We Were Here

Martha Kelch
February 3, 2012
by Konrad Stump, contributing writer to The Logan Daily News

To accompany this week's "from The Democrat Sentinel," I wanted to pull something from the headlines, so to speak. Each week, I try to get an obituary in, to put something out there about someone that his descendants might not know. On Feb. 1, 1912, an obituary ran for my second great-grandaunt, Martha Kelch. Because I am familiar with Martha's life, I feel like it deserves more than a passing glance. Really, though, everyone deserves more.
Martha Jane Kelch was born on May 6, 1877, in Gibisonville, the only daughter and youngest child of Horatio and Mary (McNichols) Kelch. Her brother, George, was nine years older than she was, her brother Albert seven years older. She grew up across the street from her grandparents, George and Mary. George and Mary established the Pleasant Rock Baptist church on their land, and when they died, they were buried in the adjoining cemetery. It is strange to think of Martha and her brothers growing up across the street from where their grandparents are buried, but death was a much more common part over everyday life, and the subject wasn't as taboo.
Martha seems to have been a kind, lively person with many friends and good family values. On May 18, 1894, The Ohio Democrat reported: "Mrs. Grant Moore and the Misses Nada Gibison and Martha Kelch of Gibisonville, attended the Sunday School convention in this city [Logan] Wednesday." On July 7, 1896, The Journal Gazette, in its correspondence from Gibisonville, reported: "Miss Effie Whitcraft and Nettie Sheik were guests of Martha Kelch last Sunday." On October 13 of that same year, The Ohio Democrat reported that Martha and Albert had traveled to Logan in order to spend the day in town.
For nearly 10 years, Martha was a teacher. On Nov 11, 1897, The Journal Gazette, in its correspondence from South Perry, reported: "Miss Martha Kelch, of Gibisonville, is attending our public schools. The lady is making her home with Mrs. Henry Wagner." She studied for about two years before becoming eligible to take the teachers examination. On Jun 1, 1899, The Hocking Sentinel reported she has passed the examination and could teach the following year. That autumn, she began teaching at the Weltner School, in the Cantwell Cliffs area. On Nov. 16, 1899, The Journal Gazette reported, "The pupils of the Weltner School do not need much fire this cool weather, their teacher Miss Kelch has another mode of warming them without gas."
Martha never married or had children of her own, but she seems to have been close to her nieces and nephews. On April 9, 1908, she sent a postcard to her niece Mary, reading, "Hello Mary, You ought to be up here to see our calves and pigs and chickens. It is nearly six months since I have seen you, maybe I wouldn't know you. Am sorry I haven't written Easter cards to send you. Goodbye." For Mary's 11th birthday, Martha wrote: "Dear Mary, I wish you may reach many happy milestones along life's journey. The boys are having a good time. You must come out and stay a while, and so must Zola and John. Best wishes from Aunt Martha." In the bottom right corner of the card, Martha drew a small white dove in flight.
The next year the card was bittersweet. On it, one can tell that Martha had some difficulty in writing it; her penmanship is not nearly as beautiful as it had been. She had just begun to get sick with the illness that would eventually prove fatal. On the card she writes, "Dear Mary, I wish you many happy birthdays. Aunt Martha." No doubt she was worried about the state of her health, and wished better for the niece with whom she seems to have been so close. Martha's mother may have also had her state of health weighing heavily on her heart. Her birthday card to Mary that year echoed the same sentiment, stating, "Dear Mary, I wish you well and happy on this 12th birthday. Hope you will see many more. Grandmother Kelch."
Martha passed away at about 4 a.m. on Dec. 6, 1911, after a two-year bout with tuberculosis pulmonary. Her doctor, J. Miller, had last visited her on Nov. 30th. Her brother, Albert, who helped care for her, acted as the informant on her death certificate. She was laid to rest at Mt. Olive Cemetery in Gibisonville on Dec. 8th; she is buried next to her parents.
If Martha has left a legacy, it would be this: It has been a custom of the descendants of Horatio Kelch to have red granite tombstones, and Martha seems to be the first Kelch to have one. Whether she chose it for herself before she died, or her family chose it for her, is unknown. Martha was significantly younger than her brothers, and they were obviously quite fond of her. Perhaps they wanted to choose a tombstone as beautiful as they thought their sister was. It is large, and the only stone like it in Mount Olive Cemetery. Now, even the stone of her parents is weathered and difficult to read, but Martha's looks as though it could have been put there yesterday. Perhaps it was the brothers' way of ensuring their sister would never be forgotten. George and Albert would go on to choose red granite tombstones for themselves, as would their children, and their children's children.
Reprinted here with the permission of the author, Konrad Stump.

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