When I first started getting serious about doing genealogy, my mother-in-law told me her family would be hard to research. Why you ask? Because their surname was Smith. I saw another researcher blogged about the very same thing this week so it seems to be a common thought about that name. But actually, the Smith family has been very easy to research! Lucky for me, my husband’s ancestors named three of their children with “E” names—Electra, Erastus, and Eunice. Because of that, they’ve always been easy to find. So, since I’m talking about that family, I thought I’d write about one of them this week. I’ve already written about Electra and Erastus, so should have written about Eunice since that’s who I mentioned earlier, but I chose their sister Martha instead. I’m glad I did because in the process of checking my research, I corrected an error in her line of the tree. I knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t figure out what it was until I did some additional research to write this post.
Martha Jane Smith, daughter of John Thompson Smith and Jane Gordon, was born in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania on October 3, 1846. She was the fourth child of six—Electra Burnette Smith, Erastus C. Smith, Eunice Alvira Smith, Martha Jane Smith, Minerva Smith, and John Milton Smith. Martha’s mother had previously been married to John McIlwain and had four children born to that union—Margaret McIlwain, James Xenophon McIlwain, John S. McIlwain, and Eva McIlwain. Martha is the great grand aunt of my husband Charlie.
Martha’s father, an innkeeper in Apollo, was very active in the community. He was a member of the town council and the board of school directors. He was a postmaster for Apollo at one point, running the post office from his tavern, and was also Apollo’s first tailor.
|First Presbyterian Church, Apollo|
|Martha's daughter Edith|
|Martha's daughter Elsie|
Shortly after Alice’s birth, the family moved to the village of Paulton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania which is where the census enumerator found them on June 22, 1880. Martha was enumerated as a housekeeper and Hugh as a merchant. The 1870 census record noted that Hugh’s father was foreign born but didn’t state where he was from. I later learned from the 1880 census that he was born in Wales. Martha and Hugh’s five children ranged in age from 13 to 1 in 1880. The 1880’s wasn’t a good decade for the family. Martha’s brother, James McIlwain, a saddle and harness maker, died on August 4, 1883 after falling from scaffolding on the job in Apollo. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo within sight of the John McIlwain, Jane Smith, and John T. Smith plot. Martha’s husband Hugh died in 1885. I’ve yet to find a death record for him so don’t know the cause. He was only 57 years old. And then Martha’s brother Erastus contracted erysipelas, also known as St. Anthony’s Fire, and died on April 13, 1886. Erysipelas, a bacterial infection of the skin that typically involves the lymphatic system, “was a feared disease in pre-antibiotic days” according to Verywell Health. Erastus was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo.
The next decade saw more death in the family. Martha’s sister Eunice died in 1890, leaving six children behind, the youngest of which was five years old. Eunice was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. There was finally some joy in the home when daughter Anna married Stewart A. Davis on June 9, 1897 at the Ascension Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.
|Martha's daughter Alice|
By April 16, 1910, Martha had moved back to Apollo where she lived on Pennsylvania Avenue with daughters Elsie and Edith, and her eight-year-old grandson Archie Evans. Archie was the son of Frank Evans, who died in 1906. Martha was enumerated as widowed, 65 years old, and the mother of six children, four of which were living. Elsie was still a telegraph operator while Edith had changed jobs and was now working as a stenographer at the Sheet Tin Company. On March 9, 1912, Martha’s brother John died of cardiac dropsy contributed by la grippe, or rather the flu. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. Martha and Elsie lived in New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1915. Daughter Anna died in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on January 20, 1915 following surgery for a fibroma of the uterus. She was 46 years old. Anna was buried in Apollo.
|Daughter Elsie, sister Electra, and|
- Application for marriage license, Alice S. Evans and John Duff Van Tassell, Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852–1968.
- Dr. T. J. Henry, Apollo Area Historical Society; https://apollopahistory.com/apollo-history/people-families/dr-t-j-henry/.
- Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com: accessed 20 July 2019), memorial page for Frank W. Evans (1872–1906), Find A Grave Memorial no. 186724855, citing Riverview Cemetery, Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, USA ; maintained by Caring Graver (contributor 48870039).
- Gastroenteritis (“Stomach Flu”), WebMD; https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/gastroenteritis#1.
- Grippe; https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/grippe.
- Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011.
- Marriage of Anna P. Evans and Stewart A. Davis, Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708–1985.
- New Kensington, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1915.
- Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906–1924, Anna Evans Davis, no. 7590.
- Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906–1924, John Milton Smith, no. 22490.
- Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967, no. 112168, Frank William Evans.
- Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967, no. 23345, Mrs. Martha Evans.
- Personal visit to Riverview Cemetery by Denise Murphy, Apollo, Pennsylvania.
- Quasqui Centennial (125th anniversary) program, June 29 – July 4, 1941.
- Transverse Myelitis Fact Sheet, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Transverse-Myelitis-Fact-Sheet.
- U.S. Federal Census, Apollo, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, 1850, 1860.
- U.S. Federal Census, Apollo, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, 1910.
- U.S. Federal Census, Kiskiminetas, Apollo Borough, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, 1920.
- U.S. Federal Census, Washington, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, 1870, 1880, 1900.
- Understanding Erysipelas (St. Anthony's Fire), Verywell Health; http://dermatology.about.com/cs/infectionbacteria/a/erysipelas.htm.