Sarah Milinda MARTIN

Story by Don Tracy of Arizona:

This brief account of the life of Ira and Sarah reflects what little I know and/or what I have heard about them. However, I would be remorse if I didn't try to leave 'those interested' a picture of my grandmother and the life and times in which she lived. This woman was 4' 11" tall and never weighed more than 120 pounds and that was when she was 8+ months pregnant, which was most of the time. She lived in rural Missouri, which in the late 1800's was still the frontier. She had to be tough as nails just to survive that environment.

She bore sixteen children in twenty four years. All born at home without ever have a doctor present. She lived to witness the death of ten of these children - three died as infants, two died of childhood diseases, one was accidently shot and killed when she was 18, and four others reached adulthood and died under tragic conditions.

She told a story about Jesse James spending the night with them. She said a man rode up to their house and asks to spend the night. He went out to the barn and watched Ira do the chores. Ira had a real nive riding horse and the man complemented him several times on what a fine horse it was. She said that night he laid on his back in bed, fully clothed with his gun still strapped to his side. They assumed that when he left he would take the horse, however, in the morning he got up, ate breakfast and put a five dollar gold piece on the table, got on his horse and rode away. She was sure it was Jesse James as the five dollars was way too much money for a night's lodging and nobody else could afford it or would pay it.

She made clothes for herself, her husband and her family, but never owned a sewing machine. She washed these clothes weekly, but never owned a washing machine.

She cooked for this family and canned enough food, she had raised in her garden to last through the Winter, all on a wood burning stove. Dad used to say when he was a kid, there was always at least 60 people at their house for Sunday dinner. As he was the 13th child, just his older siblings and their families would be almost that many.

She used to tell stories about her getting to to to town twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. These trips were to Lexington, Missouri as I remember, because there was a grits mill there and they would load up three wagons with wheat and corn and have it ground into flour and corn meal and put it in barrels to take home. She would tell about butchering day and said they always butchered one hog for each member of the family and five for company. This could easily be 10 to 15 hogs to butcher, block, cure and pack away.

She was always in a good mood and never showed anger or raised her voice about anything. This was amazing to me as most of you reading this can attest too, our mother did both frequently. She had no Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid and no Money, yet she always was thankful for what she had and for the life she had the opportunity to live.

During her lifespan of 87 years, from 1869 to 1956, the world as we know it changed more than it had in any 100 year period before or since. When I think about her life and the life she lived I always think about things she witnessed or experienced that had a major impact on her and the people living at the time. Some of them are as follows:

  • Electricity. She never lived on a farm that had electricity, however, in her lifetime she saw it become commonplace throughout rural America.
  • Telephone. She was seven years old when the telephone was invented, but never lived on a farm that had one, however, in her lifetime she saw the telephone become commonplace throughout America.
  • Automobile. She was 27 years old when Henry Ford built the first automobile in America and 34 years old when Ford sold the first car. Although she never owned one, she watched them change her world. She witnessed the exploration of gas and oil necessary to support the growth of the auto industry. She witnessed gas and oil replace wood and coal for home heating and cooking throughout America. She witnessed the construction of hard surfaced roads throughout America to support the auto industry. Before her death she even witnessed the construction of freeways that must have seemed like a real stretch from the 15 miles of dirt road they traveled from their farm to Lexington.
  • Airplane. She was 34 years old when the Wright Brothers invented the airplane and lived to see it become the common mode of cross-country travel in America.
  • Television. She witnessed the invention of the television and watched it become a necessity in every home in America.
  • Refrigeration. She witnessed the invention of refrigeration and subsequent air-conditioning and watched in become a necessity commercially as well as in homes throughout America.
The only things that I can think of that we have today that were not available when she was alive are personal computers and cell phones and I think she was better off without both. 

One last story about my grandmother and I hope some who read this are old enough to understand it. When I was going to college, she was bed-ridden and Donna and I went to see her. During our conversation she said, "Donnie, they tell me you are going to be an engineer" and I said, "yes, grandmother, I am." And she said, "that's nice, your Uncle Jim was a railroad man."

Don Tracy of Arizona

Sarah Milinda MARTIN

Created: 07-October-2012 Revised: 08-March-2015