HUGH RALPH MARTIN, M. D.
Dr. Hugh Ralph Martin, one of California’s leading surgeons, had been successfully engaged in practice at Riverside for more than a quarter of a century when death closed his busy and useful career on the 22nd of January, 1929. Born in Bement, Piatt County, Illinois, July 17, 1875, he was a son of Hudson and Camilla T. (Purvis) Martin. The father, a merchant, was born near Louisville, Kentucky, in 1835, and accompanied his parents on their removal to Sullivan, Illinois, where he formed the acquaintance of the lady who became his wife in 1859. Thirteen years following their marriage, in 1872, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson Martin settled at Bement, Illinois, the birthplace of Dr. Martin. The family numbered five sons and one daughter, and the wife and mother passed away in 1897.
Hugh Ralph Martin acquired his common school education in his home community and later entered the medical department of the University of Illinois, from which he graduated with honors in the class of 1901. His medical career had already begun, however, for while visiting Riverside, California, in 1898, he enlisted in Company M, Seventh Regiment, National Guard of California, and when ready to embark at San Francisco for duty in the Philippines, he was transferred to the hospital corps. He spent fifteen months in the medical service both in the Philippines and Hawaii, writing home of his varied experiences in a very entertaining manner. Following is an excerpt from a letter written to his father from the Second Reserve Hospital at Malate, Manila, Philippine Islands, February 14, 1899:
“You will no doubt be looking at the list of killed and wounded for my name. So far I have been spared, but there is no safety for an American soldier in the Philippines now. The insurrection started on February 4, at the outpost. The insurgents attempted to push our sentries inward and the sentry killed three insurgents and retreated. Presently the cannon gave the ‘call to arms’ and the whole Eighth Army Corps was in readiness in about twenty minutes. Gatling guns and artillery were soon in action. The trouble started about 9:00 P. M., February 4, and of course Dewey could do but little damage before day. Our troops held them at bay till morning when the terrible shells from Dewey’s guns surprised the Negroes. Dewey was signaled to set fire to a certain blockhouse. His first shell left two sticks standing. They shoot accurate. They had the finest entrenchments possible and it is remarkable how our boys charged them. Our boys would give a rousing cheer and away they would go right into awful fire. The natives were very stubborn and laid down their lives fighting to the last. Hundreds of their wounded are taken to our hospitals and cared for. While they lost thousands, our number killed and wounded to date is about three hundred and fifty (sixty killed). Realizing that it is impossible for me to give a full detail of the battles you must read that in the papers. It is awful to see our comrades ‘all shot to pieces’ in reality. The natives use poisoned bullets and that is all the worse…Several shots were fired into the hospital and the hospital corps were fired on and killed while carrying the wounded…Every regiment here did excellent fighting and advanced nearly every charge. The enemy is now several miles in the country and the supposition is that we have but one or two more heavy battles to fight. Their strongest forts are at Malolos, where Aguinaldo is supposed to be. If the shells from the boats can reach back that far the city will not last long…The fighting lasted almost one week, the worst of which was on Sunday, February 5. The insurgents wrecked the waterworks but the city was out of water but one day. Pieces of the machinery were found in the coal pile and were quickly replaced. As a whole and individually, the movements were perfect. Our forces of fifteen thousand were outnumbered probably one hundred thousand. Some of the natives are fair shots, but they can’t hit their mark like our boys, as is plainly shown by the contest now partly over.”
Dr. Martin was mustered out at Manila, July 21, 1899, and upon returning to the United States completed his medical studies at the University of Illinois and came directly to Riverside to begin practice. This city remained the scene of his professional labors until his untimely death at the age of fifty-three. For several years he was associated with Dr. W. B. Sawyer and later had as a partner, Dr. C. R. Geith. As a man of high ethical principles and worthy ambitions, recognized among his colleagues as a surgeon of pronounced skill, he was eminently successful in the work of his chosen profession. For two decades prior to his death he was chief surgeon of the Riverside Portland Cement Company and for ten years he served his city as a member of the board of health. Dr. Martin had membership in the Riverside County Medical Society, the California State Medical Association and the American Medical Association. He also figured in financial affairs as a director of the Citizens National Bank of Riverside and enjoyed high standing among the citizens of the community.
In January, 1905, Dr. Martin was married at the Riverside Episcopal Church to Miss Annetta Miller, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a daughter of James and Lindy Miller. Miss Miller was a graduate of the Vancouver General Hospital and a trained nurse by profession. By her marriage she became the mother of three sons: Hugh Hudson, Hugh Ralph, Jr., and Worthington Lee Martin.
Dr. Martin was chosen the organization president of the Riverside Lions Club. A worthy exemplar of the teachings and purposes of the Masonic fraternity, he had membership in Evergreen Lodge, No. 259, F. & A. M.; Riverside Commandery, K. T.; Long Beach Consistory, A. A. S. R.; and Al Malaikah Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S. He was a life member of Riverside Lodge, No. 1643, B. P. O. E., and also belonged to Riverside Lodge No. 282, I. O. O. F., and Riverside Aerie, No. 997, F. O. E.
