San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Life and Times of Dennis Martin

We all know the excitement of finding information on our families, but Bo Crane has gone a step beyond.  He has delved into "The Life and times of Dennis Martin", not because he is related, but because he wondered why a creek bore his "full" name.  His interest led to a fascinating study of one of the earliest settlers in the area that eventually became San Mateo County.

If you missed the SMCGS meeting last Saturday, you failed to hear how he found an 1883 map showing the buildings on his land.  Of course by then he had lost the land through the final 1864 Supreme court decision in Greer et Al vs. the Arguellos.

Bo delved into that land decision as well as all other aspects of the life of Dennis not only in San Mateo County, but in his journey from Ireland to Canada, and by wagon train to California in 1844.

The back of the book provides the following summary, "Dennis Martin, an Irish immigrant, died as a broke old man in San Francisco and was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in his own abandoned cemetery wiles west of the Menlo Park depot. His estranged daughters refused to attend his burial. His times spanned the Irish immigration to the New World, the Westward movement from the Missouri River to across the snowy Sierra, armed power struggles between Alta California factions, the Bear Flag revolt, the Gold Rust, the Railroad Big Four and the Silver Bonanza Kings, the demise of Searsville and Mayfield along with the growth of Menlo Park, Woodside, Redwood City, Portola Valley, Palo Alto and Stanford University, as well as the beginnings of Atherton, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos Hills and San Francisco

In gathering information for the book, Bo visited with family members and historians. He gathered maps and pictures from Stanford, the San Mateo County Historical Association, Bancroft Library and more. His list of primary sources fills five pages.

This well researched, well written book goes well beyond the story of Dennis Martin and his family.  About halfway through the book, you run into the appendix,  "Historical Background - Chapter by Chapter." The background discussions cover everything from Woodside, Searsville and SLAC to Ireland, early Canada, Missouri, and the O regon and California trails.  There are notes on many early families in the county, early churches, early cemeteries.  You can read about the Greers, the Mezes, the Hopkins and many other early players in the county's history.

Although you can find the book in the SMCGS library, it is well worth adding to your home library. You can order a copy by sending an email to, visting his website, or on Amazon.

Denis Martin Cemetery

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