Saturday, January 25, 2014

Martha Bashor Hibsch Collett (52 Ancestors - #3)

Finding Martha Using Newspapers & Voter Registration Indexes

Martha Bashor Hibsch Collett was my great-great grandmother.  She was known as “Ma” or “Grandma Collett” to family and “Mattie” to friends.[1]  She was born 8 Apr 1863[2] to Martin S. Bashor and Susannah Sherfy in Empire Prairie, Andrew, MO.  She died on 24 Mar 1945 in Williams, Colusa, California at age 81 or so.[3]

The Bashor family was teeming with children over a span of 21 years.  They were all from the same parents and lived into adulthood.  With the exception of an extended gap between Amanda and Alexander, the births came with some regularity.  Their survival is a testament to their strength given the period of time in which they lived.  Based on the censuses, the children included:

Amanda, b. abt 1844
Alexander Washington, b. abt 1849
Robert, b. abt 1851
Margaret, b. abt 1853
John S., b. abt 1855
Jacob C., b. abt 1857
Catherine, b. abt 1860
Rebecca, b. abt 1862
Martha, b. abt 1864
Cordelia, b. abt 1865

Martin, Susannah and seven children migrated from Washington County, Tennessee to Empire Prairie in 1859.[4]  The trek is about 900 miles in current-day calculation and my hunch is that Susannah was pregnant with Catherine.  The family would welcome Rebecca, Martha and Cordelia in the next few years.  Empire Prairie was home for the Bashor’s for about three decades.  Martin was a farmer and a stock dealer.[5]  In the late 1880s, Martin and Susannah moved to Covina, Los Angeles, California.  It was the land of abundant sunshine and citrus orchards.  Rebecca, Martha and Cordelia came with them because, as the story goes, they were unmarried and could not be left behind.[6]

Marriage and Children

On 13 Dec 1894, Martha married W.C. Hibsch in Los Angeles, California.  He was born about 1868 in Silesia, Prussia and immigrated to America with his parents and sister in 1872.[7]   

Source: Los Angeles Times 13 Dec 1894,
on (click any photo to enlarge)
W.C. lived in Covina and was a respected and skilled blacksmith in the area.  He died unexpectedly in 1907.[8]  Two sons were born to Martha and W.C. , Alba in 1896 and Cecil in 1902.

The federal census and the Covina Argus Newspaper were helpful resources in tracking the whereabouts of W.C. and Martha:
  • 1894 – Badillo Street, Covina.  The newlyweds probably lived here, W.C.’s bachelor pad, after they were married. 

Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 21 Apr 1894,

  • 1900 – Yuma, Arizona. [9]  W.C. was employed as a blacksmith in the mines.
  • 1901 – East Center Street, Covina[10] 
    Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 25 May 1901,
1902 – West Badillo Street, Covina, Martha's early boarding house.

Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 30 Aug 1902,

Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 6 Sep 1902,

  • 1905 – Covina.  Martha and the children returned from Fortuna, Arizona to spend the summer. 
Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 23 Mar 1903,

  • 1906 – Cottage Drive, Covina.  Martha and the boys moved into a new home.
    Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 2 Jun 1906,
Throughout her life, Martha brought income to her household by running a boarding house.  The promise of home cooked meals surely made the ads a success!  Evidence of at least two lodgers in her house on Cottage Street appeared in the 1910 federal census for Covina.  She sure did move a lot so one wonders if the boarders had to leave when she did or if the boarding house was separate from her personal residence.  She did promise home cooking in the advertisement but maybe she used the kitchen in the boarding house.  Does anybody know the answer?  I'll have to do some focused research on her ownership status and search for property records.

Also noteworthy in the 1910 census was her occupation – mail carrier.  She is said to have been the first woman to hold that position in Covina.  In about 1908[11], Martha was appointed as the rural route mail carrier for Covina.

Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 27 Jul 1917,

She attended mail carrier association meetings and hosted the first-ever district meeting in her home.
Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 16 Sep 1911,

Source: Covina Argus Newspaper 1912 Jul 20,
She resigned from the mail carrier position in 1916 presumably because she had remarried and was relocating to Los Angeles.

I would be remiss if I didn't disclose that the postmaster at the time was James Lewis Matthews, her sister Cordelia’s husband and the owner of the Covina Argus Newspaper.  Lucky for me - "Uncle Louie's"  newspaper is a goldmine for family history research. 

