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September 11, 2012 > History: The Martin Family

History: The Martin Family

Manuel Silveira Martin, Sr. was born in Pico, Azores, in 1859. He sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco and settled in Alvarado in 1882. Two years later, Manuel married Adeline Silva, a native of Fayal, Azores, at Mission San Jose, the only Catholic Church in the area at that time. They had five children: Manuel Jr., born in 1886, Helen, Amelia, Mary (Marie), and Joseph. Manuel was a farmer but also a labor contractor, providing workers for neighboring fields of vegetables as well as sugar beets sold to the sugar mill that would later become the famous Holly Sugar Co. He died in 1921; Adeline lived until 1952.

Manuel Jr. became the patriarch of the family. In addition to operating the family farm, he worked in the sugar mill, stock yards and was a ranch butcher for many farmers in the area. At one time he was president of the SDES Holy Ghost Association. Manuel Jr. partnered with Alfred Silva and Joe Martin to establish a hay press business, using a horse-powered hay press before acquiring one that was gas-powered prior to 1920.

Bailing hay was an all consuming process that took place every summer. It was common for the men to go to San Ramon or Pleasanton, even as far as Half Moon Bay for the season. The press as well as a cook house was pulled to work locations by horses. Hay was cut by mower and taken to the press. Women served as cooks serving five hardy meals a day to a team of eight to ten men who worked hard from dawn to dusk. Men who worked on the hay press were known for their strength and stamina.

Manuel married Mary Lemos circa 1907. They had one child, Wilbert Edward Martin, born in Alvarado about 1918. Sadly, Mary and her mother Mary died during a clamming excursion to Half Moon Bay.

Wilbert married Isabel Pinto. Their children are Donald, Kenneth, and James (Jim). Isabel and her brothers, Manuel, and Peter who was a music teacher, along with Eddie Manuel, established the Pinto Brothers Band. Other members were added as needed. For many years the popular group played at weddings and celebratory events throughout the East Bay. While managing the family farm, Wilbert worked for the Leslie Salt Co. and was known for his skill as a welder and machinist who enjoyed using his crafts to restore farm equipment.

Sons Jim and Don remember hearing of their Dad's upsetting experience in the late 50s. Wilbert went to the First Western Bank in Alvarado, returning later in a very agitated state and announcing, "I need a drink." When he calmed down, he told the family of the bank robbery. He, bank manager Warren Silva and teller Irene Dutra had been held up at gunpoint and locked in the vault... front page news! Generally, their memories are much more serene. For the most part, growing up on the farm offered a wholesome lifestyle in which the boys developed their love for horses and cars.

The family farm, where Jim remembers learning to drive a 1934 Ford truck when he was seven, is now Union Landing Shopping Center. The truck was bought new by his grandfather from Joe Adams Ford in Centerville for $600, an expensive purchase since it was at the height of the Great Depression. Jim too remembers driving that truck through the fields as his brothers picked tomatoes bound for Hunt's Cannery in Hayward. While that way of life has disappeared, the boys' love of horses and vehicles has not wavered. Jim's horses now pull wagons that appear in parades and competitions which have resulted in numerous awards at rodeo events and regular participation in the Grand National in San Francisco. Jim, a Mission San Jose resident, works with horses and helps ranchers with branding. He's active in two riding organizations: Sonoma County Trailblazers and Ranchos Los Vistadores.

Jim's favorite horse remains the Hackney Breed. In the last 30 years he has raised more than 300 of these horses. Distinguished by their short tails and unique gait, Hackney originated in England and were popular carriage horses with British royalty. Called the Rolls Royce of horses, it is estimated that fewer than 1000 remain in the world. Weighing 1250-1300 pounds and standing 15 to 16 hands high, their appeal is in their looks, strength and speed. The Pasadena Valley Hunt Club, original founders of the Tournament of Roses Parade, featured their president and family riding in a carriage pulled by four of Jim's matched Hackney horses in the 1986 parade.

In the early 90s, Jim was doodling one day and designed a new type of spur. Named the "Quick Spur," its innovative design requires no straps and is easy to snap on and remove. It quickly caught on with cowboys - both real and would-be. Country music stars use the spur and it even has a country music song written about it, the Quick Spur Shuffle.

Given the time Jim devotes to horses and vehicles, it is hard to imagine how he handles additional pursuits but he is consistently in the top one percent of realtors and has been honored as the top producing realtor of the year by the Southern Alameda County Board of Realtors.

On his property he displays his favorite artifacts - saddles, harnesses, horse-drawn carriages, antique cars and his grandfather's 1934 Ford truck. Jim's wife of 41 years, Nancy, and daughter Jill Martin-Scott, enjoy some of the same hobbies too as does his son and grandson - both named Jim. It appears that the Martin family way of life will remain in place for generations to come.

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