Pressley Martin (1773-1855) and
the Point House
Pressley Martin was born in Martin’s Fort in Monongalia County during an
Indian attack in 1773, the son of Col. Charles Martin, commander of the
fort. This same fort at Morgantown was used to defend the colonial
people against British attacks during the Revolutionary War.
Pressley came to the territory that is now New Martinsville in 1808. He
boarded at a house on the south side of Fishing Creek and the Ohio River
then owned by Abraham Hanes (known as the Myers house - close to the
Brooklyn Bridge). In 1810, Pressley purchased the land on which is now
situated the town of New Martinsville. The land was part of Edward
Doolin’s original homestead
where he lived with his family until he was killed in 1785. In 1810 this
land was still owned by Edward’s widow who sold the 80 acres to Pressley
In 1811 New Martinsville consisted of that 80 acres bounded by North Street,
Maple Avenue, Fishing Creek, and the Ohio River. There he built the Point
House which stood on the property now occupied by the residence of Clem
Clegg on the north side of Fishing Creek where it joins the Ohio River.
He carried the wrought iron nails for the house from Morgantown to New
Martinsville in packsaddles. (Another account states that the nails, made by
a blacksmith, came from West Liberty.) The weather boarding was 1½ inches
thick and was grooved on the underside leaving a flap to cover the next
board something like the present filistered weather boarding. His house was
very large, and on many occasions, people going up and down the river used
it as a stopover. It is shown in the top center of the collage.
A short time after purchasing the land, he was married to Margaret Clinton.
In 1815, Pressley became the first postmaster in this section and received
the handsome salary of $9.00 for the year 1817. The salary was based on the
amount of postal business passing through the office. In 1957 Mrs. Westerman
still had many of Pressley’s letters addressed to “Postmaster, Mouth of
Fishing Creek, Virginia”.
In 1836 Martin laid out the town of Martinsville, Va, which was later
changed to New Martinsville since there was already a Martinsville in Henry
County, Va. He was a member of the committee that formed the town and county
government. In 1846 when Wetzel County was formed from Tyler County, the
home of Sampson Thistle was purchased for $400, and it was repaired and
modified to serve as the first Wetzel County Courthouse. This building was
located at Main and Jefferson Streets
where the Shiben Building now stands. The committee also selected the
permanent site of the courthouse to be built on two town lots Pressley and
Margaret Martin donated at the northeast corner of Main and Washington
Streets. An additional lot was purchased for $300. The second courthouse
building was completed in 1850, and it faced south on Washington Street
served for the next 50 years.
Pressley Martin died in 1855. He and his wife Margaret are buried in
the old Williams Cemetery at the south edge of Steelton where many of the
early New Martinsville family gravesites are found.
One of the often-repeated stories about Pressley Martin seems to be not well
founded. When Edward Doolin was killed in September 1785, his wife
took refuge in a blockhouse in which a man named Martin was living alone.
This blockhouse was located at the site of the New Martinsville Fire Station
and old City Hall on Ohio Street. Some accounts say it was Presley
Martin at the blockhouse, but he was only a teenager at that time, and
was not likely present in the area. Born in 1773, he would have been
about 12 years old. Although young men and even teenagers had to grow
up fast on the frontier, it doesn’t seem likely that a 12 year old would be
living there. A number of other Martins were on the frontier in those days.
Mrs. Westerman’s account states that Pressley first came to the Ohio Valley
in 1808 when he would have been about 25 years old, a more reasonable
Information for this story was published in the Wetzel Republican on January
17, 1957. It originated from an interview with Mrs. S. W. Westerman, of New
Martinsville, the great-great granddaughter of Pressley Martin. Jim
Fitzsimmons (’42) provided the Republican story; Ruthie (Wood) LaFon (’60)
was also a contributor; and Bill Shepherd, Martha’s husband, made the
photographs of the
Martin gravesite in Williams Cemetery. Compilation, editing and additional
comments by SWMc.
ADDITIONAL INFO AND THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE/Pictures:
Sam McColloch - Dec 4, 2007
" I just noticed the disagreement between Pressley Martin's birth date as
recorded on his grave monument (1778) and that reported by Mrs. Westerman in
her interview (1773). If the actual date was 1778, then he would have been 7
years old at the time of Edward Doolin's death in 1785,
and it is even more unlikely that it was Pressley at the blockhouse where
Mrs.Doolin sought shelter. Another possibility is that there has been a typo
error in writing the date - 1773 can become 1778 by just closing in the
number 3, or an 8 can become a 3 by not writing the number carefully. This
is another example how history gets rewritten."
Does anyone have the true facts/date and proof of it somewhere in your
Submited by Vicki (Riggenbach) Reed