Over one hundred years ago, Frederick John Martyn began a journey that would establish his family as respectable and compassionate members of the North Bay and area community. At 32 years of age, Mr. Martyn became involved in a business which his descendants would continue through two world wars, the depression, the nuclear age and the advent of space travel. Little could he have imagined that the tradition of trust he established in 1897 would be carried on four generations later, and into the 21st Century.
The year was 1890. Frederick Martyn, a teacher by trade, came to North Bay from Bowmanville, Ontario with his brother to build houses. Some time after his arrival in North Bay, Frederick met and married Mary McKenzie. Mary's brother, William McKenzie, had been in North Bay since 1887 and was the proprietor of the local furniture and undertaking establishment at 29 Main Street West. In 1897, F.J. and William entered into a partnership to run this business together.
Embalming was not a common practice in the 19th century. Usually someone outside of the deceased's family was called upon to wash, shave and lay out the bodies in the home. As the local cabinet maker or furniture merchant normally supplied the coffin, they were also asked to undertake these other preparations. Eventually they handled all of the funeral details. As was customary at the time, the wake prior to the funeral would take place in the home of the deceased followed by the funeral service at a church. Therefore, nothing more than a store front was needed to conduct the business of undertaking.
F.J. Martyn Furniture and Undertaking
With the turn of the century came a new era of optimism. In 1907, Frederick purchased from William his share of the business and became the sole proprietor. The business was renamed F.J. Martyn Furniture and Undertaking and served an ever growing population.
F.J. and Mary had three sons, one of whom died as an infant. The other two helped with the business until the eldest son William Mervyn, went to school to become a Doctor and eventually serve d in WWI. The youngest son Ian, remained at home with his father. With the advent of embalming at the turn if the century, undertaking became a full time business and eventually the furniture side if the enterprise was sold.
In 1920 (five years before North Bay was incorporated as a city), Ian Martyn married Elizabeth Dales and together they had four children. Ian continued to work with his father until F.J.'s death in 1949 at which time Ian took control of the business. By this time, residences were getting smaller, more and more wakes were taking place at the funeral Parlour and the Main Street location was getting too small. In 1950, a short time after Frederick John's death, the Main Street property was sold to Solomon Waiser.
Wyld and Worthington Street
The funeral home was briefly relocated to 220 Worthington Street East before moving to its current location at the corner of Wyld and Worthington Streets. The building (formerly the Rankin Home) was remodelled to expand the parlour for visiting and a chapel was added to provide an option to church funerals. Later, Ian and Elizabeth would live above the funeral home, as was common for the proprietor at the time.
Martyn Ambulance Service
Funeral services required some specialized vehicles and equipment. Because this same equipment was used to transport hospital patients, many undertaking establishments also operated an ambulance service.
For many years, the Martyn Ambulance Service provided emergency transportation for the sick and injured. Answering calls in the middle of the night, during Sunday dinner and even at Christmas was a part of life with the ambulance. The Martyn's continued this service until the mid sixties when the Ontario Government began to standardize ambulance service in the province.
Ian's two sons helped with the ambulance as well as the funeral home until the older son Ian Jr. left to serve overseas in WWII. Upon his return, Ian Jr. attended the University of Toronto and became a psychologist. The younger son, George, was left to carry on with his father. In 1948 he married Gertrude Anne Heighton and together they had four daughters and one son, Ian Sr. died in 1962 leaving George to carry on the business.
Fourth generation continues...
George, a recognised athlete and sportsman in the North Bay area, continued the caring tradition of the funeral home. He was known not only for his sporting achievements but also as a compassionate person who went out of his way to assist families who needed his help. George died tragically while on a fishing trip in Algonquin Park in 1977. Rather than give up the Martyn family name to a conglomerate, George's wife Anne took control of he business and learned how to successfully carry on its reputation. By doing so, she allowed a fourth generation of Martyns to continue the tradition of caring for the families of North Bay.
Renewed family involvement
The 1980's saw more family involvement in the funeral home. George and Anne's eldest daughter Linda, along with her husband, former RCMP officer David Porter, joined the business to lend their strength and compassion to the people of North Bay. As the 80's drew to a close, family circumstances saw the Porters leave for a new life in Oakville, Ontario.
In 1990, after five years of practical experience in funeral service in Toronto, George and Anne's youngest child Ian joined the business. Ian continues to foster the Martyn family heritage and is proud to be the fourth generation of a single family involved in funeral service in North Bay. Along with a dedicated and caring staff, Ian hopes to serve the residents of North Bay for many years to come.
Tradition of Trust Since 1897
Martyn Funeral Home is the oldest family owned and operated funeral service provider in North Bay and Nipissing. For over 110 years the Martyn's have built on Frederick's beginnings to establish themselves as respectable and compassionate members of the community. As we face the new challenges of the 21 Century, the Martyn Family will maintain their reputation and continue to provide to the people of the North Bay a “Tradition of Trust Since 1897".