Captain William Martin (1806-1859)


Captain William Martin was born in Halifax County, Virginia in 1806. He married Sarah Glass on September 30, 1828. They both moved to Weakley County in 1832 where according to family records they brought only two four horse teams, about five or six slaves and two thousand dollars in cash. They would first settle six miles northeast of Dresden, where they remained until 1838. Captain Martin is considered to have planted the first tobacco crop in Weakley County in 1831. By 1838, he had purchased twenty-five hundred acres of land one and one half mile from the City of Martin s present business district. According to other family records, the entire tract, with the exception of about twenty acres, was covered by an immense primeval forest.

After moving his family into a temporary log structure, Captain Martin began construction on a frame that would later become one of the finest in the country prior to the Civil War. Captain Martin continued to prosper by growing tobacco and having it shipped to New Orleans by flatboat. Between 1840 and 1850, he had advanced both economically and politically both locally and statewide. In 1852, recognizing the significance of the railroad, Martin campaigned to have the Hickman and Obion Railroad add a connection to their already existing Union City - Hickman route. Desperate to have the railroad pass through his property led he personally subscribed five thousand dollars to insure its construction. However, his private subscription was inadequate to complete the road so the citizens of the region were requested to levy a tax for the necessary funds. Martin s hard work for the tax were essential in securing a favorable margin for subscription. Yet, it was not until 1857 when the Tennessee Supreme Court voted to approve the railroad s expansion through Weakley County. The track would eventually be completed just after the start of the Civil War in 1861.

Captain Martin died in 1859 prior to seeing his vision of a completed railroad through his adopted county. His will left approximately 2,500 acres of land to his five surviving children. In 1872, the sons of Captain Martin, led by George W. Martin, launched a campaign to entice the Mississippi Central Railroad to reroute there proposed railroad through their land. The offer was taken and the intersection of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad (previously known as Hickman and Obion) and the Mississippi Central is presently the site of Martin, Tennessee which was named in honor of Captain William Martin.


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