The life story of Nathaniel Martin and Hannah Strader is, in some ways, the story of the place they lived from 1850 onward -- the village of Martin, later to be called Martintown, which Nathaniel founded. Nathaniel owned and operated the sawmill and grist mill that were the economic heart of the community. He was the major landowner. He established the community church. He left his bones in the cemetery that overlooked the mills, bridge, and main street. He was Martintown. To honor him and his family properly, one must give due attention to the spot where he and Hannah resided for the majority of their lives. This page collects some pictures of Martintown and vicinity, and covers some of the general history of the place above and beyond what you will find interspersed within the biographies of the family members.
Martintown, from its founding to the present day, lies just north of the Wisconsin/Illinois state line in Cadiz Township, Green County, WI. Cadiz Township takes up a sixteenth of Green County, occupying the southwestern corner. Its western boundary touches Lafayette County. Its southern boundary touches Stephenson County, IL. Cadiz Township as a whole was -- and is -- an incorporated entity, with officials filling governmental roles, but no such municipal bureacracy was ever put in place for Martintown on its own. Martintown is therefore somewhat invisible in the sorts of reference material that genealogists tend to consult. While some historical documents such as marriage records, newspaper obituaries, and so forth do use the place-name “Martin” or “Village of Martin” or “Martintown” -- depending on when and how they were recorded -- far more just say Cadiz Township, even for events that took place right in the village. That can drive a researcher a little crazy. Cadiz Township is a standard-sized township, meaning it is made up of thirty-six square miles divided into thirty-six one-square-mile sections. Martintown as originally platted consisted of forty-seven acres of the southeast corner of Section 32, and never grew much larger than that. Each section of a standard township is 640 acres. That means Martintown takes up less than a tenth of Section 32, and therefore less than one 360th of Cadiz Township as a whole. It is unfortunate that a specific site should be referred to in records by a name that also refers to such a relatively huge area. Second problem -- there actually was a community specifically called Cadiz. No longer extant, it was a crossroads outpost a mile or so north of Martintown. Though platted in in 1846 and briefly qualifying as the hub of civilization in the immediate area, Cadiz never became a real village and even at its height did not deserve to be called a hamlet. It was rather less than that. Aside from homes, it boasted only a post office, a store run out of a home, and perhaps a one-room schoolhouse and a church. Today there is a third problem. Though the population of Martintown is still two to three hundred, i.e. about as many residents as in its heyday, this is no longer a sufficient concentration of people to warrant maintaining a post office. The last delivery from the old Martintown post office occurred 30 September 1938. Today all residents on the Wisconsin side of the line get their mail from the Browntown post office, and technically have Browntown addresses even if they live dead center in Martintown. A small number of residents live in the part of the town that is in Illinois; these people have Winslow addresses. Depending on what resource you use to try to locate Martintown on a map, you may come up empty, as if Martintown has vanished from the face of the earth. But not only is the place still there, it is still recognizably the setting shown in the pictures on this page.
Many of these images date from the peak of Martintown’s prosperity and activity, a period which lasted from the 1880s up through the first decade of the 20th Century. Photos from before that generally do not exist. Photos made after that do not capture the village as Nathaniel and Hannah knew it. The community they knew went through three phases. Another way of putting it is, Martintown had three births.
First came the initial settlement in 1850. At that point, the place was little more than a crossroads or manor holding, consisting of the Martin home, the sawmill, and a handful of other residences such as that of Nathaniel’s initial partner Edwin Hanchett. For the next seven years, until the bank panic of late 1857, expansion was rapid. A flour mill was added beside the sawmill in 1854, becoming Nathaniel’s new focus while his brother Isaiah handled the sawmill. A durable bridge over the Pecatonica River was finished in 1856. It was probably during these good times that Nathaniel and Hannah established themselves in the big white residence that you will see in the images below, moving out of the modest dwelling Nathaniel had thrown up in 1850.
The bank panic and the Civil War dimmed the optimism of the community. Only a few important developments occurred during those years, for example the opening the village post office in 1865. The second-birth period began in the late 1860s. America as a whole was enjoying an economic boom period brought on by the end of the Civil War and by the commitment by government and industry over the next eight years to construct a nationwide network of railroads. Prosperity became so widespread that it seemed prudent to rise to the occasion and develop Martintown accordingly, in expectation of the opportunities that access to the outside world by rail would afford. In 1868, Nathaniel hired a surveyor, a man with the surname Dodge, and had the village platted, a formal step that defined streets and blocks that still exist today. The following year saw the opening of several retail establishments, most of them along Bridge Street. The rapid growth meant the village suddenly had a semblance of a downtown, though its length could be walked in a minute or so.