Her second marriage was to John J. Collett in about 1916.  He may have been a machinist or printer for a Los Angeles newspaper with the word republic in its name.[12]  Martha and young Cecil moved to Los Angeles to live with John.  Alba remained in Covina.  The marriage was short-lived as John died in the 1918 flu epidemic.  John was much-appreciated for paying for Cecil to attend school to become a plumber.  Martha and Cecil were still living in Los Angeles in 1920[13] on what I deciphered to be 760 South Southern Street.  She was managing a boarding house.

Tracking Martha from 1916 and Beyond
The California Voter Registration Index[14] proved quite helpful in identifying Martha’s whereabouts over a span of time:
  • 1916 – Martha and John Collett lived at 772 Stanford Ave., Los Angeles City, California
  • 1922 – Martha, hotelkeeper, lived at 539½ S. Broadway, Los Angeles City, California.  About 14 people on this voter index lived at the same address.
  • 1924 – Martha and Cecil lived at 1425 Grand Canal, Venice City, California.  She was a hmkpr [home keeper?]
  • 1928 – Mrs. Martha Collett, housewife, lived at 345 31st Ave, San Francisco, California but I’m not sure she is my Martha.
  • 1934, 1936, 1938 – Martha, Cecil and his wife Loveta lived at 920 McKeever St., Azusa, Los Angeles, California.  No occupation was listed in the 1934 voter index but in 1936 and 1938 she was a housekeeper.
  • 1940, 1944, 1946 – Mrs. Martha Collett, retired, lived at 912 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles City, California.  Several others in this voter index lived at this address and one was employed as an apartment manager.  I think she is my Martha because my Uncle B remembers her living on 6th Street.  By the way, she was listed on the 1946 voter index but it probably meant that she voted in the November 1944 election.
I could not find Martha in the 1930 or 1940 censuses. although the 1940 voter index listed her as a Los Angeles resident.  I tried using various first and last names, birth years, locations and even searched for Cecil since they had lived together before.  Nothing, zip, zero.  If anyone reading this has a clue or better yet, knows, please send me an email or comment on this post.
Martha impressed me as being an amiable and indomitable woman.  To help meet expenses, she relied on her cooking skills to bring lodgers to her boarding houses (an ornery person wouldn't be a draw, right?)  She rebounded after two short marriages and had the ongoing support of an extended family.  The frequency of her moves piques my interest especially in conjunction with running a boarding house.  The many fond memories of her recounted by my family sages made me wish I had known her personally. Telling her story helps.  Martha moved to Williams, Colusa, California in her later years but I'm not sure when.  Her sister Rebecca and her husband James already lived there.  Actually, Martha's son Cecil and his family may have been living there too.  Heck, I even lived there in the early 1960s!  Martha died there on 24 March 1945 and is buried at the Williams cemetery. 

[1] Remembrance of Uncle B
[2] Source: Social Security Death Index although censuses record her birth year from 1864 – 1868.  She was known for decreasing her age as the years went by.
[3] Her young grandson was on a bus coming for a visit but he learned upon arrival that she had just passed away. 
[4] In the course of learning more about this town, I read that David Bonham and his brother-in-law James Weaver came to Andrew County from Wisconsin and bought a large parcel of land which they called Empire Prairie.  Bonham?  I remember visiting Virgil and Edna Bonham as a child.  After a review of several censuses, a connection was confirmed.  David Bonham’s son James married Rebecca Bashor, Martha’s sister, and they had a son named Virgil who married Edna.  Source:  Tri-County News, Vol 86, Number 21, King City, MO 64463, Aug 4, 2006  A Postcard from the Prairie, Sesquicentennial Set for Weekend, by Gordon Howitt.
[5] 1880 U.S Federal Census
[6] Remembrance of Uncle B
[7] 1872 Hamburg Passenger List
[9] 1900 U.S. federal census for Yuma, Yuma, Arizona.  This census was a lucky find because the enumerator spelled the surname “Hipsch” but it was transcribed as “Hipak”. 
[10] James Bonham was married to Rebecca Bashor, Matha’s sister.
[11] Source: obit notice in Covina Argus Newspaper noted she was mail carrier for the past year.
[12] Remembrance of Uncle B
[13] 1920 U.S. federal census, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
[14] Source:

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