Joseph Martin

Joseph Martin (1740 - 1808)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Gen. Joseph Martin
Born in Albemarle Parish, Surry, Virginia, British Colonial Americamap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Husband of — married in Orange Co., Virginiamap
Husband of — married [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in Martinsville, Henry County, Virginiamap
Profile last modified | Created 4 Apr 2011
This page has been accessed 3,840 times.

Categories: Namesakes US Counties | US Southern Colonist | Virginia Notables.



US Southern Colonies.
Joseph Martin settled in the Southern Colonies in North America prior to incorporation into the USA.
Join: US Southern Colonies Project
Discuss: southern_colonies
Joseph Martin is Notable.

Joseph Martin was born on September 18, 1740, near Charlottesville in Albemarle County, Virginia. He was one of eleven children of Joseph Martin, Sr., and his first wife Susannah Chiles Martin. His father, Joseph Martin Sr was born in England, a son of William Martin. Joseph Sr. came to Virginia and settled in Caroline County, where he met and married Susanna Chiles. Joseph and Susanna moved to Albermarle County, VA.

Marriages and Children

Martin was married twice and also fathered children by at least two Cherokee women. He is known to have at least nineteen children. He married his first wife, Sarah Lucas in 1762 in Orange County, Virginia. Sarah died in 1782 at "Scuffle Hill", their estate on the Smith River in Henry County, Virginia, the site of present day Martinsville, Virginia. In 1784, Joseph married Susannah Graves, the daughter of William Graves.

His white children included Brice, John, Joseph, Lafayette, and William. His children by Betsy Ward are well documented, but the William that was killed by a Creek Indian likely was not one of them, as the white William was a well known attorney in Henry County, and lived to write a biography of his father. Who the William Martin that owned land on Indian Creek and who died in Lee County in 1821 was is not known. Neither is it known if the Brice Martin that owned land among Joseph’s holdings between Rose Hill and Ewing was his brother or his son.[1]

Joseph's children may have included:[2]

  1. John Martin (1762),
  2. Susannah Martin Burris (1763, married Jacob Burris),
  3. William L. Martin (1765, married Frances Farris),
  4. Elizabeth Martin Waller (1768, married Carr Waller),
  5. Martha Martin Cleveland (1768, married Willian Cleveland)
  6. Brice Martin (1770, married Matilda Perkins),
  7. Mary Martin (1773, married Daniel Hammock),
  1. James Martin (1776)
  2. Sarah Nancy Martin (1782, married Archelaus Hughes),
  1. Joseph Martin (1785, married Sally Hughes),
  2. Alexandra Martin (1786, married George Smith),
  3. Jessie Martin (1786, married Cecelia Ried and Annie Armstead)
  4. Thomas W. Martin (1787, married Nancy Carr),
  5. Lewis Graves Martin (1790, married Belinda Rucker),
  6. Patrick Henry Martin (1791),
  7. Sallie Martin (1794, married Samuel Armstead),
  8. Susannah Martin (1795, George King),
  9. Lindsley D. Martin (1796)
  10. Alexander Martin, (1799, married Elizabeth Carr),
  11. John Calvin Martin, (1803, married Sofiah Rucker),
  12. George Wythe Martin, (1805, married Elizabeth A. Starling and Caroline R. Watkins)

While serving as Indian Agent to the Cherokees, General Martin married Elizabeth "Betsy" Ward, the daughter of the famous Cherokee woman Nan ye hi (Nancy) Ward; they were the parents of a daughter named Nancy Martin. A son named James Martin is assumed to be the son of Betsy. The Moravian missionaries recorded the following: "A half-Indian, Martin, son of the General Martin with home brother Schneider stayed arrived today. We asked him if he remembered the visit of Br. Schneider sixteen years ago. He said no, that he was born in Chittiko but was only nineteen years old now, and was therefore very young at the time. He told us that his father was now in Henry County, VA and that his mother was living in Wahjowee on the Hiwassee River.... [3]

Martins' descendants include his eldest son Col. William Martin, Tennessee pioneer, and member of the South Carolina and Georgia legislatures.


