Monday, February 12, 2018

Settlers in a New State

Orris Oliver
Orris Loyal Oliver (1818-1887) was born in the extreme northeast corner in the state of New York in Champlain, Clinton County, New York. He married Martha Hallowell Forbes (1823-1897) on October 28, 1838. Martha was born in Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

In 1858, sold his farm in Champlain, and with his wife and eight children, traveled by covered wagon to Minnesota. Minnesota had just become a state at that time, and the state was still widely inhabited by various Indian tribes, who were not only at war with each other and also with the white settlers. They would have two more children after their arrival in Minnesota. In fact, their first child born in Minnesota was a girl; and wanting to give her an appropriate name, they named her Minnesota Oliver (1860-1930); she was known by her nicknames "Minne" and "Sota."

Orris and his family settled in Wabasha County where he farmed. In 1863, his application for a
Martha Forbes Oliver
Homestead describes his home and property as follows: "I have built a house thereon 16 by 20 feet and 10 feet high, two board floors, shakes for the roof and 4 doors, 4 windows and is a comfortable house to live in; I have 100 acres fenced, barn 36 by 36 feet, corn crib and wagon house.”

About 1878, a small band of Native Americans passed through the Oliver farm on their way to a large tribal gathering in Wisconsin. It was a cold, snowy evening and one of the members of the band approached the house to seek shelter from the approaching storm. Apparently, the Chief's daughter was in intense labor. Permission was granted to used the barn. Several hours passed and there was  again commotion at the front door. A Native American was speaking excitedly and pointing to the barn. Orris, not knowing what was wrong, summoned Martha to come with him. Arriving at the barn, Martha could tell that the situation was not good. There were several elderly tribal women hovering around the young mother-to-be, chanting and waving smoke
An Indian Travois from Pin Interest
over her.  Martha saw blood everywhere and soon assessed that the maiden was in grave danger of losing the child and probably dying herself - especially if they didn't get the baby out. Martha had assisted many times in difficult births for their farm animals and has also become a midwife in the area. So, she went to work. A short time later, the child was born; the mother, exhausted and weak from the loss of blood, seemed to be okay. The next day, there was a beautiful blanket placed on the front steps, a token of the chief's appreciation for saving his daughter and grandson. They had left, making a travois for the mother and baby. The blanket remained in the family for many years.

Orris died in 1887 of congestive heart failure. He left $5.00 to each of his children and to three grandchildren – the equivalent of $125 per person today. He left all of his real and personal property to his wife, Martha. In total, he left an estate of $459.00 – the equivalent of $11,438. 

Martha died November 28, 1897. In her obituary, The Graphic Sentinel described her as ". . . a tender, loving mother, a kind neighbor. . . ."
Gillford Cemetery, Wabasha County, Minnesota

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