Saturday, March 29, 2014

52 Ancestors - #13 Martha Matilda (Mattie) Riches - She Loved a Nice Car

Martha Matilda’s father George Riches immigrated to the United States from England in 1853 when he 18 years old "to find his fortune in the Americas."  Her mother Jane Wilkens was born in New York State in April 1838; Jane’s parents had also emigrated from England. My mother said that her grandmother always said they were of Scots descent - not Scotch - that was the liquor.

Mattie, as she was known, was born in New York State on February 17, 1863. She had two older sisters, Elizabeth born in 1857 and Anna Jane born July 9, 1861.

Sometime after 1863, the Riches family moved from New York and was living in Waterville, Pepin, Wisconsin where sister Olive was born in 1867/68. Edward Thomas Riches was born July 28, 1872. There was also another brother George Bell born in 1875 who died just before he was three years old.

Mattie married H. (Henry) Pember Taylor on February 13, 1879 in Pierce County, Wisconsin when she was just 16 years old and he was 26. Pember was very well to do and owned a number of Gay 90’s type bars and gambling establishments. Their son Louis Pember Taylor was born in late December 1879. Their second child LaVina died when she was just two years old. Mattie wore fabulous gowns and furs – and danced (which she remembered in her later, religious years with dismay.) In 1880 they were living in Maiden Rock, Pierce, Wisconsin.

Mattie found out that Pember was sleeping with the dance hall girls, something she would not tolerate, so she took their son Louis and left filing for divorce. She received a settlement and opened up a dressmaking shop.

Mattie then met Jefferson Thomas Graves who was five years younger than she.

On December 12, 1895 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin she married Jefferson Thomas Graves, the eldest son of James Americ Graves and Effa Beaubier. JT was very kind and gentle (and someone she could boss!) Mattie made the money decisions and ran everything – she definitely ruled the roost. They had two children - Effa Belle Graves born December 25, 1896 and James Vernon Graves born May 27, 1899. 

Martha Matilda and Jefferson Thomas

JT and Mattie followed his father James out to Washington State and settled in the Jackson Prairie/Mary’s Corner area of Lewis County on a farm in 1903. James helped them clear the land and build their house.

The Riches family also moved to Washington State from Wisconsin. Edward settled in Everett, Washington while her sister Olive’s family and her sister Anna Jane’s and family settled in Elma, Washington.  

Mattie’s sister Olive died after the birth of her third child, daughter Ada Patton and then sadly, Ada Patton Temple died after the birth of her first child, daughter Erma (later spelled Irma) in 1910. JT and Mattie took Erma and raised her for her father Veness Lewis Temple.

Erma and Effa

 November 28, 1911
Louie and Fern

In 1912 Louis moved from Wisconsin to Saskatchewan to farm with his wife Fern and their three children.

JT- Mattie-Effa

Fall of 1927 after Effa moved back home after the death of her husband Alva
Rosalie, Mattie with Vina, Effa, Stella, and Arnold

JT never learned to drive, but Mattie did (which was unusual for the time) and she liked having a car. My Aunt Stella remembered her grandmother deciding it was time for a new car (sometime between 1922 and 1928) so she went to the dealership, found a brand new Durant Star she liked and pulled out cash from her money belt on her waist (she didn’t trust banks) and paid for it in full. She was the only woman to have a car in the area and the only one to drive.  

