Last time, we learned that the great-grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Martha Morse, actually shared a birthday with her famous great-granddaughter, the author of the beloved Little House books. We also learned some things about her family, the location of her birth, and even that she likely had the nickname “Patty.” This time, we’re going to explore some facts about Martha’s children and the later part of her life.
If you’ve read the series Little House: The Charlotte Years, you’ll remember that, in these books, Charlotte has four siblings: Lewis, Lydia, Thomas, and Mary. According to my recent research, Martha may have had even more children than just those five. One family tree on Ancestry.com suggests that she actually had a total of ten children of which Charlotte was number 6. However, I have only found records confirming that six of those children actually existed, and these children are Lewis L., Lydia V., Thomas J., Charlotte Wallis, Caroline C., and Mary W. I could find no birth records for these children, which means that we can’t be certain about their birthdays. However, death records tell us the approximate years of their births, and each child has at least one record that connects them to parents with the names “Joseph and Martha Tucker,” confirming that they are, in fact, the children of our very own Joseph and Patty.
Although it’s hard to tell if we’re looking at the right Tuckers in every case since “Tucker” is a pretty common name, there are marriage records that suggest that each of these six Tuckers married and that every one of them, except for Lydia, had children. One of Charlotte’s children was given the name Caroline Lake. Caroline Lake would one day become Laura’s “Ma.” Interestingly enough, her name actually comes from Charlotte’s sister Caroline, who married a Mr. Lake.
Sadly, Martha’s husband Joseph passed away around the age of 60 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The date of his death is listed as June 12, 1837 and, elsewhere, as June 17 of the same year. Regardless of the exact day, his death would have left 58-year-old Martha alone. Apparently, however, she was able to find comfort in the refuge offered to her by her children. In an 1850 Roxbury census, Martha Tucker, age 73, is said to be living in the household of a 38-year-old “Nathaniel Jenkins,” a jeweler, and his 36-year-old wife “Mary Jenkins.” This Mary is Martha’s daughter, Mary W. Tucker, who married Mr. Jenkins in 1835. During this time in her daughter’s house, Martha would have been able to spend quality time with her three Jenkins grandsons, George, Charles, and Alfred, who were 13, 6, and 3 in 1850.
In April of 1859, Martha lost another family member. This time, it was her daughter Mary, the very daughter who had opened up her home to her widowed mother. Mary was only 45 when she died. After Mary’s death, rather than staying on with her son-in-law and the three boys, Martha moved in with her other daughter, Lydia. Lydia V. had married a “James A. Morse of Roxbury” in 1851. (Considering that Lydia’s husband shares Martha’s maiden name, there’s a chance that James was some distant relation of Martha’s.) In the 1860 census of Roxbury, Martha Tucker is listed as living with Lydia and James, who are both in their forties at this time and have no children listed as living in their household.
Martha only spent around two or three years in Lydia’s house, however. According to Roxbury death records, she passed away on October 12, 1862, around the age of 84. The site of her grave is unknown.
Check back in a few more weeks to learn about one of Martha’s children, Charlotte Tucker, the woman who would one day become the grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder.