Martha Elizabeth Erwin



Martha Elizabeth Erwin, born October 8, 1832, was the fourth child of Arthur and Evelina Erwin, and the last to be born in North Carolina. In 1833 her family moved to Forsyth County, Georgia.

In 1872, at the age of forty, she married William Henry Harrison Camp in Livingston, Floyd County, Georgia. They had no children of their own, but in 1880 Andrew Lewis Erwin, Mary’s youngest brother, lost his wife. Mary and Henry raised their four children, who ranged in age from one to eight, when their mother died.

Henry served all four years in the Civil War. He enlisted as a private in Company D, 29th Cavalry Regiment of Georgia, but was a First Lieutenant when the war was over. He participated in battles at Kennesaw Mountain, Battle of Atlanta, and Chickamauga. At some point during the war he was awarded the South’s Southern Cross of Honor for bravery.

Martha died in 1906, but during her lifetime she collected and saved clippings, made scrapbooks, collected medical remedies, kept miscellaneous family papers and documents, collected recipes and wrote poetry. When she passed on her family was confronted with a massive collection of miscellaneous material, but unlike what happens in most families when an oldster dies, her collections were not tossed in the trash. Thus many interesting facts have been kept alive by her family and her descendants.

Many of Martha’s writings have no titles. Apparently she would have thoughts and write them down, without bothering to go back and complete a poem or a piece of prose. One such poem, written in 1865:


I'd be a star, a little star

To shine in yon blue vault above

A single ray to gleam afar

Or anything that thou would 'st love.


I'd be a flower, a little flower

And only bloom to worship thee,

Content if thou, for one short hour

Would 'st (illegible) look and smile on me.


I'd be the wind, the summer wind

That wanders o'er thy velvet cheek

So I might leave a kiss behind


And hear thy voice in kindness speak.

I would be thine. I'd worship thee

By all that's earthly divine.

My every pulse beats true to thee. I would be thine.


Some of Martha Elizabeth's medical remedies:

For sore throat:

To 1 pt. of strong vinegar add as much salt as will dissolve. Chop into this six pods of red pepper and boil 15 minutes. Strain through thin cloth an gargle at least six times a day. Use warm if convenient.


For chest congestion:

Equal portions of linseed (flaxseed) oil, camphor, suet, and bees wax. Steep in a linen cloth in mixture and apply to chest.


For a cough:

1.        Take cherry bark and dry it. Make a strong tea by boiling the bark with good amount of sugar. Boil to a syrup. Take three tablespoons a day.

2.        Boil together 1/2 cup molasses and butter the size of a hickory nut. Squeeze into this the juice of 1 lemon. Take as necessary.

3.        Make a strong tea of horehound, mullen, and brown sugar. Stew to thick syrup. Take any time the cough troubles.


For rheumatism:

1.        Dissolve saltpeter in water and stew in lard. Apply to affected portions of body.

2.        Mix: 

      1 pt. alcohol

1 pt. turpentine

2 oz. gum camphor

2 oz. castile soap


Dissolve 1/2 oz. or its equivalent in laudanum. Laudanum is preferred as op does not dissolve well. Apply to affected portions of body.


For frostbite and corns:

Equal portions of iodine and turpentine


For sick stomach:

Burn a new cork to a cinder. Put water to it and drink it. (??? -Ed.)


Cure for dysentery, diarrhea or any affection of bowels:

Add 4 handsfull of swamp willow leaves to 1 qt. of boiling water. Let steep cold then drink instead of water. If disease checks too quickly, diminish drink cautiously.


Cure for Asthma:

Put ten cents worth of Virginia snake root in one qt. good whiskey. Take a good swallow 3 times a day. If asthma returns, repeat dosage.


To reduce flesh:

Eat no fat meat. Half the usual amount of bread. No sweets. Drink half the usual amount of water. No butter or milk.


With all due respect to Martha, none of the above health remedies have been approved by the Surgeon General. The last one makes sense though. –Ed.


Source: Erwins and Related Families, by Frances Erwin Evans