Grave Duties to Perform: Excerpt #5 from the "Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin"

Edited by Matthew Farfan

The following is our fifth excerpt from the "Private Journal" of Henry Joseph Martin, a resident of Stanstead, Quebec.

Funding for transcription and research into this unique historical document has been provided in part by the Bélanger-Gardner Foundation of Bishop's University, Townshippers' Foundation, and through the Heritage Online Multimedia Enrichment Initiative of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN).

larger_martin_001.jpgHenry Joseph Martin (1828-1885):

Henry Joseph Martin (1828-1885) is an obscure man today. This is due in part to the fact that he was such a private, modest man. But in life, Martin was profoundly respected by his friends, colleagues and community, where he was heavily involved in numerous behind-the-scenes ways, giving freely of his time and energy, without expectation of reward.

Martin was remembered by historian Arthur Henry Moore (History of Golden Rule Lodge) as being "of a quiet, even temperament, born to win the hearts of his fellows and to lead them by the sheer force of his personality."

Born and raised in Stanstead, Quebec, Henry Joseph Martin studied to become a civil engineer and land surveyor. After working as a surveyor and draughtsman for several years in the Townships, Martin moved to Iowa in 1861, where he remained until 1864. He then returned to Stanstead for several years until he received an appointment to the U.S. Patents Office in Washington D.C.

After moving to the U.S., Martin maintained close ties to the place of his birth, returning frequently to Stanstead where, among other things, he was one of the leading lights (and several times master) of Golden Rule Masonic Lodge. Martin died of tuberculosis in Washington D.C. in 1885. He was much lamented by all who knew him.

In his lifetime, Martin was known as a meticulous record-keeper. The diary that has come down to us, from which the following is an excerpt, is remarkable in its detail. Within its pages may be found descriptions of everything from local disasters to political events of regional or international significance.

This fifth excerpt in this series spans a six-day period in June 1865. Martin, as a member of the Crystal Lake Cemetery Association of Stanstead Plain, has been asked to assist with the exhumation and identification of several bodies in the cemetery...

Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin

Thursday. June 1st 1865. Pleasant. As Joseph Allen wanted me to find his father’s grave and see that some gravestones were set up, I went down to the graveyard where Richardsons man was diging a grave to reinter Mr R children. Struck a coffin, and on inspecting the contense found it to be Alexr Kings coffin and all was completely decayed – all but the bones, and from the shape of the back bone and ribs, I knew it to be poor Alexr as he was very much deformed. Took up the remains and put them in a Box.

larger_cem.jpgHad a trench sunk accross Mr Allens lot to find his grave. Took up the remains of Five of Mr As children, when I came down to Mr As. I found the case empty, as by mistake, he had been taken up over a year since instead of Alex’ King, and moved to another part of the yard. Had Mr Allen taken up, and on opening his coffin to identify the body, as I laid him out when he died, I found his clothes whole and good, and the body not so much decayed but what I could recognize it.

I had a new case made in which I placed Mr Allen and his five children, and had them buried in his Lot, and Alex King buried where Mr A was. I find that woollen does not decay, as Mr A clothes, also the blankets in which his children were folded, and the wool socks on Alex Kings feet, were perfectly good, and apparently as firm and stout as when buried, and some of them had layed in the ground over Twenty years.

Mr W B Palmer arrived at 9 PM from Danville, Vt., with Aunt Caroline Baxters remains, which we placed in the Methodist Church for the night. As she has been dead since 18th April, we thought it not best to bring them into our house, as the night was warm.

Friday. June 2nd. Pleasant. Got a man to dig the grave and Aunt Caroline was buried at 11 AM. Mr P returned home. Assisted Mr Richardson in disinterring his two children, found one coffin very much decayed, hard work to get it out of the grave. The other one wad quite sound as it was made of pine, the other was of baswood. They had been buried 18 years.

Saturday. June 3rd. Pleasant. Churned in forenoon. Afternoon assisted Mr R in reinterring his children [...]

Tuesday. June 6th. Pleasant. Churning in the forenoon. Afternoon went with the other Committeemen to look at Cemetery grounds. At Chapter and Lodge meetings. Dr Geo Wood and A Shurtliff took tea with me.

Click here for:
Great Excitement about Fenians: Excerpt #6 from the "Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin."