Rose Garden PhotographsMartha “Mattie” Anna (Lederer) Blanton was born on May 24, 1881, in St. Joseph, Missouri, the daughter of Wilhelm and Minnie Lederer. Orphaned at an early age, she was placed in an orphanage and later in several foster homes where she learned to cook.

As a young woman, she entered a convent, planning to become a nun. However, while working in the kitchen, she met her future husband. He had a small store and delivered goods to the convent. Mattie and Benjamin Thomas Blanton were married in 1900 in St. Louis, Missouri. They moved first to Kansas City, where son, Thomas B. (1901-1935), and daughter, Ruth Helen Blanton Martin (1903-1996), were born, and then to Excelsior Springs, Missouri, where William E. (1905-1975), was born.

In 1905, they came to Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona Territory, but soon decided it was too hot, crowded and dusty, so they purchased a small ranch northwest of Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory, in the area off Gail Gardner Way and Whipple Street. There Charles (1907), Joseph Earl (1910-1996), and Mary Edna Blanton Molner (1911-1985) were born. Mattie's husband worked as a salesman out of his horse-drawn buggy in the southern part of the state.  He left her alone much of the time to tend the ranch and her family.

She was widowed at the age of thirty-five when Benjamin died of cancer.  According to the Weekly Journal Miner June 3, 1914, “As a result of their (Mrs. Sidney Birch and Mrs. Dr. McNally) commendable efforts and the liberality of the good people of this city, the sum of $213.25 in cash was raised, an automobile load of clothing was left at the Journal-Miner, and every delivery wagon of every grocery house made a trip or more during the day to the stricken home, leaving provisions given by these business institutions and donors.”  With the money, Mattie bought some cows; she and the older boys sold and delivered milk in the Prescott area.

After selling the ranch, Mattie was offered a job and a house at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds, then under construction. There she cooked three meals a day for the nineteen workers and cowboys, using an old coal and wood stove. Mattie made wonderful biscuits and bread, which the men did not want to miss. The children liked their mother’s job, as they were given any leftover pie or cake.

When the children were in their teens and twenties, Mattie moved to a house on Marina Street, then to 225 Grove Street, where she rented out rooms, cooked, cleaned, washed, ironed and mended for her roomers to support her family. She also watched smaller children for her friends.

Mattie's son, Earl, worked in a local service station. Should someone approach him with a child who needed caring for, whether it was for a day, a week or a year, he would say, "Take them to my mother. She'll take them in." And take them in she did. She always found room in her home and in her heart for everyone. Through the years, she raised her own six children and thirteen others. Joan Vallely was one of the fortunate thirteen.

Mattie had a good sense of humor and enjoyed a good time. Each Arizona Admission Day, (Statehood Day), she loaded up her wagon with food, and drove the family to town.  They would go to the plaza, listen to the band, sit, visit and eat together while the children played.  

A devout Catholic, Mattie instilled in her children a great love of God and home. Mattie died on December 18, 1965, in Prescott and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Donor: Joan C. Vallely
Photo Located: Yavapai County People & Family Photo Collection, F - Blanton, Martha, I-1
Updated: 4/14/2015; D. Sue Kissel