Martha Susannah Alberty Sturgell Wagner Clevenger (1858-1916)

Martha Susannah Alberty was born 15 June 1858 in Newton County, Missouri. She was the daughter of John S. Alberty and Susannah Douthit. Her father died in 1861, although it doesn’t seem to be tied into the Civil War. Her mother raised the family on her own until she married Isaac Sturgell on 30 September 1867 in Newton County.

This marriage, although ending in divorce, had a definite impact on Martha’s life, as she married Isaac’s son, Abijah Houston Sturgell, on 5 June 1876, also in Newton County, Missouri. The timing is actually quite interesting because her mother was in the midst of divorcing Abijah’s father at the time of Martha’s and Byge’s (as he was known) marriage. Martha was also the baby of her family – I wonder what her mother thought about her marrying Isaac’s son? That must have made for some interesting conversations!

In spite of their parents’ difficulties, Abijah and Martha were happily married and had a large family, settling next door to Newton County in Barry County, where the Sturgells had been living.


Mary Susannah, born 18 October 1877; died 27 November 1878
Julia Ann, born 5 January 1879; died 5 March 1968; married Columbus W. Taylor, 7 March 1895
Maggie Clementine, born 8 November 1880; died 18 October 1921; married William Al Periman, 25 February 1897
John Houston, born 15 April 1882; died 1941; married Della Brooks, 12 November 1902
Lee Rue, born 3 December 1884; died 16 August 1947; married Gertrude Shirley, 8 August 1906
Nora Bell, born 5 November 1886; died 28 July 1960; married John D. Periman, 18 August 1901
Gertie May, born 6 December 1888; died 8 December 1900
Amy Cora, born 21 August 1891; died 19 May 1964; married Frank Richard Slemp, 22 August 1910
Oscar Eldon, born 13 September 1893; died 15 June 1968; married (1) Ethel Anne Nation, 16 September 1915 (2) Martha Henderson, 11 September 1943
Glena Agnes, born 29 February 1896; died 16 December 1907
Andrew Herman (Bud), born 6 October 1898; died 27 January 1989; married Jessie Lee Ellen Nixon, 22 October 1921

In spite of their overall happy life, Byge and Martha, like their friends, suffered through some difficult times, too. Their first child, Mary Susannah, named for her two grandmothers, died just after her first birthday. That must have been doubly difficult for Abijah, as his mother, Mary, took his sisters to Illinois in the 1860s, leaving his father, Isaac with their sons. I doubt he ever saw his mother or his sisters again so losing his first child, named for his mother, had to be even harder.

They lost two other daughters, Gertie, at the age of two years and Glena, when she was only eleven years old.

I have only one photo of Abijah, taken when he was a young man:

AbijahSturgell - C
Abijah Houston Sturgell

This photo is a picture of a picture and I don’t know who has the original – probably a Sturgell cousin still living in Missouri – but the original is in poor condition. My husband worked a bit of Photoshop magic to darken the image and fill in some of the especially faded areas in the middle of the picture around Byge’s chin and neck.

Martha was widowed on 2 June 1905 when Abijah died. There is no death certificate giving a cause, but local newspapers supplied the painful details. From the Cassville Republican on 12 January 1905:
B. Sturgle is in bad health and has been for some time.

Next, on 30 March 1905, there was a newspaper update:

Bige Sturgle who has been sick so long is reported worse.

Finally, on 8 June 1905, the final notice was published:

Bigey Sturgle died Saturday and was buried Sunday at the Snider cemetery. He left a wife and several children to mourn his departure.

What was this long illness that eventually took Abijah’s life? When Dave and I went to Missouri and met Sturgell cousins, they said he had been working in the barn when a lamp fell over and caught fire. He was badly burned. I can only imagine what a painful death this must have been, as the January newspaper clipping implied that the accident had been some time in the past.

Martha still had four children at home when her husband died – Lee Rue, Amy, Oscar and Bud. Four months later, she married Benjamin Wagner on 29 October 1905 in Barry County, Missouri. I have found no records for Ben Wagner. By 1910, Martha Wagner was head of household with Oscar and Bud at home with her. It says she has been married twice, and currently for five years, but Ben is nowhere to be found.

Wagner/Sturgell Household in 1910

On 19 July 1911, Martha married her third husband, J.A. Clevenger, likely Joseph A. Clevenger, who was also living in Mineral, Barry County in 1910. His wife at the time was Jennie. Joseph was ten years younger than Martha if he is the right man.

I have a photo with Martha:

Martha, on left with children and son-in-law

The way everyone is dressed, I am wondering if this was taken right after Abijah was buried. I have been to the Snider Cemetery and one would need a machete to cut through the trees and undergrowth. It looked very much like the trees in the background in this picture. Martha was with sons Bud and Oscar, daughter Amy and John and Nora Periman.

Martha died at the young age of 58 on 10 July 1916. She is buried next to Abijah at the Snider Cemetery, but I have no death certificate for her, either. It is possible she died in Oklahoma and her body was shipped back to Cato for burial. J.A. Clevenger survived her, passing away in 1939.

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