Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Martin Family, approx 1904

Lydia and Edward Martin pose with their sons, James, Merritt, and Irving.
Copy of letter written to Merritt Martin by his mother exactly as was written.
Clinton, Michigan,
Oct. 14, 1918

Dear One & all:
My dear boy, tomorrow is your birthday – 38 years ago tonight about 9 PM, I knew there would be in our house within a few hours a little babe, your father sick and no help. Aunt Anna Martin came & staid that night with us. It was a beautiful night but no brighter than the eyes of a little boy they laid in my arms before daylight, and my baby’s cradle was the back part of his mother’s bed, where he nestled and got uneasy. Mother just drew him over to her & when he was where his mother was, he was such a contented child & he would open his eyes so big when mother talked to him & we were very happy together – just as you and I have always been & when I ask the question when I am so old and need my boys so much, why am I alone; I shall not complain because I have many things to feel thankful for. I never forget to feel grateful for my home & the comfort and peace there is here even if I do miss the once dear faces & today I have thought of you for the last few days & wishing I knew what I could send that baby boy for a birthday present. My money hasn’t come yet & I have nothing to buy with this time – take the wish for the deed & the knowledge that your mother loves you tonight as never before & and shall always love you dearly just as you love your children – somehow I have been thinking of you folks for the last few days wondering if you are sick. I hope not. It is nearly 10 & I am unusually tired & sleepy tonight, so I will wait and finish in the AM.

After dinner, Wed. 2 PM & just before dinner I went up town & got a letter from Edie. It was such a good one, he has been promoted to mess chief, the same as sergeant for 150 men, pretty good, don’t you think? I feel quite proud of my navy boy. He will hold that position for 3 weeks & one half of that time is gone now & then they are going to send him to school for 3 months & he is very anxious to commence. I made a nice hickory nut cake today which I will send tomorrow for him & AJ. AJ is better & and out to work again. I got a letter from Anna this week, she isn’t feeling very good. Tom & Carrie I expect are in Cleveland – will stay until after Tom’s birthday which is the 9th of November. The children always make a big spread that day for their father. Everything in Clinton is about the same, they closed the school this AM on account of so many bad cols. Frank Parker and his older boy are sick in bed with Spanish influenza. Edie says they don’t put no sugar in any of their food so for 3 weeks I have sent him something - tomorrow a hickory nut cake for him & AJ – last week Mr. Quigley sent him a box of candy & some marshmallow cookies. I haven’t heard from Irving since the 3rd of Oct. Mrs. Clark got a letter – out of 20 men, Irv. head 10 are gone – so Gladys is helping him out in the office – isn’t it nice she is able to help out in that way. Schools and churches are all closed in Boston on account of the influenza. It is a beautiful day here today. Word came from Adrian about 1 o’clock Sat. nite that Germany had surrendered, I was woke out of a sound sleep by the fire whistle at the light plant, the woolen mill whistle & the church bells & men over at the depot pounding the building with a flat board & somebody shooting off guns & before I could get dressed thought the town was burning up – rushed to the corner I said to a woman standing there – “Where is the fire?” – “over in Germany” she said – “The Germans have surrendered” then I went back to the house & to bed – when someone fired a gun 3 or 4 times just a little ways from the house – I got to sleep about 4 in the AM – but they will have to do that job over some other time. Hope to hear this week that you are all well. Love to you all.

Mother Martin

Notes from Julie Falk, grand daughter of Merritt Martin. Nov. 5, 2011

I typed this from a typed copy of the original and am assuming that the sentence structure choices, spelling errors, and use of an ampersand instead of and are all preserved from the original handwritten letter. The location of the original letter or if it still exists is unknown to me.

“Mother Martin” is Lydia Briggs Martin, born 160 years ago in 1851. She died 1936. She would have been about 57 at the writing of this letter. She was married to Edward A. Martin who died in 1906. I don’t have his year of birth. My Aunt Eileen (Martin) Austin showed me where Lydia lived – it’s a house on Railroad Street that still stands. They had three boys, James, Irving, and Merritt. I don’t know what in what order they were born, but I never met my great uncles, although there are photos of James as an old man. Lydia and James are buried in unmarked graves in the Clinton cemetery. Their names are recorded in the cemetery records, so I know approximately where they are buried, but in those days no one had enough money for things like headstones. Merritt was born in 1880 and died in, I think, 1970, but I should double-check that year. He married Genevieve Barr of Saline, and they lived in Saline where they raised six children: George, Eileen, Ruth, Charlotte, Warren, and David. (Ruth was my mother) Merritt and Genevieve are buried in the Saline Oakwood Cemetery.
The references to influenza and WWI make this especially interesting. We know that Germany didn’t surrender officially until Nov. 11th, so I’m not sure what the people of Clinton were reacting to when they celebrated Germany’s surrender, assuming the second part of the letter was written on Oct. 15th. It might have been expectation of Germany’s surrender. Germany suspended submarine warfare on Oct. 20th. Or it’s possible that she didn’t get back to finishing the letter until almost a month later, although that seems unlikely to me. Perhaps she was responding to the knowledge that it was only a rumor when she said, "They'll have to do that job over some other time." - Looking forward to the day when Germany made their surrender official.
My grandmother Genevieve’s only brother, Hollis, died in 1918 at age 18 of the influenza. He was serving in the military at the time.
I don’t know who Edie is, although he might well be a grandson named after her late husband.
The phrase “out of 20 men, Irv. head 10 are gone” – A little confusing, but I’m guessing Irving was head of 20 men and 10 have joined the military.

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