Unfortunately, the economic surge was fueled in part by speculation. When railroad-construction subsidies ended and investors suddenly became worried their stock was losing value, the country plunged into the event that later would be called the Panic of 1873. That name is deceptive because it implies the crisis lasted only one year. It was actually a deep and extended depression on a scale that would hold the record for the worst in U.S. history until the Great Depression of the 1930s came along. It consumed the rest of the 1870s, and in Europe lasted well into the 1880s. The early-1870s plan to bring a railroad line to Martintown failed for lack of investment money. The woolen mill remained unfinished. Horatio Woodman Martin and his brother-in-law Jacob Hodge sold their general store. Martintown’s growth and vigor was subdued for about fifteen years.
With the installation of an Illinois Central Railroad depot in 1888, things moved into high gear again. Among the changes was the town name. The depot was given the designation Martintown rather than Martin. Somewhat surprisingly, the locals embraced the change. Once the post office was renamed Martintown on the first of June, 1892, there was no going back. The village had now become the place reflected in the 1891 platt map shown above left, a revision of the original 1868 platt map.
As you can see (depending on how clearly you can make out the details of this somewhat low-resolution version of the platt map), even though the sawmill and flour mill were the economic heart of the village, they were not not in fact located at the geographic center. The mills were on the north side of the river. The majority of the town was on the other bank, and it was this area that contained all of the other businesses with the exception of the quarry, which lay on the same side and slightly west of the mills. In this peak period Martintown was made up of dozens of residences, the sawmill, grist mill, and woolen mill, the church, the railroad depot, a cheese factory (which doubled as a creamery), an elementary school, an undertaker’s parlor, two general merchandise stores -- the post office was operated out of one of these -- and various shops including those of a wagon maker, a blacksmith, and a cabinet maker.
After the heyday, the dwindling occurred slowly but progressively. As early as 1905 Illinois Central began talking of closing the depot for lack of enough activity, a decision contemplated in part because the arrival of telephone service to local businesses and homes meant far fewer customers would be showing up at the telegraph counter at the depot -- telegram income was one of the prime justifications for keeping a station agent at a depot. In fact, the closing of the depot occurred decades later, but it did eventually happen. And bit by bit, much of the infrastructure described in the paragraph above was lost or changed. The mills are long gone. The Bridge Street bridge no longer exists, nor does the railroad bridge. These could not have remained in place once County M Road was modernized in the middle of the Twentieth Century. County M Road now does not make the “L” bend shown at the top of the map; now it continues straight across the river and climbs the hill just west of the church to join the road to Winslow, a fragment of which you can see at the bottom of the map. The new road wiped out structures and streets in the lower left portion of the original town. Elsewhere structures were never rebuilt after being lost to fires or floods. Others fell victim to delapidation over the long stretch of years. At least one, the woolen mill, was eventually cannibalized for its lumber. The community is no longer as dense as it was in the 1890s, with many vacant lots. (It is the newer homes added off to the east that keep the population about the same as in the glory days.) All retail businesses ceased and the only public building that survives as a public building is the church. However, Nathaniel and Hannah would still know Martintown as Martintown if they could see it today. The basic grid of streets and blocks remains. The church, the cheese factory, the Martin schoolhouse, and the old train depot are still standing, although the latter three have been converted to residences and the depot is now located closer to the corner of Bridge Street and the river. Most important, some of the homes are occupied even now by members of the Martin/Strader clan.
Looking north, this view, probably taken in the 1890s or early 1900s, shows Nathaniel’s stomping grounds as they looked during his lifetime. Note the rock dam across the Pecatonica River, piling up the water to operate the sawmill and grist mill -- the largest buildings shown. The white house immediately upslope from the dam is the residence of Hannah and Nathaniel. Along the hilltop above the mills is the family cemetery, though it is almost impossible to make out the tombstones in this photo, particularly at the somewhat low resolution used for internet purposes. The large building on the hillside is a horse barn, the slightly smaller but similar structure is a cow barn. The house just below the cow barn, mostly hidden behind trees, is the home of Horatio Woodman Martin and his family. The other house to the right, also somewhat hidden in foliage, is the home of Emma Ann Martin and Cullen Penny Brown, though at the time the picture was taken the couple and their younger children were usually to be found in Arkansas and the main occupants were Emma’s daughter Lena, husband Frank Opal Hastings, and their kids. Martintown itself is out of view to the right of where the photographer set up his camera. Today very little of what is shown here still exists; however, the foundations of the three houses have been preserved as the basement level of new residences.
