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This material was provided by Charles Stark and is used with the express permission of the author William Clifford Martin.

A Tale of Two Henrys

(The Archivist's Nightmare)


Sparing the reader the murky reasons for an adolescent male's curiosity about history and family history, in 1953, I broke past my grandfather's answer that "we came from Red River County and have always been poor" and persuaded him to write his "educated" cousin. The answer from Dr. Thomas P. Martin and his wife Mabelle Eppard Martin began an inter generational friendship lasting eventually beyond their lives and extending to what I call the "cousin connection," keeping up with one another and corresponding about the family and its origins.

Dr. Tom assured me that there was a history before Red River County, but that he understood my grandfather's perspective and reckoned our coat of arms had to be crossed hoes on a field of cotton. He and Mabelle had planned a trip to Texas and would stop off in Caldwell County, Kentucky, to see what he could discover in the birthplace of his grandfather (also my grandfather's grandfather).

When Dr. Tom and Mabelle arrived in Western Kentucky, they already had the Bible record begun by George W(ashington?) Martin August 5, 1869, and they quickly found the marriage record between his father Henry J. Martin and Sarah W. Bush, dated December 11, 1820, matching the Bible record, together with the note from her father, William Bush, requesting issuance of the license, the bond surety signature of Simon T. Bush and the return of the officiating officer. Henry J. Martin, being twenty-one years of age, made his own bond. The Bible record recites his birth on August 18, 1799, and hers on May 3, 1804.

Also in the courthouse at Princeton was an indenture of trust between Henry J. Martin and his widowed mother, Mary Martin, in which she transferred land to him on condition of his supporting her for her lifetime. Further research would connect Mary (Polly) Hill to her husband, Jonas Martin, and the two of them to the migration led by her kinsman, Matthew Lyon, of several families from Vermont down the Ohio and up the Cumberland to the town of Eddyville, Lyon County, Kentucky. Which of the Martins Mary had married was not immediately clear, but the connection with the settlement of Vermonters was crystal clear. The Martins headed for Lyon County, adjoining Caldwell, only to discover that most of Eddyville was under water, flooded as part of the creation of Lake Barkley out of the Cumberland River. The older County Records were locked in the bank on high ground and were inaccessible to researchers. This did not seem a loss because they knew Henry J. and family were in Missouri long before Lyon County was created out of Caldwell, in 1854.

After noting some transactions in Caldwell and Trigg Counties involving settlement of William Bush's estate, and finding the expected reference to Henry J. and Sarah residing in Missouri in the 1840's, Dr. Tom and Mabelle pushed their research back into New England and into revolutionary war and colonial times. After Dr. Tom's death in 1963, I began to help with the documentation and preserved the research as best I could by registering my son in the Children of the American Revolution under the line of Reuben Martin of Lanesboro, Massachusetts, later of Charlotte, Vermont. Much time and expense went into proving what the family in New England had always known, that William (Seaborn) Martin was the son of Samuel Martin of New Haven and Wethersfield.

Then, in 1983, Dr. Tom's niece, Shelia Curry wrote me for help in preparing her D.A.R. papers, and the line established for my son for the Children of the American Revolution was questioned. Upon receiving my rather sarcastic letter, the Registrar patiently explained that the Society had no doubt of our descent from Henry J. Martin and Sarah Bush, and that the proof of Henry J. Martin's descent from Reuben was impeccable, but were we talking about the same Henry? I thought it was a silly question, took a few days vacation and headed for Kentucky.

On my way, I reflected on what Dr. Tom had told me about discrepancies or loose ends in the oral traditions of the family. According to the story told Dr. Tom in the 1920's by my great grandfather, his Uncle Monroe Martin, the family had "come early to the Obion River country in Tennessee," Henry J. had been born in Tennessee according to one census and in England according to another. Did they mean New England? Mary Hill Martin had a sister and brother in law in Tennessee. Could Henry have been born on a visit to them? Henry J. had two half brothers named John and Joe. Certainly he had a brother named William and one named Solomon in the records in Caldwell County. Where were John and Joe and what was their surname? Were they older and settled in Tennessee in one of the many counties drained by the forks of the Obion? Grandfather Henry was acquainted with and hunted bear with David Crockett. Well, who didn't? And which David Crockett? Dr. Tom had seen the powder horn with Henry's name on it. And what was that peculiar middle initial? "It is a "J," for his name was Henry Jones Martin," was Monroe's reply. "Jones" or "Jonas" for his father, I wondered.

Thomas Powderly Martin's biography can be found in the publication Cyclopedia of American Biography, and it includes the lineage he found, which is further preserved on the stone affixed to the gravestone of Emily Jane Martin at the grave site of her and George W. Martin in the Garland, Texas cemetery. He was an archivist and historian by profession, a careful scholar with a fine sense of humor and not one pretentious bone in his body. As my mentor, he had taught me that legends and stories were all very well, but the contemporary documents were to govern in any case of doubt. Being familiar with the Texas land system, I "knew" that the local abstract office would carry all land in the county by description and was sure that a careful examination of the history of the tracts described in the deeds and trusts I had from Caldwell county would show that the Henry J. joining with Sarah in the Bush estate and the Henry J. dealing with Mary Hill were one and the same and were the same as the Henry J. who had removed to Missouri in the 1840's.

