Looking back on 100 years of living

Noah Martin’s farm was just inside the northern White County line but he celebrated his 100th birthday and spent his final days “just down the road” at his daughter’s home scarcely inside Independence County. He died December 31,1997, a few months after this article was published.

By The Associated Press State Bureau


oah Martin doesn’t need a history book to tell him about the last 100 years of the nation’s life. He has lived the history of Arkansas and the United States – through two world wars, the worst flu epidemic in American history, the Great Depression and all other events of the last century.

Martin turned 100 earlier this month.  He has a simple answer to questions about how he has lived to be a century old.

“The good Lord,” he said.  “The good Lord gets all the praise; He’s the only reason I’m here.”

Martin lives with his daughter Evelene Stephens at Pleasant Plains. He said he can’t see very well anymore and has some trouble hearing. But his memory is sharp and he has a whole history book of memories to share.

Noah Austin Martin was born Jan. 5, 1897, in the Union Grove community of Pleasant Plains.

“I was born and raised here, and have lived here all my life,” Martin said. He was the fourth child of John Melvin and Celesta Ann Martin.  His father was a farmer. There were 11 children in the family, 10 boys and a girl.  He is the last surviving child.

Asked about his schooling, Martin smiled and said, “Well, we would go to school maybe three months a year.  Sometimes in the winter, some in the fall, so you know how much education we got.”

Mostly, he and other children worked on the farm.  The only time in his life that Martin lived away from the area was during World War I, when he was stationed at Camp Pike in Little Rock, where he worked with the camp doctor.  When it came time for him to go overseas, the doctor Martin worked with requested that he stay stateside.  There was a flu epidemic at the time and the whole base has been turned into a hospital. “We were taking care of over 200 people at one time,” he said.

After the war, Martin returned to the Pleasant Plains area and returned to farming. He married Mabie Leonard Martin on April 7, 1918.  They were the parents of two children – a daughter Evelene and an infant child who was stillborn. Mrs. Martin died in 1980.

In recalling events he had witnessed, Martin said he felt like he had lived through the hardest times during the Great Depression and the most prosperous time, now.

During the Depression survival was the only concern, he said. “Can you imagine?” he said.  “No electricity, no Mason jars, trying to keep food through the winters.” He said his family survived mostly on dried food.

One thing Martin said he’s learned in his lifetime is that one has to go with the flow of events.  In discussing current times, he said that while the country is experiencing prosperity, he believes men are too wrapped up in the world.  “Men are giving all the glory to the world and not to God who should have it,” he said.

Martin has devoted his years to faithful church service. He recently received a plaque from the Union Grove Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, where he has been a deacon for many years and a member for 75.

In addition to his daughter, his family includes three grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren – a boy and a girl.

The great-great grandson’s name reflects a little bit of history. The child’s name is Austin in honor of his great-great grandfather, born four generations before him.

If you have additional information on the Martin families of early White County, please share it with the White County Historical Society, P.O. Box 537, Searcy, AR 72145.