|Birth: ||Feb. 29, 1866|
Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry United Counties
|Death: ||Mar. 13, 1961|
Los Angeles County
Born in the Scottish settlement of Glengarry, Upper Canada (Ontario), Canada, Ella was the 7th of 11 children of Allan McMartin and his wife, Catherine (McDonald) McMartin. Both parents stem from UEL families who came to America from Scotland and settled in the Mohawk Valley of New York State when it was still a British frontier province, long before the American Revolution. This family and an extended group of relatives were initially tenants of British frontier personality, Sir William Johnson, who was British colonial Superintendant of Indian Affairs. Johnson brokered frontier peace in New York and Indian alliances with the areas' fierce Iroquois tribes. The McMartins served under Johnson both in French-Indians Wars and later in the American Revolution. Their military skills and loyalty to Johnson was legendary. As other "Loyalists," the family lost all their lands and property during the American Revolution.Thereafter they fled to British Canada. There they were among the first settlers receiving Crown Lands for their war services in the area broadly called "Scottish Glengarry." located west of Quebec Province in British Canada.
Helen Ann, "Ella," grew up in a Glengarry log cabin, speaking the dialect of Gaelic used by the displaced Scots. There she learned the frontier skills and crafts. She could care for domestic farm animals as well as mastering the house skills of spinning, weaving, sewing and baking the old Scot recipes. She had experiences of sledding and snowshoeing in the heavy Canadian winters, maple sugaring in nearby woods, and making vat-sized quantities of preserves from local apples and tree fruit.
As a young woman, she married a "timbering" friend of her brothers, "Big" Calno Phillips. While farming occupied the families in summer, winters were used by young men to earn cash by "timbering" in Ontario's forests and eventually areas west in Michigan and Wisconsin.
The young couple wanted land for their own farm. They set out for "urban work" to get the needed cash to buy land. They migrated south to the U.S. where booming New England industry attracted willing young Canadian workers. The 1890/91 City Directories of Waterbury, CT, list Calno Phillips working in the heavy manufacturing trades of metallurgy, at the firm of Plume and Atwood. In 1993 apparently with cash in hand, the family headed West to newly opened Washington Territory with high hopes. They settled on a large ranch parcel in Eastern Washington (Euphrata area). They developed a sheep ranch.Both were familiar with sheep ranching from their experiences in Canadian Eastern Township farms. On their ranch in Washington Ella cooked for not only her own family, but also a bunkhouse of hired farm hands. She had a rugged life in an extreme climate --becoming a crack shot and rider.
Unfortunately, her husband was soon killed by a bear there and the ranch sold. Ella packed up her two young children and returned to Eastern Canada. There she joined the household of her two widowed McMartin sisters, in a large Victorian home situated in Montreal's fashionable Westmount area. There too her children had the benefit of excellent urban schooling and enjoyed the many cultural attractions of Victorian Montreal.
Ella remained in Montreal until her daughter, Gladys , married in 1911 and moved to the US where they founded a family. With the birth of her first granddaughter, widow Ella Phillips permanently joined her daughter's household. By reports of her grandchildren,Ella was always the family caretaker, selfless and competent. Known affectionately as "Gram" by successive generations, she helped raise not only her daughter's children, but after the early death of her daughter, Ella moved in "to keep house" for her granddaughters families. As a 80+ year old great grandmother, Ella Phillips cooked the meals, whipped up homemade biscuits, baked pies and "watched the children" She knit everyone sweaters and scarves and cheerfully entertained one and all with her stories. She was often quoted as saying her greatest joy was "sitting with the young folks", recounting stories of the Wild West, of the Indians and Cowboys and the long gone frontier life of her youth.
She died at age 95 while still caring for her great grandchildren in California. She is buried in Minneapolis with her favorite granddaughter,Gladys. Her life and activities spanned the early history of the US and the breadth of its continentAL development. She lived a history of adaption--from the log cabins and oxen carts of her youth to suburban living and airplane travel of her later years. She experienced lifestyle changes from the trains and telegraph of her youth to telephones and television of her later years. She was a true pioneer; nothing seemed to daunt her. She was also fearlessly protective of her family. A family story relates that she once confronted household burglars in Minneapolis with a broom, threatening to "shoot" them and "turn the dog loose" if they didn't leave the darkened home. Reportedly her gruff manner and bluff worked, the two intruders ran off. Ella had been the only adult at home with a houseful of children when she confronted these burglars. But as she noted in recounting the same story -- she really did have a gun "upstairs" in the house and she claimed she could still "shoot heads off rattlesnakes" as she had on the ranch long ago. With a twinkle in her eye and broad smile she would assure all in eyeshot she could protect the family ! She became a legendary family matriarch, much beloved Source:"McMartin's of the Western Frontier"(2009:Hanover,NH D.Montgomery)based on subject interviews-oral history CG)
Allan McMartin (1819 - 1887)
Catherine McDonald McMartin (1830 - 1875)
Calno Allen Phillips (1866 - 1906)*
Gladys Emelora Phillips Sinclair (1891 - 1949)*
Allen Carleton Phillips (1896 - 1966)*
Helen Janet McMartin Archambault (1851 - 1941)*
John McMartin (1853 - ____)*
Angus McMartin (1857 - 1924)*
John McMartin (1859 - 1918)*
Mary Eveline McMartin Crimmins (1863 - 1937)*
Helen Ann McMartin Phillips (1866 - 1961)
Hugh McMartin (1868 - 1956)*
Duncan McMartin (1868 - 1914)*
Created by: D. Montgomery
Record added: Sep 29, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 97998788