Elias Martin


Elias Martin was the eldest of the fourteen children of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader, as well as the one who lived the longest, managing to escape the curse of short lifespan that afflicted most of his siblings. He was born 17 January 1848 in Illinois (probably in Winslow, Stephenson County, IL) and died 2 March 1932 at a hospital in Boulder, Boulder County, CO.

As the eldest son, Elias surely had the option of stepping into his father’s shoes as miller and patriarch of Martintown, but he appears to have abandoned that idea early on, passing the honor and responsibility to his brother Horatio. However, Elias did act as the representative of the Nathaniel Martin estate in 1870 during one of those occasions when Nathaniel was legally declared to be too demented to act on his own behalf. Elias accepted power-of-attorney in order to sell some of his father’s acreage to neighbor Miles Smith to generate cash to pay debts owed by Nathaniel. At that point, Elias was twenty-two years old. He would remain close to Martintown until he was nearly twice that age, getting by on his own as a farmer. The land he cultivated consisted of eighty acres his father and mother gave to him in his early adulthood. A similar gift was made to each of the Martin/Strader offspring as they came of age. Elias’s parcel was on the southern edge of Martintown, just over the state line in Illinois, meaning it had a Winslow address.

Elias is known to have been sweethearts with a woman named Julia Beard -- the person for whom his little sister Julia Beard Martin was named -- and the relationship went as far as an engagement. (At least, she is described as his fiancée in family notes; it could be this was a polite way of saying he shacked up with her.) This relationship fell short of marriage, however. His one and only wife was Lavina Watson, whom he married 24 March 1874 in Martintown, the ceremony officiated by Green County Justice of the Peace Harvey B. Mack, a first cousin of Elias’s brother-in-law John Warner. (Harvey B. Mack later in 1874 would officiate at the wedding of Elias’s sister Emma to Cullen Penny Brown.) Lavina, a daughter of Thomas Watson and Mary (“Polly”) Lynch, had been born 29 March 1850 in Perry Township, Coshocton County, OH. Her name is misrendered in certain sources as Lovina, Luvina, and Lavinia. Also, in daily life she was known by the nickname Vinette. She was “Aunt Vine” to Elias’s nieces and nephews. The couple had two children, Blanche Bradford Martin and Robert Earle Martin. The latter was known mostly as Earle Martin.

While Earle was still in gradeschool and Blanche only in her teens, Elias and Lavina appear to have become estranged and did not subsequently share a dwelling. Elias left for Colorado. Lavina did not. She may have stayed on the farm at first, but over time she moved into a house within the town of Winslow. She did not marry again. In fact, as near as can be determined, she and Elias never actually divorced, and there are indications they may not have been on wholly bad terms. Lavina kept the bond with her husband’s family active. (She is shown at the right sitting with her mother-in-law Hannah Strader Martin some time in the 1910s.) In about 1920 her health began to decline. She sold the Winslow home to Elias’s brother-in-law Elwood Bucher and took refuge with her sister Viola Smith in Monroe, Green County, WI. Lavina died at her sister’s home 9 February 1923 at the age of seventy-two. (Her former residence in Winslow in 1930 became the home of Elias’s grand nephew Leland Francis Hastings and his young family.) Another sign that she and Elias still “got along” to some degree is that the headstone of her grave at Saucerman Cemetery in Green County bears his name and death stats as well as hers. (However, his remains were never actually interred there. His name was probably carved on the headstone when it was first created, in anticipation that he would be laid to rest beside his wife. Then at some point his death month and year were added for the sake of completeness. According to multiple public documents, his body was buried in Colorado.)

After leaving his wife and his region of origin, Elias spent the rest of his days as a resident of Colorado, where he was a miner. His niece Cora Belle Warner Spece wrote in a letter in 1961 that her uncle “seldom came back” for visits. (Belle herself left Martintown in 1906, but kept in touch with those left behind and her comment can be taken as relevant to the whole of Elias’s remaining years.)

