Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Notable Naperville Women - The Martins

Naperville will forever be grateful to Caroline Martin Mitchell. When she died in 1936, she gave 212 acres of downtown property to the city, including her family home, Pine Craig.


Now referred to as the Martin Mitchell Mansion in her honor, the house is the centerpiece of the Naper Settlement. In addition, Central High School, Sportsman’s Park, Von Oven Scout Reservation, and Edward Hospital are also all situated on Martin family property.

Caroline’s father, George Martin, came to Naperville as a child in 1833, just a couple years after the Napers arrived. Their original property was basically Rotary Hill. When you’re walking around there this summer, look for the sign that marks the house where George and his wife Sibelia raised their family of one son and three daughters.

George’s business enterprises were a brick and tile manufacturing company which really took off during the rebuilding of Chicago following the Great Fire. He built Pine Craig across the street and moved his now-grown family into it.

Unfortunately, George died just a few years later. But his business enterprises did not. Son George was practicing law in Maywood and Miami and fighting ill health, so the bulk of the work was carried on by his widow Sibelia and his daughters Lizzie, Kittie and Carrie.

In 1908, Lizzie’s obituary in The Naperville Clarion read:

Miss Martin was a woman of unusual business ability. She kept the books of the firm of Martin & von Oven for thirty-six years, sixteen years of which she was one of the firm's managing partners. She was highly respected by her business associates, and to her tact in dealing with employees, and general business integrity and enterprise, the success of the firm is, in a measure, due.

Contrary to to norms of time, Kitty, who was born a dwarf, worked and socialized alongside her sisters. Her obituary reads:

The deceased was well known and highly respected among her associates friends.

Caroline was the only child to marry, but she moved her husband into Pine Craig rather than move away from the family and the family business.

She never had children of her own and was the last of her family to pass. Caroline’s pride in her family and in her city prompted her generous legacy, making a huge and lasting impact on the vibrancy of Naperville’s downtown.

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