This view was taken from within the town itself, again facing the river. (You can see the building on the upper left is the horse barn that appears in the upper center of the first picture.) This is the “bent” part of Bridge Street, the original main street. The bridge itself is here, but is mostly obscured behind the flag. The depot is just out of sight to the left. The utilitarian building right on the track, mostly out of view to the right, was the coal house. The mills are out of frame to the left. The poles and strung lines are for the depot’s telegraph service; at this time the town did not have electrical power. The scene shows a number of vacant lots; this undoubtedly reflects structures lost in fires -- one such fire consumed much of the business core of the village. This photo must have been taken around 1902 to 1905, because the little girl in the white dress is surely Nathaniel and Hannah’s youngest granddaughter Vivian Blanche Martin, who appears to be about the same age as in the photograph displayed on her father Horatio Woodman Martin’s page (click here) of family and neighbors in the town’s limestone quarry, which is known to have been taken in 1904 or 1905. Here four people have been identified so far. Vivian is one. The woman in the street (her dress blends in with the background, so look closely) is Laura Hart Martin, wife of Horatio. The mustachioed man on the tracks in front of the group that includes Vivian and Laura must be Horatio himself. Two figures to the left of Horatio is John Warner, the husband of Eleanor Amelia “Nellie” Martin.
This image and the one below were used for postcards and were scanned directly from surviving specimens of those postcards. This scene captures the Martintown mills in the deep of winter. The Pecatonica River is nearly frozen over. With the foliage of the trees absent it is much more apparent that the mills consisted of three large buildings, not two as it seems in the top picture.
And here we have a similar view taken in summer. This especially fine view of the mills clearly shows how the dam held back the flow of the Pecatonica to create the mill race that powered the waterwheels. The portion of the river in the foreground can be seen to be lower than the upstream part of the river in the background. The top portion of the Martin home is visible peeking up above and to the right of the mills.
This drawing of the original Martin woolen mill was probably not made from life. It was probably a concept sketch meant to show what the woolen mill would look like once it was built. If so, perhaps the artist was the architect; otherwise, he was a freelancer hired by Nathaniel Martin so that he would have a picture with which to tickle the interest of outside investors. However, concept sketch or not, eventually the structure was made into reality, and from all accounts, seems to have strongly resembled what you see here.
Precisely when the building was erected is not quite clear. The origin of the woolen mill has grown murky. One reason it is difficult to nail down the particulars of its history is because the outer shell of the structure stood empty for decades. No employees were ever hired, so there was no “original crew” who could later recall coming in for the first day of operation and smelling the fresh varnish and running their fingers over the shiny, brand-new looms. A two-page essay on the history of Martintown written in the late 1930s by Mrs. Vilas Heise provides the best clue. Mrs. Heise indicates that once the Martin sawmill and flour mill proved to be successful, Nathaniel set in motion a scheme to add a woolen mill. This would seem to indicate the building was erected in the late 1850s. Two scenarios seem likely. Either the enterprise was in development when the bank panic hit in the autumn of 1857, or construction was initiated a couple of years later as part of Nathaniel’s strategy to recover from the 1857-58 slump. The woolen mill building was definitely in place by the early 1860s, because Mrs. Heise mentions the huge indoor space was the venue for a party (or parties) celebrating the return of local young men from their military service in the Civil War. Also, a letter from Cyrus Woodman written 3 June 1861 to Nathaniel recommends that Nathaniel purchase a new stove -- Woodman was apparently an agent for Franklin stoves -- for the “new mill,” which could only have been a reference to the woolen mill. The context of the letter implies the building was already in existence, but still missing such essentials as a means of heat.
In 1888, the pending arrival of the Illinois Central line doomed the structure. The parcel of land on which it stood, located directly across the river from the other two mills, was needed for the railroad easement. If the building had been left standing, the new trestle bridge and the tracks could not have been installed along the preferred survey line. So it was demolished. In thirty years of existence, it had never achieved its intended purpose and become a working woolen mill. Over such a long period the shell surely must have had some purpose other than to keep the rain and glare off village denizens as they held parties. It probably served as extra storage space for the lumbermill and flour mill. Why the wasted potential? What happened? The answer was not included in the Heise essay. It was one of many subjects not fully developed. Mrs. Heise, a young woman in the late 1930s, composed her article after asking a few oldtimers of their memories of early Martintown, and then only presented some of the highlights of what had come from those interviews. There are any number of reasons why the project might have hit a snag. The bank panic surely played a role, drying up credit just as the looms needed to be purchased, and dimming the hopes that there would be lots of customers with cash in hand to pay for the textiles the mill would have produced. After that, there must always have been something standing in the way to make the investment seem impractical. One likely factor is that the mill would have needed to import a substantial amount of raw material from outside the area, and then ship finished goods out with equal efficiency. That meant railroad shipment. But early attempts to bring a rail line to Martintown failed, and everything was put on hold until 1888. The 1884 volume, History of Green County, Wisconsin, confirms the long wait. The book contains this line: “The village of Martin ... in the summer of 1876, had within its limits twelve families, a store and post-office, N. Martin’s mills, including an unfinished woolen mill, and Haase’s furniture factory.”
