Clark Fuller Martin


Clark Fuller Martin, youngest of the four children of Horatio Woodman Martin and Laura Martha Ann Hart and the very youngest of all the grandchildren of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader, was born 13 June 1900 in Martintown, Green County, WI, the village founded by his paternal grandparents. He spent the majority of his childhood in a house next door to the home Nathaniel and Hannah had lived in since the early 1850s. Along the river’s edge just below the houses stood the Martin family saw mill and flour mill, landmarks of the local vicinity. Clark attended Martin Elementary School, a one-room institution located just across the Pecatonica River from the mills.

Nathaniel Martin passed away in early 1905, when Clark was not yet five years old. Nathaniel had reached his late eighties and though his passing marked the end of an era, the timing was not a shock. Far more of an upheaval was the death of his father, Horatio, who contracted tuberculosis in late 1905 and succumbed to it in the spring of 1906. The following year, his mother wed Elwood Byron Bucher. Elwood -- sometimes better known as E.B. -- was already Clark’s uncle, the widower of Clark’s aunt Mary Lincoln Martin, who had passed away (probably of a burst appendix) in 1902. Clark became part of a household composed not only of his own siblings, but also his step-brother Ralph Bucher, who was simultaneously his first cousin. Clark had four other Bucher cousins/step-siblings -- Claude, Arley, Rose, and Blanche -- but they were grown and living independent lives by the time Elwood and Laura became spouses.

Elwood Bucher not only replaced Horatio in the sense of becoming Laura’s husband and the paternal figure in the lives of her children, but he took on the role of steward of the family business. Elwood had already been a key figure in the management of the mills. Now he became the top boss. He took this responsibility seriously, and took steps to keep the operation vital. The mills could not simply keep going as they had in earlier decades. All over America, the business climate was changing. Railway distribution was now almost universal, allowing city-based large firms to create product in quantity and ship widely, resulting in price competition that small, local, cottage industries could not overcome. The Martintown mills were losing customers. One of Elwood's inspirations was to use the existing waterwheels to generate electricity. He won a contract to provide power for lights for Winslow, Stephenson County, IL, a mile south of Martintown, and installed a power plant at the mills. Now able to depend on utility income, the mills were able to absorb the dwindling profits from flour and lumber, and kept going. As he came of age, Clark -- along with Ralph Bucher -- gained experience as an employee responsible for keeping the power plant maintained.

As the 1910s went on, the main family home shifted to Winslow, where Elwood and his first wife had spent much of the 1890s and early 1900s. Clark attended Winslow High School. This was only a two-year institution at the time, so Clark was part of the Class of 1917, graduating along with Ralph Bucher. Clark was class president. By these high-school years, Martintown was fading. Most surviving members of the Nathaniel Martin clan were already gone to other parts of the country, some to places as distant as Pasadena, CA or Bangor, ME. However, there were still several households of kinfolk in the area. For instance, Clark’s late father’s cousin Mary Lena Brown and her husband Frank Opal Hastings still occupied a house in the village itself. Clark was of an age with Lena and Frank’s eldest children. Shown at right is Clark on a wintry day along the Pecatonica River with his cousin Leland Francis “Hap” Hastings. Hap, the figure on the right with his arm around Clark, would go on to operate the Martintown general store when he was grown and married. Hap’s slightly younger sister Ethel Ruth Hastings was one of the classmates who graduated with Clark and Ralph in June of 1917. Hap’s younger brother Frederick Cullen “Fritz” Hastings would eventually spent quite some time helping maintain and operate the power station, though he would do so after Elwood had sold the business.

Clark served in the Navy at the tail end of World War I. This taste of life beyond Martintown and Winslow seems to have suited Clark well, prompting him to be one of those members of the clan who would venture far away as an adult. He was soon among those who went to the west coast -- not to California as so many others had, but to the Pacific Northwest. In the mid-1910s, while Clark was still a kid, his step-uncle Charles Benedict Bucher had moved to Colfax, Whitman County, WA, and either founded or took over Jersey Creamery. Clark headed west as well. He began working at Jersey Creamery in 1922, a job he kept for seventeen years. Near the end of that stretch, the business also employed Clark’s nephew Leon Elton Smith -- or did until Elton committed suicide in order to end the misery of his intense and frequent migraine headaches.

Early in those seventeen years at the creamery, Clark began his relationship with the woman who would become his wife. She was Belva Walbridge Swift, a daughter of Alfred Levinus Swift and Lucy Jane Bradshaw. A native of Colfax, Belva had been born 24 December 1909. The pair were wed 19 November 1926 at the Whitman County courthouse. (Wedding portrait shown at left.) The couple went on to have four children. This tally includes Laura Jane Martin, who passed away as a toddler. Unfortunately Laura’s death would not be the only such tragedy Clark and Belva would endure. Their very first grandson (second grandchild overall), David Ernest Von Olnhausen, would pass away at less than seven weeks of age.

At the end of the Great Depression era, Clark became employed by the U.S. Forest Service. He worked for that agency for a total of four years at two locations, and then was a Washington State Game Protector for twenty-two years, all the way through to his retirement at age sixty-five. The latter job brought him and Belva to their final and longest-term home of Ritzville, Adams County, WA. To a limited extent, Ritzville is still the base of operations for his descendants even today. When poor David Von Olnhausen arrived in the world, he was the very first baby born in Adams County in the calendar year 1948.

(In 1959, Belva Swift Martin painted the image of the Martintown mills shown at right. By that point, the two larger mill buildings and the dam had ceased to exist -- she did the painting in Ritzville, using a old photograph as a source and adding far more trees than could be found at the real-life location.)

After retirement, Clark supplemented the household income by accepting one-day-per-week shifts as a Ritzville city policeman, usually on Saturdays. He was well accustomed to working weekends, that having been necessary as a game warden.

In his spare time Clark loved to trap, hunt, and fish. These pastimes were favored by many men of the Martin clan -- Martintown seems to have been a particular fine place for a boy to develop these interests. Clark’s father was renowned for his love of fish and fishing. Another who exhibited the trait was Clark’s brother Fay “Chub” Martin, who went so far as to make most of his income in his middle-age years from going out in his small boat on the Pecatonia River, Honey Creek, or other streams near Martintown and Winslow and seeing what he could reel in. Clark’s fondness for the outdoors was surely a big reason why he sought out the career as a game warden. Clark modified his hunting rifles to suit his preferences and skills, and hand-prepared his ammunition.

Belva passed away 5 November 1976 of a recurrence of breast cancer. Clark suffered from some dementia during his eighties, but he was true to the Martin-Strader family pattern and made it to an impressive age, perishing 12 March 1988 -- meaning he survived Belva by more than eleven years. For the last eight years of his life, he and his first cousin Albert Frederick Warner (another avid fisherman) were the only grandchildren of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader left alive.

The remains of both Belva and Clark were dealt with by cremation, after which their ashes were inurned at Ritzville Memorial Cemetery. At the time of Clark’s passing, his descendants consisted of four children (only three surviving), twelve grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, and one great great grandchild. (These figures include some step-descendants.)


Children of Clark Fuller Martin with Belva Walbridge Swift

Beulah Rose Martin

Laura Jane Martin

Helen Mae Martin

Annette Lucille Martin

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