Tombstone Tuesday: Martin Van Buren Corn

MartinVB_CornI came across the story of this New Mexico pioneer while researching a ghost town article.  In 1991, the Roswell Daily Record called his family one of Roswell’s oldest and largest.  Since the late 1870’s several generations of this family have lived and thrived in the Pecos River Valley, and it all began with Martin Van Buren Corn.

Martin Van Buren Corn was born on October 16, 1841 in North Carolina to parents John Roland and Elizabeth Corn.  The family migrated to Georgia and later to Kerr County, Texas.  Martin, his younger brother Robert and father John were conscripted to serve the Confederacy in 1862.  Robert and John served in Kerr County’s 3rd Frontier Texas Cavalry, while John served as a private in Company E of the 36th Texas Cavalry.

John and Robert died of disease in June of 1864 and when the war was over Martin returned to Kerr County and married Mary Jane Hampton, widow of fellow Confederate soldier Jim Hampton, on April 13, 1867.  Her son Jim was born in 1862 and raised as Martin’s son.  To their marriage were born nine more children, eight living to adulthood:  Mary Elizabeth (1868); Arminta (1869); Zilpha (died in infancy); John Roland (1873); Robert (1875); Martin Van Buren (1876); Eva Rosetta (1877); Sarah (1878) and George Washington (1882).

Martin left Kerrville and migrated to New Mexico, looking for plenty of land and room to accommodate his growing family.  They traveled in a caravan of six covered wagons with a few other families, five hundred head of cattle and one hundred horses.  Before starting their journey west the family had their first tin-type picture taken.

According to Martin’s oldest daughter Mary the family originally planned to migrate to Salt River, Arizona after an uncle sent back glowing reports of rich farm land.  Their journey would be long with plenty of potential perils as settlers more often than not encountered Indian treachery along the way.  Martin, however, had prepared in advance by appointing bosses to watch over his cattle and horses.

After making the journey safely across the Staked Plains the caravan traveled along the Pecos River until they came to a small settlement called Seven Rivers.  What they saw was thousands of acres of land with plenty of irrigation, so instead of continuing on to Arizona Territory Martin decided to explore the area.  He left some of his men in charge of the women and children and took a group of men with him.

Unfortunately, some of the men left behind began quarreling and Ike Teeters was killed and buried in the small Seven Rivers cemetery.  Neverthless, the decision was made to remain in the area after Martin returned.  The group settled about six miles east of Roswell and the men set about to begin building a dam and irrigation ditch system.  At the time Roswell consisted of two buildings, one a combined store and post office and the other a hotel.

Martin and the other men labored through the fall and harshly cold winter, finishing in time to begin planting crops in the spring.  Since there was little or no timber, sod houses were erected while they waited for the first crops to come in.

Later, in 1890, another rancher by the name of John Chisum approached Martin and offered to procure some trees to plant along the ditch system if Martin would plant them.  Chisum sent two ox wagons to Alpine, Texas which returned with cottonwood and willow trees.  Martin had also planted several acres of apple trees and later garnered prizes and blue ribbons for his garden crops and his family cared for the trees planted along the river.

By 1881 the children of Martin and Mary Jane Corn attended school three miles east of Roswell.  Nine months after giving birth to her son George, Mary passed away on May 25, 1883.  Three years later on October 14, 1886, forty-five year-old Martin married sixteen year-old Julia McVicker.  To their marriage was born eleven children:  Minne Catherine (1887); Anna May (1890); Wade Hampton (1892); Lee Berry (1894); Charles Schriner (1896); Jesse William (1898); Roe Alfred (1901); Clarence Ray (1903); Herbert Milton (1906); Poe (1909) and Lillian Caroline (1913).

In 1893 Martin sold the original property to J.J. Hagerman and the following year established his new ranch called “Eden Valley” twenty miles north of Roswell.  There he lived the remainder of his life until his death on September 30, 1915.  He was buried on the property near his ranch home.

Besides becoming a successful farmer and rancher, Martin Corn and his family helped settle Chaves County and to this day his descendants remain a part of the community.  He was acquainted with Pat Garrett, the lawman who eventually hunted down and killed outlaw Billy the Kid.  In fact, Garrett was contracted to make the adobe and walls for the Corn’s first family home.

The infamous Lincoln County War had been waged in 1878 before Corn’s arrival in 1879 and Seven Rivers was a known hangout for outlaws.  Stop by tomorrow for a little Seven Rivers history.

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

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© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.