It is ironic that the arrival of that long-anticpated rail service was what caused the first building to be torn down. This was not quite the end of the story, though. Mrs. Heise’s essay goes on to say that when Illinois Central offered to move the building, Nathaniel said no, he would take care of it himself, upon which he proceeded to salvage the building material. These parts were incorporated into a new building two blocks southeast of the church. At first, Nathaniel said he intended to purchase equipment and finally establish the factory after all, now that the village had ready access to suppliers and markets. But another essay about Martintown, this one written some time during Nathaniel's final years (i.e. written no later than the beginning of 1905), reveals that he changed his mind during construction. The new building was instead redesigned to house a store and living quarters. Nathaniel gave the property to a daughter (the source does not say which daughter), who only kept title to it for a short time before selling it to others.
Nathaniel’s decision not to open the mill after all reflects his business sense. In the late 1850s, it had been a sensible idea, but by the late 1880s, the nation’s textile mills were already becoming centralized. Any operation in Martintown would have found it difficult to produce fabric and/or finished goods that could complete with those brought over long distances from places where they could be manufactured at far lower costs. As for the second building, it was not particularly practical for other use, either, and it remained standing a few decades at most. By the time Mrs. Heise put words to paper in the late 1930s, all that was left was the foundation. The building had once again been demolished, its lumber finding new purpose in barns west of town and in a house owned -- at the time of the essay’s publication -- by Ernest Mani.
This may have been another woolen mill concept sketch, perhaps even by the same artist, but chances are it was drawn from life -- though with a certain amount of stylistic license -- after the woolen mill shell had been completed. (It is the large building on the left.) This was Martin as it looked some time between 1856 and 1868. The time frame is possible to determine because the drawing includes the original bridge, built in 1856, yet does not show the grid of streets laid out in 1868. Note that there are still only two mill buildings on the far side of the river. It is unknown just when the third building was added.
The Martintown mills in the 20th Century, while they were still standing. This was taken from the house side. All other views of the mills found so far were taken from across the river.
The Martin family cemetery is near the top of the hill just north of the village. Shown here in late 2005, it is as you can see currently surrounded by woods. Now, as in the past, it is on private land. Much of the farm is taken up by a large field alternately planted in alfalfa and corn to supply feed for the small on-site dairy. The cemetery lies near the edge of the alfalfa field, separated from it by a gate and thin buffer of trees. It has been almost a century since the farm was owned by members of the Martin/Strader clan, but subsequent owners have treated the cemetery with respect. Local citizens, historical society volunteers, veterans groups, and so forth see to it that the weeds are kept under control. All in all, it is in good condition for such a long-unused small family cemetery, but it is a fact that the passage of time has affected the condition of the headstones. Most are no longer perfectly vertical. Two have come fully loose from the earth. A few are extremely weathered, and one or two are getting to be almost illegible unless one already knows what the inscriptions say.
In the early or mid-1850s when the site was chosen to become a graveyard, pioneer land-clearing efforts had left the view unimpeded in every direction. The spot therefore provided a broad view of the surroundings and was accepted as a contemplative setting appropriate to a resting place of the dead. Its proximity to the family home (and later, homes plural) meant survivors only needed a few minutes to walk uphill and place flowers on the graves or otherwise pay their respects. Local lore says that Nathaniel chose the spot for another reason. In 1848 (or about then), Hannah’s sister-in-law Elizabeth and her husband Jerry Frame were fording the Pecatonica right at the spot where the village of Martin would be founded. Their three-year-old daughter Anna Frame fell out of the wagon and drowned. The little girl’s body was buried at the top of the hill. When Nathaniel decided to plot out a graveyard for the village, he chose to put it where Anna had been buried. Or so the story says. There is no first-hand source available that proves the tale, and there is no gravemarker for Anna. The account seems credible, but it has been told so many times over the years and in such vaguely remembered fashion that sometimes the child who drowned is described as a son of Nathaniel and Hannah. Their son Linky did drown, but not until he was eighteen. Son Charles died at three and it may have been by drowning. Perhaps the stories became concatenated and mangled. Assuming Anna Frame’s burial was not the first, then the first was infant William Martin, who died in the summer of 1854 on the same day he was born, followed by Nathaniel's father James Martin, who died of old age in the autumn of 1856.
