Friday, September 11, 2020

John Henry Marston

John Henry Marston, son of James Franklin Marston and Catharine Rhoda Winburn, was born in Morgan County, Georgia sometime during the month of May 1864. There were at least nine other children born to this family—Elizabeth Frances Marston, James David Marston, Catharine V. Marston, Elijah Frank Marston, Thomas Stewart Marston, Horatio Seymour Marston, Carrie A. Marston, Winnie Marston, and Dean Dan Marston. John, born during the Civil War, is my brother-in-law Randy’s great-grandfather.

John Henry Marston (ca. 1942)

On September 23, 1870, John and his family lived in Conyers, Newton County, Georgia. His father, a carpenter, had real estate and a personal estate, both valued at $1000. His mother Catharine, like most women at that time, was keeping house. John’s brother James worked on a farm while his sisters Elizabeth and Catharine both attended school.

On June 19, 1880, John and his family lived on Bryant Street in Conyers, now part of Rockdale County, Georgia. His father still worked as a carpenter and his mother kept house. John and brothers Thomas and Seymour worked as farm laborers. His brother Frank worked as a stone mason. John’s sister Catharine and her husband William Wallis lived with the family on Bryant Street. His brother James, also a carpenter, lived next door with his wife Dora and daughter Edna.

John married Mattie Catherine Powell, daughter of William Powell and Susan A. Cash, in a ceremony performed by R. J. Bigham, M.G., in Fulton County, Georgia on May 1, 1884. Seven children were born to this marriage—Mattie May Marston, Susie Catherine Marston, James Asa Marston, John Henry Marston Jr., Annie Florence Marston, Lilla Lee Marston, and Dottie Frank Marston. 

John Marston and Mattie Powell's marriage certificate

John and Mattie lived at 66 Lee Street in East Atlanta in 1894. Following his father’s footsteps, John worked as a carpenter. They were still living on Lee Street in 1896.

By June 1, 1900, John, Mattie, and their five children had moved to 66 South Delta Place in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. He still supported his family working as a carpenter although work must have been hard to come by at that time. Census records show that he had been unemployed for four months during 1900. His daughters May, Susie, and sons James and John all attended school. May and Susie were able to read and write but James and John, not yet. They had a 20-year-old female boarder named Idella Clay living in the home with them. Three years after the census was taken, John’s father died in Alabama on February 20, 1903. Another sad event occurred on May 29, 1905 when John and Mattie’s eight month old daughter Lilla died at their South Delta Place home. They buried Lilla at Hollywood Cemetery on May 30 although it appears she was later moved to Clay Cemetery, a “family burying ground near Clifton, Ga.” Does that mean that Idella Clay, who lived as a boarder with the Marston’s in 1900, was possibly a family member? John and Mattie’s son Dottie Frank was born on October 26, 1906 and sadly, died at home as well at the age of nine months on July 27, 1907. Dottie was buried at the Clay Cemetery. Perhaps it was at this point that Lilla’s body was moved so they would be together. Clay Cemetery was closer to their home.

On April 30, 1910, John and his family still lived on South Delta Place in Atlanta. He owned his home free and clear. John still worked as a carpenter, houses in particular. Earlier census records showed that John’s father was born in Georgia, but this record noted his birth as Maine. Mattie was enumerated as being the mother of seven children, five of which were living. Of course, we know the two children who had died were their daughter Lilla and son Dottie Frank. At this point, John and Mattie had celebrated 26 years of marriage. Son John Jr., now 18, worked as a dental polisher while son James worked as a grocery store salesman.

John must have been happy with his South Delta Place home because that’s where he still lived on January 9, 1920. Once again, John’s father was noted as having been born in Maine, not Georgia. His work as a carpenter continued as well. All but one of their children had left home. Annie, her husband Theodore Hunnicutt, and children William and Antoinette shared the home as well. Theodore worked as an elevator man in an office building. 

John Marston is the tall man on the left. It's believed Mattie is the woman
standing beside him. It's also believed this is the wedding of one of their children.
Can you help identify anyone?

By April 7, 1930, with all the children moved out of the house, John and Mattie must have downsized and now lived at 348 Richardson Street in Atlanta. He owned the house, valued at $7,000. The census enumerator noted that John and Mattie had a radio. John’s work as a carpenter continued though now on office buildings vs. houses. This was another record that showed John’s father as having been born in Maine. John loved baseball and in a 1939 interview by The Atlanta Constitution, he claimed to “have seen the Crackers play their first Southern league game.” The interview noted that the Atlanta Crackers, a minor league baseball team, had played that game in 1885. 

