Martin Family Brooch

Charlie Rouhandeh ’21

Maker unknown. Martin Family Brooch, ca. 1865. Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, Hair Jewelry Collection, C-138, 334.2.

In 1859, two newlyweds from Vermont, Mary Elizabeth Allen Martin (1839-1893) and Carlos (whom Mary called “Carlie”) Roscoe Martin (1835-1864) traversed the U.S. by stagecoach and train and then boarded a ship called the “Eureka” which brought them to Fuzhou, China. Mary and “Carlie” Martin had been married for all of two months when they left Vermont. Mary gave birth to two sons in China: Edward Homer (1861-1917) and Lucius Allen (1862-1864). The Martin family socialized with other missionaries, delivered sermons in Chinese and English, and employed Chinese servants.

Photographer unknown. Group of Protestant missionaries in China, ca. 1860-1864. Carlos R. Martin (Carlie) is standing, with full beard; Mary Elizabeth Martin is seated at far left. Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, Martin Missionary Collection, C-127.
Ye-Chung, Photographer (Hong Kong), “Lucius Martin with Chinese Nurse,” ca. 1863-4. Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, Martin Missionary Collection, C-127

Reading Mary’s diary reveals a preoccupation with health and illness: at least one member of the family was sick at any given time, and they watched friends and friends’ children die. The most commonly mentioned illnesses in Mary’s diary are intestinal, with repeated cases of dysentery and cholera. After seeing so many in their community struck by illness, Mary and Carlie’s young son Lucius died of cholera in September of 1864. Carlie died one day after. Mary buried her husband and youngest son and after much deliberation decided to go back to Vermont with her eldest son. She and Edward departed from Hong Kong in March of 1865. Their lives went on — Edward became the Middlebury Town Doctor and Mary remarried, wedding Rev. Clark Wedgeworth of Franklin County in 1881 (1838-1904).[1]

Houseworth & Co., Photographers, Portrait of Mary Elizabeth Allen Martin, San Francisco, California, date unknown. Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, Martin Missionary Collection, C-127.

Carlie had graduated from the Concord Biblical Institute, was ordained as a deacon, appointed a minister, and married to Mary all in the same summer— the summer of 1859. They left New York on October 26th of the same year and did not reach Fuzhou until April of the following year. There was no transcontinental railroad, nor were there high-powered modern ships. Illness was almost inevitable, and death extremely common. It is hard to determine exactly drove this young couple to move their lives across the globe in an era of such uncertainty. A descendant of the Martins asserts that it was their dedication to spreading the word of God.[2] Historical context, however, uncovers darker motivations for the United States to establish its presence in China. Fuzhou became the hub of the tea trade in the mid-nineteenth century, and the British spearheaded this with their 1843 Treaty of Nanjing,[3] which ended the Opium War. It took the United States but three years to react to British involvement by establishing their own missions.[4] The uncertainty around the abolition of slavery during the Civil War left questions about meeting demand for labor, and an 1869 Lamoille County newspaper wrote in great detail about about how Chinese people were the perfect servants because they “know their place and are willing to keep it.”[5] Thus, the United States was interested in establishing roots in China in order to compete in the global market and find alternate sources of labor. Carlie Martin, as a young newly appointed deacon, was a perfect candidate for the long and dangerous voyage. 

George Ernest Morrison (Australian, 1862-1920), Foo Chow Mission Cemetery, Fuzhou, Fujian, China, ca. 1870. From Album of Hong Kong – Canton – Macau – Amoy – Foochow, p. 86. NII “Digital Silk Road” / Toyo Bunko. doi:10.20676/00000201.

Note: Fuzhou was spelled various ways in this time. This paper cites sources who use various spellings, namely “Foo Chow” and “Fuh Chau.”

Creator unknown, Martin Shrine, ca. 1864-5. Stone (likely soapstone). Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, Martin Missionary Collection, C-127. The following transcriptions and translations were provided by Peter Han-Chih Wang and Stephen Whiteman:

Central plaque: 仁人孝子風 “Benevolent person and filial son Feng.”
Four posts of the inner stepped wall read, from right to left:  
后土非吉穴   “The earth is an inauspicious burial place”   
          即隹城財庫    “Approach the treasure house of the spirit world.”
Top: 福 luck/good fortune
Middle: 山 mountain 明 bright and clear 水 water 秀 beautiful 山明水秀 “beautiful landscape/water scenery”
Bottom left (vertical marker): 忠 loyalty 孝 obedience to parents [likely for Lucius]
Bottom right (vertical marker): 廉 not corrupting 節 integrity
Bottom left stone wall: 踞虎 crouching tiger
Bottom right stone wall: 龍蟠 circling dragon 
龍蟠虎踞 great location [often used to refer to the tomb of the royalty and wealthy]  

When Carlie died, Mary spent months deliberating whether to return to the U.S. Her husband and son had been buried, together, only a few days after they died. Lucius’s coffin was placed on top of Carlie’s. On the day of their joint funeral, Mary noted in her diary, “Lucius rests on the bosom of his dear papa—a place where in life he loved to be.”[6] The distance between the permanent resting places of the Martins is one of the most compelling aspects of their family history. Unable to visit her husband and son’s grave after her departure from China, Mary was left with limited memorabilia. She pasted into her diary rose and cypress leaves that surrounded their graves, and brought home with her the diary of her late husband. A shrine carved in soapstone is held by Middlebury College Special Collections, with inscriptions in Chinese referring to the father and son buried together. 

