Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden

Mattie was born on May 24, 1881, in St. Joseph, Missouri, the daughter of Wilhelm and Minnie Lederer. Orphaned at an early age, she was put in an orphanage and later was placed in several foster homes where she learned to cook.

As a young woman, she entered the Immaculate Heart of Mary School and 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 Thomas B. (1901-1935) and Ruth Helen Blanton Martin (1903-1996) were born, and then to Excelsor Springs, Missouri, where William E. (1905-1975) was born.

In 1905, they came to Phoenix but soon decided it was too hot, crowded and dusty, so they purchased a small ranch northwest of Prescott in the area off Gail Gardner Way and Whipple Street. Here Charles (1907), Joseph Earl (1910-1996), and Mary Edna Blanton Molner (1911-1985) were born.

Mattie's husband, working as a salesman out of his horse and buggy in the southern part of the state, left her alone much of the time to tend the ranch and her family. She was widowed at the age of 35 when Benjamin was accidentally given too much chloroform during an operation. With the insurance money, Mattie bought some cows, and she and the older boys sold and delivered milk in the Prescott area.

After she sold the ranch, she was offered a job and a house at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds, then under construction. There she cooked three meals a day for the 19 workers and cowboys, using an old coal and wood stove. The men ate outside on long tables, which the children really liked. If the men didn't want the pie or cake, it was given to the children. Tony Johns said Mattie made the best biscuits and bread he had ever eaten. He would time his day to be there when a meal was served.

When the children were in their teens and 20s, Mattie moved to a house on Marina Street, then to 225 Grove, where she rented out rooms, cooked, cleaned, washed, ironed and did mending 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 13 others whom she kept until they were out of school. Joan Vallely was "one of the fortunate ones."

Mattie had a good sense of humor and enjoyed a good time. Each "Arizona Admission Day," she would load up her horse and wagon with food and her children and come into town. Everyone would go to the plaza, listen to the band, sit, visit and eat together while the children played. "No one," Mattie would add in telling her story to Joan, "went home before dark either."

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

Additional documentation and photographs may be available in the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library.