Just when Elias fled the coop is not precisely recorded. However, his obituary, published in the 5 March 1932 issue of the Boulder, CO Daily Camera, mentions that he was “the eighth man to locate in Cripple Creek and made some valuable discoveries there.” If this story is true -- please keep in mind that it was written forty years after that point in Elias’s life and the tale might have grown tall -- then Elias must have arrived in Cripple Creek no later than 1891. Gold was first discovered at Cripple Creek in 1890, and then in 1891 a huge deposit was revealed, so vast it is still the largest single actively-exploited source of gold ore in the United States today. A gold rush began that soon spiked the local human population. If Elias was the eighth man to show up, he must have beaten this influx of prospectors. That would mean he left Winslow when Earle was barely seven years old -- or younger. (Shown here is a postcard of Cripple Creek, CO sent in 1950 by Elias’s nephew Bert Warner to his sister Emma Hastings. Bert and his wife Grace, then in their mid-sixties, were on a “great American roadtrip,” and Bert had deliberately chosen to pass through Cripple Creek to see where his uncle had gone after leaving Martintown.)

The obituary further purports that Elias spent six years at Cripple Creek, then relocated to Gold Hill in Boulder County, where he spent the rest of his life. This does not agree with other sources. Cripple Creek is still cited as his residence in the 1901 Green County Pioneers commemorative biography of his father, and the 1900 census shows him in in Teller County -- in which Cripple Creek is located -- sharing miners’ quarters with William Campbell, a widower. The 1910 census shows Elias not far from Cripple Creek in Alma, Park County, sharing accommodations with a trio of single miners of varying ages. (These three are listed as his brothers, but this is an enumerator’s error.) It is not until the 1920 census that he appears in Boulder County. In that year’s document, he is listed as a lodger staying with the Alex McLellan family in the town of Boulder. This situation is repeated in the 1930 census. However, tellingly so, Elias also appears at Gold Hill in the 1930 census. It is obvious that Gold Hill was not a suitable place to be year-round. So when the snows thickened each year, Elias would abandon his cabin and his mine and come stay with the McLellans. By the time the 1930 census data was recorded, Elias was already eighty-two years old, but was apparently still actively pursuing his profession (that year’s stats also credit him with being the co-owner of a gold-and-silver mine). He is categorized as married in 1900 and 1920, and as a widower in 1930 -- these designations are among the evidence he and Lavina never divorced despite their long separation. (She is described as “Mrs. L. W. Martin” in the newspaper article about her death.) Given that Elias seems to have been successful at his career, it is likely he sent Lavina funds from time to time, which helps explain how she was able to continue dwelling alone in Winslow with no known occupation.

Apparently the McLellans thought well of Elias. He boarded with them for many years, and Alex paid half of the funeral expenses, including a burial plot. Earle paid the other half. The obituary states that Earle, who was by then Elias’s only surviving child, was to arrive in Boulder 6 March 1932. Elias was buried 7 March 1932 at Columbia Cemetery in Boulder.

Recent genealogists have confused Elias with his first cousin Elias Frame, and this error has become disseminated on the World Wide Web. The mistake probably occurred because Elias Frame, a nephew of Hannah Strader (being the son of Elizabeth Strader and Jeremiah Frame), was buried in the Martin cemetery at Martintown. Every other headstone in that graveyard commemorates a person who was very much “immediate family,” those persons being Nathaniel and Hannah themselves, nine of their children, three of their grandchildren, and Nathaniel’s father James Martin. It was reasonable for someone to conclude that Elias Frame was not an exception to this rule, but was in fact Elias Martin with an otherwise seldom-mentioned middle name, making him Elias Frame Martin. It is likewise logical to think Elias Martin’s middle name actually was Frame, because he had three Frame uncles and a Frame great-uncle. Further confusing matters, Elias Frame was born less than a year before Elias Martin, and he died right about the time when Elias Martin ceases to appear in any records associated with Martintown or with any of his kinfolk. Be assured it was the cousin who was buried in Martintown in 1901. Elias Frame happened to die suddenly during a visit to see his aunt Hannah and other Martintown-based relatives. The decision was made to bury him in the Martin Cemetery because it was considered too difficult to ship his body back to his home in Tulare County, CA. Please ignore family-tree entries that place the name Frame in the middle of Elias Martin’s name.


Children of Elias Martin with Lavina Watson

Blanche Bradford Martin

Robert Earle Martin

For genealogical details, click on each of the names.


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