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Martin, Henry

Name: Martin, Henry
Occupation: Janitor, Bell Ringer, University of Virginia
Sex: M
Birth: 4 Jul 1826, Monticello
Death: 6 Oct 1915, Charlottesville
Marker: No
Spouse(s): Martha Jane Bullock Martin, Lucy J. Speers Martin, Patsy Washington Martin
Parents: Maria Carr, UNK Father
Children: Eliza Ann Martin Cobbs, William Martin, Margaret Martin Justin, Annie Laurie Martin Brooks, Lucy Martin, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Martin, Alice Virginia “Jennie” Martin Coles, Cornelia Martin, Mary Venable Martin Fleming Calloway
Notes: Undertaker – Jas. Perley & Sons

On October 8, 1915, Mr. Henry Martin was laid to rest at the Daughters of Zion Cemetery.

(Charlottesville, Virginia)
Saturday October 9, 1915
Page 1

Henry Martin was the Bell Ringer at the University of Virginia for over 50 years. While his headstone is located in nearby Oakwood Cemetery, his Death Certificate, signed by Dr. George R. Ferguson, indicates that he was buried at Society (Daughters of Zion) Cemetery. It is possible that Mr. Martin’s name was added to the Oakwood headstone after his wife’s death in 1919. Mr. Martin’s Death Certificate indicates that his father was Thomas Jefferson.

A portrait of Henry Martin taken by the Holsinger Studio.

“Henry Martin”
Holsinger Studio Collection
Image courtesy of Special Collections Library, University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia)
UVA’s Commonwealth Professor of English and former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove recited her poem, “Bellringer,” at the University’s Bicentennial celebration.
“Henry Martin”
Holsinger Studio Collection
Image courtesy of Special Collections Library, University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia)

While it was widely reported that Mr. Henry Martin could neither read nor write, in 1902 The Times of Richmond reported receiving a letter from him.

(Richmond, Virginia)
Wednesday July 16, 1902
Page 5

“He Was Who He Needed to Be” Not Even Past, April 26, 2019 by Brendan Wolfe
“Wolfe and producer Miranda Bennett interview Edwina St. Rose and Bernadette Whitsett-Hammond, local historians working to maintain the cemetery where Martin is buried and tease out the stories of Charlottesville’s black community.”
Closeup of Mr. Henry Martin in “1908 and 1913 Clan Barbecue” Holsinger Studio Collection, June 19, 1913
Image courtesy of Special Collections Library, University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Rare photograph of Mr. Henry Martin and family at their 10th St NW home. The young boy sitting below Mr. Martin is believed to be his grandson, James P. Fleming, Jr., son of Mr. James P. Fleming, Sr.
Courtesy, Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

Henry Martin claimed that he was born at Monticello on the day Thomas Jefferson died but little has been uncovered about his parentage. Mr. Henry Martin himself was reported to be the father of 24 children. Jennie, one of his daughters, married John D. Coles, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John and Priscilla Coles who are both buried at the Daughters of Zion Cemetery. The two brief newspaper notices below, from March and June of 1900, tell us that another daughter, Mrs. Annie Martin Fitts, was living in New York City, and that he also had relatives in Boston.

(Washington, D. C.)
Saturday March 31, 1900
Page 4

(Charlottesville, Virginia)
Tuesday June 19, 1900
Page 1

For more information and photographs of Mr. Henry Martin, please see his entry at Encyclopedia Virginia, at Jefferson’s University—Early Life Project (JUEL), and at Monticello’s Getting Word.

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