Since her ninth year the life history of Mrs. Martha Barnes has been interwoven with the changing conditions of Oregon, ranging in extent from the pioneer desolation and crudeness of '45 to the surprising development of the present time. A resident of Albany since the death of her husband in 1885, Mrs. Barnes is one of the pioneer women around whom gathers a world of good will and social prominence, and whose many fine personal charactieristics bind to her indefinitely a host of worthy friends. Born on a farm near Weston, W. Va., she is the seventh of the ten children born to her parents, Henry J. and Eliza (Allen) Peterson, natives respectively of Virginia and Massachusetts. Distinction is conferred on the maternal family by the war record of Ethan Allen, the famous colonel of the Colonial army during the Revolutionary war, and the paternal side of the house has no less a worthy representative in the Rev. Peterson, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal church whose era of greatest usefulness centers around the strenuous times culminating in the Civil war. Mr. Peterson led the useful and self-sacrificing life of the early clergyman, and though a southerner in character, chivalry and manner, he vigorously espoused the cause of the down-trodden slave, freeing those upon his own plantation as soon as he became convinced that slavery was wrong.
Henry J. Peterson was reared in West Virginia, and as a young man made many moves in search of a desirable location. From Indiana he removed to Medina county, Ohio, afterward to Illinois for one winter, and still later to Henry county, Iowa, his last home in the middle west. In 1845 he prepared for a journey across the plains which, in the extent of its adventure, deprivation and suffering, equaled that of any undertaken at that very early time. Five sons and five daughters had been added to his family, and for their transportation to the coast he had five wagons, each with from three to five yoke of oxen, as well as a yoke of oxen on the wagon used to transport their provisions. The Indians proved very troublesome, and constant vigilance was required on the part of the emigrants to preserve their ownership of the stock. They came by way of the ill-fated Meek's cut-off, one of the most troublesome routes presented to early emigrants to the west, and it is doubtful if any aggregation of men, women and children arrived at The Dalles at any time in the emigration days, more weary, discouraged, or hopeless. For many days and weeks food had been scarce, and towards the latter part of the journey starvation stared them in the face. One son two years old died on the Green river cut-off, and was left in a grave beside the river. The father stopped the first winter on the Tualatin plains, and in the spring of 1846 moved to Howell's Prairie, and later to Santiam. In 1848 he took up a claim at Peterson Butte, twelve miles southeast of Albany. He was a natural mechanic, and applied his ability to the construction of a home more comfortable than that of many less skilled in the art of construction, and around him established a large stock-raising enterprise, probably the most successful in his vicinity. He was influential as a politician, and was a member of the First Territorial Legislature, which convened at Oregon City. His children followed his example and took up farms of their own, many of them settling around him as neighbors, often visiting the old home, with its memories of struggle and adversity. The wife died in 1861, and the husband in 1864, both firm believers in the tenets of the Methodist Episcopal church. Asa, the oldest of their children, died in Lebanon, Ore.; William died in Albany; Marshall, a veteran of the Rogue River war, lives in eastern Oregon; Henry lives at Plainview; Granville died on the plains; Lydia, the wife of Mr. Parish, died in Linn county; Sarah is the deceased wife of Mr. Brooks of The Dalles; Laura, now Mrs. Ketcham, lives in Pomeroy, Wash.; Martha, now Mrs. Barnes; and Eliza, now Mrs. Walker of Athena, Ore.
Mrs. Barnes celebrated her ninth birthday on the plains, and after reaching Oregon lived with her parents, attending irregularly the early public schools. She learned to speak the language of the Chinook Indians, and thus was called to maintain amicable relations with these untutored neighbors. Her marriage at Peterson Butte, December 24, 1862, was one of the notable events of the neighborhood, her husband, Charles Barnes, being well and favorably known as a successful stockman. Mr. Barnes was left an orphan in his native state of New York when a boy of seventeen, and his life was uneventful until the opportunity came to cross the plains in an ox-train in 1853. He worked his way to the coast driving oxen and loose stock, and, arriving at his destination, found employment in southern Oregon and California, both as a farmer and miner. Laden with more than the ordinary returns from the mines, he came to the Willamette Valley and was married, afterward purchasing a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, which he farmed five years. He added materially to his possessions, in time owning four hundred acres near Plainview. He was always an enthusiast on the subject of fine stock, and his land was invariably devoted to its raising, little attention being paid to general farming. After renting out his farm he devoted some time to driving horses over the mountains to California, and on his return located in Albany, where he engaged exclusively in the stock business. He had many fine horses and secured high prices for them, being an excellent judge of thoroughbreds, and dealing only in the best. Mr. Barnes accumulated a comfortable fortune, and at the time of his death, December 9, 1885, at the age of forty-eight, left his wife and children in good circumstances.
At 238 East Fifth street Mrs. Barnes has a new and commodious home, where is exercised unstinted hospitality, and where her friends delight to gather. She is the owner of the fourteen hundred-acre farm in this county, with the exception of the town site of Plainview, and she also owns another farm of one hundred and sixty acres in the same neighborhood. Three children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Barnes, of whom but one attained maturity, Loella, now Mrs. LaForest. In political preference, Mrs. Barnes is a Republican.
"Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley", pages