Harriet Rodda and the wild west

Harriet Rodda grew up at Colley Cliff, overlooking the Tamar River in the parish of Calstock. Her father was a miner, originally from the west, who had moved east to mid-Cornwall in the tin mining slump of the late 1840s. Harriet was herself employed as a tin dresser at a nearby mine by the time she was 11, although by 1871 she was given no occupation in the census and living at home. There, she no doubt helped her mother cook and clean and care for the household of two adults, three adult children, three more children 15 and under plus a boarder.

The Tamar Valley near Calstock

In 1872 she married John Martyn. After a few years spent at Calstock, the couple clearly spent some time in Bristol, where a child was born in 1875. In 1877 John left for the US, although by the time of the 1881 census he was back home with Harriet and the three children. They were then living at Bovey Tracey in Devon, where John was a brickmaker.

Harriet was recorded as emigrating to America in 1887, together with her two younger children. It looks as if John had gone ahead, returning to the States earlier and taking their eldest son with him.

Miners queue for their pay in late 19th century Idaho

Harriet joined her husband at Blaine County, Idaho, where John was a farmer. Idaho Territory had yet to achieve statehood, something that occurred in 1890. Blaine County was hardly the quietest of places in the 1880s, with its fair share of shootings, murders and hangings. Nonetheless, John was naturalised as an American citizen in 1891 and Harriet survived until her death in Idaho in 1909.

(Thanks to Barbara Schenck for the details of John and Harriet’s emigration.)

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