Monday, June 4, 2012

On Her Own ~ Maud Hill Zachary

            Maud's life is a series of question marks.
            She told her children that in 1881, when she was nine years old, she had "walked" on the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Joseph, Oregon with her parents, Richard and Elizabeth Hill, where they joined Tucker family members. Maud's father was a schoolteacher and Justice of the Peace in Oregon. He died young in 1883 (he was 40 in 1880) after he got a sliver of wood in his arm while constructing a cabin for the family and died of blood poisoning.   When he died the family fell on very hard times and her mother’s family, the Tuckers, saw to it that they did not starve but not much else. Her mother remarried and the stepfather did not like the Hill children, so they scattered.  Her mother died at 38 in childbirth in 1887 near Joseph.
         Later research discovered that Maud was born in Arkansas, so this was not the first time her family had migrated. They would travel for nearly two full days at a time with only short stops to rest and eat cold meals.
She told her grandson Kenneth Slamon that her favorite part of the family’s journey to Oregon was about when her father traded a horse that had eaten locoweed with an Indian
         That she had a Native American ancestry is family oral tradition: she never spoke of her grandparents. Since she lost both parents in Oregon while still young, perhaps she did not know her family history. She had family secrets but her dark hair and skin plus high cheekbones gave her an exotic look. Indians were not allowed to vote in Oregon and there were other restrictions as well, so many natives integrated and hid their racial origins.  Census records reveal that her father’s family was from Alabama and Tennessee.  The 1819 Cherokee census shows a Thomas Hill from Jackson, Alabama.   The relationship of this Thomas Hill with her family is not confirmed. 
         After her parents' deaths, Maud and her siblings were cared for by an uncle. She first went to work in a hotel by Lake Wallowa near Joseph.  Later she moved to Hillsboro and worked for and lived with a local Judge.  It was while employed there that she met and fell in love with the milkman, a tall good-looking man with red hair.  The Judge and his wife were against the romance, but love won out.  They were married on October 4, 1899 in Salem.  They set up home near Dallas and later Sheridan.
          John's family's Oregon history is well known: he was the great-grandson of Tabitha Brown, "Mother of Oregon", the 66 year old widow who accompanied her son Orus to Oregon in 1846. She became known for her many benevolent activities and especially for establishing an orphans' home which became Pacific University. Orus married Lavina Forrest Waddel and their daughter was Teresa Brown.  Teresa married John Quincy Zachary: they were the parents of John, Maud's husband. He was from a cattle and sheep ranch family in Fossil, Oregon and continued that occupation in the Dallas area.  The Zachary family was a rough bunch coming to Oregon in 1843 and setting up Donation Land Claims in Washington County.
            Maud was alone near Dallas when she gave birth to her son "Jack".  When her husband returned home he could not believe that she had given birth alone and had cut and tied the cord and cleaned their son. Family tradition recalls he was her favorite child due to the shared birthing alone.  
           John and Maud were living in West Salem in 1900 as the census for that year listed them as: John, 25, born in 1875; Maud, 28, born in 1872.  With them were William and Florence Lyons (her sister), boarders, and Lizzie Zachary, a daughter, aged 12 months.
           John's name appeared in the Salem's newspaper, the Daily Oregon Statesman three years later, on Sunday, August 30, 1903.  As foreman of the T. L. Davidson stock farm in Yamhill County, "J.R." had arrived in town with a large drove of beef cattle to be placed on the Salem market.
            Maud's life as a wife in the Salem of the first quarter of the twentieth century is marked by a great misfortune: on April 18, 1914 John Zachary began serving an indeterminate sentence of three to twenty years in the Oregon State Penitentiary.  He did not survive his sentence, dying in the prison hospital on November 27, 1915.  He is buried a short distance from his great-grandmother in Pioneer Cemetery.
            In 1917 Maud moved from West Salem to 1134 N. Front Street in Salem.  She was the widowed mother of five children: John Raymond, Aldes R., Lloyd R., Elizabeth Pearl (the eldest), and Theresa Bell. A number of her family members both Hills and Tuckers relocated from Joseph to the Willamette Valley.  Her siblings lived in Independence, Salem and Gresham.
            On Front Street, Maud was a laundress. In those days this would have been work of hard labor: tending to heavy tubs of hot water balanced over open fires, washing with harsh lye soap, wringing heavy work clothes by hand, hanging them out to dry over the dusty yard - perhaps over mud in the rainy season. She lived near Mill Creek, was this the source of water for her laundry work? Who were her patrons?
            By 1927 she and her son John are listed as living in Portland with Aldes R. Zachary, a driver.  While living there, they had a large yard with a milk cow and garden to feed the family. They also picked fruit and vegetables as well as hops to make ends meet. Maud died there on November 15, 1954
             The family remembered that in her earlier years she was a fun-loving person, spinning many a tale for the family's entertainment, but her determination to survive and her difficult experiences gave her the reputation as a very stern old woman. She was anything but stern with her darlings.  She called her first great-grandson the most beautiful baby she had ever seen.  “Lordy, Lordy” she exclaimed.  She kept her secrets and was not much of a conversationalist but did spin stories to her children and grandchildren.
           She loved horses and she had a collection of figures in her room.  She also loved to sit in her rocker and sip her cold tea (bourbon on the rocks).  One story is about the time she had a really bad toothache and would not go to the dentist.  She would sit in her rocker and self dose a half shot of bourbon and let it sit on the bad tooth.  After a few days her jaw started swelling up.  Her grandson brought by a friend of his to look at the tooth.  It seems that this friend had been a dentist until his drinking got in the way of his business.  Maud did not know this information.  The friend asked to take a look at the bad tooth.  She said to be careful as it really hurt her.   He asked which tooth and she pointed to it.  He reached in and with his thumb and forefinger pulls the tooth out.  It seems that it was so bad it just fell out when he pulled on it.
            If we could place ourselves on unpaved Front Street, with its mix of river traffic, commercial enterprise, taverns and boarding houses in the years that Maud lived and labored there, if we had to live in the condition she found herself, would we survive as well as she did?
            One family member has an old trunk containing many of Maud’s possessions, but will not share the contents with family members. One can only wonder about her ancestry, and why her family came to Oregon. How did she manage the twelve years between her husband's death and her move to a son's home?  History is silent about much of her life, as it is about many other women of her time.

Biographical information is from Zachary Family in Oregon, published Craig A. Smith, the great-grandson of Maud and John, and other family documents. It is used with his permission.

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