Mary Elizabeth Martin Herbarium.Transcriptions clockwise from top left read: “Cedar from Mission Cemetery 1865″; “monthly rose from dear Carlie’s and Lucius’ grave, Fuh Chau Feb. 1865”; “Cedar from Mission Cemetery Fuh Chau”; Evergreen from the side of Carlie’s grave.”
Mary Elizabeth Allen Martin, Herbarium, ca. 1860-65. Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives, Martin Missionary Collection. Caption reads: “Cypress from dear Carlie’s + Lucius’ grave Mission Cemetery Fuh Chau China. Sent by Mrs Lites + Mrs Baldwin in 1865.”

What separates this brooch, this very simple woven hair piece, from Mary’s other memorabilia, is how portable, personal, and permanent it is. There is no record of whose hair was used, but Mary specifically recounts cutting Lucius’s hair in a 1864 diary entry. Considering the culture surrounding hair and hairwork in this era, as well as the often brief diary entries Mary wrote, it is entirely plausible that she saved some of Lucius’s hair but did not mention this in her entry. The same can be said of Carlie’s.

As Lucius was laid to rest on his father’s bosom, a piece of them (their hair) could rest against hers. In this way, it certainly matters that this piece is a brooch rather than a delicate necklace or ornate wall hanging. There is a permanence to the hair brooch that doesn’t exist in any other Martin family memorabilia I have found. It is shielded by glass, and the hair seems to be set in place in a way that is by no means precarious, securely interwoven. This loose structure is likely what has preserved this piece all these years; not a single hair splitting nor a wire rusting would be noticeable considering the sheer number of strands the piece contains. Unlike the leaf pressings, which decay rapidly, and the shrine, which is neither extremely personal nor portable, the brooch is a constant symbol of Mary’s mourning and appreciation for Carlos Roscoe and Lucius Allen Martin.

Photograph courtesy of Rebekah Irwin, Middlebury College Special Collections.

For another memorial item with connections to Protestant missionaries based in Fuzhou, see our entry on the Peet Family brooch.

Detail, hairwork and charm in form of a book
Detail, Hairwork chain with charm in the form of a book, n.d. Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Middlebury, VT. Gift of Mrs. Frances A. Waite, 1968, 68.20.b.

Cite this essay: Charlie Rouhandeh, “Martin Family Brooch,” in Perspectives on Hairwork: Historic Vermont, ed. Ellery Foutch (Winter 2021): [date accessed]


We are grateful to the staff of Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives for so generously providing us access to the remarkable and extensive materials in the Martin Missionary Collection even during a global pandemic! Their online inventory reveals many of the rich resources in this collection available to scholars: link. Thanks also to Peter Han-Chih Wang and Stephen Whiteman for their translations and perspectives on the small stone shrine.

[1] Destromp, Barb. Memorial page for Mary Elizabeth Allen Wedgeworth” (1 Feb. 1839-14 May 1893), Find a Grave Memorial ID 16618853, citing Milton Village Cemetery, Milton, Chittenden County, Vermont, USA. Maintained by Barb Destromp (contributor 46785064), November 12, 2006.

[2] Mary Elisabeth Allen Martin. Mrs. M.E.A. Martin’s Diary. Transcribed by John Lucius Buttolph III. Morrisville, Vermont, 1987. 

[3] Chisholm, Hugh. “Fuchow” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Science, Literature, and General Knowledge. 271-272, 11thed., Vol. 11. New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910.

[4] American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and Dwight Goddard, Report of the jubilee year of the Foochow Mission of the A.B.C.F.M., 1896. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1897.

[5] D.H.B., “Our Relations with the Chinese,” Lamoille Newsdealer 19 Oct. 1869, 2. Link.

[6] Mary Elizabeth Allen Martin, Diary, 7 Sept. 1864 (p. 24 of transcript).

Further reading:

Carlson, Ellsworth C. The Foochow Missionaries, 1847-1880. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 1974.

Cummings, A.I. “Cholera Infantum.” The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal XLV, no. 17 (26 Nov. 1851): 341-344. link

Somerville, J.R. “J.R. Somerville’s Report on the Health of Foochow (Pagoda Anchorage) for the half year ended 31st March, 1873.” Medical Reports… Forwarded by the Surgeons to the Customs at the Treaty Ports in China 5 (Jan.-Mar. 1873), 37-46; see especially “Burials in the Mission Cemetery Foochow, January 1st 1862, to December 31st, 1872,” 46. Link

Additional historic photography collections featuring Fuzhou and the American Mission Cemetery:

Dutton & Michaels, et al, “Straits, Java, China,” album ca. 1860-1880. The Getty, 84.XA.1240. Link

International Mission Photography Library, USC Libraries

The American Mission Cemetery in Fuzhou was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. These photographs give a sense of its former appearance.