On April 19, 1940, John and Mattie lived in the same Richardson Street house, and unfortunately, house prices had gone down considerably in the past 10 years. Valued at $7,000 in 1930, John’s house was now valued at $2,000. At least it was paid for. At age 75, John had retired from the carpentry business which he had been involved in most of his life. During his career, he also worked as a master mechanic and before retiring, worked in the maintenance department at the Candler Building on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. The 1940 census enumerator did note that John had a source of other income, although it didn’t state from what. Perhaps that source was something John did for fun. When not working, John played the tuba. It was his passion and he dedicated his life to it. John even had the distinction of twice playing under the baton of John Philip Sousa. About December 1942, an unknown (probably Atlanta) newspaper published an article titled Tuba Player Mourns Passing of ‘Real Bands:’ Atlanta Carpenter Tooted for Sousa In Good Old Days written by Rebecca Franklin highlighting John’s love of tuba tooting:

Like that well-known wolf in “The Three Little Pigs,” 78-year-old John H. Marston, has been huffing and puffing a long, long time—though completely without sinister motive. Mr. Marston is, innocently enough, a tuba player, and has been for approximately 66 years.

During his years of tuba tooting, Mr. Marston has played with almost every important Atlanta concert band, and was twice under the baton of John Philip Sousa, master bandsman, and march composer. Now it saddens him to see the concert band being cast into limbo—along with a lot of good music.

Mr. Marston made his musical debut in Atlanta at the age of 13, when he appeared here with the Conyers Band at the grandly titled World’s Fair and Great International Cotton Exposition in 1881. He also played at the Piedmont Exposition in 1887 and at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895.

Bandsman Sousa composed his famous King Cotton March in honor of the last-named exposition.

These were the hey-days for concert bands. Often there were three-month engagements, with [unreadable] of people [unreadable] and hear the [unreadable] gold-braided musicians with their musically-precise leaders. Today, Mr. Marston noted, “bands play rag-time music, not the good music we used to play.”

Mr. Marston played with the Atlanta Zouave Band, the Wedemeyer Band (his favorite), the Fifth Regimental Band, the Elks Band, the Capital City Band, and many others, all now passed from the scene. Such “old-time bands have played out,” he said, “and most of the men I played with are gone.”

A carpenter by trade, Mr. Marston still works every day, and still plays the tuba for church and Sunday school meetings. He’s never tired of his curly-wurly instrument, considers it the strong backbone of band music. 

[The last paragraph that includes family details, is cut off.]

John’s brother Elijah Frank Marston, was a well-known Atlanta musician, teacher, director, and composer. At times, John and Frank played for the same bands including the Atlanta Musical Union band, which had been formed the summer of 1882 and the Atlanta Zouave Band.

Mattie died at home in Atlanta after a short illness on August 30, 1947. She was buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta. Mattie was survived by John, their three daughters May, Susie, and Annie; two sons John Jr. and James; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Mattie and John Henry Marston

Eight and a half years after the death of his wife, John died at home in Atlanta on January 8, 1956. His funeral, officiated by Rev. George Wannamaker Jr., was held at Dillon’s Chapel on January 10, followed by burial at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta. His grandsons acted as pallbearers. John was survived by daughters May, Susie, and Annie; sons John Jr. and James; his sister Carrie; and 21 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. He was 91 years old.

As I finish writing this post, I’m imagining John’s former bandmates standing at the pearly gates, instruments at the ready, waiting on him to enter as he tooted his tuba and found his place in their heavenly band.

  • Atlanta, Georgia, City Directory, 1894, 1905, 1940.
  • “Bolling Greatest Cracker First Baseman: Lady Fan Likes Tobacco-Chewing Players—Raps Uniform Idea,” The Atlanta Constitution, February 19, 1939.
  • Dottie Frank Marston obituary, Atlanta Georgian and News, Atlanta, Georgia, July 27, 1907.
  • Franklin, Rebecca, Tuba Player Mourns Passing of ‘Real Bands:’ Atlanta Carpenter Tooted for Sousa In Good Old Days, newspaper unknown, December 1942 (estimated).
  • Georgia, Atlanta City Census, 1896.
  • Grave, site and historical notes (#242 Lila Lee Marston), Clay Cemetery Blog, December 31, 2014;
  • John Henry Marston obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, January 10, 1956.
  • John R. [sic] Marston obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, January 10, 1956.
  • Lilla Lee Marston obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, May 30, 1905.
  • Mr. John H. Marston/Miss Mattie Powell marriage certificate, Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978.
  • Mrs. J. H. Marston, 82, Dies at Residence, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, August 31, 1947.
  • Mrs. John H. (Mattie Catherine) Marston obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, September 1, 1947.
  • Susan Cash/William Powell marriage certificate, Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Atlanta Ward 11, Fulton County, Georgia, 1920.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Atlanta Ward 3, Fulton County, Georgia, 1900, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, 1930, 1940.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia, 1880.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Conyers, Subdivision 163, Newton County, Georgia, 1870.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia, 1870.

No comments:

Post a Comment