Clay’s historical Marcus Daniel Martin house to be demolished
By Tina Tidmore
Many people who moved to Clay in recent decades have passed by Pine Road and Cherry Road every day, not knowing the batch of trees between the roads was hiding a 19th Century house.
However, the Jan. 23, 2012, tornado exposed the battered gray structure by ripping away the blanket of green leaves and branches.
“The house was so bare, sticking out from all the fallen trees,” current owner Marcia Hill said of her first post-tornado sight after returning from a visit with her mother. “It was so naked.”
In the following months, some passers-by questioned when the prominent remnant of devastation would be removed; others hoped that a miracle would lead to the house being restored.
No miracle occurred in the last 11 months, so Marcia Hill and her husband, Lewis Hill, feel their only option is to tear down what’s left of the original structure and rebuild one almost exactly like it on the same property.
The Hills’ structural engineer and the insurance company’s structural engineer said the house was beyond repair. The foundation is fractured from uprooted tree root balls and the tongue-and-groove joints are twisted. Also, support under the house includes tree stumps, Hill said.
“It would have had to be taken down, board by board, and rebuilt, which would have been cost-prohibitive and far exceed the limits of the (insurance) policy,” Hill said. “I tried to get help from the Clay Historical Society, but there was none available. We certainly do not have the funds to underwrite that large a project.”
The new house will be very similar to the current one, but the placement will have to avoid a deep stone well under the current back patio and a stone cistern where the original separate-structure kitchen was.
“If you look at the elevations, it is home,” Hill said of the plans for the new house. Some adjustments will be seen in the roof pitch, and the bedrooms will have closets. Plus, the old railings for the outside porch and stairs are not tall enough, according to today’s building code requirements.
The current house is far different from the original structure that Marcus Daniel Martin built. When Marcia Hill and her then husband, Jon Fuqua, bought the house in 1977, it needed many repairs. They made modifications throughout the following decades.
When asked why the family moved from an almost brand new house to this old fixer-upper that didn’t even have central heat, Hill said in an email: “Oh, those 100-year-old trees that lined the driveway. The 75-year-old boxwoods around the house. The acres of green. The wrap-around porches. The 100-year-old scuppernong arbor. The house was just the project we had been looking for. It was where I wanted to raise my children. And the parties! Even in horrible disrepair, we had parties.”
After the tornado, a few couples whose weddings were in the house, and others who helped in the cleanup, signed their names on an interior wall. Right now, the Hills are taking out the mantles and other important items to put in the future house.
Hill said the contractor told her that pulling up and saving the heart pine floors would have a very high labor cost. She also noted that the sawmill frame wood was cut very thick, which she said likely contributed to it withstanding the strong tornado winds.
“I truly—with a passion— hate for even one board to be ‘dozed’ if someone could use it,” Hill said. “I would love for someone to have it, if they can come remove it.”
Hill plans to invite some friends and family to one last, “pre-demo” party.
“Once bids are finalized, the demo will start,” she said.
Then, as her daughter, Christie Clements, said of losing the old house: “It’s sad, but it can be rebuilt. It won’t be the 1800s house, but we’ll make new memories.”
Fuqua, Edwards and Spain owners
According to a deed search from Jefferson Title Corp., Jon and Marcia Fuqua bought the house from Birtie Edwards, widowed at the time. Edwards, along with her husband Mason Edwards, purchased the house in 1967.
While Birtie Edwards owned it, she made changes to the driveway and renovated the inside kitchen and den, her niece, Glenda Tolbert, said.
Tolbert, who lives in another Chalkville house built by Marcus Daniel Martin, said of her own family, “We all just love old houses.”
Tolbert recalled—and it was confirmed by deed records—that the Edwards purchased the house from an old widower whose last name was Spain.
She said Spain started the development of what is now the Krest Estates behind and to the sides of the Hills’ house.
Tolbert also said that in the 1960s, a man who lived in a neighboring house used to get water from the well at the Hills’ house.
