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Published by Brink, McDonough & Co., Philadelphia 1879

Page 176

HENRY F. MARTIN who is well known as having been a representative in the twenty-ninth General Assembly and an active member from Brighton township of the board of supervisors for several years after its first organization, has been a resident of the county since 1838. He was born in the city of Providence, Rhode Island, June 8th, 1826. His forefathers had been residents of Rhode Island for several generations, reaching back to the first settlement of the state by Roger Williams; the early members of the family belonged to the old Baptist stock, which was the pioneer element in founding Rhode Island. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all born and raised in the city of Providence. The name of his father was David Martin, and his mother's maiden name was Caroline Wilcox, who was also born in Providence. She belonged to a seafaring family, and several of her connections were sea captains. Her brother was employed in the East India trade when in its most flourishing state, and was accustomed to make long voyages, sometimes being absent two or three years. The subject of this sketch was the oldest of four children. He lived in Providence till ten years of age and while in that city, from the age of three years, he attended school regularly. The opportunities he there enjoyed comprised all the advantages he ever had in the way of obtaining an education. In 1835 his father embarked in the mercantile business at New Orleans, and in June, 1836, opened a store at Alton, to which place he removed his family from Providence in October of the same year. In about three weeks after the family reached Alton, and while engaged in building a residence, his father died, leaving his wife and children almost without a protector in a strange country. His mother married as her second husband, Samuel Avis, who owned land in Brighton township, and began improving it, which circumstance was the occasion of Mr. Martin's first coming to Macoupin county. From the age of fifteen he took care of himself, and made his own living. While he was thus deprived of advantages and comforts which he might otherwise have enjoyed, it may have been that the hard lessons which he was obliged to learn in boyhood were of material assistance in forming his future character. When about twenty-one, he was clerk at Alton in the store of Lyne S. Metcalfe, afterward representative in Congress from St. Louis. January 26th, 1848, he married Helen Moore, who was a native of the state of New Hampshire, but was living in Brighton township at the time of her marriage. In the year 1850 he settled on the farm he now owns, a mile and a half northeast of Brighton. This farm he himself improved. During five years, from 1860 to 1865, embracing the period of the war, he resided in Brighton, where he was engaged in the business of buying grain. He moved back to the farm, and has been living there ever since. He has two children, Henry F. Martin, Jr., who is now practicing medicine at Greenfield, Illinois, and John E. Martin. Mr. Martin began his political career as a member of the old Whig party, and the first vote he ever cast for president was given to General Taylor in 1848. He took comparatively little interest in political matters till the formation of the republican party, when he became a strong and earnest republican. In 1856 he was one of a band of republicans in Macoupin county who voted for Fremont for president, and was decidedly opposed to the plans of the southern leaders for the extension of slavery in the territories. In the early days of the republican party in Macoupin county, he was one of its active men, and previous to the war was a frequent delegate to republican state conventions and other similar representative bodies. In 1869 the republicans made him their nominee for associate judge, and though the county was strongly democratic, he was defeated by only seventy votes. On the adoption of township organization, he was elected, in 1871, the first member of the board of supervisors from Brighton township. He was subsequently re-elected twice, serving in all three years. While in the board of supervisors he was a member of the court house committee, and had an active participation in all the matters relating to the struggle between the people of the county and the holders of the bonds concerning their payment. He was strongly opposed to levying a tax to meet the bonds, and was one of the members of the board who were most active in fighting the bondholders and resisting payment until a compromise could be equitably arranged. While a member of the board, he was chairman of the finance committee and a member of the committee on claims. While temporary chairman, the first mandamus ever issued by the United States court in reference to the court house troubles was served on Mr. Martin. It was certain that the member of the board would be fined by the court for refusing to levy a tax as that the motion would be barely lost, and thus lessen the amount of fines to be paid by the county, each one voting in the negative being fined, and it being understood that the county would be responsible for the fines of each individual member. This plan was the means of saving to the county several thousand dollars. In 1874 he was the republican candidate for representative in the twenty-ninth General Assembly for the district embracing Macoupin and Jersey counties. He was elected, and while in the legislature on party questions and issues acted with the republicans. For fifteen consecutive years he filled the office of justice of the peace in Brighton township. He was first elected to fill a vacancy in 1856, and was subsequently re-elected three times. It has been generally remarked that he made as good a magistrate as probably could be found in any country district in the state. He possessed quick perceptive powers and considerable legal ability. He made it a point to carefully inform himself on all questions ordinarily within the scope of a justice's practice, and was unusually correct in his decisions and judgments.

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