In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

John Martin: Expert Observer

About This Project

In 1997, the Maine State Museum and the Maine Historical Society, with the support of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the Maine State Library, and a number of other organizations and individuals, purchased at auction the remarkable John Martin's Journal, three scrapbooks, and John and Clara Martin's Bible.

The volumes had been in the possession of Cora M. Stevens Parkhurst, a great-niece of Martin's half-sister Rebecca Raynes Stevens.

John Martin Junior and his wife, Edith, lived with his parents for a number of years before the senior Martins deaths, Clara in 1902, and John in 1904.

In January 1903, Ada Martin, then living in California, and, along with John Junior, the only surviving offspring, ceded her interest in the house in Bangor to her brother.

None of John and Clara Martin's children had any children of their own.

When John Junior, the last surviving of the Martin children, died in October 1929, he left the house in Bangor and everything in it to two single cousins, Fannie E. and Ella J. Stevens of Windham, daughters of Martin's eldest half-sister, Rebecca Raynes Stevens.

William Stevens residence, South Windham, 1869
William Stevens residence, South Windham, 1869

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society and Maine State Museum

Fannie Stevens died in 1931 and Ella (1869-1945) became the sole owner of the Bangor property, which the sisters had turned into rental property. Presumably, the Journal and scrapbooks and other effects had been removed after John Junior's death.

Fannie Stevens traveled to Bangor after John Junior's death to take care of estate matters. She probably returned to Windham with the volumes of writing and unspecified other items.

After Ella Stevens' death in 1945, the property that John Martin had so lovingly tended, now a tenement, was sold for $200.

Martin's writings then passed into the family of Rebecca Raynes Stevens' brother-in-law, Isaac Stevens, eventually ending up with his granddaughter, Cora M. Stevens Parkhurst (1908-1996). After her death, the items went to auction.

The Maine Historical Society and Maine State Museum co-own the John Martin Journal and scrapbooks and had them conserved. The scrapbook covers were replaced and necessary cleaning and repairs made to many pages, especially in the scrapbooks.

Until 2015, the materials were not widely available to the public, although each organization has used some of the text and illustrations in museum exhibits and in articles. The intention from the time of purchase was to digitize the collection to make it accessible to a wide audience. A grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation has made that possible.

Candace Kanes, curator and historian for Maine Memory Network at Maine Historical Society, and Sheila McDonald, deputy director of the Maine State Museum, have spearheaded this project to get all of the John Martin volumes and "loose" materials that were with the volumes online.

When the two organizations purchased the items, Julia Hunter, then curator at the Maine State Museum, arranged to have the pages photographed and transcribed. Marge Dudley did the transcriptions. Since then, with the aid of much more legible scans, several people, including Susan Gassett, Kyle Spear, and Nancy Sosman, along with staff members of the two organizations, have worked with the transcriptions to add missing information and to put them into Maine Memory Network transcription style.

Both the original transcription work and the updating have taken many hundreds of hours – daunting tasks since the Journal and three scrapbooks comprise nearly 1,000 pages, a number of which contain newspaper clippings and other added materials, along with Martin's hand-written comments.

Candace Kanes wrote the introductions to each volume and created this site within Maine Memory Network.

In addition to the co-owned volumes, Maine Historical Society has in its collections the "Dancing Fraternity City of Bangor 1868," Martin's account of a dancing group he helped found and for whom he served as dancing master. He described and provided photographs of the groups' members, detailed dance steps, and otherwise documented the importance of dancing as an amusement and as a indication of status.

Thanks to the generosity of the the Maine Women Writers Collection and the Abplanalp Library at the University of New England this volume also has been digitized. It is fully transcribed as well and is presented on this site.