Friday, September 20, 2019

People: The Martin Family

The railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains was not engineered and surveyed by chance or by convenience. It was a deliberate action decided by the board of the South Pacific Coast Railroad in cooperation with three influential landowners in Santa Cruz County: William P. Dougherty, Frederick A. Hihn, and Charles C. Martin. Dougherty, owner of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, operated a large redwood mill along Zayante Creek and needed the railroad to veer into his property in order to profitably export his lumber. Hihn, who owned much of Rancho Soquel, wanted the railroad to go directly through his property to Capitola on the Monterey Bay, but he was willing to compromise and agreed to let the route pass through the upper part of Soquel Creek, where he could access at least some of his timber. Martin's substantial land was located in a valley between the Soquel Creek headwaters and the Zayante Creek basin, making him an unlikely but fortuitous beneficiary of the negotiations made by his neighbors.

Charles C. Martin tending a herd of angora goats in Glenwood, c 1900. [Margaret Koch]
Charles C. Martin, c 1890s.
[Margaret Koch]
Born in Nova Scotia around 1830, Charles Christopher Martin moved to Eastport, Maine when he was two years old and grew up surrounded by the sea. Thus, it should come as no surprise that he shipped out at the age of seventeen for a voyage around the continents for San Francisco. Traveling around Cape Horn, Martin arrived in San Francisco (then called Yerba Buena) in 1848 and jumped ship. It is unknown precisely what he was doing for the years immediately following his arrival in California, although he may have cut timber on Bodega Bay or even tried his hand at searching for gold in the Sierra foothills. He eventually made his way to Lexington, above Los Gatos, and worked as a teamster, during which time he purchased a herd of hogs that he drove to the Gold Country and made a pretty profit. He returned to the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1851 and stayed.

Martin purchased a small valley at the top of the ridge adjoining Hihn's Rancho Soquel, John M. Bean's Bean Hollow, and land owned by Charles McKiernan on the summit. Mountain Charley, as McKiernan was known, maintained the crude remnant of the Franciscan Trail as a stage road through his property, but a portion of it also went through Martin's land, so they two agreed to work together to improve the route and make it more endurable for the long ride over the mountains. McKiernan ran it as a toll road and managed the station at the summit, while Martin installed his own toll gate at the bottom of the road. Martin also setup a small stable and stage coach station where tired horses could be swapped with fresh ones. It was his first business of many in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Meanwhile, Martin was settling into his new life in the mountains. He built a rough-hewn cabin along the road and soon found a need for it when the Carver family of Maine passed through the remote valley in 1857. After their surprise at finding a fellow Mainer in the mountains, the families became close friends and Hannah Carver married Martin in 1859. Life on the mountains was hard in the 1850s and 1860s. Grizzly bears still roamed freely and often ate pigs and other livestock with little consequence.  It was one such encounter with a bear that relieved Mountain Charlie of one of his eyes. Martin, though brave, was not so reckless and simply accepted the losses.

The Glenwood Hotel at its maximum extent, c 1900. The smaller structure to the right is the Martin family home.
Martin's valley did not become a town all at once. Until the mid-1860s, nearby Bean Hollow served more as the local watering hole, although it was little more. But the tollroad, the stage stop, and Martin's charisma slowly shifted focus to his property. Martin perhaps foresaw this development and built a larger, more accommodating home lower in the valley directly alongside the road, where he and Hannah raised their children: William, Herbert Jason, Edwin Scott, Sarah, and Margaret May. Martin remained active in the local lumber scene and had stints in many of the local mills. The family also briefly relocated to the Russian River, where they picked up two Native Americans given the names "Indian Charley" and "Indian Mary." These two returned with the Martins to their little hamlet in the mountains and helped raise the three children.

Martin perhaps grew bored in the mountains because he began to make investments in businesses in downtown Santa Cruz in 1866. He ran the San Lorenzo Livery Stable for several years and also ran, with Aaron A. Goodwin, the Goodwin & Martin Stable, which was next to the Santa Cruz House downtown. But these may have been more cunning plans than they first appeared. He used the stables to advertise the merits of his growing village and encouraged people to hire horses and carriages to visit the area for picnics, fishing, parties, hunting, and bathing in Bean Creek. The scheme seemed to work, too, since Martin returned to the area permanently in the early 1870s to reap what he had sown.

