Skip to main content

NHCPL Guides Blog

From the Collection: Buried in Rum, The Tragedy of the Martin Family

by Hannah Bowser on 2018-06-11T08:00:00-04:00 in Biography, History & Genealogy | Comments

by Travis Souther, Local History Librarian, Main Library



Photograph from the Louis T. Moore Photograph Collection


Silas Homer Martin was a prominent antebellum businessman in the lumber trade along with partner George Kidder.  Silas Martin's eldest son John Slater Martin was employed as sailor.  On a journey to the Caribbean Sea, John allowed a younger sister Nancy Adams Martin, nicknamed “Nance” to come along. 

Three months into the voyage Nance fell ill and died from consumption (tuberculosis) in Cardenas, Cuba at the young age of 24.  John brought his sister's body home stored in a cask of liquor, usually thought to be rum, to help keep it preserved from decomposition in the tropical heat.  Nance's body was not removed from the cask and the entire cask was buried in Oakdale Cemetery on June 2, 1857.  The small cross that looks like a tree trunk marks the spot where Nance's rum casket was interred.

Three months after Nance’s death, John once more put out to sea on September 10, 1857 with a load of lumber.  Caught by what is now believed to have been a Category 2 hurricane, John Martin is believed to have been swept overboard by the storm.  The boat was found floating adrift in November 1857 with no survivors.  John's body was never found.

The obelisk in the background of the shot above is the Martin family plot and is inscribed with John's name and the words, "Lost at Sea, September 1857".

Special thanks to Oakdale Cemetery Superintendent Eric Kozen.


Check out our Cape Fear History & Heritage libguide to learn more about the region.

 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


  Back to Blog Home
This post is closed for further discussion.


Main Library & Law Library
201 Chestnut Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
Phone 910-798-6300

Northeast Regional Library
1241 Military Cutoff Road
Wilmington, NC 28405
Phone 910-798-6370

Pine Valley Library
3802 South College Road
Wilmington, NC 28412
Phone 910-798-6390

Pleasure Island Library
1401 N. Lake Park Boulevard
Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Phone 910-798-6380

Hours: Monday-Tuesday 9 am - 8 pm
Wednesday-Thursday 9 am - 6 pm
Friday-Saturday 9am - 5 pm
Sunday 1-5 (NC Room Closed)