The Spains bought the house sometime around 1943, when Marcus Daniel Martin died, his granddaughter, Jane Martin Lamb, said.
Martins move to Chalkville
According to the book, “Chalkville Back Then,” Marcus Daniel Martin’s father, Civil War veteran Joseph Martin, moved his family to Chalkville in 1870 to run a grist mill on a reported 200 acres at what is now Shadow Lake. Previously, Joseph Martin ran a mill on Choccolocco Creek in Talledega County.
The whole Martin family was industrious, and thus prosperous, Lamb said.
During the Civil War, Joseph Martin served as a quartermaster. According to Lamb, he visited Chalkville during the Civil War, forming a friendship with fellow Civil War soldier Obediah Dumas. Dumas married Emily Catherine Reed and they lived in a home adjacent to what is now Chalkville’s Department of Youth Services Campus, according to “Chalkville Back Then.”
Lamb said the Martins and the Dumases also shared a heritage because both families were descendants of French Huguenots.
Joseph Martin and his wife are listed as charter members of what is now Chalkville Baptist Church, according to “Chalkville Back Then.”
A Confederate Army military record shows he struggled with asthma and coughing blood. At age 58, in 1888, Joseph Martin died and was buried in Cahawba Baptist Church Cemetery across from Trussville City Hall. His wife Susan Jane Elkin Martin is buried there, too.
House builder Marcus Daniel Martin
Marcus Daniel Martin, often called “Mack,” was only about 11 years old when his father moved the family to Chalkville in 1870, according to census records.
Sources give different years for when the Hills’ house was built. Jane Martin Lamb said that her family told her that the house was built around 1900. She said Marcus Daniel Martin lived in a dogtrot house on the same property, north of the current Georgebrook subdivision entrance. She said that Marcus Daniel Martin, her grandfather, lived in the dogtrot house after marrying and before he built the house currently owned by the Hills.
Trussville resident Eugenia Taylor, who is another granddaughter of Marcus Daniel Martin, said she was told her mother, Jennie White Martin Matthews, was born in 1890 in the dogtrot house. Later, a black family that worked for Marcus Daniel Martin lived in the older dogtrot house, but it was destroyed before 1917, Taylor said.
Buddy Mewbourne, author of “Chalkville Back Then,” said a now-deceased granddaughter of Marcus Daniel Martin told him the house was built in 1890.
However, Marcia Hill said she always heard it was built in 1882 and that one of Marcus Daniel Martin’s daughters said she was born in 1883 in the Hills’ house. According to census records, that would have been Florence Aletha Martin Jones, who is now deceased.
In 1880, Marcus Daniel Martin was 21 and living with his father, Joseph Martin, according to census records. His first child was born in 1881.
Census records show Marcus Daniel Martin was a farmer. Lamb remembers the farm included cattle and cotton fields that reached to both sides of Old Springville Road.
Marcus Daniel Martin and his wife are also listed as charter members of what is now Chalkville Baptist Church, according to “Chalkville Back Then.”
He was tall, had red hair, blue eyes and a hot temper, Lamb said. Pictures on Ancestry.com show him with a bushy moustache.
In all, Marcus Daniel Martin and Nancy Elizabeth Vann Martin had eight children, according to family members and census records. As shown in pictures on Ancestry.com, most of the children inherited the darker features of their mother.
Guy Weston Martin and Eugene Gamble Martin moved to Trussville. Florence Aletha Martin married Howard Jones and moved to Birmingham. Mabel Vann Martin married Percy Hughes and moved to Birmingham, then returned to Chalkville. Jennie White Martin married George Marlowe Matthews, moved to Gadsden, then returned to Chalkville while her children were still young, said Taylor.
Other sons, Joseph Michael Martin, James Braxton Martin and George Elliott Martin, married and stayed in Chalkville.
Marcus Daniel Martin died in 1943, at age 84, while living with his daughter, Florence Aletha Martin Jones, in Birmingham. He is buried in Chalkville Baptist Church Cemetery, next to his wife Nancy Elizabeth Vann Martin.