Martin's winery, which sat on the bank of Bean Creek west of Glenwood Station, c 1979. [Jeff Escott]
In 1873, Martin opened a general store near his home and began calling the settlement Martinsville. But a Scottish friend complained about the name and suggested instead Glenwood. Martin accepted the change and the valley has been named Glenwood ever since. As the popularity of the town grew, Martin began branching out in his industries. He planted grapes on the hills and opened a winery. Not far away, the Glenwood Magnetic Springs opened as the first commercial accommodation in the area, although Martin quickly gradually began acting as a hosteller, first by erecting vacation cabins and tents, and later by building the Glenwood Hotel on the meadow overlooking the town. Another meadow between the tollroad and Bean Creek was clearcut, fenced, and manicured into Glenwood Grove to cater to picnickers and bathers. Martin, meanwhile, joined politics briefly as a member of the City of Santa Cruz's Common Council in 1876. This likely gave him the added leverage to negotiate with the railroad.

A passenger train at Glenwood across from the post office on a snowy winter's day, c 1930s. [Jeff Escott]
The South Pacific Coast Railroad had incorporated in 1876 with the intention of building a narrow-gauge railroad line between San José and Santa Cruz through the Santa Cruz Mountains, thereby bypassing the route taken by Southern Pacific and the Santa Cruz Railroad, which wrapped down to the Pajaro Valley and then up the coast. As the company sent survey crews into the mountains in 1877, they found several potential routes. At first considered one of the less likely, the route that meandered up Los Gatos Creek to Soquel Creek, Bean Creek, and finally Zayante Creek was chosen more because of potential profit than anything else. This route would touch upon three major timber areas, including the San Lorenzo Valley, and Martin was just happy to be at the middle and highest point of this route. Martin also had the land to spare, which the railroad needed in these early years of lighter-weight locomotives. As the railroad route neared completion in 1879, Glenwood finally made its jump from hamlet into a fully-fledged town. Construction crews built a work camp outside the Glenwood-Laurel tunnel portal and site foremen stayed in cottages beside Martin's house. At the same time, visitors began turning up to watch progress while also enjoying themselves in the beautiful scenery of the mountains.

The original Glenwood School, 1902, three years before it was destroyed in a fire. In this photo, veterans of the Spanish-American War are presenting the school with an American flag. [Margaret Koch]
As with any town, two essential elements were still required, and both appeared over the next few years. On August 23, 1880, the Glenwood Post Office was opened within Martin's general store and Martin was designated postmaster. The title remained in his family for three generations before the office finally closed on April 30, 1954, with Martin's granddaughter Margaret Koch as the last postmistress. In 1886, the town's schoolhouse opened at the junction of Glenwood Drive and Mountain Charley Road. This burned down in 1905 and a new school was built overlooking the valley north of town in 1920. The school closed in 1951 and its students were amalgamated into the Scotts Valley school district.

Advertisements for various local resorts, with the Glenwood store at left, c 1900. [Jeff Escott]
Throughout the 1880s, Glenwood was a freight town at night and a picnic stop in the day. The South Pacific Coast Railroad used the extensive yard in town to shuttle lumber flatcars to the top of the ridge and then assemble them into trains for the long haul to the yards and planing mill in Santa Clara. During the day, excursion and commuter trains passed through regularly, divesting themselves of passengers who would either remain in the valley or catch wagons to Glenwood Magnetic Springs, Villa Fontenay, Glenwood Hotel, or Summer Home. Martin benefited from all of this through ticket sales, coach and wagon rentals, road tolls, mercantile sales, postage fees, and renting rooms. Despite the influx of businesses within the valley, Glenwood was undeniably Charles Martin's town.

The Glenwood Hotel horseless carriage, designed by William Martin prior to the arrival of the Model T. William is driving the vehicle with a full load of passengers from Glenwood Station to the Glenwood Hotel, c 1905. [Margaret Koch]
The Martins kept an eclectic staff on their property, many of whom they considered family and treated as such. In addition to Indian Charley and Indian Mary, the family had a Chinese cook, a housekeeper named Phyllis Bertorelli Patten, a caretaker nicknamed Uncle Monk, and a Native American boy Hannah Martin had rescued from being killed by his tribe named Tom Martin.