All of the surviving gravemarkers -- believed to be all that ever existed -- are devoted to close Martin family members. The group includes Nathaniel and Hannah themselves, nine of their children, three of their grandchildren, Hannah’s nephew Elias Frame, and Nathaniel’s father James Martin. Most of these gravemarkers can be seen in this view. The large stone in the foreground is that of Nathaniel and Hannah. Their names appear on the front of the stone. Inscribed on the sides and reverse are the names of children William, Charles, Christie Belle, James Franklin, and Hannah, all of whom died very young. (The other child who died young was Alice Adelia Martin, who was buried elsewhere, location unknown. She died before the Martin cemetery had been established.) The other large marker is that of Mary Lincoln “Tinty” Martin Bucher, its size reflecting the intent that her husband Elwood Bucher would be buried alongside her one day. But in the end, the place where his name and stats would have been etched was left empty, because he was buried in Rock Lily Cemetery in Winslow along with other Bucher family members, having moved Tinty’s body and casket to that locale some time in the 1920s. The medium-sized marker is that of Jennie Edith Martin Hodge. Leaning against it is the headstone of Abraham Lincoln “Linky” Martin. The latter stone’s original placement is now guesswork. The same applies to the headstone of James Martin, shown here leaning against a tree. In the distance, at the far edge of the cemetery, you can make out the bluish marker of Elias Frame (close-up view shown at right), whose burial here was a matter of happenstance. Elias had moved away from the area approximately thirty years before his death in 1901. In the early 1890s he had settled in Tulare County, CA. He died unexpectedly during a visit to see his relatives back in Green County and the decision was made to bury him in the Martin graveyard rather than ship his body all the way to California. Not visible in this view are the markers of Horatio Woodman Martin, Fay Horatio Martin, Ida Ellen Warner, and Minnie Edna Brown. Fay was the very last person buried on-site. Once Nathaniel and Horatio passed away in quick succession in 1905 and 1906, the practice of regular burials here ceased. Naturally Hannah was laid to rest with her husband when she died in 1919, but she was the last until her grandson Fay made arrangements to be interred among his kinfolk. Fay left instructions that he be put in the ground dressed in his overalls, and his wish was obeyed. Fay died in 1965, so his burial represented the first time the cemetery had welcomed a new occupant in forty-six years.
From the early 1880s to 1890, Martin cemetery appears to have doubled as the village graveyard, even though most locals who lost loved ones during that span chose to bury them in the larger cemeteries that could be found within a few miles, such as Rock Lily in Winslow or Old Cadiz (aka Pioneer), Saucerman, and Kelly/Franklin in Green County. No identifiable markers exist for these “extra” burials. It is possible the graves never had markers, at least not ones meant to endure until the 21st Century. The total number of people buried in the cemetery is therefore uncertain, but it is doubtful there are many unaccounted for. It could be the number consists only of these five individuals whose names and birth/death stats are known from courthouse records: Josiah Brown (15 March 1818 - 2 April 1883). Josiah may have been the father-in-law of Emma Ann Martin. The identity of Cullen Penny Brown’s father is not certain. Cullen was raised by grandparents. Josiah Brown was of the right age to be Cullen’s father, and it would make sense that Cullen’s father would be interred in the Martin plot. However, it is just as likely Josiah was a member of a Cadiz Township family named Brown. Perhaps Josiah was a relative of Laura Hart, the wife of Horatio Woodman Martin. Laura’s maternal grandmother was Sarah Ann Brown. Mrs. William Edwards, died 30 June 1885 at age 48. William Edwards was for thirty years the proprietor (at first in tandem with partner Watson W. Wright) of Martintown’s main general store, having been a miller at the Martin flour mill for a long stretch before that. His wife’s maiden name was Nancy Shull. Better known in the tightknit community of Martintown as Nannie Edwards, she was a daughter of Jesse W. Shull and Melissa Van Matre, who were among the very earliest settlers of Cadiz Township. Jesse was in turn one of the first white men to frequent the general area, having been a trader in Galena, Jo Daviess County, IL and in the 1820s having founded Shullsburg, Lafayette County, WI with Melissa’s brothers. Jesse brought the family to Cadiz Township in about 1837 when Nancy was a tiny infant, having acquired the farm of George Lot, the very first white settler of the township. Nancy’s slightly younger sister Marietta was quite possibly the first white baby born in Cadiz Township. Nancy herself was born on a steamboat on the Mississippi River near Kentucky, possibly during a trading expedition. Sies Loomis (5 July 1810 - 14 April 1890). Not quite identified, but surely this was an individual connected to Cornelius William Loomis, long one of the farmers of Cadiz Township. Cornelius was not the only Loomis to settle in the township in its pioneer days and it makes sense that a kinsman would be buried in Martintown. Ironically Cornelius himself, who died in 1883, was buried instead in Michael Cemetery near Browntown. Baxter Tyler, died 27 August 1885 at age 3 years. Baxter, son of Civil War veteran Nathan Tyler, was a nephew of Dayton D. Tyler who worked in the Martin sawmill and later was a partner with Nathaniel’s son-in-law John Warner, producing custom hardwood lumber at Dayton’s own sawmill on his farm, the former Saucerman homestead, north of Martintown. Baxter’s grave is now at Rock Lily Cemetery with his parents. Glen Smith (died 24 December 1889, age 3 years. Glen was a nephew of Lavina Watson, wife of Elias Martin. He was the only son of William G. Smith and Viola Watson, a couple who were closely connected to the Martin/Strader family as neighbors and friends. William and Viola remained on their Cadiz Township homestead until 1916, when they retired to Monroe. Viola was in the midst of a pregnancy when Glen perished. She bore a daughter, Flossie, less than four months after Glen’s death. Flossie was William and Viola’s only other child, and would go on with her husband Farmer R. Bast to take over the homestead when William and Viola retired. (Yes, Flossie’s husband really was a farmer named Farmer.)
