Nathaniel Martin, first of the four children of Horatio Woodman Martin and Laura Martha Ann Hart, was born 21 October 1885 in Martintown, Green County, WI. He was one of several grandchildren of village founder Nathaniel Martin to be named after the prominent patriarch, but was the only one who bore both his first name and surname. In this biography he is referred to as Nate to conveniently distinguish him from his namesake. It was a nickname he is known to have used. However, this is not to imply he ever used this shortened form in any formal circumstance. All formal public documents consulted thus far -- from censuses to his World War I draft registration card -- render his name as Nathaniel Martin. In his daughter Katy’s obituary, he is called Nathan. (He does not, by the way, appear to have had any middle name; in this he was again like his grandfather.)
Nate spent his whole childhood in Martintown in a house next door to grandparents Nathaniel and Hannah Strader Martin. During this time his father was the main boss of the Martin family flour mill. His siblings came into the world at a somewhat leisurely rate and he did not get to enjoy having them as contemporaries, but Martintown was well stocked with first cousins almost precisely his age. He and they attended the Martin School, located right across the Pecatonica River from his home. (He is surely one of the pupils in the Martin School class photograph on the webpage devoted to scenes of Martintown, though he has not been identified as yet. Click here to go straight to that page.) In his teens he no doubt attended Winslow High School, a little south over the state border in Stephenson County, IL, an institution his children would eventually attend as well.
On 1 June 1905 Nate married Kittie B. Bolender, daughter of Stephenson County native Allen F. Bolender and Green County native Martha Z. (probably Zada) Black. The Bolender clan had come to Stephenson County as pioneers along with the Straders, and many of them had farmed in the Rock Grove area near the farm of one of Hannah’s nieces, Rachael Swearingen Wells. (The name is rendered as Bolander in multiple sources, and it is quite possible that up through Allen’s generation, and back in Germany, the name was spelled that way. However, Kittie herself used the Bolender version when she signed her marriage certificate, so that is taken as definitive.) The wedding took place at the county offices in Freeport, Stephenson County, IL, and was conducted by a Freeport justice of the peace.
Kittie had been born in 19 September 1891 in rural Green County a little to the north of Martintown (i.e. within the district known as Cadiz Township). A quick bit of arithmetic reveals that even though the groom claimed on the license application to be twenty-two years old and the bride claimed to be seventeen, the reality was that they were nineteen and thirteen. Thirteen seems awfully young to those of us looking back from the perspective of the 21st Century. Although we all realize social mores were different then (though not that different, or they would have been truthful about their ages), it is all too easy to worry that Kittie may have been coerced by her much-older suitor -- that she may have been led into a union that left her at his mercy due to her lack of savvy and worldliness. To address that concern head on, it should be noted that Kittie and Nate’s life together began in a highly chaperoned way. Her parents and younger brother Robert lived with the young couple over the next few years. This is evidenced by the Wisconsin state census for 1 June 1905 (the same date as the wedding), which not only shows these family members as co-occupants, but reveals that Nate and Kittie were living next door to his parents and widowed grandmother Hannah -- no doubt in one of several houses owned by the Martin family. In the 1910 Federal Census, Nate and Kittie’s household includes Mattie Bolander, by then a widow. So Kittie was no abandoned waif. She and Nate did not have offspring until she was seventeen and a half. In coming to the marriage at not quite fourteen, she was only slightly exaggerating the example set by her mother-in-law Laura, who had been fifteen when she married Horatio Martin, and her mother Mattie, who had been eighteen when she married Allen Bolender.
Nate is listed as a creamery worker on the marriage license. This would have been at the Martintown creamery and cheese factory, which at that time was managed by Thomas Devlin, a brother-in-law of Elwood Bucher. Elwood was Nate’s uncle, i.e. he was the widower of Nate’s late aunt Mary Lincoln “Tinty” Martin. Elwood would by early 1907, following the death of Horatio Matin from tuberculosis, become Nate’s stepfather. Nate soon was hired by his long-term employer, Illinois Central Railroad, as a depot agent. Another job description would be telegrapher because sending and receiving telegrams was one of the prime duties of depot agents in that era. The precise timing of his hiring is unknown, but it must have been during the 1906-1909 time period. One guess is early 1909 because census records indicate that eldest son Kenneth, born in early January of that year, came into the world in Wisconsin, a state the family does not appear to have ever resided in after Nate began his career.
