Family Details by Anne G. Campbell
Martha Torrey was born on July 30, 1919 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Her father was called James Comyges Torrey and was born in 1884. He was the oldest son of James Windrim Torrey and Martha McIvor.
His father (James W) died when James C was quite young and he went to work at an early age to help out his mother and younger siblings. He went to work for a bank (the Philadelphia National Bank) where his father had worked, so that he had a patron. He rose through his own efforts to become at some point a vice-president of the bank.
Martha McIvor was known in the family as Gramma Torrey and in later years lived with Martha Torrey and her family. The Torreys had come over to the US fairly early. I believe it was through them that the legendary family connections with Betsy Ross and Alexander Hamilton stemmed, but I'm not sure.
Martha's mother was Anne Wallace Culver, daughter of Anne Jane Skilton Wallace and Theodore B. Culver. Anne Jane was known as Grandmother and was a major influence on young Martha's life. Theodore Culver, known as Grandfather, was a mill-owner and quite wealthy. She loved him very much and was very sad when he died when she was relatively young. Grandmother was of Irish stock - I believe that it was her mother who came over from Ireland. The old family home was called Kilrae, and Anne Wallace Culver, Martha's mother, visited it in her youth and encountered numerous cousins there.
The two people Martha loved the most were her father and her grandmother. Her relationship with her mother was somewhat difficult (though not a disaster.) Martha also deeply loved her three siblings. Her sister Anne was born in around 1921. She was not normal from birth. She never fully developed mentally. She did not have any standard form of problem - her whole body was very odd. When she died there was an autopsy and they were fascinated to see what had happened with her - apparently some of her organs did not work and others had substituted for them in various ways. The birth of sister Anne took Martha's mother's time away from the beginning. She always required a great deal of care, some of which came from Martha as she grew older. This was the source of a life-long interest in retarded people, with whom Martha was much more comfortable than most people are.
Next in age was Theodore Torrey, generally called Ted. Following him was James Windrim Torrey, born in 1925, known as Jim.
The family lived in Jenkintown, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, in a very old house called Cedarmount. This was only a few blocks from the house where Grandmother and Grandfather lived, also in Jenkintown. Both were substantial old houses. Cedarmount was old enough to have had walls thick enough that windowseats and windowsills were almost interchangeable. 221 Greenwood Avenue, where Grandmother and Grandfather Culver lived, was in the family until the sixties at least. It was a beautiful house, set within a wall, with gorgeous grounds. Both households had servants. The Culvers had at least a cook and the chauffeur, while the Torreys had at least a cook throughout. I believe that all the servants were African Americans, and I know that Martha was very fond of several of them.
Martha Torrey later had several favorite stories of this time in her life. Most of these are forgotten except for some small vignettes -
Martha's mother, struck by giggles at a dinner party, covering her head with her napkin.
Martha's grandfather, substantial mill-owner that he was, making time in his busy schedule to take Martha out to buy her hair ribbons. She had, at this time, very long hair which was curled and set off with a very large bow. It was the material for these bows that was purchased on these trips. I believe they usually shopped at Wanamaker's, an old Philadelphia department store. Mr. Wanamaker was a good friend of the Culvers.
Back to Martha Gillies pages