When the Pecatonica froze completely, the ice could get quite thick. Ice skating was popular at such times. A family tale tells of an occasion in the 1890s or early 1900s when Nathaniel’s grandson Bert Warner and grandson-in-law Fred Philo Hastings skated all the way from Martintown to Scioto Mills, a distance of some ten miles. Here is a view from about 1912 of local teens enjoying an excursion. (Don’t be deceived into thinking these are adults. The old fashioned type of winter wear makes them seem older. Some of the individuals shown here are at most thirteen years old.) From left to right, Charles Cline, John Cecil Hastings, Leland “Hap” Hastings, Earl Wickersham, Frank McMillan, Ernest Leck, Edgar Kincannon, Minta Van Matre, Emma McMillan, Ava Van Matre, Nora Smith, Christie Van Matre, Merle Gage, and Stella Cline. (The individual hunkered down on the ice between Minta and Emma is not identified.)
This view is centered upon the original Martintown depot. The building was actually quite near much of the town, though this angle makes it seem isolated. In the background, across the river, is the family home, and the mills, always a landmark part of the village, are seen once again. The gouges in the hillside are the result of quarry activity. This picture, reproduced from a postcard, had “In Spring Time -- Martintown, Wis.” written in the margin in a child’s handwriting. The child was probably Nathaniel and Hannah’s great-granddaughter Gladys Beryl Spece.
Here is a class picture of the pupils of the Martin School in the mid-1890s. This photo comes from the collection of Albert Frederick Warner, son of Nellie Martin and grandson of Nathaniel and Hannah. He and his brother Walter Clare Warner are the two boys (left to right) shown standing immediately in front of the right-hand shutter of the window, in the back row of pupils. Bert wrote on the back of the print that the date was 1896 or 1897. Bert would have been twelve that year. He wrote that note while in his nineties and perhaps his recollection was hazy; he seems younger than twelve in this view. However, his memory remained extraordinarily keen until he was well over one hundred years of age, so his date might be correct. The teacher standing at the left is Jennie Tyler Steere (1866-1938). She was a daughter of Dayton D. Tyler, the sawyer mentioned above in the text about the cemetery. (The Tyler clan, along with the Lynch clan, moved to the Winslow/Martintown area from Coshocton County, OH in the late 1840s and early 1850s in great numbers. Lavina Watson, who would become the wife of Elias Martin, was part of this group, being the daughter of Mary Lynch. Jennie’s sister Mary Tyler married Lavina’s younger first cousin Simon Peter Lynch, who went on to be one of the prominent citizens of the district for many decades around the turn of the century.) Alas, except for Bert, Walter, and Jennie, no other names of the subjects of the photo are currently available. However, the group surely includes some of Nathaniel and Hannah’s other grandchildren, who are known to have been students at the school that year. Those would be Elias’s son Robert Earle Martin, Horatio’s sons Nathaniel and Fay Martin, and Tinty Martin Bucher’s children Claude, Arley, Rose, and Blanche Bucher. (With luck all can soon be identified.)
This is what Martin School looked like in 1908. It could very well be the one built in 1856 or 1857 when Martintown had become home to enough families with young children to need a structure this size. The original village-of-Martin schoolhouse was a twelve-foot-square shack where Belle Bradford taught earlier in the 1850s, her pupils consisting of the eldest Martin kids (just Elias, Nellie, and Jennie) and a similarly small number of the offspring of village gunsmith Tracy Lockman. Amazing though it may be, if you visited Martintown today, you could find this building still in place. After it ceased being a school the structure was converted into a private residence. It is currently the home of a former brother-in-law of a descendant of Nathaniel and Hannah.
