The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Nettee Largen Martin - A Lady Of Beauty and Wisdom

By Ninevah J. Willis © 1984

Issue: November, 1984

a lady of beauty and wisdomNettie Largen Martin at age 90.Nettie Largen Martin, one of nine children, six sisters and three brothers of the family of James Largen and Irene Bowman Largen was born November 26, 1890, in Carroll County, Virginia.

While still young she was always interested in learning. (She was encouraged by some of her early teachers who told her she was smart as well as pretty.) In the early 1900's it was necessary to leave home in order to attend high school. She attended Woodlawn High School. Through pursuing and borrowing from her father, she finished high school and earned her teacher's certificate at Radford State Teachers College. She was 18 years old when she taught her first school and she taught 19 schools before she was married.

She also worked in an office for the Coal & Coke Company in West Virginia for a period of time.

She did not marry until the age of 33. Her students who attended her classes called her "Miss Nettie." They continued to call her Miss Nettie for years as they sought her advice and counsel. She often loaned them money to get married, build a home, or pay hospital bills. She only lost $300.00 on one person, which said much for her judgment of character.

She married James F. Martin, a widower who had recently lost his wife, Her husband lived fifteen years following their marriage.

She lived a full life caring for a large farm, selling milk to the Carnation Milk Company, after milking 16 cows before teaching school all day and doing other home chores. She returned to teaching following her husband's death. By the time she was 62 she had taught school 33 years.

Nettie Martin seldom weighed more than 100 pounds, but she had endless energy. She always planted and tended a large garden. She loved to watch things grow. She could be found in her garden almost daily from the last frost until harvest.. Any neighbor who stopped to chat often left with a bucket of green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. She managed to have garden products earlier than most of her neighbors. She would never spray insects in the garden. She had her own system of banging two Clorox bottles together, which caused the beetles to fall to the ground. The stubborn beetles would be picked by hand from the vine. She felt that spray mishandled could be harmful to ones health.

Three children were born to Nettie and Jim Martin. They were Charles, Joe, and Irene. Only one daughter is living, married and the mother of four children and three grandchildren (Nettie's great-grandchildren).

Nettie lived with her daughter in Libertyville, Illinois for six of the seven years preceding her death. The last year of her life she lived in Libertyville Manor Nursing Home for nine months and Winchester House for three months.

Nettie always had a continuing religious faith. She was a Presbyterian and said the greatest influence on her life was a picture of Christ that hung in her bedroom as a small child.

One of her favorite stories that she enjoyed telling was a time when she drove a horse and buggy below the mountain, down about Cana, to check on a school. The two horses were unfamiliar with each other. They became excited and broke from the buggy and pinned Nettie to a tree. The long reins were wrapped around her. She said, "All I could do was pray." The horses stopped short in their tracks. (She always clasped her hands to illustrate this point.) A man appeared, took her to his home and spent more than four hours repairing the harness.

Every time she re-told this incident she would say, "God does answer prayers, an instant response is given when needed." Nothing could shake her faith in prayer.

She never failed to help a neighbor in need. She found furniture, blankets, quilts, canned goods and a Bible for a neighbor when his home was destroyed by fire. She later inquired if he had been reading his Bible, to which he replied, "Do you think any of that is true?"

The salary for teaching was low. From her first pay check she bought a suit for her father. The cost was ten dollars. Nettie was thrifty, looking for ways to save. During World War II she took her entire pay check, which was $100.00 monthly, in defense bonds.

She was forever grateful to superintendent Roy E. Kyle for permitting her to teach at Snake Creek School, located on the family farm. Two years she caught the school bus at 7 a.m. to teach at Vinson School. This was after she had gotten out of bed at 3:30 a.m. and, milked 16 cows.

Nettie was close and always supported by her sisters and brothers; Mrs. James Largen (Ada), Mrs. Victor Iroler (Laura), Mrs. Williams Good (Virginia), Mrs. Posey Webb (Maude), and Earnest Willis (Pearl). Her brothers were: Omer Largen, Luther Largen and Wise Largen. Many nieces and nephews live in the Gladesboro area and affectionately speak of Aunt Nettie.

Nettie Martin lived almost a century as a teacher, a farmer and community leader. She always enjoyed reflecting on her past. She kept a sense of humor and a pride and faith in young people. Nettie Martin died at the age of 93 on May 1, 1983.