Christa Belle Martin


Christa Belle Martin, the ninth of the fourteen children of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader, was was one of the six offspring who died extremely young. She survived ten and a half months, a lifetime spent entirely in Martintown. She was born 29 September 1859 and died 15 August 1860. She is buried in the Martin family cemetery.

The spelling of Christie’s name is inconsistent in records, from Christabelle in the 1860 census to Christie B. Martin on her grave inscription to Christie Bell Martin in a letter written in 1934 by her niece Mary Lena Brown Hastings, who indicated she was taking the name straight from the family Bible. However, a letter from her sister Juliette Martin Savage to niece Cora Belle Warner Spece, written in 1947, resolves the issue. Juliette mentions that Christie had been named for two good friends of the family, the “most popular girls in Winslow,” Christa Turnbull and Belle Bradford. This was in keeping with Nathaniel and Hannah’s habit of naming their babies after specific individuals. Belle’s father John Bradford had worked with Nathaniel when the latter was a young man new to the region. His daughter Arabella, best known as Belle, was a familiar figure in Martintown in the 1850s, not the least because she was the teacher at the Martin School, teaching Christie’s older siblings in the shack-size one-room schoolhouse beside the Martin residence. The naming was a measure of how much brightness, beauty, and talent Nathaniel and Hannah wished for their new baby. Christa Turnbull and Belle Bradford were just as highly regarded as Juliette’s letter describes. In an era when musical performances were the highlight of the social scene and tangible evidence of the arrival of civilization to the frontier, Christa and Belle had become part of the immediate area’s first female vocal quartet. (John Bradford had been part of the first male quartet.) At the time of Christa Belle Martin’s birth, both Christa Turnbull and Arabella Bradford were viewed as the “most eligible young ladies” of the crowd the Martins hung around with. (Belle Bradford married Fred Knickerbocker in late 1859. Christa Turnbull -- also known as Christie -- married James Bradford Fuller on Valentine’s Day in 1869.)

Christa was the name chosen by one of Nathaniel and Hannah’s great great granddaughters for her daughter, born in 1968. Christie Belle Martin was the specific inspiration for that naming, and so in a small way, her legacy is on-going even today.

(Christie is believed to be the baby in the photograph reproduced at left. The scan was made from an original tintype plate that clearly dates from the 1860s and is unquestionably a picture of a member of the family of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader. Unfortunately the tintype was not labelled and it is possible -- though less likely -- that it is an image of one of her sisters, Tinty and Juliette being the likeliest candidates.)


Shown is the east side of the gravemarker of Nathaniel and Hannah Martin, with a close-up of the portion that features the name and stats. Photograph taken 2 November 2005 by Dave Smeds. This marker, the largest in the Martin cemetery, was used for not only for the couple themselves but for five of their children -- all ones who died as infants or toddlers. The inscription for William is opposite that of Christa Belle, while the back commemorates three children -- Charles, James Franklin, and Hannah.


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