Gen. Joseph Martin was a colorful, self-willed man with a fine sense of honor. He joined the Virginia militia when he was sixteen years old; was a long hunter; gambler; Indian fighter; Colonial and Revolutionary War officer; and a great diplomat. He was the Brigadier General for both the Washington District of North Carolina and the Virginia Militia. He spent a short time in Georgia on duty for North Carolina and was elected to the Georgia legislature. He was also a Representative for Sullivian County in North Carolina legislature during the turbulent State of Franklin years and was undoubtedly the most influential person of his time to defeat the State of Franklin from becoming a permanent State.

In 1789 he sold his lands in Powell Valley (Ewing, Va.), and at Long Island (Kingsport, Tenn.) returning to his plantation located on Leatherwood Creek, near present day Martinsville, Va. (Henry County). Having spent thirteen years living in the Cherokee Wilderness lands as the peacemaker,Indian Agent and Revolutionary War General, the wilderness lost their most colorful resident, a man of remarkable abilities and great courage. In the summer of 1808 Gen. Martin made his last journey. The sixty-eight year old soldier made the long trek to the old frontier, passing through Long Island (Kingsport, Tenn.), to the Indian towns, armed with a safe-conduct pass from the Secretary of War. In the autumn of 1808, worn out and feeble, he returned to Virginia. He "took to his bed, never to rise again, and quietly died on December 18th after a life rich in every detail." He was sorely missed, not only by the white settlers but by the Indians, all whom he had so faithfully served

Martin served in the legislatures of several Southern states, and was a longhunter, pioneer, Indian trader and real estate speculator who attempted one of the earliest settlements of what became the state of Tennessee.

Overhill Settlement

William Martin recorded the following story about his father and the Cherokee:

"Things were so bad in the Overhill settlement that in the fall of 1782 Joseph Martin took Nancy Ward and Oconostota back to Long Island [of Holston] to spend the winter. Scarcity of food and respect for Nancy, as well as friendship for the Old Chief who was now almost blind, were sufficient reasons. William stated, "I am of the opinion that Oconostota was one of the noblest and best of humankind. He had a powerful frame, and in his prime must have weighed more than two hundred pounds, with a head of enormous size. He was, when I saw him, very lean, stooped, and emaciated.'"
"These two Cherokee greats, Nancy Ward and Oconostota, spent the winter of 1782-1783 in Joseph Martin's Long Island [of Holston] home, where Nancy's daughter, Betsy, was able to care for their needs. With the coming of spring, Oconostota asked Martin to take him home. The Old Chief must have felt that his end was near, and he wanted to spend his last days at Chota. Martin realized that the ailing Chief would be unable to make the trip on horseback, so he arranged to take the party down river by boat. Sometime later, when the veteran Chief breathed his last breath, Martin buried the Old Chief with Christian rites, using a dugout canoe for a coffin."


Joseph Martin (1740–1808) was a brigadier general in the Virginia militia during the American Revolutionary War, in which Martin's frontier diplomacy with the Cherokee people is credited with not only averting Indian attacks on the Scotch-Irish American and English American settlers who helped win the battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens, but with also helping to keep the Indians' position neutral and from siding with the British troops during those crucial battles. Historians agree that the settlers' success at these two battles signaled the turning of the tide of the Revolutionary War—in favor of the Americans.

It has been said that Joseph was reared in a violent area, during violent times, he grew up "overgrown, rude, and ungovernable". His roving disposition caused him to run away from the carpenter to whom he had been apprenticed by his father to learn a trade. He and his friend Thomas Sumter, sometime in 1756-1757 (Joseph was 16-17 years old) and toward the close of the French and Indian War, made their way through the wilderness to Fort Pitt, where Pittsburg now stands, and there enlisted in the Colonial English Army. At the end of the war he spent several years in trapping and the trading of furs and poultry, in what is now south western Virginia and Tennessee. On the outbreak of the Shawnee War in 1774, Lord Dunmore commissioned Joseph Martin a Captain in the Pittsylvania militia, and he saw service as a commander of scouts in Culbertson's Bottom on New River.