Here is a group of local boys in 1919, all of them pupils at Martin School. The teacher that year was Lillian Gempeler (1890-1982). From left to right in back: Aubrey Davis, Elmer Kuhl, Dwight Buss (hanging upsidedown), Ernest Hastings, Earl Davis. From left to right in front: Joseph Reynolds, Hobart Lehman, Alton Kiel, Ted Kline, Lewis Cecil, Burton Eells, Estel Buss. None of their kids would have the chance to attend Martin School because of its closing. In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, schoolkids of southern Cadiz Township attended Rush School. That institution, originally founded by Hannah Strader Martin’s brother-in-law Henry Rush, was also a one-room school. After Rush School closed, local kids had to be bussed about twenty miles west to Gratiot, WI.
This view of the town was probably captured in 1909. It was taken by a professional photographer and then published in postcard form by B.H. Dingman Publishers. This was scanned from one of those postcards, one that was sent to Hazel Cannon Rodgers or another one of the “Arkansas” branch of Nathaniel and Hannah’s descendants years later -- perhaps decades later -- by a cousin or family friend who still lived in the area. (The date is unknown because it was not mailed on its own, but included inside a letter, so there is no postmark or addressee.) Do not be led astray by the description on the image -- a feature of the original item -- that refers to the Martintown dam and mills. The photographer was facing away from the dam and mills. He was probably standing on the bridge or a spot near it, looking south along Bridge Street toward the church, which can be seen on the hill in the background.
This image was also printed on a postcard. It portrays the 1911 flood of the Pecatonica River. The big white house in the background is not the Nathaniel Martin residence. It is the home of James and Rosie Van Matre and family, who in the early 20th Century had the property immediately to the west of the Martin parcel. (Minta, Ava, and Christie Van Matre, shown in the teens-on-the-river-ice photo above, were three of James and Rosie’s kids.) The building at the far left, in the water, is the Martin School. The steam cloud on the right of the scene may indicate a chugging locomotive was waiting in place -- out of our view -- while an inspection was made to be sure the bridge was safe to cross.
Elwood Bucher founded the electrical plant in 1909. The business became increasingly valuable as electricity became more widely used in the 1910s. A consortium based in Lena, IL made Elwood an offer and he sold the business (even while, for the time being, hanging on to ownership of the grist mill and sawmill). In 1922, the consortium sold out to Wisconsin Power & Light of Monroe, WI. They replaced the aging dam that year, installing a concrete one a full six feet in height, which provided enough river flow to greatly improve the efficiency of the dynamo. In about 1930, the company replaced the aging equipment with an up-to-date dynamo and built the brick structure you see here to house it. This photograph was taken not long after the new building was completed. This was scanned from the 1931 edition of the Win-Nel, the yearbook of Winslow High School. The book was in print by the summer of 1931, so the photograph, which shows the trees either losing their leaves or just beginning to fill in with foliage, could only have been taken in the autumn of 1930 or the spring of 1931. The plant remained a key part of Martintown’s economic vitality in later years. However, the river silted up behind the dam, leading to complaints of flooding by local farmers. At one time the site accounted for a small but meaningful fraction of the electricity generated in Green County. By the 1950s, given the reduced river flow, the megawattage was less significant and Wisconsin Power & Light agreed to the removal the dam.
This is Nathaniel and Hannah’s house as it looked in 1960. It still strongly resembles the version seen in the views from the late 1800s. In recent years trees have filled in thickly on the hillside behind the residence. The structure underwent major renovations in 2005.
This is another photograph taken in 1960 during the Eastertime visit by Bert Warner and his family to his old hometown. From this angle the absence of the larger two mill buildings is obvious. Only the smallest of the original three buildings remains, the one that used to be in the middle, oriented perpendicular to the river (whereas the two larger buildings had been oriented parallel to the river). It is visibly delapidated. It would not last much longer. Its final owner was Marilyn Miskimon. The dam is absent as well, having been torn out a few years earlier. The brick building erected by Wisconsin Power and Light was left standing when that demolition occurred, and is prominently visible here. It remains even today (current 2012). To those of us able to view the collection of images on this webpage, it is easy to see the similarity between 1890 and 1960. For Bert Warner, who was in his mid-seventies in 1960 and had only visited Martintown occasionally after 1906, it was surely the differences that impressed him.
Photograph taken 2 November 2005 by Dave Smeds. This church was “built” by Nathaniel in 1879. That is to say, he requisitioned the structure, provided the land, and no doubt paid the major portion of the materials and labor cost. During Nathaniel’s lifetime it was a United Brethren house of worship, served by a travelling pastor. In the early decades of the 20th Century the building fell into disrepair and was abandoned in 1937. In 1946, a coalition of three denominations spearheaded by Reverend Roy Berg came together to restore and re-open the landmark for regular use. As can be seen in this view, it is in excellent condition today. Now known as Martintown Community Church, it has been served since 1994 by a pastor who is married to a great great great granddaughter of Nathaniel and Hannah.
