom. having moved half way around the world myself, I appreciate what an upheaval that is.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

For not having time you sure did pull together a great tale and fascinating photos. The first photo of the girls with their petticoats over their dresses and those hats is my favorite and then to see them in their later years, a great way to end. The youngest in the fdirst photo seems to be wondering, "why is something on my head?"

tony said...

I Hope You Have A Good Trip.
ha!Liz,That's Why I Dont Smile In Photos!!:)

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

The girls look so solemn but with a beauty too. I found it amazing and interesting that John Letsom thought it better to sail around Cape Horn than to go overland.

Karen S. said...

Wow, what an amazing group of photos and all that fascination information...I especially like the children and their hats, but I really fine the two older ladies, with the shadows falling in around them quite a lovely photo!

Martin Lower said...

What a great story! John was obviously a busy chap.

imagespast said...

For this week's prompt I found an old pic of my granny and her sister, from around 1919 so I'm pleased for you that you have an early pic of an earlier generation. Love the house photo too :-) Jo

Tattered and Lost said...

So wonderful to have such history. I'm still convinced mine were horse thieves. That's the story my father and uncle told me, always with a gleam in their eyes.

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