Thomas Sumpter MARTIN was the oldest of seven children born to Narcissus Glenn MARTIN (1880-1975) and Mattie MOTLEY MARTIN (1877-1935). Narcissus, who went by N.G., was the brother of my great-grandfather, Adolphus Burdine MARTIN, Sr (1867-1917). This makes Sumpter, as he was called, my 1st cousin, twice removed.
Sumpter was born in Blaney, Kershaw County, South Carolina which is adjacent to Richland County where Columbia is. N.G. was a farmer and had a saw mill. Sumpter and his siblings went to school and work on the family farm.
When Sumpter was 19, he married Marie Eunice HINSON. This was in 1916. The next year a son, Herbert Leon MARTIN, was born.
In 1918, Sumpter registered for the WW1 draft. He listed his home as Blaney and his occupation as farmer. His height and build were medium, his eyes brown and his hair black. As far as I can tell, Sumpter wasn’t called to report for duty.
The first tragedy
Marie died on 28 January 28 1919. I couldn’t find a death certificate for her or an obituary. She could have died from a multitude of things including childbirth or Spanish flu which is what my paternal grandmother, Goldie PRICE HEISER died from on 1 Jan 1919.
From then on, Herbert lived with Marie’s parents. Sumpter probably knew it was the best thing for Herbert since he himself couldn’t farm and take care of Herbert, too. Sumpter was 22 years old when Marie died.
A new life in North Carolina
Sumpter moved to Mt. Holly in Gaston County, North Carolina. His cousin, Rufus TERRY (brother of Oliver who I wrote about last week) lived in Gaston County. Maybe Sumpter needed to get away from home because of a broken heart over Marie. Maybe he just needed work and there were textile jobs in Gaston County. I really don’t know.
In 1921, Sumpter married Carrie Macie HOOVER of Mt. Holly, North Carolina. Another of Sumpter’s cousins, Lester Terry (brother of Oliver and Rufus) signed an affidavit that said there was no reason why Sumpter couldn’t marry Carrie. The bride and groom were both 24.
The next year, Carrie gave birth to twins, a stillborn daughter and a son, Paul. About 18 months later, Carrie and Sumpter had another son named Ray.
Fast forward six years to 1930
Carrie lived with her older sister in Gaston County in 1930. She was listed as married, but she and the children used the name Hoover. Carrie worked in the textile industry. I don’t know where Sumpter was.
In June of 1933, Lester Terry, Sumpter’s cousin, committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. This must have been hard for Sumpter as they appeared to be close. Then on 19 Dec 1933, Sumpter’s third wife, Cecelia Mae BARNES MARTIN, committed suicide by taking an overdose of opiates.
I don’t know when Sumpter and Cecelia married, or if they were married at all. According to her obituary, Cecelia had only been in Columbia for 3 months. In the 1930 census, she had a husband and three minor children in Indianapolis. I don’t know what brought her to Columbia from Indianapolis. Cecelia’s mother supplied the vital information on her death certificate, and the body was returned to Indianapolis for burial. Sumpter was 36 in 1933.
The final tragedy
Sumpter moved to Baltimore sometime between Cecelia’s passing and 1935 when his mother passed. Perhaps he was looking for start life anew…again. According to his mother’s obituary, Sumpter and one of his brothers, Kirby, both lived in Baltimore in 1935. Sumpter was 38, and Kirby was 29.
On 10 April 1939, Sumpter died unexpectedly. His body was returned to South Carolina so he could be buried with family at Enon Methodist Church in Richland County. In his obituary, only his son Herbert was listed as his child. (Note: In the 1940 census, second wife Carrie and the boys still live with her sister. She and the boys went by Martin, and she claimed to be widowed.)
Just five days later after Sumpter’s death, the Gaffney Ledger newspaper reported that ‘A man named by Chief of Detectives R. W. Eleazer as James Kirby Martin was held here tonight for Baltimore, Md., officers who wanted him, Eleazer said, in connection with the slaying there Monday of his brother, Thomas Sumter Martin.’
Did Kirby commit fratricide?
Probably anyone reading this who is familiar with the ‘Martin temper’ could honestly entertain the idea that Kirby did indeed kill Sumpter. But he didn’t.
An investigation ensued and on 26 May 1939, Kirby was acquitted of the murder of his brother. The Baltimore Sun report, ‘It was testified that James engaged in a quarrel with Thomas on April 2 and Thomas sustained a head injury as a result. He died eight days later at the City Hospitals. Physicians testified at the trial that Thomas died of pneumonia and not from any result of the head injury.’
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