In 1954, a run of these souvenir plates were created to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the church. The copper-gold highlights you see here are the result of camera flash, and are not part of the plate design. The plate used for this photograph once belonged to Bert Warner, who participated in the 75th anniversary celebration. Bert was also on hand in 1979 for the 100th anniversary, coming out all the way from his home in California at age ninety-five.
This painting of the Martintown church was created by Leah Merle Hastings Schumacher, great-granddaughter of Nathaniel and Hannah. Leah was one of the rare great-grandchildren to remain local to Martintown into the latter part of the 20th Century (and in her case, even into the 21st Century). She attended many services and other events within its walls over the course of her lifetime. The 1931 photograph of the Martintown dam shown higher up was scanned from her copy of the 1931 Win-Nel.
As the Great Depression settled upon America, Martintown felt the effects. Normally a quiet and secure place to live, a robbery of the community’s general store/post office -- operated at that time by Nathaniel’s great-grandson Leland Francis “Hap” Hastings and his wife Hulda -- occurred 27 December 1929. The photos above chronicle the reaction of the local folk: 1) Here is the storefront window the thief broke in order to get in. After the crime was discovered, 2) the bloodhounds were brought in, 3) the whole town turned out to help search for the fugitive, 4) a car blocked off an escape down Bridge Street, and 5) the citizens began combing the area on foot. This series of images was scanned from snapshots that belong to Hap’s son Jerry Hastings, who was six years old at the time the event occurred.
This was the Martintown creamery and cheese factory. For many years in the 1890s and early part of the 20th Century it was managed (though apparently not owned) by butter maker Thomas Devlin, who was a brother-in-law of Elwood Bucher, the husband of Mary Lincoln “Tinty” Martin. The cheese factory was the final wholly-new commercial building added to the village. While other money-making ventures were initiated later, their founders all chose to retrofit existing structures, as when the mills became the home of Elwood Bucher’s electrical generation plant. The cheese factory enjoyed a long run, but like all of Martintown’s businesses, it eventually ceased operation. The building still stands, but became a residence decades ago. Like many of the images above, this one was made into a postcard. Unfortunately the original postcard was not available for scanning and this copy of a copy of a copy has lost quite a bit of image quality.
In the late 1800s, farmers more and more began putting their oxen and plow horses out to pasture and resorted instead to mechanized devices for harvesting and cultivation. Until internal combustion engines were perfected in the early 1900s, steam engines were the fashion. This image was scanned from an original photograph that belonged to Nathaniel’s great-granddaughter Selma Warner Mead and eventually ended up in the mementoes of her uncle, Bert Warner. The scene, captured by Martintown photographer E.B. Lund, preserves a visual record of the “Warner Brothers” steam tractor threshing rig at work on a Cadiz Township farm in about the year 1900. This 16-horsepower Advance engine rig had originally been acquired by John Warner, husband of Nellie Martin, in 1892 (or in early 1893), in tandem with his older sons, John Martin Warner, then age 22, and Charles Elias Warner, then age 20. The two young men had then proceeded each year to lease out the rig and their services to farmers in northern Stephenson County, IL and southern Green County, WI. Newspaper articles confirm they were still doing so in 1905, though by then, John M. Warner was a Martintown shopkeeper and his role with the threshing rig had been filled by younger brother Cullen Clifford Warner. (Cullen, born in 1882, had only been ten years old when the rig was purchased, and had been too young to be part of the original Warner Brothers team.) In this photo, Cullen is standing on the far left. His father John is immediately to his right, leaning on the tractor, arms folded. You will note the water wagon on the right, waiting behind its team of horses. Less easy to make out in this low-resolution jpg is the huge stack of hay behind the water wagon. Seven or eight men are pitchforking hay into the hopper of the threshing rig. The tractor is supplying power to the threshing rig via the long conveyer belt that runs horizontally across the middle of the scene. One has to wonder if everyone had cotton stuffed in their ears. As this sentence from the 18 August 1903 edition of the Freeport Journal-Standard confirms, the apparatus was extremely loud: “The Warner Bros. are out with their threshing machine; their double whistle can be heard for miles around.” The rig was regularly mentioned in the section of the newspaper devoted to bits of news about Martintown and Cadiz Township. Another example is from the 6 October 1905 edition: “The Warner threshing outfit passed through town Tuesday afternoon enroute for J. Dittmers. They said that was their last job of threshing, and now will hull clover for the rest of the season which will only last a week or so.”
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