Civil War veteran's daughter dies at 94

ralessi@herald-leader.comMay 24, 2009 

Kentucky lost its last living daughter of a Civil War soldier 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 Laurel 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 farmhouse 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 farmhouse, 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 found that for a time after the Civil War, the government had classified Watson as a deserter. As it turned out, Watson had been held as a prisoner of war by Confederates in Tennessee, 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 yearlong 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 will be 6 p.m. Sunday at Bartle Funeral Home in Liberty. Services will be at noon Monday at Valley Oak Baptist Church, which will follow a visitation at 11 a.m. at the church.

Reach Ryan Alessi at (859) 231-1303.

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