Wondering about Martha Lane

We have a weekly event at work called Reminiscing Thursday. Our seniors are invited to bring something from their past to share. There isn’t an agenda, and we have no idea where the discussions will lead. Since I am the ringleader, the pressure is on for me to bring something interesting each week. Even though I have a lot to choose from, I’m usually searching around the night before for that perfect item.

This week was more of the same, I was searching through a couple of boxes and came across a school register for my wife’s grandmother. It’s called the Welch’s System of Classification, Gradation and Close Supervision. Zella (McConnell) LeVan attended a one room school house in Kalamo Twp., Eaton Co., MI. This register shows the group of students as they proceed from one year to the next “to each succeeding teacher”. It contains class curriculum, as well as grades and teachers notes for each student.

Zella grew up to be a teacher. She taught in Charlotte, MI. I’m not exactly sure how she obtained this book. In 1913, Zella was in the 5th grade at Hinkley School. That school year is on the first page of the register, and it ends with the year 1920.  It may have been her love of teaching that prompted someone to give the register to her.


That year, Hinkley School had 19 total students in grades 1 through 8. Five of Zella’s  classmates were her cousins from nearby farms. Her teacher that year was Martha A. Lane. An interesting side note is that in each succeeding school year in the book, there was a different teacher.

Hinckley School with Martha Lane and her class – 1913/1914

As I was finding this register in the box, I also came across a formal portrait of Martha Lane. On the back of the picture holder Zella wrote , “Martha Lane. Our Hinkley teacher when I was 9 years old, in the 5th grade. Obviously she was a favorite teacher and a special person in Zella’s life. She may have even inspired her to become a teacher.

Martha Lane – c.1913

I wondered about Martha Lane. What had become of her? Where did she go after that one year at the Hinkley School? Was someone that mentored Grandma as she began her own teaching career?

I looked her up on Ancestry.com. Luck would have it, I found her. And, there was another picture. And there was something unexpected – a death date of April 7, 1919. According to Ancestry, Martha was born on January 27, 1894. This would have made her only 19 when she began teaching school that year at Hinkley. She also married a man named Victor Schinkez.

So, what had happened? How did she die? There is a great repository of Michigan death records called Seeking Michigan. I searched and up came her death certificate. She had died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. Martha is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Charlotte, MI.

I wish Grandma was still alive to ask more about Martha Lane.

Zella would have been only 15 when Martha passed away.