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John Ambrose Martin

John Ambrose Martin was the eighth child of John I. and Rachel (Reeves) Martin.  He was born 12 March 1876 at Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa.  His family moved to Richardson County, Nebraska, when he was 2 years old, and census records show him there, in his parents’ home, in 1880 and 1885.  The family subsequently moved to Paonia, Delta County, Colorado, when John was 15.  Nine years later, 24-year-old John was still in his parents’ home, in Paonia, at the time of the 1900 census.  His occupation then was listed as “Farm laborer,” but he would not spend many years of his life in agricultural pursuits.

In November 1905, John traveled back to Richardson County, Nebraska, for a visit with his brother Charles near the town of Barada.  While there, he began looking at commercial properties in Barada, to see if any of them would be suitable for a photography studio.  By February 1906, the Martin Studio was up and running in Barada.

Six months later, 29 August 1906, John married Carolyn Margaret Carter at Barada.  John had met and courted Carolyn, or “Carrie,” as she was known, while living in Colorado, and she had come to Nebraska to join him there.  Carrie had been born 18 October 1877 at Republican City, Harlan County, Nebraska, and was the eldest child of Lawson V. and Melissa (Vance) Carter.  In 1896, she had moved to Paonia along with her parents and all of her siblings.

Carrie attended the Colorado State Teachers’ College at Greeley (now known as the University of Northern Colorado), graduating in 1901, and returned to Paonia to teach in the public school there.  She continued in that role through the end of the spring term in 1906 before going to Barada to marry John.

Soon afterwards, the newlyweds began making themselves indispensable to the village of Barada.  John was appointed Postmaster in December 1906 — a position he would hold for the next 17½ years — and he also began serving as the Village Clerk the following spring.  Carrie soon became Principal of the Barada public schools.  In November 1908, John received word that his mother was critically ill and rushed back to Paonia to be with her.  She died the following month.

In 1909, a reporter from the nearby town of Shubert, Nebraska, published a sketch of “recent improvements” at Barada, which included the following:  “Mrs. John A. Martin is the principal of the schools, with Miss Lilly assistant.  In our conversation with the patrons we found them universal in their praise of the school and they were especially proud of the principal and her helper.  . . .  We visited also at the post office and photograph gallery with the postmaster and artist, John A. Martin, who not only does splendid work in taking pictures, but who also makes for the town one of the best postmasters anywhere.”  (The Shubert Citizen, 9 April 1909, p. 4.)

John and Carrie were also very much involved in religious affairs throughout their adult lives, first with the Evangelical Church in Barada and, later, with the Falls City Methodist Episcopal Church.  Richardson County newspapers mention Carrie hosting meetings for the Women’s Home Missionary Society as early as 1907.  She later served as President and/or held other officerships in the Home Missionary Society, Christian Endeavor, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Richardson County Sunday School Association, Wabeno Club, Rebekah Lodge, and the King’s Heralds.  She frequently delivered lectures and sermons at meetings of these groups.  John also served a term as President of Christian Endeavor and was active in the King’s Heralds.

The 1910 census shows John A. and “Carliolin C.” Martin living in Barada, with Carrie’s mother, Melissa Carter (which is surprising, since the census also shows Melissa Carter back in Delta County, Colorado, with Carrie’s father and four of her younger siblings).  John’s occupation is shown as “Photographer and Post Master,” and Carrie’s is “Photographer and Post Mistress” (although we know from newspaper reports that she was also still in charge of the Barada public schools).  John’s business apparently was thriving in 1910.  He moved it into a new, larger building in Barada and also opened a second studio in Shubert.

The year 1911 was a difficult and tragic time for John and Carrie.  In June of that year came word that John’s Uncle Joseph, his sister-in-law Anna (wife of Elza), and Carrie’s brother Lawson had all died within the span of 24 hours, June 11 and 12.  Strangely, Anna and Lawson had both died following emergency appendectomies.  Both were residents of Delta County, Colorado, and the newspaper in Paonia reported on both deaths under the single headline “Sudden Deaths of Two, Well Known Here,” although it took no note of any connection between the Martin and Carter families.  Three months later, 11 September 1911, Carrie gave birth to the couple’s first child, Helen Romaine, who died 10 days later and was laid to rest at the Harris Cemetery near Barada.

John and Carrie’s second child, a healthy girl, was born in July 1913, but then four months later, November 1913, came the sad news that Carrie’s mother had died out in Colorado.  In September 1916, a son was born, and John and Carrie’s family was then complete.  Their two surviving children were:

  • Margaret Florence Martin, 1913–1968 (married Albert D. Diesman).
  • Phillip Martin, 1916–1996 (married Mrs. Bonita Jean (Sliger) Fisher).

The 1920 census shows John and Carrie still in Barada with their two children.  In 1924, however, John had the chance to purchase a competing studio in the larger town of Falls City, and he took it.  They closed up the Barada studio, hosted a big farewell party for their friends, took a couple of months off for a vacation trip out west, moved their household down to Falls City, and opened for business there on October 1.

The 1930 census shows the family all together at 820 East 11th St. in Falls City.  The census date that year was April 1st.  Three months later, tragedy struck.  On a pleasant July evening, the family enjoyed a picnic supper along the banks of the Nemaha River just west of Falls City, after which John decided to go for a swim.  Soon, though, he developed a cramp, buckled up in pain, and disappeared beneath the water.  Thirteen-year-old Phillip quickly swam to the spot and reached his father but was unable to pull him to the surface.  He tried repeatedly, until his older sister, fearing for Phillip’s safety, got hold of him and pulled him to the shore.  Searchers later found that John had drowned, and his body had lodged beneath a submerged tree stump.  Both of Falls City’s newspapers carried lengthy accounts of the tragedy.  He was 54.  John died 17 July 1930 and was buried 4 days later, a rainy Monday, at the Steele Cemetery in Falls City.

After John’s death, Carrie took charge of the photography studio and ran it for another 16 years.  She also continued her religious activities, especially serving as vice-president of the local chapter of the WCTU and also remaining active in the Home Missionary Society.  The 1940 census shows her living alone at 816 E. 11th St. in Falls City, and shows her occupation as photographer.  Her daughter Florence, by this time, was teaching English at the State Teachers’ College in Peru, Nebraska, and son Phil was working for Colorado State College in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In July 1946, Carrie retired from the photography business and sold the studio.  Two months later, she packed up and moved off to Pullman, Washington, where her daughter Florence Diesman was a professor in the English Department at Washington State University.  She apparently lived in or near Pullman the rest of her life, and passed away at a hospital in nearby Colfax, Washington, on 19 January 1961.  Her body was returned to Falls City for burial next to John.

If you can suggest any corrections to the information above or provide any further details about the lives of John, Carrie, and their descendants, please contact me at the address shown in the image below:

Pete at John Martin Family dot org

     —Pete Martin

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