Martin Van Buren Taylor was born on October 3, 1840, in Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, the son of James Hough (born 1811 in Ontario, Canada, died 1873 in Michigan) and Harriet Brewer (born 1811 in New York, died 1854 in Michigan).
James married New York native Harriet on November 11, 1832, in Wilson, Niagara County, New York. and came to Michigan sometime before 1834, and by 1840 had settled in Oakland County. At some point after 1843 James moved his family again, and by 1850 had settled in Eagle Township, Clinton County, where John was attending school with his siblings. After Harriet died in May of 1854, James remarried to Chloe Stansell in July and the family settled in Allendale, Ottawa County. James was serving as a Justice of the Peace in Ottawa County by the early 1860s.
Martin may have been living in White Lake, Oakland County in 1860.
Martin stood 5’7’ with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion and was a 20-year-old farmer probably living in Allendale when he enlisted in Company I on May 13, 1861, along with his younger brother Chauncey and older brother James M. Another older brother John A. would join them in 1862. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.)
In 1896 Martin told of how the Regiment was given a furlough just before leaving Michigan in June of 1861. “After our enlistment we were quartered in barracks in Grand Rapids” where they waited “to be mustered in the United States service. About three days before [June 7] the muster in [June 10] we were granted furlough for three days to go home and as soon as we returned from this furlough we were discharged from the state service and immediately mustered in the United States service.” He explained that “the furlough we were granted was not a written furlough, the men were merely told that those who wanted to, could go home for three days before being mustered in the United States service.”
Martin was promoted to Corporal on July 1, 1862, and to Sergeant on November 1, 1862 (see his wartime journal he kept regarding company logistical details). He was reported AWOL in February of 1863, but apparently nothing came of this charge, however. Martin apparently returned to Michigan sometime in late February of 1863.
By early March he had returned to the regiment in its winter quarters at Camp Pitcher, near Washington, DC. On March 9, he wrote to two female friends, Kate and Catharine Hamilton of Grand rapids, how much he enjoyed his recent trip back home.
I must say that I never did enjoy myself better in my life than I did that Monday eve [?] and Tuesday morning I went to the . . . school [and was] well until I came to part with my sister at the depot and there I kept up good spirits as long as I was in their presence but it was lonesome enough to sit in the cars and rehearse the proceedings of the past two weeks or so. But I was not entirely alone as Lieutenants [Thomas] Tate and [Andrew] Nickerson & Sergeant [Charles] Van Dusen all of this regiment were just returning to the regiment.
I came via Canady [sic] and NY city. I left the Rapids on Tuesday morning [and] arrived at Washington on Thursday morning. I went to the Provost Marshal [and] got my transportation pass for to return to my regiment the next day. Stayed with my brother [?] that night . . . . I was a little tardy in getting to the boat the next morning consequently did not leave Washington until yesterday morning. Arrived in camp in the afternoon. You could only imagine how lonesome I was. I know you would pity me, the fact is it was a rainy day & the regiment was nearly all out on picket. They did not return until Tuesday. The time did seem long to me & you young people around there were the subjects of my thoughts a good share of the time.
I feel a little more at home now [that] the boys are here. But still I would give (now) all of my old shoes to be back there & free from the army [and] have peaceable times again.
Now you said you would write if I would, pray do so. You cannot imagine how much consolation it is for a soldier to hear from his friends while away off down here in an enemy’s country weith no associates but soldiers.
I would be very much obliged to you for your picture, iff you feel so disposed as to send them.
Give my respects to all the inquiring friends, if any there be.
By late April the regiment had changed its location and the men were busy constructing new quarters for themselves. Still, Martin took time to wrote to his friends, the Hamilton sisters in Michigan, to express his condolences on the recent death of their father.
Permit me once more [he wrote on April 21] to address a few lines to you in reply to your ever welcome letter of the 24th ult. which was happily received and eagerly perused. But sad was the news it contained. I tell you girls I did feel sad to hear of the death of your poor father. To think that you should be left without a father to counsel and guide you. As you know that ll young people no matter what time[of life] do need a counsellor for many a young person has been ruined by being left alone in this dark world & not seeing . . . full enough.
I know full well how to sympathize with you dear friends.