By no later than early 1910 the job had been obtained, requiring the family to move to the Bloomington area in the heart of Illinois. They lived a little north of Bloomington itself at a locale the census describes as within the town of Normal, but a family obituary places as within the adjacent, smaller town of Kerrick. (Both references may be the truth -- they may have lived in more than one house.) The census lists Nate’s occupation as railroad agent. They did not spend a long time in Kerrick/Normal. Nate was able to get a posting closer to home some time during the mid-1910s. Assuming his youngest daughter’s obituary is correct about her birthplace, the family was still in Kerrick when she was born in November, 1916. However, soon the Martins moved in McConnell, Stephenson County, IL, only a few miles southeast of Winslow and Martintown. Nate quickly was promoted to stationmaster at the depot there. He reached this level of responsibility no later than 12 September 1918, the filing date of his World War I draft registration card, because he is shown with that occupation and status on that document.
By 1918, Nate and Kittie’s family was complete. Their four children were Kenneth Nathaniel Martin, Roscoe Maxwell Martin (known as Max), Alice Zada Martin, and Katherine Eunice Martin (known as Katy).
The family stayed in McConnell until approximately 1930. By that point, the boom times of the railroad industry were fading. Roads and trucks had come to handle most short-distance freight hauling, and automobiles most passenger transport. More critical to the fate of small depots was that people no longer had to send so many telegrams. Instead they were able to use telephones. Depot telegraph desks did less and less business. So depots were closed and in some cases even the tracks between smaller communities began to be pulled up, including those at McConnell. (Martintown would later in the decade be another casualty of this phenomenon.) Nate was able to get a transfer to the nearest surviving depot. This was in Orangeville, a few miles to the northeast, and almost due east of Winslow, and still in Stephenson County. The distance from Winslow was maintained and this accounts for his children attending Winslow High School. Among the other students at Winslow High were his nephews Leon and Lyle Smith and the offspring of his first cousin Mary Lena Brown Hastings and the youngest daughter of his first cousin Mary Emma Warner Hastings. Altogether the extended clan accounted for over a tenth of the student body. Nathaniel was motivated to serve as a trustee on the board of directors. He held the post from 1925 to 1931.
Nate and Kittie continued to reside in Orangeville until the very end of their lives. Nate’s twice-widowed mother Laura came to the community at about the same time they did and also lived out her life there -- her third and fourth husbands were both Orangeville men. Laura died in 1947.
Even in Nate and Kittie’s old age, they had the companionship of offspring in their daily lives. In the mid-1920s, at age eight, their youngest daughter Katy suffered brain damage as a result of scarlet fever and could never live an independent life. She therefore stayed with her parents until they died -- and in fact remained in the Orangeville house even after their deaths, until she came down with the cancer that took her life in the mid-1980s. Nate and Kittie’s other daughter Alice also lived with them from 1943 onward, after being on her own for a number of years in her early and mid-twenties. Alice was a single mother and her child was raised in that same home.
Nate suffered from emphysema for the final five years of his life and this ultimately led to his demise at St. Francis Hospital in Freeport, Stephenson County, IL during the wee hours of 20 May 1960. Kittie survived him, passing away 7 February 1963 of cardiac arrest following removal of a cancerous thyroid gland. Her death also took place in Freeport, but at Freeport Memorial Hospital. The graves of both husband and wife are to be found at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens of Freeport.
The Nathaniel Martin/Kittie Bolender family. From left to right, Katherine Eunice “Katy” Martin, Kenneth Nathaniel Martin, Kittie B. Bolender Martin, Nathaniel Martin, Alice Zada Martin, and Roscoe Maxwell “Max” Martin. This photograph appears to have been taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s.
Children of Nathaniel Martin with Kittie B. Bolender
Kenneth Nathaniel Martin
Roscoe Maxwell Martin
Alice Zada Martin
Katherine Eunice MartinFor genealogical details, click on the names.
To go back one generation, click here. To return to the Martin/Strader Family main page, click here.