Oro Blanco Homesteaders: William M. and Della Marten

by Mary Kasulaitis

The early years of the 20th century were busy with the activities of homesteaders in the Arivaca valley. Up at the headwaters of Arivaca Creek, William M. Marteny and his family settled on arable land and he traded cattle and horses.

Marteny, not to be confused with any of the Martinez folks, was born in Philippi, West Virginia, in 1869 and was left an orphan at a young age, whereupon he was sent to live with an aunt in Texas. His interest in cattle and horses developed early and remained with him for life. Reportedly he drove cattle on the Chisholm trail. It would be interesting to know how he came to arrive in the Arivaca-Oro Blanco area. He was here as early as 1889 and became associated with N.W. Bernard, who had a large cattle and horse ranch in the area. They partnered in several ventures including the Tres Bellotas Ranch. They purchased part of the late John Moloney’s homestead from Bee L. Noon (McNamara) in 1899. Over time, Marteny also bought the John Lyle homestead that adjoins Oro Blanco, the Bernardo (Bartolo) Caviglia homestead that is now under Arivaca Lake and the William Tonkin homestead just south of Arivaca lake road. (I think also the Perry homestead). Marteny homesteaded his own property and proved up on it in 1910, followed by an additional homestead which he acquired in 1918. Billy recorded several brands, prominent of which was the 800, the T+, and the 3-B which referred to Tres Bellotas. Later he recorded the 15 (and the branded cattle) which had belonged to Alonzo Noon and family, after Alonzo died. He acquired a National Forest grazing lease. After twenty years of developing his quite-extensive ranch, Marteny sold his homestead and other properties to Phil Clarke in 1919. Nowadays, that land is now owned by the Buenos Aires Refuge (Quail facility) and the Chilton Ranch. With the proceeds, Marteny purchased the Robles ranch in the Altar Valley. He and his family lived there and in Tucson until his death in 1930. In his diary he does not say why he sold the ranch, but it may have had to do with the Mexican Revolution or the fact that his children were growing up and he wanted to be closer to city life in Tucson.

Like many of the new Westerners, Billy Marteny had gone home to find a wife. He married Della Talbot in 1898 in Philippi and brought her back here. They had a daughter, Elizabeth (b. 1907), who is mentioned below and a son, William Wesley (b 1914). The family owned apartments in Tucson, where they were active in civic affairs. Billy was interested in politics, was reportedly Deputy Sheriff of Pima County at one time and also ran for the Board of Supervisors. Elizabeth never married, but lived out her life in Tucson. William Wesley moved to the Midwest, married, and had a family there. He is buried in Tucson with his parents and sister.

