Identifying the Unidentified, Part IV

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been featuring posts by former AAS intern Lucia Ferguson (Smith College) about her experience identifying an unidentified diary (Part I, Part II, and Part III).  This week she shares her concluding thoughts.

Researching the Martin family proved mysterious and frustrating. And still, as I researched the lives Henry’s family lived after his death, I felt a strange fascination. Here is what I learned.

I have not found Henry’s date of death, but his wife filed for her widow’s pension on April 18, 1896. He must have died quite young—53, at the oldest. In 1910, Lizzie and 29-year-old Minnie lived together in Lyndeborough. Minnie was a schoolteacher; Lizzie ran the farm. In 1920, she was listed as head of household in Lyndeborough and owned her house. Her occupation was Farmer and Manager. Minnie and her husband Fred Kent (formerly a hired hand at the farm) lived with her. (Fred died in September 1973. They do not appear to have had children.) Lizzie died in Lyndeborough in May of 1922.

I found a death notice for Henry’s younger brother Moses: “Died, in Blakeville, N. H., April 24, 1870, Moses, son of Samuel and Lovilla Martin, aged 17 years. May the Lord sustain the afflicted family. Funeral discourse from Rom. 8:28.” (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”)

This notice appeared in the Advent Review & Sabbath Herald, published in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was the only death notice published in that issue, buried in a roster of upcoming camp-meetings across the northeastern corner of the United States. In 1870, another Martin son, Levi, had recently married his second wife Sarah Wilkinson; her name appears on the list of subscribers to the Advent Review. Was it simply Sarah that got the obituary published in the Adventist paper, or were the Martins also members of that faith?

Levi seems to have been quite close to Henry, both in age and in friendship. He is frequently mentioned throughout the diary. He is also the member of the Martin family with the most information easily available. I discovered that he was married four(!) times, some in quick succession: 1868, to Clintina A. Atherton (age 16; he was 18); 1870, to Sarah Wilkinson; 1879, to Minnie A. Smith; 1899, to Nellie Isadore Kimball-Beals.

Lizzie inscribed the following poem in the back of the diary. Written by Barbara Johns, it was printed in Arthur’s Home Magazine in 1865. Lizzie wrote the stanzas out of order and changed a few words, either intentionally or mistakenly.


Look upward with a steady faith / Hope’s brightness gayly borrow / And recollect tho’ dark today / It may be bright tomorrow / Forget not that afflictions deep / By God’s own grace is sent; / The one most precious is refined / For water rock was rent / And tho’ the clouds of sorrow lower / Yield not to discontent, / But midst the darkness and the gloom / Bless God for sunshine sent.

Recently I climbed Mount Monadnock. I felt the thrill of circumstance and time as I looked out over the countryside Henry Martin called home. He probably climbed this mountain too, I thought—probably saw this—but for him, the view was a way of seeing something familiar made new. It was humid, the air gently steaming as we ascended to find that view—but the sky was dark, thunderclouds rolled in over our heads, and songbirds fell silent. The air was heavy. It began to rain.

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