Colorized postcard showing Glenwood Highway near the summit, 1920s.
Charles Martin was a pragmatic man and, as with the railroad survey crews, knew that a paved road would eventually be built through the mountains once the automobile became an essential commodity. He paid for a survey of a route in the early 1910s that went directly through his town, and the state accepted this plan in 1916, when construction of the Glenwood Highway began. In 1919, Martin placed his hands and name in the fresh concrete near his home, marking the road as his own. This was still visible when the lower portion of the road was paved over with asphalt in 1972 (the upper portion remains the original concrete road today). The completion of this road ensured that Glenwood remained on the map for many more years. Martin had a service station installed and the railroad upgraded the old station in town to match the times.

It was probably fortunate that Charles Martin died when he did. His town's future seemed secure, with the route of the main highway passing directly through it and his family in firm ownership of many of the town's utilities and services. Hannah Martin had died in April 25, 1917, but Charles held on for another three years, passing away on December 30, 1920.

An old building that once served as a brewery and dance hall for Martin's Glenwood Hotel, c 1979. [Jeff Escott]
Margaret Koch, from her obituary in the
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jan. 21, 2011.
The Glenwood Hotel closed in 1924 due to aging infrastructure and a decline in people wishing to spend long vacations in the mountains. After the stock market crash in 1929, it became home to a State Emergency Relief Administration work crew responsible for upgrading the bridges in the area. Other nearby resorts began closing around the same time while many local residents moved to nearby cities. Ten years later, his store and service station closed down as the state highway was realigned through an alternative route through the mountains. Glenwood Highway, though an engineering marvel, was too narrow and unable to keep up with the summer and commuter traffic demands placed upon it. The abandonment of the railroad route—which officially occurred in November 1940—was preceded in 1933 with the closure of the station, although passengers could still flag passing trains or detrain at Glenwood. The school and the post office were the last to close, officially sounding the death of Glenwood as a town.

The Martin family dominated the area around Glenwood for over a hundred years as pioneers, entrepreneurs, and hostellers. They were a frequent presence in Santa Cruz and remained so into the 1990s through Margaret Koch, Martin's granddaughter and a local historian and reporter for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. And the history of Santa Cruz County itself would have been very different without Martin's vision and drive to make the most of his little valley in the mountains. He had a magnetism that drew people toward him, which allowed him to direct both a railroad company and the state roads board to run important thoroughfares directly through his town.

The Glenwood general store watering trough, with the outlined word "GENERAL" still visible, c 1979. [Jeff Escott]
Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald T. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2002.
  • Koch, Margaret R. "Glenwood: Charlie Martin's Town." Santa Cruz County History Journal 1 (1994), 107-112.
  • Koch, Margaret R. Santa Cruz County: Parade of the Past. Santa Cruz, CA: Valley Publishers, 1973.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.
  • Young, John V. Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Western Tanager Press, 1984.


  1. Really interesting article Derek as all of yours are! If you look closely
    at the great photo of Glenwood in the snow you will see two automobiles -
    vintage 1930's - parked between the Post Office and the parked railroad
    coaches. Therefore this cannot be circa 1890's can it?

    1. Thanks for noticing that, Duncan. This photo has been misdated by virtually ever source that has published or posted it, including myself clearly! On my computer, I have it listed with several dates in different places. Well I have corrected the date above to read "1930s" and also changed the caption on the Glenwood article. Cheers!

  2. Great work as usual Derek! And I learned a few things I did not know. I will have to add some Scott family history to your Glenwood history also. Martin knew the Scotts in Maine or became close family friends with them after settling here. Hiram's Brother George Edwin was a close friend of Charley Martin, and he named one of his son's after George Edwin. They were also neighbors. Hiram and Charley McKiernan were partners on the Mtn, Charley toll road in 1850, so that factors in also. More to share with you, will put together an email soon! Keep up the great work!


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