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This article ran in the Tampa Sunday Tribune on June 26, 1955.

G. M. O'Steen of Dade City also has memories of the days when the circuit rider ministered to the spiritual needs of the people in the sparsely settled regions of the state - one of his ancestors was in the service. Two generations of his pioneer forefathers handed down factual history and legend, and Mr. O'Steen has interesting personal memories.


George W. Martin and Wife Elizabeth Sutten Alford Martin


"Your Pioneer Florida page in The Tribune is very interesting. Some of the articles bring back memories of things I've heard my parents tell about when I was only a lad, as well as things I remember back there in the horse and buggy days. J. Chester Lee's article about the circuit riders refreshed my memory on some of these happenings."

"I was born July 29, 1900 in the northeast corner of what is now Gilchrist County, on the Santa Fe River. It was then a part of Alachua County. I may tell you later of things that happened up in that part of our state many years ago as told to me by my parents, who were both born in 1861, the year of the Civil War—panther, bear and Indian stories, some handed down from my grandparents, who also spent most of their lives in Gilchrist County."

"MY GRANDFATHER on my mother's side, George W. Martin move to Florida from Dublin, Ga. when quite a young man and never went back even on a visit. He was in love with a girl, and when her parents moved her down here he soon followed. They were married but she died after two girls were born into the home, one being my mother."

"He later married again and raised quite a family. He was ordained a Baptist minister and was I suppose what you would call a circuit rider. I've heard my mother tell of riding up behind grandfather on horseback as he made his rounds to his churches. They only had services once a month, and so preached at more than one church, sometimes in the homes."

"I have a Bible that he preached from on these rounds. It is one of my most treasured possessions, passed to my mother at his death, then to me, and going to my son at my death. It has on the flyleaf notes of his favorite scriptures, date of purchase, the name of the person he bought it from and price. He died almost a half century ago."

"WHEN I WAS a youngster we had services on the fourth Sunday and as Mr. Lee Said, some lived on so far there was no night services; but I do remember when there was preaching on Saturday instead of night service."

"The old home church, named Mt. Horeb, was established in 1859 if my memory is right. They recently dedicated a new concrete building."

"As Mr. Lee said, the minister would read off a verse of the hymn the all would sing together. They used the Old Sacred Harp songbooks, with shaped notes, which were called the do, re, mi's. Sometimes all parts would be sung with the notes only, then the words."

"I can remember a story my father told me about a prayer meeting they once had when there was a long dry spell and the crops began to suffer, everybody would gather at the church to pray for rain."

"On one of these occasions there was a man who seemed to be a bit short on faith. When the meeting broke up this fellow walked out the door and looked around and there were no clouds to be seen. He said, "Fellows, you can pray for rain as much as you please, but there'll not be a drop till the wind changes from the east." It so happened everybody got wet going home."

"I REMEMBER GOING to Grandfather Martin's only once. He had moved to Cross City. Mother, Father and I went over for a week end visit."

"We went in a top buggy drawn by a mule named Beck. We crossed several streams of water. Sometimes the water would almost come up in the buggy. We crossed the Suwannee near Old Town. There was no bridge so we crossed on a ferry. Sometimes that night Beck got out of her stall and left. Father tracked her back to the river, where the ferryman had her shut up."

"On our way back home I was my first steamboat. We had just crossed the ferry when her whistle blew upstream. We stopped until it passed. I don't remember the name of the boat but it was propelled by a big wheel with wide blades on its stern"

"GRANDFATHER JOINED the Confederate Army at the beginning of the war and was gone four years without much contact with his family. The war over, he walked days on end getting back home."

"I recall hearing mother tell of his return as told to her by grandmother. She was rocking mother to sleep before retiring herself when she heard a familiar old 'cow holler' as they called it, about a mile up the road. She recognized the voice and went on a run with mother in her arms to meet grandfather."

"I recall one experience he had during the war. A battle was raging; with the Yankees getting the best of it. He ducked down behind a log just as the order to retreat came. The Yankees saw him and started pounding away at the log. With a prayer on his lips, he came up running. The bullets whizzed by on all sides, but he escaped without a scratch, to come home and preach the word of God until he was called home."

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Since this article was written much more has been learned through research about George W. Martin. His first wife was Rebbeca Saphronia Gomillion, married in Barnwell county, South Carolina on September 25, 1858. They had two children Frances Agnes and Rebbeca Saphronia. His wife Rebbeca died in abt 1867. They were down on the coast near Sherid Island, in Dixie County making salt from seawater when she took ill and died, she is buried in a private cemetery in the woods near there. George's application for a Confederate Pension indicates that he came to Florida in December of 1858, he served in Company H of the 1st Florida Cavalry.

On October 20, 1867 he married the lady shown in the picture Elizabeth Sutten Alford, they had 12 children. Many of George's descendents continue to live in or near Gilchrist County. If you would like more information please contact Johnnie Martin at jmarti58@ bellsouth.net or 6849 SW CR-341 Trenton, Florida 32693.