17 Comments

  1. Martin Van Buren Corn is my great uncle. His brother, Peter Corn, is my great grandfather. Peter Corn’s daughter, Zelpha, is my father’s mother. She and her family lived in Seven Rivers and moved to AZT after a dam flooded that town. Would appreciate any family info about her and the failiy when in NMT. There’s a mystery about my grandmother in that the only reference I’ve seen to her is that she died. Can assure she did not. So, were there other Zelphas or some reason my my grandmother is listed as deceased, if she is mentioned at all in the Corn family histories I find on line?

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    • Im ggranddaughter of Willis Woody Corn, brother to Peter. Was not aware he had a daughter named Zelpha, but his sister Zelpha married William Holloman. Please write me at 4grmm346@yucca.net. I have photos too.

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      • Janelle, there is a Facebook group devoted to researching the Corn family, search for Corntown USA and request membership..There is plenty of info there on the Corn family, I know you will enjoy the group.

        David Walker

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    • Dan: I found Zilpah (note spelling) Corn Gifford on findagrave. They were in Long Beach CA. She died May 5, 1978 and is in a crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Calif Garden Wall, space 3033. Am looking for her marriage but have not found it. Her husband is also there, He was Arthur F or S Gifford.

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  2. Forgot to mention that I possess Corn family history info and photos that you may find useful — especially if you should you are compiling a research source. That is much needed. Both my grandfather Gifford and the Corn’s were frontier people whose history is that of America’s western expansion.

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  3. I just read this article and saw these comments Dan are you on Facebook? If so the Corn Clan is gathered there, Corntown USA is the name its under. https://www.facebook.com/groups/217671934327/?fref=ts We would love not only your information and pictures but there is a wealth of family and information you would find valuable. Hopefully this message will find you. Martin was my GG Uncle too.

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  4. My mothers dad/my grandfathers family I believe was one of the original families who came over on the wagon trail/caravan with Martin Corn and whoever else came with them. I can’t recall off the top of my head the exact name of the lady and her husband who are my ancestors, but the last name that I can remember is Hudson and also Porter is a family last name of my ancestors as well.Pretty interesting to know my family came and settled in southeastern NM, and somehow in a story that I’ve heard through the years is that one man in my family from that point in time somehow married a Corn lady. But I can’t recall the mans name or which corn it was that was involved with my ancestor. then along the way during that same time, the rest of my ancestors that came through Roswell/Lincoln County Territory at the time continued to travel westward to eventually settle and make Reserve/Apache Creek NM on the West side of the state the homestead for my grandfathers family. Emily Locket Porter was my great grandmother and daughter of I believe it was the Hudson ancestors of mine who came over in the caravan with the Corns. Some other ancestors of mine from that same time period here in NM had the last name Gamble. And one ancestor of mine was supposedly involved with Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and was a gambling man who I believe bet against Billy the kid and those guys on horse racing and lost. But my ancestor was somehow eventually caught stealing horses and was sentenced to death by hanging! Pretty interesting history from southern NM and to know my family was a part of it.

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    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing about your ancestors. Anyone living around the time of Billy the Kid had stories to tell I’m sure. I see this article was very, very popular today!

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  5. It sure was, lots of interesting history from back in those days! And to know my family and ancestors were part of it, makes it even more interesting and special.

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  6. Edward Felix Hudson married Mary Elizabeth Corn, she was the daughter of Martin VB Corn Sr. There was a Ed and Bill Hudson on the caravan with Martin Corn and several other cattle hands according to a story I read. Very interesting journey according to stories handed down through family.

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    • Thanks for sharing. I thought this family’s story was so very interesting.

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  7. I love reading all of this. My maiden name is Corn. My dad was Ronald Corn, my grandfathers name is also Ronald Corn.( My grandfather had a twin brother Donald) he and my grandmother owned the “Steeple R ” ranch also nicknamed the Deep Well ranch.

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    • I think Martin V Corn would be my grandfather’s grandfather ??

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      • Hey Rosalyn, Martin V would be your 2nd great grandfather. There is a group on FB that is all about the Corn family, I am sure you would love it, just have to be family..Let me now if you are interested..

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        • I love this .. bringing family members together!

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  8. Martin Van Buren Corn was my second great grandfather. My great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Corn Hudson, was his oldest daughter. She married Edward Felix Lincoln Hudson, who drove cattle for the wagon train from Texas and later moved with his family to what was then Reserve, Socorro County, New Mexico in the far southwestern part of the state. It later became Catron County. I have a lot of information on the Corn family.

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    • The Corn family has such a rich history and I really enjoyed writing about them. If you’d like to share more about the Corn family I can add it as an “update” to the article. Thanks for stopping by and sharing more about your family!

      Reply

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