Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Martin Mystery

The mystery is—What is my great-great-grandmother's maiden name?

Lately, I've been researching my family history. The Martin line is pretty interesting. I descend from Brigadier General John Martin through his son Jesse Martin, and through Jesse's son, John Reid Martin. Since Jesse was married to Cecelia Reid, it was natural that her surname might be used for one of her sons. John Reid Martin is my great-great-grandfather. Here's his picture:

John Reid Martin, born May 10, 1813 (one source says 1812) in Henry County, VA, served as preacher at Bethel Church in the Glade Hill/Union Hall area for many years. He married Susan L. Wingfield on August 5, 1840. They had three children: Sarah Elizabeth (b. 1842),  John Christopher (b. 1846), and Luther Calvin (b. 1847). All were born in Henry County. Susan, who was born in 1822 in Henry County, died in 1848 in Union Hall, Franklin County. I don't descend from her.

Since John R. Martin was a widower with three small children, it was natural that he soon take a second wife. On July 2, 1849, he married Elizabeth M. Wade, the daughter of John Wade. Several sources list six children born to this marriage, including Mariah L. Martin (b. 1854 in Union Hall) from whom I descend.

But—I'd heard that my great-great grandmother was Elizabeth S. ("Queenie") Webb, who bore John R. Martin's six children.  In fact, it was John R. and Elizabeth S. Martin who signed the marriage book in 1876 for Mariah Louisa to marry Henry Silas Smith (son of Samuel W. and Latitia Smith)—my great-grandparents.

And, I'd found references online to Elizabeth Webb being John's second wife, such as this one (which only lists three children) and this one at the bottom of a lengthy Reid genealogy. According to the latter, John R. Martin married Elizabeth Webb in 1850.

So, who was wife #2 and/or the mother of six children? I went to the Franklin County Historical Society for my answer. I'd no sooner asked the question, when I was handed a copy of historian Marshall Wingfield's book on Marriage Records of Franklin County. I soon found the answer.

There were three marriages for John R. Martin, not two. Apparently, Elizabeth M. Wade didn't live long after the marriage, but I can't find any mention of when she died. No doubt still needing a mother for his small children, John R. quickly found another wife. He and Elizabeth S. Webb (surety provided by William H. Turner) were married on April 1, 1850.

Mysteries remain: How did Elizabeth M. Wade Martin die? And how soon after their marriage? Why can I find no record of her death or her place of burial? Why can't I find a record of Elizabeth S. Webb's death or burial? Or anything about her family?

Apparently Elizabeth S. is the mother of the six children all born in Union Hall: Nancy C. (b. 1851), Milton Leland (b. 1852), Mariah L. (b. 1854), Mary J. (b. 1858), Joseph Alvin (b. 1860), and Beauregard Gustavus (b. 1863).

At the time of the 1860 census, these were the members of the John R. Martin household:

The three children from the first marriage were included in the household, as well as the oldest five from the second marriage. By the 1880  census, another mystery arises—the wife is now "Sarah E"—but perhaps the S in Elizabeth Webb's middle name stood for Sarah, and the census taker transposed it. That's what seems to have happened with Beauregard Gustavus's name (along with a misspelling).

Anyhow, the Elizabeth mystery has been solved. Sort of.

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