Fay Horatio Martin


Fay Horatio Martin, second of the four children of Horatio Woodman Martin and Laura Martha Ann Hart, was born 14 March 1890 in Martintown, Green County, WI, the village founded by his grandparents Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader. As far as can be determined, Fay spent his entire life residing in either Martintown or a mile or so south in Winslow, Stephenson County, IL, except for his service in World War I. If true, he is the only grandchild of the pioneer couple to cleave throughout adulthood to the immediate locality. Even his cousins Emma Warner Hastings and Lena Brown Hastings spent a number of years based far away -- California in Emma’s case, and Missouri and Arkansas in Lena’s case.

During Fay’s early childhood, Martintown was experiencing its greatest prosperity. His grandfather Nathaniel was still alive and was revered as the local patriarch, and his father Horatio was the chief boss of the family’s legacy mills. Fay attended Martin school along with his siblings and many cousins. It was a secure situation, and his nostalgia for that idyllic period may account for his decision never to move elsewhere.

In his mid-teens things changed sharply for Fay. His grandfather passed away in early 1905. Later that same year, his father caught tuberculosis and perished in the spring of 1906. In the midst of this turmoil Fay may have considered accompanying his aunt Nellie Martin Warner and her family as they relocated to California, where they hoped the arid climate would benefit Fay’s cousin Cullen Clifford Warner, who was fighting his own case of TB. In December, 1906, Fay accompanied another cousin, Albert Frederick Warner -- Bert Warner -- as Bert travelled with an entire boxcar of Warner family possessions, including the family’s buggy and horses. Fay did not have money for the fare, so Bert hid him in the horses’ hay whenever the train inspector wandered by. At one point early in the journey, in Iowa, Fay almost did not make it back onto the train after he made the mistake of stretching his legs. However, after a three-week journey, Fay and Bert successfully arrived in Fresno County, CA. (The photograph at the upper left was taken during Fay’s visit, showing Fay as he looked shortly before turning seventeen.) Fay did not remain in California, though. He came back home and it would be another ten years before he made another stab at independence.

In 1907, Fay’s mother married Elwood Byron Bucher, who was already Fay’s uncle because he had been married to Horatio’s late sister, Mary Lincoln “Tinty” Martin. Fay became part of a combined household, residing in the home that had formerly been occupied by Horatio and Laura, lying a stone’s throw uphill from the mills. By that point, Fay’s eldest brother Nathaniel was married and gone, and this was or soon would be the case with Elwood’s four eldest children, but Fay and his younger siblings Vivian and Clark remained in the home, along with Elwood’s youngest boy, Ralph Bucher. Fay was the eldest by quite a margin of the kids who lived there. Nevertheless, he stayed long term, even when the household moved to Winslow, where Elwood and Tinty had lived during the 1890s and early 1900s.

Elwood became Horatio’s successor in running the mills. In late 1909, he added to the mills’ infrastructure by building a dynamo that tapped the energy of the waterwheels to generate electricity, for which the town of Winslow awarded him a utility supply contract. By the time of this development Fay was a grown man and worked for his step-father/uncle, playing a significant role in the upkeep of the light plant. However, he did not take a lead role in the operation of that or any of the other family businesses. The role of heir apparent fell instead upon upon Charles Buss, the husband of Fay’s cousin/step-sister Rose Bucher. Fay was strictly an employee, as were his younger siblings Ralph Bucher and Clark Martin.

In 1917 or early 1918, Fay joined the U.S. Army. He was eager to prove himself. He did not, however, get to come home with tales of glory. Much to his disgust, once he reached Europe his role was, in his words, to “feed horses and look after them” and he did not see actual combat. Perhaps this fate resulted in part from his physique. His draft registration card, dated 5 June 1917, describes him as short and stout (with blue eyes and dark brown hair). He would go on to have a “beach-ball” physique by the time he was middle-aged. (As in the photograph at right, taken in 1956.) This tendency for roundness saddled him with the unfortunate nickname of “Chub.”

Becoming a civilian again, Fay returned to Martintown, and to his job at the mills. He may, in fact, have been the last Martin family member to work there. In 1920, Elwood suffered a stroke or some other debilitating event that left him in a wheelchair for the remaining decade of his life. At first, Charles Buss stepped up as Elwood had intended, but Charles wanted a destiny of his own, and upon losing three fingers in a mill accident in the early 1920s, chose to quit and move to Vermilion County, IL with Rose and their two boys. Fay lingered on at the workplace but did not graduate to being the boss -- he did not seem to have had the ambition and may well not have had the talent. As for the domestic side of his existence, he continued to be a “bachelor son still at home” type, residing with Laura and Elwood in Winslow. Ralph Bucher did likewise. The mills were eventually sold to a Green County utility company. It is not known if Fay continued to be employed there once the new, non-family owners took over, but if so, he did not remain beyond the 1930s.

It is not entirely clear what Fay did with himself over the last thirty years of his life. He did not marry. He did not have children. As mentioned above, as far as can be determined, he did not leave the area. One of pastimes is well-remembered, though. Like his father before him, Fay loved to fish. Of the few photos of him that survive, there are several that show him with his fishing pole and/or out in his boat. In the 1940 census, his occupation is literally described as fisherman. Local housewives enjoyed being able to serve fresh fish for dinner; any of them were glad to see Fay show up at their doorstep offering to sell them his latest catch. This doesn’t seem like enough income to live off of, but perhaps it was. Fay did not have an extravagant lifestyle.

As an old man, getting by on his pension and dwelling in Winslow, Fay expressed the firm desire to be buried in the old Martin cemetery. This was a somewhat unusual request as no one had been interred there since Hannah Strader Martin in 1919. Even more unusual was the stipulation that he wanted to be buried in his overalls! But his surviving relatives and friends would indeed see that this was done. Fay died 18 February 1965. His funeral was held four days later at the Leamon Funeral Home in Winslow, Reverend Vernon Shuman officiating, after which his remains were interred as he had requested. His grave is currently the only somewhat modern one in the little graveyard. (Because of his military service, the commemorative bronze medallion shown in the picture at left was added to his gravemarker by a local chapter of the American Legion.)


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