Humboldt County, Nevada

Betty Wiggins submitted the following:
I have found in the papers of a deceased Winnemucca woman the hand-written oral history of a woman, Martha Thornton (Leonard), who traveled from Illinois to Nevada in 1869. Delightful story, with lots of history and family information. I thought others would enjoy it. See transcription below:


THE LIFE OF A PIONEER WOMAN
(By Patty Ann Campbell, Humboldt County High School)

This story is about the life of Martha Thornton. She was born in St. Johns, Illinois, on January 1869. In June 1869, her family and grandmother moved from Illinois to Unionville, Nevada. When she moved out west, it was shortly after the joining of two railroads, the Central and Union, because the golden spike was still there.

On the trip out west her brother who was only 6 years old put his head out the window and lost his cap. He rushed to his mother and said "Tell them to stop the train. I lost my hat." Of course, they couldn't, but it was a joke on him all his life.

Martha's grandfather had come out five years before. He got settled, then sent for his wife, son and son's family. When her father came out here, he worked at the Arizona Mine till it closed down.

There was always the threat of an Indian attack in Unionville. So if the Indians were going to attack at the mouth of the canyon, the people were to signal the village to gather up at the head canyon by shooting a cannon. If the Indians were going to attack at the head of the canyon the people were to signal the village to gather down in the old Odd Fellows building by shooting off a charge of dynamite. When Martha Thornton was around 10 years old, she was one of the witnesses of the Indian Scare of Unionville. The settlers knew the Indians were on the warpath and ready for an attack from them. John Thornton, her father, sent Martha down to get some cartridges at the store and to warn them of the Indians. That night everyone went to sleep, but with their clothes on. At 2:00 A.M. in the morning, a charge of dynamite went off. Everybody was up and armed in a minute. They waited and waited, but no Indians. Finally, John Thornton remembered that there was a man up the canyon who was blasting.

Martha Thornton was a witness of another historic event in Unionville. It was the Great Flood of 1872. At that time, believe it or not, there were no trees in Unionville, only one. Then her brother went and cut it down for wood. During that time, everything came in wooden barrels. Out of the barrels the people made their tubs, churns, and other things. Therefore, being wood, they had to be kept in the creek to be kept from drying up. After the flood, all churns, tubs, and everything were piled up down in the mouth of the canyon.

When Martha was 16 years old, she went out of Unionville for the first time since arrival. She went to Paradise Valley to visit her friend. Martha's best friend gave her a surprise party the night before she left. Her best friend's mother had an awful time trying to get Martha to put on her best dress. Martha could not see why she should put on her best dress to play cards. Finally she put it on. Martha's card party turned out to be a surprise party.

On Martha's return trip from Paradise Valley, she was sitting in the window of the Germaine Hotel in Winnemucca when Melvin Leonard and his professor passed by. Melvin commented on what a sad face. His professor told him not to mind the pretty girls.

Five months later, she went to Dunn Glen to visit her mother. Her mother was taking care of Mrs. Leonard. There she met Melvin and were engaged.

Six months afterward she was married to Melvin A. Leonard on September 13, 1885. They were married by Mrs. Anne Thacker's father, Mr. Fellows, who was Justice of the Peace. They were to be married on September 12, but due to the absence of Mr. Fellows the wedding was held on September 13, which was a Friday.

On June 22, 1886, their first daughter was born. The little lady's name was Jane Leonard who is now Jane Davidson. Their second daughter, Orva, was born July 12, 1888. Four years later their last daughter was born. Her name was Mary Leonard, who is now Mary Hammock.

Martha Leonard's husband taught school for 35 years in Unionville. After Mr. Leonard retired, his daughter Orva Hammersmark taught school in Unionville for 15 years. Jane Davidson has had the post office of Unionville since 1907. She will have had the post office for 49 years in June of this year. This is the post office that is being closed down this year.

Martha has two grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Six generations have lived in their present home in Unionville. It was built by Martha's grandfather when he first came out west.

Source This was told to me by Martha Leonard whose present home is in Unionville.
Written by Patty Ann Campbell, about 1955 Transcribed by Betty Wiggins, September 2011

NOTE: Today Unionville is in Pershing county which was formed from Humboldt county in 1919.


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