Martin & Gillespie Families

The history of the Martin and Gillespite families is closely tied to the history of Granville, in McHenry County, North Dakota.

Charles Martin was one of the earliest pioneers of Granville. He was born in Wisconsin in 1846 and, in 1874, he married Minerva Cockings. They moved to Britt, Iowa, where Charles met George Stubbins, the local banker. Mr. Stubbins had a land office, and was able to stake out land in North Dakota for homesteaders.

George Stubbins persuaded Charles to move to North Dakota and, in the spring of 1900, Charles, his wife, Minerva, and their seven children, moved to the Granville area.

Charles and Minerva, as well as their daughters, Bertha, Ella and Mabel, took out homesteads south of Granville. Their son, George, homesteaded north of Granville.

Charles continued to farm until 1916 or 1917, when he moved into town, leaving his farm for his sons, Hale and George, to farm for several years.

In 1934, the Martins celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Granville. Minerva died in October of that year, and Charles died in February of 1935. At the time of his death, Charles was Granville's oldest resident.

They had eleven children, three of whom died at an early age. The other children all grew up in Granville. Their daughters were Bertha (Gillespie), Mabel (Kendall), Ella (Kenyon), Vesta (Abern-Hurst), and Aletha (Fjelstad), and their sons were George, Hale, and Ben.

Walter Gillespie was born in Sherwood, Ohio, on August 15, 1878. As a young man, he traveled with his brother, Ben, and his sister, Bertha, as a musical trio. Walter played the organ, Bertha sang, and Ben played the violin or nearly any instrument. While they were performing, they met Jim Hill, the owner of the Great Northern Railway, in Manistee, Michigan.

Mr. Hill was recruiting young men to homestead in North Dakota. He wrote out a train pass for Walter and Ben on an envelope, permitting them to travel to and from North Dakota. Bertha returned to Ohio, and the two men set out for North Dakota.

They homesteaded just east of Genoa. Walter worked on the railroad for $1.50 a day to supplement his finances, and walked back and forth the nine miles from his homestead shack to Granville to work.

When the time came, he went to Towner to prove up on his homestead and, lacking the money to buy a ticket home, he walked twenty-four miles along the rails, which were leveled by the snow. He was wearing a brown derby hat, speckled vest and peg top shoes, with no overcoat.

He also worked part time in Bert Kendall's grocery store. He put in flax on his land, and grossed a little over $1,000.

On October 30, 1901, he married Bertha Martin. He sold his rights to his claim for the $1,000, and they settled on Bertha's homestead.

The method by which they chose the site for the family home was unusual. Walter and his brothers-in-law, Ben and Hale Martin, saw a badger digging a hole. They hitched the team and began to dig out the badger. Before long, they had dug a hole large and deep enough for a basement. As they had previously chosen another site for a home, Walter had to get Bertha's permission for the change of location. She agreed, and their home was built over the basement begun by the badger.

In 1905, Bert Kendall and Mabel, a sister of Bertha, moved to Redmond, Oregon. They wrote that timber claims were available there so, at the end of January, 1907, Walter leased his farm to Mr. Wiltse, and he moved to Oregon with his family, which then consisted of Bertha, Walter, and sons, Harold, Leon and Vernon. They traveled by train as far as Shantico, Oregon, the end of the short line, and finished the remaining one hundred and seventy-five miles by stagecoach.

Walter bought forty acres for $1,600, built a small house, and cleared the land, then sold it for $6,400. Another son, Kenneth, was born in Oregon and, in January of 1908, the family moved back to Granville, North Dakota.

Two years later, their fifth son, Almon, was born. In 1934, a daughter, Blanch, was born, but she lived only two months.

Crop conditions were good through 1915, and the Gillespies built a new home on the original site and sold three acres to the school district, which is where Granville High School was built.

Bertha Gillespie died in 1930. She had been active in the Methodist Church and in the Eastern Star.

Walter continued to live on the farm, spending winters in Los Angeles, California with his sons, Harold, Leon and Vernon. In 1933, he married Alice Edwards, and the two returned to live on the farm.

Due to crop failures, the property was foreclosed on in the late 1930s. They later repossessed the land, and added two additional quarters, for a total of eight hundred acres. In 1946, they moved to California, living first in Santa Barbara, then in Long Beach.

A few years later, their life-long friends and neighbors, the Ed Kemp family, bought the house next door to them, and the friendship continued until Walter's death in 1954. Alice survived him by only a few weeks.

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