Oceana Wardlaw Martin (1885-1909) was murdered in East Orange, New Jersey by her aunt to collect her insurance money. (b. September 1885; New York City, New York, USA - d. November 29, 1909; 89 East 14th Street, East Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, USA)

Names[edit | edit source]

Oceana Wardlaw Martin, and Ocey Snead.

Parents[edit | edit source]

Robert Maxwell Martin (1840-1901) and Caroline Belle Wardlaw (1845-1913)

Birth[edit | edit source]

September 1885; New York City, New York, USA

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Ocey married Fletcher Wardlaw Snead (1872-1909), her first cousin. Fletcher was the son of Mary L. Wardlaw and Fletcher Tillman Snead. Fletcher appears in the 1880 US Census living in Oglethorpe, Macon, Georgia with his parents. Fletcher was previously married to Vashti Gordan McLaurine (1872-?) who was born in Old Lynnville, Giles County, Tennessee. Fletcher and Vashti had the following child together: Robert Tilman Snead (1900-?).

Children[edit | edit source]

They had the following children: Mary Alberta Snead (1908), and David Pollock Snead (1909-?).

Murder[edit | edit source]

Lula Porterfield Givens writes: "The Montgomery Fe­male College, an institution of learning and good repute was bequeathed by Mrs. O.S. Polluck to her sister Mrs. Martha Wardlaw and to Mrs. Wardlaw's daughters, Mrs. Mary W. Snead, Mrs. Caroline Martin and Miss Virginia Wardlaw, the last named 'unmarried, cultured, and beautiful.' Abraham Lincoln called 'the Great Emancipator' was a symbol of freedom in our American History. Conversely, the Three Sisters were perfect examples of planned manipulation. They moved people around like figures on a chess board to fit their nefarious schemes to enslave and use persons in ways to benefit themselves. Caroline visited Mary Snead's son, John age 28, who was married and living in Lynville, Tennessee. While there she persuaded John to leave his wife and return with her to Christiansburg to teach in the college. At first, his wife objected so strongly to his leaving that he called the police to evict his aunt from his house. Undaunted, she came a second time and this time he returned with her to teach at the Montgomery Female Academy. Fletcher, the brother of John Snead also was married and living in Tennessee. After a period of time, Fletcher divorced his wife and came to the college and married Ocey Snead, his first cousin. As time went on, the sisters owed many debts which they could not or would not pay. Lawyers had claims against them. Misfortune befell John, traveling with Mrs. Martin he had fallen off a train, accidentally he said, but the brakeman said it looked like a suicide attempt. Later, John half-­drowned, had been pulled from a cistern by Sonny Correll, caretaker at the college. Weeks later he was found on fire in his nightclothes, the bed saturated with kerosene. Several hours later he died. Incidentally, his life had been sizably insured by his aunts; the beneficiary changed from his wife's name to Virginia Wardlaw. Virginia Wardlaw went among the residents of Christiansburg soliciting affidavits to the accidental death of John Snead, but met with little success for the townspeople suspected foul play. Eventually the insurance company made a satisfactory settlement with Virginia Wardlaw. Sinister events created fear among the townspeople. They were afraid to answer the knock on the door for often the Sisters were there, veiled, somber and austere. People were afraid to go on the streets at night. The sisters were known to visit the cemetery often. One hack driver said they frequently hired him to drive them to the cemetery. They always had him stop at the edge while they walked farther into the grounds. One night he followed them unseen to see them gather about a grave making gestures skyward and murmuring incantations which he could not understand. His whole body shook with fear so strong was his feeling that evil was near. Prior to 1908, the Black Sisters had left Christiansburg one by one, so had Ocey and Fletcher Snead. A year later the death of Ocey Snead was carried in the papers. In East Orange, New Jersey, the police had been called to a shabby house. A woman thickly veiled in black, who identified herself as Virginia Wardlaw, led them upstairs to a bathroom where he found the nude body of a beautiful girl, Ocey Snead, squatted in a halftub of water with her head tilted under the faucet. A suicide note in which the girl expressed despondency for the loss of loved ones was pinned to a garment beside the tub. Miss Wardlaw's answers to the police were not satisfactory and she was held for further questioning. A janitor said that year earlier Ocey and Fletcher had moved into a house in which they seemed happy. Several months later they said two older women dressed in black came. After that Fletcher left. Five months later Ocey had given birth to a baby boy which was put in a hospital. Ocey told the doctor that she was being starved to death and begged for help. At the same time the aunts were dining at prestigious restaurants. The doctor said the aunts would not allow the niece to talk with him, would not give her the medicines had had prescribed for her nor would they allow him to remove the stitches from an operation he had performed on her. A will was brought forward in which Ocey had left everything to her 84 year old grandmother. The trial of the sisters began January 9, 1911 and dragged through the courts for several years in which time no satisfactory explanation could be given for incriminating events brought to light. Eventually, Mary Snead, implicated with Virginia Wardlaw, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released in the custody of her son, Albert, who took her to Colorado to live out her days on a ranch he owned. During the trial Fletcher Snead, husband of Ocey Snead, was investigated as a suspect. He was found under an assumed name cooking in a lumber camp in Canada. No incriminating evidence was found against him. Caroline W. Martin was sentenced to jail and sent to the New Jersey State Prison. Her behavior was so unstable that she was transferred to the State Hospital for the Insane where she died shortly after. Virginia G. Wardlaw starved herself to death while awaiting trial and her body was sent to Christiansburg. After a simple funeral service she was buried in Sunset Cemetery not far from the Montgomery Female College. Christiansburg High School was built on the site of the college in 1930. At the present, it contains the Christiansburg Middle School, with a new high school built on Independence Boulevard to take care of the growing population."


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