I began to realize I was in trouble when the County Clerk asked me what I meant by an abstract of title and could not direct me to a title company. Then an elderly by-standing lawyer gave me a short course in Kentucky conveyancing and reminded me that most of what I was looking for was probably under Lake Barkley. Undaunted, I headed for Eddyville, hoping to find something (anything) in the records Dr. Tom and Mabelle had not been able to see. The records were accessible, though moldy and in poor order, and I went to the oldest index I could find. Sure enough, there were conveyances to and from Henry J. Martin. To my consternation, the first one I picked up recited him to be of Crittenden County, Kentucky, not Bates County, Missouri. I raced to Marion, where I found the older records in excellent condition, especially the will books. There, concealed from Dr. Tom and Mabelle for all practical purposes in the 1950's and therefore for almost thirty years from the rest of us, was the will of Henry J(ackson?) Martin, who died in 1856, within a year or so of Henry Jno. Martin, leaving his widow Elizabeth, his children not named in the will, and appointing as his executor his father-in-law John F. Bennett. The witnesses included his brother, Solomon W. Martin.

It may sound silly, but as a forty-five year old man, I had something of an identity crisis. I had been part of that family and they had been my heritage for a long time. It took a while to tell Mabelle (and, understandably, a while for her to respond). Sometime later, unfortunately some years before the Internet was available, I separated what pertained to my ancestor from the line I had followed, made files on that family, and placed the material in the college library at Murray State College in Murray, Kentucky, where I hope it will be useful to my new friend Sandra Button (sbutton@together.net), who is descended from those intrepid New Englanders who came south with "uncle" Matthew Lyon, surely one of the most colorful over achievers who ever swore "by the two bulls that bought me out of bondage."

Meanwhile, the cousin connection, through the years, has helped me regain an avid interest in family history. The family did, in fact, come early to the Obion River Country in Tennessee. After marrying Sally Bush, Henry J. Martin settled in Gibson County, Tennessee, and was appointed by the Tennessee legislature to serve as one of the Justices of the Peace who made up the County Court. He was well acquainted with the Crockett clan, performed marriages for them, served as surety for Patterson Crockett to be guardian of his nephew and probably hunted bear with any and all of the David Crocketts. He was apparently part of Governor William Carroll's faction of the Whig party (everyone was some kind of Whig back then). He was a wagon maker by trade, and owned an apparently small tract of land on the South Fork of the Obion River called Martin's Bluff, where elections were sometimes held "at Squire Martin's" by order of the Gibson County Court. Henry J. and Sarah W. Bush Martin returned to her family's land in Caldwell and Trigg Counties, Kentucky, prior to 1835.

His signature is unusual, and the middle initial has been transcribed as a "Y" or an "I" and various other letters. My writing him as Henry Jno.(usually an abbreviation for John or Jonathan) Martin comes from Emily Walker's transcription of the Gibson County tax list for Capt. Staton's Company, May 1826, as returned by himself, H. J. Martin, J.P. I would be interested in seeing the handwritten document. We have still not identified half brothers John and Joe, nor do we know the names of our Henry J.'s parents. My surmise is that Henry J.'s father died young and his mother remarried, producing the half brothers. He and Sally could have been kin of kin. Obviously, William Bush knew him fairly well to have consented to the marriage. Therefore, one approach of some of the cousin connection has been to try to understand the origins and relationships of the Bush family and their neighbors and relatives, the Walkers and Thetfords (variously spelled).

Henry J. Martin and Sarah W. Bush removed to Bates County, Missouri, prior to 1842. Their children were: Mariller Martin, born February 11, 1822; William H(enry) Martin, born September 21, 1824; James C(laxton) Martin, born May 11, 1827; Emily M. Martin, born December 23, 1829; Francis M(arion) Martin, born August 5, 1832; George W(ashington?) Martin, born January 28, 1835; and Lorenzo B(ush) Martin, born October 12, 1842. Sarah's last deed acknowledgment of record in Bates County, Missouri, was a month before Lorenzo's birth. We do not have the date of her death. After she died, and before the census of 1850, Henry remarried to a young lady named Martha Apperson or Epperson and had a son, Tillman W. Martin, who is not in the George W. Martin Bible record, but that is another story. We do not have the date of Henry's death, but Dr. Tom's notes give it in the year 1856. Some of the wounded from the battle at Baxter Springs were taken to Henry J.'s house, and on August 27, 1938, some of the hand hewn timbers from the house were still lying in G. W. Giger's pasture 5.4 miles west of Irwin, Missouri, on the highway just south of the cemetery where Henry is buried under a dead red oak tree marked by a rough, unlettered white stone. I have not been there; Dr. Tom had been.

I am loathe to copyright this narrative. The reason I do so is that it contains the work of too many people to name here. It will be subject to correction and amplification by myself and others over time and I do not wish to betray the trust of Dr. Tom and Mabelle and their descendants and the other participants in the cousin connection by waiving their rights. Therefore, subject to a consensus being formed about publication, all rights are reserved.

©William Clifford Martin, III, Longview, Texas, September 6, 1998