Friday, April 3, 2009

RAOGK - Martha (Pemberton) Day

Yesterday, I received the death record transcription of Martha (Pemberton) Day from Alanna in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Martha was my 1st cousin 4 times removed. She was the daughter of my 3rd great-grandfather's younger brother, Charles Pemberton.

Prior to getting her death record transcription, I had calculated that Martha was born about 1890, probably in St. Clair County, Michigan. Her birth date has been determined from her age of 4 on the 1894 State of Michigan census and her age of 18 on her 1908 marriage record. What's somewhat unusual is that she was only 10 years old in 1900 but is not enumerated with her parents on the 1900 U.S. census.

Martha married Carl Day, son of Jason Day and Alice Renslow, 10 Feb 1908 in Kalkaska, Kalkaska, Michigan. They had a son, Floyd A. "Forrest" Day, about 1910. Carl and Martha are found on the 1910 census in Rapid River, Kalkaska, Michigan. Carl was age 25 and was working as a farmer. Martha was age 20 and had given birth to one child who was no longer living.

In 1920 Martha was a patient at the Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Grand Traverse, Michigan. After doing some Google searches, I found that the Traverse City State Hospital was founded in 1885 as the Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane. It expanded greatly between 1887 and 1903 and became the city's largest employer. The first superintendent of the hospital, Dr. James Decker Munson, who was there from 1885 to 1924, was progressive for his time and did not believe in strait jackets or any of the traditional treatments in many mental hospitals at that time. He believed in "work therapy" and the "beauty is therapy" treatments. Here is a recent photo of the hospital. I found Carl Day, and son Floyd, age 9, living in Rapid River, Kalkaska, Michigan, in 1920. Floyd was probably named for Martha's younger brother, Floyd Wesley Pemberton.

In 1930 Martha was still living at the hospital. Carl C. Day and Floyd A. Day were still living in Rapid River township. Floyd was age 19 and working as a laborer. Carl was still a farmer, and this time his marital status was given as divorced.

I became very intrigued by Martha, considering she was the first ancestor I had found living in a mental hospital. I started searching for more records and found an obit on the Kalkaska County message board at Rootsweb for Forrest A. Day. It was from a 1938 edition of the Kalkaska Leader and said that Forrest Day, age 25, a farmer from Kalkaska County, had died when his car skidded on slushy pavement, hit a guard rail, and rolled down a 20 foot embankment. His father, Carl Day, age 52, had saved his own life by jumping out of the car just before it hit the guard rail. Forrest was survived by a wife and two children, Helen, age 2, and Carl, age 4. This Forrest must have been the same as Floyd. I'm not sure if Forrest was a nickname or the paper just misprinted the name.

Now I was really saddened for this family. Martha was insitutionalized, presumably for a mental illness, and now her only surviving child, Floyd (aka Forrest) had died tragically at age 25 in a car accident, leaving two young children behind. I really felt bad for Carl, who not only had "lost" his wife to mental illness, but had unexpectedly and tragically lost his son. I also remembered at this point that Martha's two younger brothers, Floyd Wesley and Jeremiah Pemberton had died in 1919 and 1918, respectively, due to injuries and illnesses contracted during their military service in WWI. This had to be somewhat close to the time that Martha was put in the mental facility (she must have gone to the hospital sometime between 1910 and 1920). Did she have a mental breakdown at this point? She may have been close to Floyd, as she seems to have named her son after him.

Some of my questions were answered when Alanna sent me this transcription:
Local file # 36
Died at Traverse City State Hospital, Traverse City, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, length of stay 36 years 4 months 2 days
Usual residence: Mancelona, Kalkaska, Michigan- Rapid River Township
Martha Day
died 22 Jan 1955 at 1219 am, female, white, divorced 64 years old
Occupation: housewife
b. 25 Jan 1890 in Michigan
Father: Charles Pemberston
mother Blanche Poole
husband Carl Day
informant- hospital records
Cause of death- deahydration, duration 4 days and gastroenteritis 8 days
contributing factors not directly related to death: arteriosclerotic heart disease unknown duration; dementia preaecox duration 40 years
no autopsy performed
burial 24 Jan 1955 Fairview Cemetery, Mancelona, Michigan
I looked up dementia preaecox on Wikipedia and found that it was the name of schizophrenia before the term "schizophrenia" was coined. What was really great info was the length of stay in the hospital: 36y, 4m, 2d. This gives her an entry date of September 20, 1918, into the hospital. This was 1 1/2 months before Jeremiah died in France on 3 Nov 1918 and a little over two months before the family heard of his death on 29 Nov 1918. It was well before Floyd Wesley Pemberton died in France on 7 May 1919. Assuming she truly was schizophrenic, this was probably the real reason she was institutionalized, and not a mental breakdown due to the tragic death of two brothers. But what a tragedy for the family to "lose" a daughter and two sons in such a short time frame. The family had also lost a daughter, Mary (Pemberton) Baker, age 30, in 1917 due to tuberculosis.

Again, I would like to thank Alanna for finding this death record for me. It has really helped me to understand why Martha was institutionalized. Now my mind can move on to other mysteries!

1 comment:

  1. Would she have been related to Joseph Pemberton? Perhaps an uncle? Please contact me directly at