Thursday, February 6, 2014

About Horace

While my grand-aunt Mabel Davis Hines Martin may have inherited, by marriage, the antique Dresden china clock that was the envy of her new Tennessee neighbors, I know very little about the man whose mother bequeathed it to him.

Horace Lightfoot Martin must have come into Mabel’s life some time before the 1940 census, for I can pinpoint their residence then to Mosswood Avenue in South Orange, New Jersey. Actually, considering that census requested information on each family’s residence in the previous five years, Horace and Mabel were there in 1935 as well.

Only Horace’s wife wasn’t going by the name Mabel. She was known at the time as Jean—which, I suppose, is close enough to the census enumerator’s “Joan” entered for her first name. The whole Mabel-Jean name thing is something I’ve just got to explain to you. Soon. I promise.

The best I can figure from census records, Horace was previously married to a woman named Bertha, which is evident from both the 1920 census and his World War I draft registration papers. By the time of the 1930 census, though, I’m not sure I’ve found the right man. The railroad “agent” of later years evidently had a number of earlier stints in other lines of work, making it hard to know for sure whether the “single” man working as an office manager for a “steam railroad,” according to the 1930 census, was the same Horace Martin.

Perhaps it is just lack of access to online versions of New Jersey state records hindering my ability to find much more on the man. I did find a version of Horace's obituary, after his death on September 1, 1959, in the Johnson City Press, a newspaper published in the relatively-larger city near Mabel’s home town of Erwin in Tennessee, though I could find no mentions in any sources closer to the Martins' residence in the greater New York metropolitan area.

You know how it is about finding one’s name in The New York Times. And I don’t know the Jersey-version of the Daily News.

Even so, finding the list of Horace’s many siblings in his obituary seemed promising to me, despite the relatively common surname he possessed. After all, Martin or not, how many men do you know named Saunders? Or Talmage? Or how many women have you met named Indiana?

I had hoped, by tracing his siblings’ lines upward, I could find out more about this specific Martin family. So far, no luck.

Even so, Horace Martin’s obituary shared a couple of hints about his stature within the railroad industry in the “local” area of New York City, where he worked in his later years. From those, we can glean the idea that he met with a measure of success.

That alone, however, still doesn’t provide any hints as to how his mother came to own such a unique antique—even if it was only coveted in the back corners of Tennessee.
           ERWIN—Horace L. Martin, 76, died yesterday morning in South Orange, N. J. His wife is the former Mabel Davis Martin, Erwin. Martin was a retired agent for the Norfolk and Western Railroad with headquarters in New York. A member of the Methodist Church, he had lived in South Orange for the past 30 years. He was a member of the New York Athletic Club, Down-Town Club, and held a lifetime membership in the New York Traffic Club.
            Survivors include the widow, Mrs. H. L. Martin of the home, four sisters, Mrs. Mary Hanks, Mrs. Virginia Purdun and Mrs. Gladys Mountcastle, Richmond, Va., and Mrs. Indiana Cecil of Indiana; three brothers, Ray and Talmadge Martin, Richmond, Va., and Saunders Martin, Raleigh, N. C. Boyd-DeArmond Funeral Home is in charge.


  1. "Lightfoot" eh? That's very Virginia -- OLD Virginia. First Families status. So I'm not surprised at all that his sisters and brothers were in Richmond.

    1. Thanks for that tip, Wendy. I figured you would know something about all things Virginia! As it turns out, on a thumbnail sketch, I did find a Lightfoot connection reaching back into the late 1700s on this one.

    2. I remember a Francis Lightfoot Lee from history class. I think he was a contemporary of "Give me liberty, or give me death" Patrick Henry.

  2. So do you have the clock, if so I hope you post a photo! :)

    1. Unfortunately, I don't have that clock, Far Side--don't you wish! You and I both!

      I did, however, find a photo of something similar for you. Tomorrow, my friend ;)


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