The Biography of Martin O. HOLSTON

On May 29th, I posted an account of some Civil War veterans buried in Spokane, whose graves I had randomly picked to decorate during Memorial Day weekend.

Earlier this month I heard from Patrick Shade of Bridgewater, New Jersey, a great-great-grandson of Pvt. Martin O. HOLSTON of Illinois. We began a correspondence, and today he sent me a biography of his ancestor, which I have included below.

Martin O. Holston was a civil war veteran who served in the IL cavalry and infantry. There is little verifiable information about him until he enlisted in the Union Army. He served all of his time in the military as Martin Olson (Olsen). The best available information, at this time, indicates his parents were Jonathan Holston and Sophia Blanchard.

He enlisted on 4/18/1861 in Chicago, IL and was mustered into service on 7/8/1861 in Bellaire, OH by Capt Cram. He served first in Company C, Thielman’s Cavalry 16th Cavalry Regiment and later in Company C 16th Cavalry Regiment. He was mustered out 7/16/1864 in Chicago, IL. He re-enlisted 3/10/1865 in Joliet, IL for one year and served in Company G 4th U.S. Veteran Infantry Volunteers. He was finally mustered out 3/10/1866 in OH.

It should be noted that Martin O lists his age as 22 when he first enlisted on 4/18/1861 and again as 22 when he re-enlisted on 3/10/1865. His exact birth date can not be verified at this time but it appears to be between 1839 and 1843. All available records consistently indicate that he was born in Rochester, NY.

Martin O explains in his Civil War pension file that his father was a Jonathan Holston who died when he was two years old. After that, he adopted the surname of his step father (i.e., Olson or Olsen). Apparently, during his time in the service, he decided to re-adopt his original surname. Immediately after he was mustered out of the Union Army for the second time, he took the name Martin O Holston.

After the name change he quickly married his first wife, Elizabeth Forstmaier, on 3/14/1866 in Columbus, Franklin Co., OH. They had at least two children, Leonard Hayes and Lillian Elizabeth, who married and lived to adulthood. Martin O reports in his pension file that his wife Elizabeth died and was buried in Kansas City, MO.

Martin O married his second wife, Lana Dickens, on 5/19/1874 in Charleston, Coles Co., IL. They had at least three children. Two died as infants and one, Charles Marion, married and lived to adulthood. Lana died 5/31/1882 and was buried in Charleston.

The third wife of Martin O was Susan Easter, whom he married on 9/24/1883 in Charleston, Coles Co., IL. They had no children and were later divorced.

Martin O’s fourth wife was Eva Edna McGrath whom he married on 2/20/1886 in Marena, Hodgeman Co., KS. They had at least two children who married and lived to adulthood. Their first child, John A. Logan, was born on 12/15/1886 in Portland, OR and their second child, Jennie Augusta, was born on 1/29/1890 in Des Moines, IA. Eva died on 8/20/1921 and was buried in Warren Co., IA.

It was during this chapter in his life that he appears to first travel to the northwest. It’s not clear what drove him to go west but it was likely to seek employment. He was still in the Portland area by the end of 1888. By early 1890, he had relocated to IA.

Martin O drew a disability pension, on and off, for over 25 years. His pension file is voluminous. He worked as a laborer and even as a “pension attorney” for some time.

While working as a “pension attorney”, he apparently overstepped the legal bounds of his job and was convicted of forgery against the US government in October 1890. He was sentenced to 10 years at hard labor. He was extradited from Des Moines, IA and sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary on 1/31/1891. He served about 8-1/2 years and was released on 7/21/1899.

It was only during this period in his life when he used a first initial “F”. The penitentiary records say the F is for Frank. Therefore, he was sometimes referred to as F.M.O. Holston.

After his release from prison, he relocated to Spokane, WA where he lived a modest life until his death on 10/29/1917. His death record indicates he had no living relatives although he had many.

If you are related or connected to “Frank” Martin Olson HOLSTON or any of the other individuals mentioned in his biography, please contact me, and I will put you in touch with Patrick Shade.

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