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Thomas Martin

THOMAS MARTIN. Indissolubly connected with the history of Giles County is the life of Thomas Martin. The son of Rev. Abram Martin, he was born in Albemarle County, Va., on the 16th of December 1799, and in 1818 moved to Pulaski, Tenn., to carve his own fortune in what was then the far West. Imbued with a deep religious fervor which characterized his entire life, he early joined the Methodist Church, of which he was ever after an active and earnest member. In a comparatively short time, by economy, prudence sobriety and an unusual facility for business, he had amassed a respectable fortune, which was entirely swept away by the treachery of his partner in business, who had been left in entire control of Mr. Martin's funds, while the latter was absent for a short time on a visit to his parents. Despite the blow, which would have utterly crushed the hopes and ambitions of most young men, he firmly refused to take the advice of friends and attorneys to avail himself of the plea of infancy, for he was not yet grown to man's estate, and assuming the entire obligations of his false partner, he started again in business with the declaration: "If God gives me life and strength, every dollar shall be paid." Against such energy and iron-will the fates themselves are powerless to prevail; the character and integrity shown in the beardless boy challenged the admiration of the entire business community; be was quickly offered a partnership by the principal merchant of Pulaski, and it was not long before the firm of Meredith & Martin became known throughout Middle Tennessee. About this time he married Miss Nancy Topp, and formed a co-partnership with his brother-in-law, Dr. Wm. Topp, a highly educated and accomplished physician, and one of those hardy pioneers, who, on the staff of Andrew Jackson, aided in achieving the laurels of " Old Hickory," and added not a little to the brilliant successes of the Seminole war. The new firm displayed the activity, which had accompanied all the enterprises with which Mr. Martin had been connected, and by utilizing the small streams which flow into the Elk River, secured a market for the cotton of Giles county in New Orleans, then, as now, the chief cotton mart of the world. Mr. Martin had now become the recognized financier of his section, and the subject of a railroad through the central portion of the State being agitated, his aid and counsel were eagerly solicited. He was not slow to perceive the advantages which railway communication with north Alabama would give to Giles County, and rode night and day to personally solicit the aid of every man, who could assist the enterprise. In a short time the idea became a fact; the Southern Central Railroad, which is now a part of the great Louisville & Nashville system, was built and soon after Thomas Martin became its president. Though Mr. Martin took no active part in politics, he was a life-long Democrat, and thoroughly concurred with the doctrines of that party, and on the accession of James K. Polk to the Presidency he was tendered the secretaryship of the treasury, which office, however, he declined. Though he had always firmly refused a nomination for any political office, he consented to act as one of the commissioners to the Peace Conference, and did everything in his power to avert the dreadful calamities, which followed the civil war. Mr. Martin died in 1870 at the age of seventy years, leaving a large fortune, despite the losses which he had suffered by the war. He had several children; but Ophelia, who married Judge Henry M. Spofford, afterward United States Senator from Louisiana, was the only one living at the time of his death. His charities were numerous: he contributed largely to the building of the Methodist Church in Pulaski, and to the male academy, and endowed the large and handsome female seminary which bears his name. He never failed to aid the youth who was struggling with poverty, provided he was moral and industrious. In death, as throughout life, he was a zealous Christian, and died with the praises of the Redeemer on his lips: "Sweet Lamb of God, I'll see Thy bright face, joy! joy!" being nearly his last words on earth. "In business he was a giant," once remarked an admirer; he might have added that in all the grander attributes of human character, he was the ideal of splendid manhood.

From: Goodspeed's History of Giles County