Emma Ann Martin

Emma Ann Martin, the eighth of the fourteen children of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader, was born 6 September 1857 in Martintown, Green County, WI. She spent her childhood in that community.

Emma married young. Her husband was Cullen Penny Brown, a son of James Scott Brown and Mary Varner. He was possibly an adopted son, as Mary Varner Brown was in her mid-forties at the time of his birth. If adopted, then his middle name, Penny, may have been his original surname. Cullen had been born 25 July 1851 near St. Mary, Sainte Genevieve County, MO. This is a long way from Martintown, and it is not completely clear how Cullen ended up encountering Emma. The best theory is a connection through Perry County, MO. That is the place where several of Cullen’s siblings had moved to by the time he came of age. For example, his much-older brother Robert Varner Brown was a Perry County judge. It is likely Cullen went to visit those relatives, or even went to live with them, once he reached age twenty or so. (The 1870 census shows that at age nineteen he was still in Ste. Genevieve County, MO with his mother.) In the early 1870s, Perry County was also home to Isaiah Martin. The latter individual had been an integral part of Martintown in the early days, serving as his brother Nathaniel’s partner in operating the family sawmill. It is possible Cullen heard about Martintown from Isaiah, and was encouraged to move there. Or it could be that Emma, in her teenage years, was sent to stay with her uncle for an extended visit in order to get to know him better -- she had probably not otherwise seen him since he had left Martintown when she was an infant. During such a visit, she and Cullen might have become acquainted. In any event, somehow Cullen ended up in Martintown, far from his point of origin. He is believed to have worked at the Martin sawmill in the mid-1870s.

Cullen proved to be popular with the whole Martin family, judging by the recurrence of the name Cullen among the clan over the next thirty to forty years. He and Emma were wed in Martintown 16 August 1874, just before Emma turned seventeen. The ceremony was officiated by Harvey B. Mack, the Green County justice of the peace who had earlier that year officiated at the wedding of Emma’s older brother Elias to Lavina Watson. Harvey Mack was a first cousin of, and one could even say surrogate older brother of, Emma's brother-in-law John Warner, husband of her eldest sister, Nellie.

Cullen and Emma spent the early years of their marriage in Martintown, where Cullen farmed eighty acres given to Emma by her parents as a dowry. Among their next-door neighbors were Emma’s aunt Rhoda Strader Campbell and Emma’s grandmother Rachel Starr Strader, who resided together. During the period Emma and Cullen spent on this farm Emma gave birth three times, resulting in daughters Lena, Edna, and Ethel. Sadly, Edna only survived fourteen months, becoming the first grandchild of Nathaniel and Hannah to be buried in the Martin graveyard atop the hill above the family estate and mills.

The Brown house is known to have been located just east of Nathaniel and Hannah’s large home, meaning it was situated on the north bank of the Pecatonica immediately uphill from the original Martintown bridge. However, this house was probably not built until the 1880s and was not part of the dowry acreage. Cullen appears to have decided to give up farming in the mid-1880s to devote himself to the lumber industry. The building of the house represented a household shift off the agricultural parcel and into town. Ownership of the house stayed within the family until 1906 or 1907. However, for much of the stretch from the mid-1880s until the house was finally sold, Emma and Cullen and their family often were not actually present in the dwelling. They spent much of their time in the South, as Cullen looked for new employment opportunities. The first excursion was to West Plains, Howell County, MO. Cullen worked as a lumber merchant there, which means he probably also operated or helped operate a sawmill. Emma’s sister Nellie and family came along with the Browns for at least a year or so of this sojourn -- John Warner helping Cullen to establish the customer base for the mill. Emma and Cullen’s fourth child Lulu was born in West Plains in the fall of 1885, about a year after Nellie’s son Bert Warner had been born in nearby Willow Springs. The Howell County phase did not last more than a few years, however. By the late 1880s Arkansas had become the family’s new stomping grounds -- when they weren’t in Martintown, that is. The family resided in Fort Smith in Sebastian County at first, and this is where final child Ada was born in 1889.

