Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Fall/Section010/Martin Cross

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Martin Cross[edit | edit source]

Overview[edit | edit source]

Martin Cross was interviewed on February 2, 1939, by Rose Shepherd. She described him as partially deaf with white hair, rosy cheeks, and blue eyes. She described him as wealthy with a “splendidly substantial brick home” which was run by a “happy faced colored maid” who was a “well-trained family servant of an old-time southern family.”

Biography[edit | edit source]

Similar to what Cross would have lived on.
An orange grove similar to which Cross would have lived on.

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Martin Cross was born in 1859, most likely in Virginia. At 22 years old, Cross came to Florida from Virginia during the early 1880s and settled with his family in an orange grove. He was relatively healthy throughout his life except for a 2-year stint of malaria in which he became dependent on quinine (a drug for malaria). In Florida, he was in the center of the citrus industry, although he lived on an unestablished grove. His family seemed to be relatively wealthy as they lived in a “large and roomy” house. Orange trees and citrus groves were very important to Cross and a big part of his life. He had a significant interaction taking care of his neighbor that became sick and violent with tetanus that clearly resonated with him. He described events of caring for his neighbor in great detail describing how after a week of caring for him his neighbor woke Cross up in his sleep by choking him violently claiming that Cross was poisoning him with the tetanus medication.  

Life in Jacksonville[edit | edit source]

He worked mainly as a dealer in the wood/lumber industry, but also lamented the destruction of forests. He eventually moved to Jacksonville and started getting more into lumber and discussed how much he loved his new town and the familiar faces until later in life when most of those faces had passed away and the town had become much more cosmopolitan. He loved his town and not only how well he was known, but also how well his staff was known. He discussed the beauty of his town and how he felt about it and how it made others feel the magic of the town. He also discussed how he still went to his old office every morning to see his old friends and felt nostalgic and longed for the past.  

Social Context[edit | edit source]

Jacksonville in the Late 1800's & Early 1900's[edit | edit source]

Jacksonville in 1909
FDR in Jacksonville

There were a lot of developments in Jacksonville between the late 1800s and early 1900s. Henry B. Plant was known for his success in the railroad industry, but what is less known is how he also created Jacksonville’s streetcar system, which opened in 1879. In 1881, he extended his railroad allowing more travel and turning Jacksonville into a vacation and tourism destination. The Jacksonville Terminal Company was established in 1893 by Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller because a “hub” railroad station was needed. This hub grew exponentially serving up to 40,000 trains and 10 million passengers every year. At that time, Jacksonville was becoming a cultural center for African Americans. Jacksonville quickly became Florida’s largest city by 1900 with 57 percent of the population being African Americans who worked in the hotel industry as well as the booming railroad, lumber, and construction industries.  

Battling Tetanus in the late 1800's and 1900's:[edit | edit source]

Tetanus was a disease that had a large impact on Martin Cross’s life. He took care of his neighbor who contracted tetanus and had serious symptoms that deeply affected Cross. Cross gave a vivid description of the symptoms his neighbor displayed and discussed how combative his neighbor was. Tetanus is caused by bacteria, but the toxins within the bacteria are what cause the symptoms. The most well-known symptoms of tetanus are lock-jaw and intense muscle spasms. The less well-known symptoms that are harder to detect include irregular heartbeat and bone fragility. Researchers determined that in the early 1900s, untreated tetanus killed 85% of those infected. Interestingly, during the 1890s three scientists, Shibasaburo Kitasto, Emil von Bering, and Edmond Nocard, discovered and demonstrated that tetanus antitoxin had immunizing effects against tetanus. They continued to investigate the immunizing properties and refined this mixture becoming the first documented “antitoxin,” essentially vaccine, to fight against tetanus.  

Quinine:[edit | edit source]

Quinine is a drug used to treat malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum; a parasite that gets into red blood cells and causes malaria. Quinine works by killing the parasite or preventing it from growing. Cross kept a bottle of it in his pocket and throughout the day would put it in cigarette paper and smoke it or take drops of it in his mouth. The side effects made him lose his hearing and made his hair go white.  

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Achan, J., Talisuna, A. O., Erhart, A., Yeka, A., Tibenderana, J. K., Baliraine, F. N., Rosenthal, P. J., & D'Alessandro, U. (2011, May 24). Quinine, an old anti-malarial drug in a modern world: Role in the treatment of Malaria. Malaria journal. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121651/.

Battling tetanus. Smithsonian Institution. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.si.edu/spotlight/antibody-initiative/battling-tetanus.

Davis, E. (2017, December 17). The rich history of Jacksonville - the one you probably didn't know about. The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.jacksonville.com/j-magazine/2017-12-17/rich-history-jacksonville-one-you-probably-didn-t-know-about.

Library of Congress, A View of Jacksonville, Florida, United States. The Library of Congress. Published Circa 1909. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jacksonville_in_1909.PNG

Orange Grove and Pineries, Orlando, Fla, 1904, Carli Digital Collections, https://collections.carli.illinois.edu/digital/collection/nby_teich/id/429587, October 20, 2021.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard train - Jacksonville, Florida. 1943 (circa). State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31954, accessed 20, October 2021.