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Eva Martin

Daughter of Kentucky Civil War veteran dies

By Ryan Alessi of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky lost its last living daughter of a Civil War soldier on Thursday.

Eva Martin, 94, of Bethelridge in Casey County, was the 14th child of John Green Watson, who served as a private in the Union Army’s 1st Kentucky Calvary.

That division, nicknamed the “Wild Riders,” fought in Kentucky during the Battle of Wildcat Mountain in the Laruel County-Rockcastle County area and later in the Battle of Perryville in October 1862 in Boyle County.

Mrs. Martin’s father was 79 when she was born to his third wife. And he died when Mrs. Martin was 5, said her son Joe Martin.

“But her mother told her the stories of the war he had told her,” Martin said.

One was the tale about how Watson supposedly got the nickname “Turkey Joe.”

Out on maneuvers one day, the soldiers were looking for something to eat when they came upon a farm house with a flock of turkeys in the yard. The soldiers offered to buy them, but the woman said they weren’t for sale.

Watson “had a fishing line and a hook that he put some corn on,” Martin said. “He dropped it on the ground, and that old turkey swallowed it and followed him all the way down the road.”

During another hungry stretch, Watson’s commanding officer ordered him to retrieve a sack of cornmeal that two women had stashed under a trapdoor in their farm house, Martin said.

Such a direct tie to history prompted Joe Martin, 67, to delve further into both genealogy and the Civil War over the years.

His research dug up how for a time after the Civil War the government believed Watson to be a deserter. As it turned out, Watson was actually held by the Confederates in Tennessee as a prisoner of war, Martin said.

Once those records were cleared up in the early 20th century, Mrs. Martin was able to draw her father’s pension until she was 18, Martin said.

In addition to Mrs. Martin’s father serving in the Civil War, her grandfather Thomas Watson was a captain in the Union 13th Cavalry Division.

One of the few Civil War relics Mrs. Martin possessed was a picture of her grandfather in his Union uniform, but military items of her father’s have long been lost, Joe Martin said.

Mrs. Martin lived most of her life on the Bethelridge farm owned by her father, Martin said. She died Thursday after a year-long illness.

Joe Martin said he researched whether his mother was the last daughter of a Kentucky Civil War veteran two years ago, when Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Byron Crawford was working on a piece about Mrs. Martin.

She was preceded in death by her husband and two of her children.

Visitation is set for 6 p.m. Sunday at the Bartle Funeral Home in Liberty. The funeral service will be noon Monday at the Valley Oak Baptist Church, which will follow a visitation at 11 a.m. at the church.


Published in Lexington Herald-Leader from May 22 to May 27, 2009
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