July 12-25, 2002
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‘Ceiled’ up: Old photos found at Miller Center
old photos

By Matt Kelly

Do you know these people?

Local historian Edward O. McCue III is seeking to identify several women featured in photographs that may be connected with U.S. Sen. Thomas S. Martin, a powerful Democratic political leader who was born in Scottsville, educated at U.Va. and died shortly after World War I.

Workmen installing a smoke detector as part of renovations at Faulkner House, the home of the Miller Center of Public Affairs, recently found photographs, a letter and documents linked to Martin, who lived in the house from 1907 to 1919, underneath insulation in the attic. Aside from the letter and the photographs, which feature several women of varying ages, there was an invitation to Martin to attend a meeting of the Washington National Monument Society. There also was a calling card for Mrs. Thomas S. Martin and some document fragments.

“We were installing a smoke detector and the photos just fell out of the ceiling,” said Scottsville electrician Kevin Evans, who works for Moore’s Electrical and Mechanical. “There was black paper with photos on both sides.”

Evans said job superintendent John Radford then found the letter and the calling card under loose insulation beneath floorboards in the attic. Workers were not sure how old the insulation is or when it was installed.

Miller Center chief of staff Robin Kuzen, said the center would consider further exploration after the renovations are completed.

The center has no personal memorabilia from Martin or his family, though the Special Collections in Alderman Library has some Martin papers, she said.
The photographs feature women sewing or knitting on the front porch of the house, which was named Montesano when Martin owned it. There is a woman featured in three photos, knitting and sitting with a white or grey dog. The woman may be the senator’s wife, Lucy Chambliss Day Martin, who was bedridden with tuberculosis and who died of the disease in 1915.

Historian McCue, whose father was childhood friends with Martin’s son, compared the woman in the photograph to a painted portrait of the senator’s wife. An older woman in the photographs may have been Mrs. Martin’s mother, he said.

The letter, addressed to “My dear daughter” and signed “Poppa,” appears to be written to a classmate of the senator’s daughter, Lucy Day “Keats” Martin, who attended the National Cathedral School in Washington from 1914 to 1916.

Officials at the Cathedral School are examining the text of the letter to see if they can connect it to any student who attended at the time as “Keats” Martin. The letterhead read “The Kansas City Southern Railway Company, Read & McDonough, attorneys for Arkansas and Oklahoma. Legal Department. Fort Smith, Ark.”

A native of Scottsville, Martin was born in 1847, attended U.Va. Law School and opened a law practice in Scottsville. He was actively involved in politics for many years, though did not seek office himself until 1894, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate by the Virginia legislature in a bitterly fought contest against Gen. Fitzhugh Lee.

Martin, who served in the Senate from 1895 to 1919, built a powerful Democratic Party apparatus — the foundation of what would later become the “Byrd Machine,” according to the Miller Center’s Web site.

Martin married Lucy Chambliss Day on Oct. 10, 1894, in what the New York Times described as “the social event of the season in Virginia,” that brought together “in goodly array the most notable people in Virginia, important factors in the world of fashion and the body politic.”

Martin died in 1919, four years after his wife’s death and two years before his daughter died of tuberculosis.

Upon his death, University President Edwin A. Alderman ordered flags lowered to half-staff. Lectures were suspended and local businesses closed their doors during his funeral.


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