The following tribute to the memory of Dr. Martin is from the pen of a member of the Riverside Medical Society: “Dr. Hugh Ralph Martin was one of God’s great noblemen. As a son he was thoughtful, industrious and obedient; as a father he was sympathetic, loving and kind, and as a physician and surgeon he possessed those rare attributes which immediately inspired confidence and disarmed all criticism as to the ‘modus operandi’ in any critical case. He possessed a skill that placed him in the forefront of the surgeons of the Pacific coast. His ability and endurance have been the marvel of all who have known the magnitude of his labors. . . . . Dr. Martin was a most generous man, giving of his time, ability and wealth in countless ways of which the public will never know, except when recipients of his generosity mention his noble traits. Especially was he considerate of the poor and unfortunate. For years he went regularly, on Tuesdays, to the hospital at Arlington and operated without compensation upon those who were unable to pay a fee at the Community Hospital. I never knew of his turning a deaf ear to anyone in distress. Dr. Martin’s most strenuous life made it imperative that he take much needed rest from his labors. Frequently he returned east for the surgical clinics. He was likewise very fond of travel. On one occasion he went to Tahiti. Five years ago, in 1924, he spent six weeks in Alaska, recuperating and enjoying the marvels of our northern wonderland. In 1927 he took his family and went to Yellowstone National Park; again we find him a passenger on the President Monroe Dollar liner going around the world; later he blazed the trail for Herbert Hoover on a trip to the Canal Zone and skirting South America. As a traveling companion he was most delightful. His stock of experiences was replete with wit and entertainment. He possessed the faculty of getting under the surface and of learning the hidden mysteries of life. He made friends easily and never missed an opportunity to place the welfare of others ahead of his physical limitations. He loved his profession and never was so happy as when he was restoring his patients to health and happiness.”
The Riverside Daily Press of January 28, 1929, printed the following tribute by Anne Cameron: “Hugh Ralph Martin, friend and doctor, is at rest. All too often of later years he had been worn with the effort to cram into each day more than its measure of service, and he is gone before his time. It is significant that in speaking of him even the scores of men who were his close friends always said, ‘Doctor Martin,’ instead of using his given name, so integrated with his personality was his life work. The steady, appraising blue eyes behind the rimmed glasses, the strong, slim, sentient fingers, the quick, accurate movements marked the born surgeon; but the well-spring of his success was his deep, inarticulate love of humanity. He was a doer, little given to fine words, but the sympathy of the man enriched the skill of the surgeon. His patients were to him first of all human beings, brothers in distress, and he gave his deft hands and his fine mind unstintingly to their relief. Hurried and often brusque in ordinary intercourse, with the sick he was infinitely gentle. How many people survive him better equipped for living because he labored among us with simple integrity and high ability!”
We also quote from another review of the career of Dr. Martin published under the date of January 23, 1929: “One of California’s foremost surgeons and a citizen who was known and beloved for his kindliness and sympathetic service to mankind, was taken yesterday as death claimed Dr. Hugh R. Martin at the end of a futile three-year fight to regain failing health. Dr. Martin had returned only a short time ago from a hopeful trip to the famous Mayo brothers at Rochester, Minnesota, but the journey availed him but little, as he already had sacrificed his body to the welfare of others. The break in health came after a most strenuous life in which he had devoted his remarkable surgical and medical skill to relieving the sufferings of hundreds here. . . Dr. Martin’s skill was recognized throughout the state and his services were in constant demand. Fellow physicians here attest to his wonderful benevolent spirit. They declare it will never be known to what length he has gone countless times to relieve suffering of the poor without compensation.”
The Riverside Daily Press on January 26, 1929, said: “Funeral rites for the late Dr. Hugh R. Martin, whose death has cast a shadow over the city, were conducted this afternoon at the home on Rubidoux Drive and at the M. H. Simons Funeral Chapel. The service at 1:30 o’clock at the home, where the body lay in state, was for members of the family, members of the medical profession and their wives, and Riverside nurses. The Episcopal Church funeral ritual was read by Dr. Henry Clark Smith of All Saints Episcopal Church, assisted by Rev. C. L. Waite, pastor of the First Christian Church. Following the service at the home the body was removed to the M. H. Simons & Company chapel, where it was prepared for burial in full Knights Templar regalia. The beautiful and impressive Knights Templar burial ritual was read by Sir Knight Commander Henry W. Coil and Sir Knight Prelate J. P. Robeson, at the chapel. Lieutenant Governor H. L. Carnahan, a close personal friend of the deceased for many years, paid a beautiful tribute to the deceased. Miss Guillarmina Furlong, harpist, played two numbers, ‘The Vacant Chair’ and ‘Lead Kindly Light,’ while the vocal numbers were by H. Norman Spohr, who sang ‘Abide With Me’ and ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere.’ At the grave the burial ritual of the Knights Templar was continued by Sir Knight Commander Henry W. Coil and Sir Knight Prelate J. P. Robeson, with the benediction following by Dr. Henry Clark Smith. Then from the distance came the sweet notes of ‘Abide With Me,’ played by Gustav Hilverkus on the cornet, with ‘taps’ following. As the sun was sinking over the cross on historic Mount Rubidoux, casting a shadow over the last resting place of a much loved member of the medical profession, there came the purr of an airplane motor. Piloted by Lieutenant James Cumberpatch, the plane slowly approached the city of the dead, and a member of the March Field medical staff dropped beautiful blooms upon the grave as a tribute of love and esteem which the medical staff and officers and men of the post held for the deceased. It was a very impressive moment, causing sorrowing hearts to beat just a little faster.”
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. III, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 65-71, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.