Grace Anne Mathewson

martin_grace_mathewsonGrace Anne Mathewson was born 9 June 1870 in Camillus, Onondaga County, New York, according to family records.[1] Her parents were John and Matilda (Hudson) Mathewson,[2] and Gracie was one of at least 15 children. She was one of the lucky ones – by the end of her twelfth year, eleven of her siblings had died, five of them of diphtheria during a two-and-a-half week period in the spring of 1881.[3] It’s hard to imagine how the family endured such loss. And then in January of 1887, Gracie’s sister, Florence, the wife of George Thompson, died two weeks after giving birth to her third child. Gracie’s father was at this point very dangerously ill himself, of an unknown ailment. When he died in February, an autopsy revealed an enormous six pound tumor.[4]  I wonder how such experiences shaped Gracie – did she look for death around every corner, or did she become stronger for having stared it in the face so many times? Perhaps the latter, because the man she chose to marry suffered from epilepsy.[5] A year after her father and sister died, Grace married Edward John Martin,[6] the son of William and Mary A. (Fields) Martin, who had both emigrated from England. Edward was born 10 September 1865 in Elmwood, Onondaga County, New York.[7]

I like to think that Grace and Edward lived happily together during those years of their marriage, certainly Gracie and Edward deserved a little happiness. They raised nine children, the third of whom was my ancestor, Ethel Mae Martin, born 25 October 1893. One day in October of 1912, however, Edward was picking apples on his farm and suffered a seizure. He fell from the tree and died. He was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Camillus. Grace’s eldest son, Edward Jr., supported the family after his father’s death, working as a baggageman for the New York Central Railroad, while his younger sisters attended school.[8] Grace’s youngest son, Kenneth, died in 1914 of measles complicated by pneumonia. The family moved off the farm, into a house in town, and then into an apartment building. The children grew up, married and moved away, but came back for visits often; the local newspapers recorded them. Grace never remarried, and she managed to live on her own without having to work; perhaps her children saw to this. In 1924, she lived for a time with my great-grandmother, Ethel Mae (Martin) Button. Grace was very ill the last year or two of her life; by April of 1931, it was serious enough that she had to go to the hospital. She died on 26 July 1931, and was buried next to her husband Edward.

[1] New York State did not record births in 1870. Other documents seem to confirm family lore, however; the 1875 New York State Census for the town of Van Buren ( gives Onondaga County as her place of birth and the 1900 U.S. Census for Camillus ( lists her birth as in June of 1870. Gracie was not listed in the 1870 census, but the date for that census was June 1.

[2] 1875 New York State Census for the town of Van Buren in Onondaga County (above) and family records.

[3] See obituary for Gracie’s sister, Mrs. George Thompson, in The (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) Gazette & Farmer’s Journal, 20 January 1887, page 21, column 1 (

[5] There was an epileptics colony, called Craig Colony for Epileptics, located in Livingston County in New York. In 1900, it housed 575 inmates. I think that Edward’s form of epilepsy must have been a milder case, since he was able to work his farm and raise a family. See article in the Syracuse Evening Herald, 5 June 1900 (

[6] An obituary for Edward Martin gives the date as 20 February 1888. See Marcellus Weekly Observer, 25 October 1912 at A copy of the marriage certificate is on my long list of vital records I’m in the process of ordering to confirm.

[7] See Obituary for Edward Martin, above.

[8] 1915 NYS Census for Camillus ( : 29 December 2012). Indexed at FamilySearch.

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