Col. Thomas Martin

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Thomas Martin

Birthplace: Albemarle County, VA, United States
Death: January 13, 1870 (70)
Pulaski, Giles County, TN, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev. Abraham Martin and Jane Oglesby Martin
Husband of Nancy Hennen Martin
Father of William Marcellus Martin; Laura Emeline Blewett; Ophelia Jane Spofford; Victoria Martin and Cornelia Ann Martin
Brother of Abram Martin

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About Col. Thomas Martin

Martin Methodist College bears the name of Thomas Martin who provided for the establishment of a school for girls in Giles County by giving the original endowing gift of $30,000 through a provision in his will in 1870. His bequest was the fulfillment of a dream of his daughter Victoria who, before her death at the age of twenty, requested that her father establish such a school for young women.

Thomas Martin, the son of a Methodist minister, was born in 1799 and moved to Pulaski, Tennessee, while he was a young man. He possessed unusual business acumen and made his mark in the business world early in life, soon becoming a millionaire. He was a friend of President James K. Polk of nearby Columbia, Tennessee, and was once offered the position of United States Treasurer. He served as president of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, president of a local savings bank, an influential political figure in the region, and a loyal member of the Methodist Church in Pulaski.

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; he 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 copartnership 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.

Founder of Martin Methodist College in Giles County, TN

Sole Source: Colonial Families of the Southern States of America: A History and Genealogy, by Stella Pickett Hardy

'He was one of the great financers of his day; a supporter of the Methodist Church; President Polk offered him the Secretaryship of the Treasurer, but this he declined; he m. in Davidson County, Tennessee on Oct. 12, 1824, Miss N. H. Topp.

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Col. Thomas Martin's Timeline

December 16, 1799
Albemarle County, VA, United States
Age 25
Age 26
December 1830
Age 30
Age 33
Age 38
January 13, 1870
Age 70
Pulaski, Giles County, TN, United States