The Long and Arduous Search for Jane Harriet Martling Tagg, Part II

Jane and Her Siblings, Elizabeth Martling Prindle and Ralph Thompson Martling

Ironically, it would be a Google search that turned up the most fortunate conglomeration of names: Ralph Thompson Martling. Ralph, whom I chronicled previously at Gettysburg, lived in Manhattan at age 15 (likely 22), working as a ship joiner. Could he have worked for Mr. Westervelt? Most likely. Were James Tagg and Ralph co-workers and buddies? Probably. Is he the reason James Tagg and Jane Martling met and later married? I wouldn’t doubt it.

James Tagg and Jane Martling were married on 29 August 1858 at the Second Street M.E. Church, six days after the birth of their first child, James Henry Tagg. Jennie, Lizzie and Ralph were apart at a young age according to census records. In the 1850 Census, Elizabeth ‘Martland’ was living at the home of her uncle, James Thompson (Rev. Ralph and wife Anne lived there too). Ralph is still MIA in that census. Although, based on later 1850s passenger records, Ralph could’ve been in South America at the time. Jane is a child laborer in a flower manufacturing shop (whatever that is) in Elizabeth, NJ (across Arthur Kill is Staten Island). Ralph and James probably worked on the docks together and that’s how James and Jennie were introduced.

Regrettably, NYC death certificates did not include the deceased’s parents names until the 1890s. Jane’s 1886 death certificate doesn’t have parents names. Ralph’s death certificate, just five years later, supplied me with both parents names: Benjamin Martling and Margaret Thompson. New York City Methodist Marriages, 1785-1893, confirms a marriage of a third sibling, Elizabeth Martling, who married Joseph Prindle in 1855. The parents of record for Elizabeth’s marriage are the same as on Ralph’s death certificate.

Curiously, a Ralph T. Martling married Susan B. Lewis in 1847 (according to NYC Methodist Marriages). If this is the same Ralph, which I suspect he is, then he lied about his age later in life because if he was married to Miss Lewis, he would’ve been 13 years old at the wedding. If this is Ralph, he was likely older and possibly made himself younger at the time of the Civil War (military records indicate he was born in 1828). Susan B. Martling is buried at Huntington Rural Cemetery on Long Island, with her sisters and their families (maiden names: Lewis). She is buried alone. The only explanation that makes any sense is that Ralph and Susan were divorced. It says “widowed” in her census records and directories. But it still being a stigma at the time, it would absolutely stand to reason that she was hiding her divorce. There are no other Ralph Thompson Martlings at the time and I know our Ralph was a ship joiner.

The Prindles went west to Missouri. They were tragically involved in a dispute over a well which led to Joseph Prindle’s murder. The year was 1872 and the Prindles were sharing a well spring with John B. Bennet (the well was on Bennet’s property). While Joseph was away, Lizzie Prindle was denied access to the well. When Joseph came home and was told what had occurred in his absence, “he took the gun down off the wall and went down the hill in front of his house, crossed the branch at the Motts Spring and up the hill on the other side to Bennet’s house. He confronted Bennet about refusing Mrs. Prindle water from Motts Spring and a very heated argument followed, Joseph W. Prindle turned to go back down the hill toward Motts Spring, when he was almost to the foot of the hill south of the Mott Spring, John B. Bennet shot him, and he fell dead.” The perpetrator, John Bennet, instead of being convicted and eventually hanged for the murder, asked his wife to supply him with poison. John Bennet never stood trial, dying from the carcinagen he took in jail. Lizzie Martling Prindle would remarry in Perryville, Arkansas to a man named G.D. Cole (or Cale).

The Thompson Link

I found Rev. Ralph Thompson’s will and its contents expanded the family tree. He had eleven children (that lived into adulthood) with his wife Anne Sleight, who was supposedly from Staten Island. Only one child predeceased him and he provided for her heirs in his will. That child was “Margaret Mailin.” Reverend Ralph’s will contained names that were almost accurate but the spelling was mostly incorrect. Old age? Probably. The fact ‘Martling’ looked like ‘Mailin’ was inconsequential as he spelt names like ‘Lane’ as ‘Lain’ and ‘Van Note’ as ‘Van Dine.’ Each child, based on other records, was listed with the correct husband, regardless of spelling. Two of his daughters married very familiar men. The aforementioned Jacob Aaron Westervelt married Eliza, and Robert Carnley, Jacob’s business partner, married Fannie. (Three more connections: little Fannie Tagg was actually Fannie C. Tagg. My guess is that the ‘C’ stood for Carnley. One of Ralph’s grandchildren was Arthur Thompson. Wesley Tagg was actually John Wesley, named after Methodism’s founder.)

It seemed like a mortal lock even without definitive documentary evidence that Jane Tagg is related to the Monmouth County Thompsons. Circumstantial evidence shows that Jane, Ralph and Elizabeth were siblings and Benjamin Martling and Margaret Thompson were their parents. That meant Jacob Aaron and Eliza Westervelt were Jane’s uncle and aunt.

Which Benjamin Martling is the father? When did Margaret pass?

Jane’s parentage being established, I turned to the final piece of the puzzle. Who exactly were her parents? Her mother, Margaret Thompson, has been identified although I haven’t quite figured out how the Martling-Thompson connection happened. Margaret’s birth, marriage and death records remain undiscovered although she clearly existed. She died in the 1840s, or as late as 1851, just prior to Ralph Thompson’s will being written.

Benjamin Martling is still a mystery too. The Benjamin Martling I have targeted as Jane’s father was the son of Benjamin Martling Sr and Elizabeth McSwain. A daughter of the Martling-McSwain union married a Vanderbilt (yes, those Vanderbilts, before the money). Ralph Thompson Martling’s daughter’s middle name was Vanderbilt. But Vanderbilt was a common Staten Island name at that time. More information is needed to make a firm connection. According to a family Bible source, this Benjamin Martling was born 30 September 1800 and died in 1863 (he was baptized 19 April 1801).

One possible Benjamin Martling candidate was a shoemaker. I found him in the 1850 Census. NYC directories list him as a bootmaker on the Lower East Side in the late 1830s as well as having land interests on Staten Island. This Benjamin Martling, and his wife, “Martha”, lived in Brooklyn. He was listed as a widower in the 1855 NYS Census. His age would make him a match for the Martling-McSwain union. Are Margaret and Martha the same person? Did she die between the 1850 census enumeration and Ralph’s written will in 1851? If their parents are alive, why are their 15 and 10 year olds not living with them? I still have not found Benjamin or Margaret’s final resting place but I do know that Arthur Thompson Tagg was a shoemaker. Out there is definitive proof. Does anyone have it?

One of the first rules of genealogy is never ignore siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins. Direct ancestors may never tell the entire story. It is the rest of the family that sheds light on very old family tales. This one ended with Gettysburg, a murder, a Methodist preacher with eleven children, a Mayor of New York and discoveries still to be made. As for Jennie Tagg; she was once unknown but now rediscovered. She was a child laborer and gave birth out of wedlock (remember, it was 1858). She was the mother of 13 children (she should posthumously get a medal for that), who watched eight of them pass away during childhood. She would die from a disease common in its day called phthisis. Today, it is known as tuberculosis. She is buried in Green-wood Cemetery with three of her children: John Wesley, Ada, and Grace Florence.

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