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One special woman

The Legal Genealogist cannot be here, in this particular place, at this particular time, without her thoughts turning to this one ancestor in particular.

No, it’s just not possible to be here in Oklahoma, during this week of March when we celebrate International Women’s Day, without my thoughts going to Martha Louise (Shew) Baird Livingston — my second great grandmother and a pioneer of the Twin Territories.

I’m here in Tulsa, for today’s Genealogy Workshop at the Hardesty Regional Library of the Tulsa City-County Library where, yesterday, I was reminded again of the life — and the death — of this particular woman.

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

We only have one photograph of Martha Louise, this one that you see here.

She 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 his daughter 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 census7 and there is no record of him thereafter.

Martha Louise was quite young when her first child, Eula, was born, in 1869,8 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 Martha Louise was free, somehow, to marry Abigah Livingston in 1876 under the name Martha Beard,9 and to go on then to produce eight Livingston children10 — 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 her first many years in Alabama; then with Abigah and their children in Texas. Then in 1902 she and Abigah and most of their children moved here to Oklahoma. That included my great grandparents, her daughter and son-in-law Eula and Jasper Robertson.11 Oklahoma was wide open territory at that time — and territory only: it didn’t become a state until 1907.12

And in only a few short years… she was gone.

The story is told in two remarkable passages in two entirely different sources.

One is in a set of notes left 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 …13

And the other is in a newspaper clipping that I was reminded of yesterday, sitting in the Tulsa City-County Library, and researching my family.

It appeared in the Frederick (Oklahoma) Enterprise on the 16th of April 1909, and it’s reprinted in a book of abstracts from the Frederick newspapers that I came across yesterday:

Martha L. Livingston, aged 52, died Tuesday, April 9th, at Red Lake, New Mexico, of tuberculosis, after an extended illness. She went to New Mexico some time ago for the benefit of her health. Her husband, A. L. Livingston, was at her bedside when she breathed her last, and accompanied the remains to this place, arriving here last Friday night. They had resided five miles southwest of town for the past few years. She leaves her husband and several children, one of whom is Mrs. Robertson. The funeral services was held Tuesday afternoon at the Frederick cemetery, in charge of the I.O.O.F.14

Martha Louise (Shew) Baird Livingston.

Survivor of one of the most turbulent times in American history.

Mother of at least nine children by two different men.

Resident in four different states — two of them before they even were states.

A pioneer in so many ways.

And gone… when she was far younger than I am today.

No, it’s just not possible to be here in Oklahoma, during this week of March when we celebrate International Women’s Day, without taking time to to honor this second great grandmother.

Martha Louise (Shew) Baird Livingston.

Oklahoma pioneer.


  1. Tombstone, Martha L. Livingston, Frederick City Cemetery, Frederick, OK; photographed 2003 by J.G. Russell.
  2. 1860 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. 1870 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, 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. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Ala., pop. sched., p. 315 (stamped), dwell./fam. 829, Margaret Shoe household.
  8. See 1870 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Ala., pop. sched., Leesburg Post Office, p. 268(A), dwell./fam. 15, Baird household.
  9. Jordan R. Dodd, compiler, “Alabama Marriages, 1809-1920 (Selected Counties) (database on-line),” database, ( : accessed 13 Oct 2011).
  10. See Leva Livingston, “Abigah Livingston,” A Diamond Jubilee: History of Tillman County 1901-1976 (Frederick, OK : Tillman County Historical Society, 1976), 401.
  11. See ibid.
  12. Oklahoma Statehood, November 16, 1907,” Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives ( : accessed 10 Mar 2017).
  13. Notes written by Opal (Robertson) Cottrell, c1968, Fluvanna County, Va.; digital image in the possession of J.G. Russell.
  14. 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.
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