• “God’s refusals are always merciful…God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Civilla D. Martin (1866-1948)

Daughter of James N. and Irene Hard­ing Hold­en, Ci­vil­la taught school be­fore mar­ry­ing Wal­ter Mar­tin. To­ge­ther, they pro­duced a num­ber of Gos­pel songs.


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3 Responses to Civilla D. Martin (1866-1948)

  • Richard Wentzell says:

    Do you have any additional information on Civilla? I live in Nova Scotia and would like to know more of her childhood. Thanks

  • Wanda Dunn says:

    Hello, I looked at findagrave.com and found the following on the website for her husband, Rev. Walter S. Martin. While not related to her childhood, this writing gives interesting details about the inspiration for her hymn-writing. Here is a copy of the write-up: Walter attended Harvard University where he studied for the ministry and was later ordained as a Baptist minister. His wife, Civilla Durfee Holden, 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. She and her husband and son are buried in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta, GA.

  • Lori Pruss says:

    I have had the privilege of singing His Eye is on the Sparrow many times and love it so! Today I referenced some of its lyrics in my morning devotional time. This led me to research the author. Finding this site and reading the above article have really touched me and I want to thank you for making the effort to expound on her life, their life together, and how their gifts of lyrics and composition were profoundly used by the Lord.

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  • “False humility and morbid introspection are, in fact, the opposite of brokenness, as they reveal a preoccupation with self, rather than Christ.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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