Like many members of the Martin clan, Emma was blessed with a creative streak. She invented an adjustable holder for housewives to use during canning of fruits and vegetables. The holder, meant to keep fingers from being scalded while dealing with steaming-hot contents, could expand to hold pint, quart, and two-quart Mason jars. Emma applied for the patent 6 February 1897, which was granted 5 October 1897 (Patent #590963). At least one production run was generated in Freeport, IL, with Cullen as the agent. Emma also sought the advice of her brother-in-law Jacob Hodge and his sons Nathaniel and Arthur, who had formed Inventors’ Manufacturing Company in Pasadena, CA in the mid-1890s and were acquainted with the marketing of inventions. (Click here to see a large-size image of the flyer Cullen prepared in order to market this device.)

In 1898, after Lena had married Frank Hastings and the Martintown house was increasingly looked at as destined to shelter their brood (a group which eventually consisted of eight children), Cullen and Emma and the three younger girls moved to DeQueen, Sevier County, AR, a new and growing community with jobs to offer. DeQueen would remain Emma’s main home for the remaining two decades of her life.

Some of those remaining two decades were spent as a widow. When his employer, W.A. Prater opened a sawmill in Pollok, Angelina County, TX, Cullen agreed to serve as the supervisor of the facility, though it meant an extended period away from Emma and the girls, who remained in DeQueen. During a work shift on the first of November, 1906, his clothing became entangled in the machinery and he was mortally injured. He was whisked off to Prater’s house and given skilled medical attention, but there was no saving him. He died about four hours after the accident occurred. His body was escorted back to DeQueen by a representative of the mill, and the funeral and burial occurred in the DeQueen city cemetery, now known as Redmen Cemetery.

As stated, Emma continued to make her main home in the South. Her three youngest children made this choice as well, spending the rest of their lives as residents of Arkansas and/or Texas. Emma often made the journey up to Martintown, visiting her old mother as well as spending time with Lena and the many Hastings grandkids. In September, 1916, seeing that Hannah needed round-the-clock assistance, Emma arranged for an indefinite absence from DeQueen, essentially taking it upon herself to stay in Martintown until Hannah expired. Ironically, it worked the other way around. Hannah lingered until 1919, but Emma developed some sort of serious medical problem and in the summer of 1917 was admitted to Fresh Air Hospital in Chicago for treatment. She passed away the night of 16 July 1917 at that facility. (Earlier that same day, the last of her sister Nellie’s grandchildren was born in California.) The name Fresh Air Hospital implies a treatment center for tuberculosis, and indeed the cause of death listed by the attending physician, Albert Martin (no apparent relation), was pulmonary tuberculosis complicated by pneumonia. However, her obituary refers to an operation, making it not quite clear if her demise was purely the result of TB, or was perhaps a consequence of poor recovery from surgery. Her son-in-law Frank Hastings was dispatched from Martintown to claim the body, which he escorted to DeQueen for burial beside the remains of Cullen. The couple’s names share a large headstone.

Emma’s death could be said to represent the last gasp of the curse of short lives suffered by the offspring of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader. At the time of her passing she had already outlived ten of her siblings. Some might argue that by passing away at nearly sixty years of age, she had lived a full life, but by the standards of longevity set by the next two generations of the Martin clan, she was cheated of a third of her potential lifespan. Happily her remaining three siblings, Elias, Nellie, and Juliette, did not fall victim to the curse and went on to become genuinely elderly.

Above is a portion of a photograph of Hannah Strader and four of her daughters. Judging by the apparent ages of the individuals, this photo must have been taken in the late 1880s or early 1890s. The locale is probably the yard of the Martin home in Martintown, but it may be some other spot in the town or in Winslow. Obviously it was a snowy, chilly day. The fortyish woman on the left must be Nellie, by that point by far the eldest surviving daughter inasmuch as Alice and Jennie were deceased. Hannah is beside her, and the other three must be, center to right, Emma, Tinty, and Juliette. The three very young girls could be Tinty’s daughters Arley, Rose, and Blanche, in order of age, but it is also possible that Arley is not in the picture, and instead the baby in Emma’s arms is her own daughter Ada. Not visible in the portion of the photo shown here is Hannah’s nephew David Frame, son of Elizabeth Strader, who was standing on a porch on the left in the full-size image. The occasion may have been a Christmas visit from Arkansas to Wisconsin by Emma and family.

Children of Emma Ann Martin with Cullen Penny Brown

Mary Lena Brown

Minnie Edna Brown

Ethel Irene Brown

Lulu Fay Brown

Ada Vonner Brown

For genealogical details, click on each of the names.

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