On November 3, 1777 he was commissioned agent of Virginia among the Cherokees and took up his residence on the Long Island of Holston, North Carolina. The now Colonel Martin was a member of the first convention of the so-called State of Franklin but was opposed to secession from North Carolina, and in December, 1887 he was made Brigadier General of the North Carolina Militia in the western district. General Joseph Martin was appointed Indian Agent for the United States in June, 1788.

For many years afterwards, General Martin remained an obscure figure, until Lyman Draper began collecting reminiscences about him, including those of Major John Redd, a prominent Henry County planter who served under Martin, and who also wrote about his early recollections of General Nathaniel Greene, George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, Col. Benjamin Cleveland, Dr. John Walker, and other early prominent Virginia figures.

Death and Burial

General Joseph Martin died at his Leatherwood plantation in 1808, and was buried in the family cemetery there. Buried alongside him at the graveyard at Belmont are three other Joseph Martins: Colonel Joseph Martin, son of the general, and his son Joseph and grandson Joseph, who lived at Greenwood plantation. A monument was erected in 2008 on the old Henry Courthouse square in Martinsville, VA. It is not Gen. Joseph Martins' tombstone.... it is located at the Martin Cemetery, Leatherwood, Henry County, VA.


The city of Martinsville, Virginia (an independent city, county equivalent) was named in General Martin's honor during his lifetime.[4]

Joseph Martin, the peace maker, is best remembered by the creek which starts at the spring that supplied his Upper Station and which bears his name. Perhaps it is fitting, as it is a favorite of trout fishermen, who pursue their peaceful passtime in its cool waters.[1]

Note: Starr's "History of the Cherokee Indians" incorrectly lists Joseph Martin as the father of children by sisters Mary and Susannah Emory; those are actually the children of his brother John.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Daniel Boone Trail: History and Perspective
  2. American Family History: Joseph Martin
  3. Crews & Starbuck, eds. Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees. Cherokee Heritage Press, Tahlequah, OK. , Vol. 1, p. 121
  4. See Wikipedia Article

See also:


Additional Reading:

  • Addington, Robert M. – HIstory of Scott County, Virginia
  • Summers, Lewis P. – History of Southwest Virginia and Washington


  • Hamilton, Emory – “Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia”

publication #4

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Searching for someone else?
First: Last:

DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Joseph by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA test-takers in his direct paternal line. Mitochondrial DNA test-takers in the direct maternal line:
  • Ken Pittman Find Relationship : Mitochondrial DNA Test Other, haplogroup H2A1A1
It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Joseph:

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Images: 2
Joseph Martin Portrait
Joseph Martin Portrait

Joseph Martin Image 1
Joseph Martin Image 1

  • Login to edit this profile.
  • Private Messages: Contact the Profile Managers privately: Jenny Lawless, Vicki Norman, and Angela Cochran. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)
  • Public Q&A: These will appear above and in the Genealogist-to-Genealogist (G2G) Forum. (Best for anything directed to the wider genealogy community.)

On 2 Dec 2018 at 16:53 GMT Kathie (Parks) Forbes wrote:

Joseph Martin needs to be detached from Mary and Susannah Emory. Starr erred; these women had children by Joseph's brother John.

On 29 Oct 2018 at 23:53 GMT Kathie (Parks) Forbes wrote:

Martin-22541 and Martin-3583 appear to represent the same person because: Clearly meant to be the same man. Wife Sally/Sarah Lucas also has dups

On 16 Nov 2016 at 13:59 GMT Vicki Norman wrote:

Why is the story of Nancy Ward in this bio? It states she is the mother of Elizabeth Ward, but that is not the person attached to Elizabeth Ward's profile???

On 6 Apr 2016 at 15:38 GMT M (McQueen) M wrote:

Martin-4752 and Martin-3583 appear to represent the same person because: same person

On 21 Jun 2014 at 07:12 GMT Raymond Nichols R-CTS1751 wrote:

On 17 Jun 2014 at 23:41 GMT M (McQueen) M wrote:

Martin-17643 and Martin-3583 appear to represent the same person because: realized there was already one after I started making the profile. Please merge.

Joseph is 20 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 16 degrees from Katy Jurado and 15 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

M  >  Martin  >  Joseph Martin