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Martha Ballard

Martha Ballard was born in a log cabin just west of the present Madrid Home, to Martha (Murphy) and John Ballard, on July 28, 1854. The doctor from Polk City, whose office has since been moved to the Living History Farms, in Des Moines, was summoned for the difficult birthing. However, Martha Murphy Ballard died during the childbirth, and was buried in the cemetery at Elk Point. This later became the site for the railroad bridge, and Martha's body, and the body of her mother, were exhumed at railroad expense, and moved to Linwood Cemetery in Boone.

The baby, Martha, was left by her father, John Ballard, to be reared by Grandmother Murphy and her son, Isaac Murphy. At age six, she had seen Johnny Green's Tama Indians in the vicinity every maple sugaring time of year. She had heard him tell "Uncle Ike" how the railroad was to cut through the Tama Indian Reservation. The Indians had visited the farm, and she and Uncle Ike had been invited to potluck. Once, the pot contained a small animal, complete with tail! In 1861, when the Civil War group marched off, Martha wasn't allowed to go to the barbecue, so when the neighbor sauntered down the road about milking time, there was first hand news: "Everythin' was et but the carcass," the neighbor told Uncle Ike. The child, Martha, listened, then started toward the cabin, and in her path stood "The Carcass!" She went screaming back to Uncle Ike, who went for his gun - but the deer was gone.

Once, she saw a steamboat on the river, and its black cook threw something out of a pan overboard. Another time, a black mammy and a little boy were in the woods all day. That night, Uncle Ike harnessed the wagon, and left. The next morning, the black people were gone, and at the breakfast table, Uncle Ike gave her a message from her father, who was living at Hook's Point just outside of Stratford. In her later years, Martha reminisced about her suspicions and her family's involvement in the underground railway, the extent of which she was never certain.

Martha also recalled an election, or a Fourth of July during "The War." There was a greased pig contest. She also recalled "Copperheads" (those sympathetic with the South) living in Madrid, and that they were generally unpopular.

John Ballard later remarried, and Martha went to live part-time with that family. About this time, her mother's share in her Grandmother Murphy's estate allowed her a year in the college at Ames. Martha then taught school for several years. She later married, and although she and her nine children call Boone "home," she always maintained close ties with the Madrid Murphys. Martha was the great-great grandmother of Mrs. Dorothea Fitzgerald, of Boone.

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