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Such memories, so long after

It was a death in the family 107 years ago.

And it rocked The Legal Genealogist‘s kin.

Perhaps not exactly today, though today does mark the 107th anniversary of the death.

News of that death, you see, would have taken some time to travel from Red Lake in Colfax County, New Mexico, to Frederick, in Tillman County, Oklahoma.

And it would have taken still more time for the news to travel from Frederick to Hollister, some 12 miles away, give or take a few.

Yet, years after the event, the impact of that news was still seared in the mind and the memory of one person affected… my grandmother, Opal (Robertson) Cottrell.

Martha Louise Shew Baird Livingston, born AL c1855, died NM 9 Apr 1909

Martha Louise Shew Baird Livingston
born AL c1855, died NM 9 Apr 1909

The death was that of my grandmother’s grandmother, Martha Louise (Shew) Baird Livingston, on the 9th of April 1909.

Martha Louise was born in Cherokee County, Alabama, the third child and only daughter of Daniel and Margaret (Battles) Shew. Her birth date? Well, that was in some February in the mid 1850s. (Her tombstone reads 1856.1 The 1860 census has her age then as six (birth year of 1854);2 the 1870 census as 17 then (birth year of 1853);3 the 1880 census as 25 (birth year of 1855);4 and the 1900 census says she was born in February 1855.5)

Her father Daniel was a farmer who appears to have died when Martha Louise was a very little girl. We know he was alive in 1854, when he signed a receipt for a federal land purchase,6 but he was not recorded with the family in the 1860 census and there is no record of him thereafter.

She was quite young when her first child, Eula, was born, in 1869, and there is some doubt as to the status of Eula’s parents at the time of her birth. In short, we have no clue whether Martha Louise and Jasper Baird were married — then, or ever.

We do know she was free, somehow, to marry Abigah Livingston in 1876,7 and to go on then to produce eight Livingston children — with the last, Arthur Carlton Livingston, born the same year that the first, Eula Baird, married Jasper Carlton Robertson. (And yeah, we actually do think the middle name was a deliberate choice.)

She lived in four states in her lifetime: her first many years in Alabama; then with Abigah and their children in Texas; then with Abigah and most of their children in Oklahoma; and then… and then… and then…

Sometime after Oklahoma became a state, Martha Louise became ill. Nothing that anyone could do for her in Oklahoma seemed to be helping. She couldn’t breathe.

What was left to try to help her was what so many people at that time tried to do: Martha Louise was sent off to a better climate, to the desert of New Mexico, in the hopes that what was almost undoubtedly tuberculosis could be brought under control.

It was not to be. And 107 years ago today her life came to a close.8

We don’t know how the news came to Frederick, Oklahoma, where most of the Livingston family was centered. But we do know, exactly, how the word came to Hollister, where Eula and her family were living.

We know because of a note written by Eula’s daughter, my grandmother Opal, on a page in a 1968 calendar. That may have just been what was available when she sat to write her recollections — not necessarily in 1968 — but whenever it was it had to be at least 59 years after the fact.

And what she wrote shows how much that was still fresh in her mind:

1909 –
Long before it got there we could see the buggy coming slowly
down our road — My Dear Uncle
Leva – 15 years old – bringing us the
sad news of my Dear Grandmother’s
Death – My grieving Mother – and my aunts & uncles – I am carried back through time and space to where you are – and I see you once more – as you were then – a large, close family, grieving for a Dear & loving Mother – my Grandmother Martha Livingston Buried in Cemetery Frederick Okla – 1909 …9

Would that we could all be remembered, so deeply, so well, so long after we take our final journeys…


  1. Tombstone, Martha L. Livingston, Frederick City Cemetery, Frederick, OK; photographed 2003 by J.G. Russell.
  2. 860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 315 (stamped), dwelling 829, family 829, Margaret Shoe household; digital image, ( : accessed 9 August 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 5.
  3. edule, Leesburg Post Office, p. 268(A), dwelling 15, family 15, Baird household; digital image, ( : accessed 11 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 7.
  4. 1880 U.S. census, Cherokee County, AL, population schedule, Township 11, Range 8, enumeration district (ED) 27, p. 387(A) (stamped), dwelling 5, family 5, A C Livingston household; digital image, ( : accessed 13 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 6.
  5. 1900 U.S. census, Williamson County, TX, population schedule, Justice Precinct 2, enumeration district (ED) 125, p. 117(B) (stamped), sheet 9(B), dwelling 143, family 154, Abija Levingston household; digital image, ( : accessed 13 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1679.
  6. Affidavit, 12 Oct 1854, patent no. 17,317, final patent date 1 January 1859, in Daniel Shew (Cherokee County, Alabama) land entry file, Lebanon, Alabama, Land Office; Land Entry Files, Alabama; Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  7. Jordan R. Dodd, compiler, ÔÇťAlabama Marriages, 1809-1920 (Selected Counties) (database on-line),” database, ( : accessed 13 Oct 2011).
  8. Linda Norman Garrison, Tillman County Personals: Abstracts from Frederick, OK Newspapers May 1902-June 1911 (Lawton, Okla. : Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society, 2009), citing Frederick (Okla.) Enterprise, 16 Apr 1909.
  9. Notes written by Opal (Robertson) Cottrell, c1968, Fluvanna County, Va.; digital image in the possession of J.G. Russell.
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