History of the Restoration Movement

Walter Stillman Martin


Civilla Durfee Martin


Biographical Sketch on the Lives Of Walter and Civilla Stillman

Walter Stillman Martin was born March 8, 1862 in Rowley, Essex Co., Massachusetts. He attended Harvard University where he studied for the ministry, and was later ordained as a Baptist minister. His wife, Civilla Durfee Holden, was born August 21, 1866, in Jordan, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her parents were James N. and Irene Harding Holden. They came together through a mutual interest in music. She had for years taught music before meeting Walter. With his musical talents, their lives together as a husband and wife team was a blessing to them, and ultimately to the world.

Civilla wrote texts for many of the hymns he produced including their very popular, "God Will Take Care of You." She wrote of the circumstances behind the writing of this now famous song. She explained, "I was confined to a sick bed in a Bible school in Lestershire, New York. My husband was spending several weeks at the school, making a songbook for the president of the school. "God Will Take Care of You" was written one Sunday afternoon while my husband went to a preaching appointment. When he returned I gave the words to him. He immediately sat down to his little Bilhorn organ and wrote the music. That evening he and two of the teachers sang the completed song. It was then printed in the songbook he was compiling for the school."

Further investigation of this story found that this was a Sunday, and Walter was to preach in a town some distance from the school. Since Civilla became unable to attend because of sickness, he wanted to cancel his trip. While it was being discussed, their nine year old son said, "Father, don't you think that if God wants you to preach today, He will take care of Mother while you are away?" The old saying, "Out of the mouth of babes," comes to mind! Martin kept his appointment, and when he returned that evening, he found his wife greatly improved. Mrs. Martin had written a new hymn based on her son's faithful remark earlier that day, and within an hour, Mr. Martin wrote the melody. That very evening a couple of other teachers at the school came by, and they all sang the song together. Later in the week it was sung at one of the school assemblies, and the suggestion was made for it to be included in the new hymnbook. Thus, it was first published in 1905 in "Songs of Redemption," compiled by Martin and John A. Davis.

Another song she wrote in 1904 was "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." She once reflected, "I wrote the song 'His Eye Is on the Sparrow' in the company of a bedridden saint in the city of Elmira, New York. I was reading and singing to her and during our conversation, I chanced to ask her if she did not sometimes get discouraged. This is when she responded about God's care for the sparrow. Her answer prompted me to find paper and pencil, and in a very short time I had completed the poem."

In 1916 the family lived in Wilson, North Carolina where Walter taught at the Atlantic Christian College. In 1919 they became involved with the Disciples of Christ. Very soon thereafter he began teaching and preaching among them. He served for a while on the staff at Standard Publishing. He also assisted in the production of the Christian Hymnal. Before the end of the year, the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia. While in Atlanta they were involved in Bible teaching and evangelistic work throughout the country.

Other famous songs he wrote included "One of God's Days," "Going Home," and "The Old-fashioned Way." In 1930 Martin assigned all of his copyrights to the Hope Publishing Company. Most all of his hymns are today in the public domain.

Walter passed from this life December 16, 1935 and his body was laid to rest in the Westview Cemetery in the West End area of Atlanta, Georgia. Civilla lived another thirteen years before her departure on March 9, 1948. Her body was laid next to her husband to await the return of the Lord.

-Sources: 101 More Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck, page 106 & Various Internet Sites

Location Of The Grave Of W.S. & C.D. Martin

The Martins are buried in the Westview Cemetery in Atlanta Georgia. Just west of downtown in what is known as the West End community lies this great historic memorial cemetery to many of Atlanta's most prestigious and memorable cemeteries. Many Christians are buried there as well. Inside the I-285 Perimeter take Exit #53. The cemetery lies to the south of the expressway. If coming from the downtown area you will turn left on W. Lake Ave. Cross under the expressway and bear to the left on Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. If coming from the west you will exit the expressway and turn left onto Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Then bear to the right on Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. The entrance of the cemetery is located at 1680 Westview Dr SW, Atlanta, 30310 - (404) 755-6611. The graves are located in the rear of the cemetery in the SW corner, on the NW end of Section 18. Look for two "WILLIAMS" monuments side-by-side facing west. The Martin plot will be three rows behind. A map of the cemetery can be easily obtained in the office at the entrance of the cemetery.

GPS Location Of The Grave
Acc. To 14'
N 33°44.673' x WO 84°27.346'
Grave Faces NE

Walter Stillman Martin
March 8, 1862
December 16, 1935

Civilla Durfee Martin
August 21, 1866
March 9, 1948

History Home

History Index Page