Billy Marteny might have gone the way of many homesteaders, with just a few bits and pieces of his life’s story remaining in the documents but for one thing: he kept an extensive diary, including business dealings, weather, a little poetry and general comments, which his family saw fit to leave to the Arizona Historical Society. You can get a feel for what it was like living here from the following selected entries:
Work January 1st to August 6, 1904–7 mo. and 6 days– $40.00 (per month) $288.00
March 3 Start for Tucson with Bartolo (Caviglia) in buggy and Porfirio’s mules. Got in Tucson 10 p.m. Had lunch at Smiths.*
March 4 Loaded wagon in afternoon, began to rain
March 5 Rainy day in Tucson
March 7 Mrs M, Elizabeth and myself start for home at 8 a.m. Pretty day. At Smiths 3 p.m. George Atkinson also at Smiths.
March 8 Left Smiths at 8 a.m.– house at 2 p.m. Elizabeth was a very good baby. Carmen (Zepeda) had 3 turkey eggs and 22 chicken eggs. We now have 4 Plymouth Rock roosters, 32 hens, 2 turkeys–7 ducks.
March 13–moved into John Lyle house (in Oro Blanco), brought the furniture, 24 hens–3 roosters–2 turkeys–4 ducks. Have carpets down and painted inside.
March 17–go to Rita’s (Mora) for washing and via Arivaca, home at 2:30 p.m. Gumercinda (?) for dinner, bought of her one colt for $15.00, paid $10.00 in cash down.
March 26–went to Arivaca. Got new 800 brand. Mrs Andrews visited today.
April 1–Finished new reservoir and wire corral at my ranch, turned water on Tonkin’s garden. Very warm, cloudy and some rain. Ordered pair boots from Montgomery Ward and Co. Arthur Noon and Miss Clayton married a few days ago.
April 17–Received of Brady Levin Cow. Co, Nogales, 386 steer calves–10 steer yearling calves cash delivered at house $9.20 Yearlings $10.75. A good bunch of calves. Left Nogales, branded at Walker ranch and home on the 22nd. Porfirio and Quate and Guero with me. Paid Guero $4.00 and Porfirio $15.00
March 23–Porfirio and myself fixed windmill–took bath–
–Mrs. M got word her father died Saturday night at 8:30
March 26–planted corn and beans–garden truck. Irrigating wheat. Quate hauling wood. Mrs Andrews visiting–windy weather.
May 1–bought of Antonio Madril one gray horse. His name is Tajon– for $18.00. Made out tax list for Roman Rodriguez.
May 2–Rode into Bear Valley–branded one red heifer T+ , caught her asleep. Recorded in name of Elizabeth A. Marteny.
(Jumping ahead…)
May –Finished putting up windmill April 16 at cost of $250 for mill, tank and troughs. Very dry spring. No weeds of any kind. Cattle in good shape. Put up fence at Tonkin’s ranch –15 spools new wire. Got lease on 160 acres from Forest Service.
May 19–Returned from Calabasas where I sold to J.E. Wise for Cox Hall Cow Co. 314 steers. Arthur Noon and George Sayers had 96 steers in hand–only 4 steers cut back out of 412 head.
Dry, no rain since Jan 3. No cattle dying yet. No barley raised this year. We are thinking of starting to West Virginia.
June 4–visited at the Andrews–Mr and Mrs Fraser also; chicken dinner. Home at 8 p.m. Gave Mr. A check for $100 to pay men while I am on trip east. Hired boy of Trinidad’s to draw water, Guero to go tomorrow for hay at Dr. Ball’s. I go to Bear Valley to brand. Halley’s comet very fine in evening. Was visible in morning from May 1st to May 17th now visible in evening after sundown.
November 13–Thundered and lightning, big rain, the first good rain of the season. gathering beef for F.C. Weber of Tucson, this is the third bunch for him, sold at steers .04¢ per pound, cows at .03¢ per pound
Go to Nogales the 27th to cut cattle bought in Sonora of Pinson and Donadieu Bros at $10.00 per head for heifer calves–$11.00 for steer calves. The outlook is good for cattle. Built up the Bartolo ranch at cost of $600. 34 spools of wire $119, windmill $100, tank and troughs $40. Patent is now issued for my homestead will soon have it recorded. Pima County taxes for 1910 –$84.27, Santa Cruz Co taxes for 1910– $163.92. Forest Service charges for 1910–$100
(Jumping ahead…)
Sept 1–One of the worst and dryest seasons ever witnessed up to date Cedar Canyon has not run, wells very low, grass brown and no crops. Grasshoppers ate up everything. Planted 300# of sorghum and 300# of millet. None of it came up–too dry. Yesterday we took over 200 of my and Arthur Noon’ cattle to Bear Valley, branded 35 calves. Took all day to drive cattle from Bartolo ranch. (where Arivaca Lake is now) A little rain today. Grass is fairly good in mountains. Got Bell Mare in mountains now, will keep her there until next year.
Oct 3–Rain began during night and rained all the 4th and night of the 4th and 5th until 11 a.m.

Billy Marteny’s diary goes from 1904 to 1930, more or less. This is a reminder to everyone–keeping a diary is a wonderful thing for your descendants, and anyone else privileged enough to read it. If we don’t remember how things were, it’s almost as if they never happened.

*Smith’s is the Halfway Station–that is, the white building about a mile north of the Cow Palace on the I19 west Frontage Road.

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