I presume you can remember when my mother died, it was on the 7th day of May, 1857.
So I was quite a small boy then.
And notwithstanding I have a good step mother, yet it does not seem like home.
I am sorry that I did not go on and see your father when I was there. But I suppose that all is for the best, so says the scriptue. The old must die and the young may die. We know not how soon it may be the fate of one of us to follow him. But we must hope for the better. Look always up on the bright side and make ourselves as happy as possible for this is a world of sorrow and trouble at the best. Well I must change the subject for I am incompetent of advising you feel as though I needed some one to aid me in this unfriendly world.
However girls do the best you can and I will try and do the same.
We have changed our quarters since I wrote you before. We are about two and a half miles from the old camp. It is a very rolling country. Our camp is situated on the side of a hill in a little pine grove surrounded by hard wood such as oak, hickory, beech, a little holly and . . . good spring water. Our houses are all nearly of a size neatly arranged in line by company in columns at company distance. The streets between the companies are turnpiked with . . . sidewalks (four feet in width) in front of the houses. My tent mates are Brothers John & James. Our house is built of three-inch plank . . . 10 ft. 6 in long by 6 ft 8 in wide [and] 5 ft high. A good door on wooden hangings [with a] better floor than the most of the Virginia houses have. A neat little table fastened to the side of the house by leather hinges and a large arm chair of our own manufacture. And what makes it so comfortable and pleasant in rthe evening is the . . . little fire place. All who call on us say we have the most comfortable house in the camp.
Martin was promoted to First Sergeant on March 1, 1864, and was mustered out on June 20, 1864, at Detroit.
Following his discharge Martin returned to Michigan and married his first wife Alicia Matilda Brennan (1848-1911) on December 10. 1865 in Allegan County, and they had at least seven children: William Alexander (1867-1937), Harriett Elizabeth (1870-1961), Florence E. (1873-1875), Annie E. (1875-1904), Ella Maud (1878-1885), Bertha Rebecca (1880-1970) and Nellie A. (1883-1959).
He and Alicia were living in Georgetown, Ottawa County in 1870 and in Kalkaska, Kalkaska County in 1870. They mau have lived for a time in Wyoming, Kent County, but sometime in late 1876 or early 1877 Martin and his brother James joined their brother John A. in Kansas.
By 1880 Martin was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Ohio, Morris County, Kansas. Martin remained in Kansas from 1877 until perhaps late 1886 or early 1887 when he probably moved back to Ottawa County. He was reported living in Eastmanville and in Allendale in 1888, in Conklin, Ottawa County in 1890, in Wright, Ottawa County in 1894 and by 1896 he was living in Grandville, Kent County, working as a lumberman, carpenter and farmer. By 1900 he and his won William were living in Pennington, South Dakota.
Martin was a member of the 3rd Michigan Infantry Association, a Protestant and he received pension no. 738,771, drawing $12.00 in 1910, increased to $30.00, then $40.00 and finally to $50.00 by 1918.
Martin was back living in Grandville in 1906 and in fact resided in Grandville until he was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 5707) on July 26, 1910, and discharged at his own request on October 14, 1915. He was readmitted on May 3, 1917, discharged on March 5, 1919, and eventually moved out west.
On December 15, 1919, he was admitted as a widower to the National Military Home in Leavenworth, Kansas, and discharged at his own request on July 11, 1921. (Virtually the same dates apply to his admission and discharge form the NMH in Losa Angeles.) By 1920 he was living in the National Military Home in Malibu, Los Angeles County, California. He was soon back at his home in Grandville and was again admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home on April 12, 1921, and discharged for the final time on November 16, 1923. He was readmitted to the Leavenworth Home on September 1, 1925 and discharged at his own request on October 15, 1925.
Martin married his second wife, Ohio native and widow Mrs. Mary Jane Way Bremner (b. 1849) On August 23, 1923, in California. By 1925 he had reportedly moved to La Honda, California. By 1930 he and his wife Mary were living in La Sierra Heights, Temeschal Township, Riverside County, California; also living with them was Mary’s daughter from a previous marriage, Elizabeth Bremner (b. 1891 in Michigan).
Martin died on June 12, 1930 in Arlington, California, and his body was sent back to Michigan where it was buried in Grandville Cemetery.