Stella also related a story to me about Mattie getting stuck on the railroad tracks with a train coming and all of the kids were screaming (Stella, Arnold, Rosalie, and Vina.) JT just quietly said, “Now listen kids, quiet down, your grandma always knows what she is doing.” Grandma Mattie was praying loudly, the car started and the train barely missed them.  Her daughter Effa was very upset and declared that, “They were never riding with Grandma again!”
In spite of being somewhat indifferent to her own daughter Effa (Mattie definitely favored Vern and Irma), Mattie gave her two oldest granddaughters all the love that was missing from their mother. Along with their brother Arnold, they adored their grandmother even though she could be strict and stern. They all had very fond memories of her.
You have to expect the unexpected when doing genealogy research and that is what I found. I did a search in and found something in the October 10, 1930 issue of the local paper that I don’t think that my aunt Stella who was almost 14 at the time, my uncle Arnold who was almost 12 or my mother Rosalie who was 8 knew about. It appears that my great grandfather had a filed for separation from Mattie. According to the separation filing in the article I found, that “the defendant (Mattie) has lost all love for him, has treated him in a cruel and abusive manner, and that when angry with him Mattie struck him with an ‘ax, crowbar, clubs, dishes and other instruments.’” (So now I know why when my grandmother Effa would get mad – she would start throwing the dishes – she learned it from her mother.)
JT also stated that “a few year ago defendant joined a religious organization with which she had since been prominent, and has pronounced him ‘unfit and unclean and filled with evil spirits’, and refused to cook his meals or take care of his clothing; that he is 62 years of age and is compelled to work away from his farm to get necessities for himself.  The defendant had for the past 10 or 15 years banked the receipts from milk and eggs, which he thinks is now about $4000, but she will not tell him how much, nor give him access to any of it.” I imagine that things were quite chilly in the Graves household for some time after that but they did remain married.

It took me awhile to determine that there were two Mattie Graves in Lewis County born at about the same time – my Mattie M. Graves who lived at Jackson Prairie/South Chehalis area and Mattie N. Graves who lived in Centralia and had been born in Oregon.  Some things just didn’t add up so I just keep looking as many places as I could. It didn’t help that newspapers are notoriously inaccurate at times with names and sometimes it was Mattie K., Mattie V., or Mattie X.

I believe that my Mattie may have also been involved in the W.C.T.U. (the Women’s Christian Temperance Union) from the comment made in JT’s separation filing and because she had seen the evils of drink – up close - during her first marriage and she worried about her baby brother’s soul because he drank wine. She was very, very religious in her later years.

July 27, 1934 at Mt Rainier
Duke La Mere (Irma's 2nd husband), Mattie, Vina, JT

A holiday favorite was an old family recipe for an English Pudding. Unfortunately, Mattie and Effa did not share the recipe and it was lost when they died. There was another family recipe that was shared – The Family Fudge recipe. It is different than any other fudge that I have every tried and it remains a favorite treat when the cousins get together. All the daughters made it for their families when we were growing up. (And my cousin is making it for me Sunday afternoon when I go to her house for dinner and genealogy!)

3 cups sugar
3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa
½ cube of butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups milk
½ cup corn syrup

Cook until a soft ball – at a nice full boil (that can be stirred down).

Remove from heat.  Add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cube butter
1 tablespoon of peanut butter (if desired)

Let cool for 10 minutes, then beat it (with mixer) until it starts turning dull.  Then beat by hand a few minutes as it starts to set. Pour onto a large buttered plate.

 Mattie and JT approximately 1936

The Homestead at Jackson Prairie
May 23, 1937

 JT and Mattie Graves 1939

Mattie died on Thursday, March 21, 1940 at 9:15 am of cardiac failure at age 77. She had been in horrible, horrible pain from the severe arthritis that she suffered from for a number of years. She was buried in Chehalis, Washington at the Claquato Cemetery on Saturday, March 23rd. 


  1. Oh those pesky family recipes! Treasure the ones you actually have. My maternal grandmother was the best cook ever, according to her 9 children and their spouses. One of their favorite recipes was corn pudding. At every family reunion one or more of the daughters or daughters-in-law would try their hand at making corn pudding. Much discussion followed each attempt. This went on for 30 years. No one ever got it right. Why did no one have her recipes? Because grandma didn't have any. She made them up as she went along.

  2. The fudge is make able from this version - I had to work to get it though. My mother started out with heaping tablespoon so I pulled on a tablespoon measuring spoon but no that wasn't it - she said it was the larger of the two spoons that came with the silverware. "Just make sure they are heaping" - as in very full but not falling off. The glop of peanut butter got translated to tablespoon - and as much as desired.