The Oct. 27, 2018 post on this blog introduced Claiborne (“Clay”) Martin of North Carolina, Elbert and Oglethorpe Counties, GA, and Perry Co., AL. I promised to address Clay’s family of origin: who were his parents and siblings? Answer: there is no conclusive proof, so far as I know. There is a compelling web of circumstantial evidence. Clay’s parents were probably George and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) Martin of Elbert and Oglethorpe Counties, GA.
Most of the evidence concerning Clay’s family of origin is in the land and tax records. Clay bought his first Oglethorpe tract – 147 acres – from George Martin in 1799. The deed states that both George and Claiborne were then residents of Oglethorpe County. Clay paid real money for it: the tract was not a gift, and it does not recite any family relationship between the parties. The deed does recite that the tract, which was part of an original 538.5-acre grant to a Jesse Sanders, was adjacent to William Martin. Also, a Gibson Martin witnessed the deed. Finally, the 1797 deed in which George Martin acquired the tract states that it was located on the Big Creek of the Oconee River.
Once again, the “follow the land” theory of genealogy produced a goldmine. Just one deed identifies three Martins who were almost certainly Claiborne’s relatives: George, Gibson and William.
George sold additional pieces of his tract at about the same time:
- In 1798, George sold 125 acres on Big Creek to David Martin. Both George and David were then residents of Oglethorpe.
- In 1800, George sold to Henry Pope 291 acres on the waters of Big Creek in two separate deeds – tracts of 187 acres and 104 acres.The 187-acre tract was adjacent to Claiborne Martin. The 104-acre tract was adjacent to David Martin, who witnessed the second deed.
- Also in 1800, George sold Gibson Martin a tract of 175 acres in Oglethorpe. That tract included the plantation where George then lived. The deed provided that George and his wife Elizabeth would retain possession for life. Although the deed did not specify the location, later tax records establish that the tract was on Big Creek and that it was adjacent to Claiborne Martin.
Those deeds are good circumstantial evidence that Clay, George, William, David and Gibson Martin were family of some sort. They had another common characteristic besides the Martin surname. All five of the Martins signed deeds the majority of the time with a mark, as opposed to writing out a full name. That helps distinguish this family from a plethora of more educated Martins in the area, most of whom typically signed a name in full.
There is also an intangible factor lurking in these deeds. George possesses an aura of seniority: he was the grantor in every deed and he reserved possession of the home plantation for life. Moreover, George has evidently sold all of his land in just a little over two years to a group of men who mostly shared his surname. This raises the inference that George didn’t expect to live much longer and was dividing up his estate – presumptively to family members. A reasonable hypothesis is that George Martin was the father of Claiborne, David, William and Gibson. Gibson’s acquisition of the home plantation, where George reserved a right to live for life, is almost conclusive proof of a father-son relationship despite the failure of that deed to recite one.
The next place to look for evidence is the Oglethorpe tax records. The first year I found these Martins on a list was 1799, when David, George and Claiborne appeared in the same district. For some unknown reason, William was not listed, although he evidently owned land there as of George’s 1798 sale of land to Claiborne. Gibson did not yet own any land in 1799.
By 1806 – the first year after 1799 for which there is an extant tax list – George was no longer enumerated. The 1807 Georgia land lottery establishes that he had died by then. Eligible participants from Captain Pope’s district in Oglethorpe included Claiborne, Gibson and Elizabeth Martin. She was identified as a widow. George must have died some time during 1800 through 1805, because he was listed in the 1800 census. David and William were evidently no longer in Oglethorpe.
So … let’s follow the sons. First, where did David and William go? The answer: Baldwin County, Georgia.
David sold his 125 acres on Big Creek to Henry Pope in 1801, including the plantation where he lived. That was apparently all of David’s land in Oglethorpe, and he didn’t appear in any other records in that county. Frequently, family members who disappear like that cannot be found. David was nicely traceable, thanks to his wife’s distinctive name.
Back in Elbert County (where this Martin family lived before they were in Oglethorpe), there was a 1796 deed in which David and Alay Martin conveyed land on Falling Creek. The deed was signed (as is customary in this Martin crowd, with marks) by David (x) Martin and Ala (x) Martin. You have to smile when you see the same name spelled two different ways in the same deed.
What is the evidence that David Martin with wife Alay/Ala of Elbert County is the same man as David Martin of Oglethorpe, who bought a tract from George Martin in 1798? A sequence of deeds akin to a trail of crumbs, of course:
- 1789 deed from George Martin and wife Elizabeth to Joseph Bell, all of Wilkes County, 579 acres granted to George Martin in July 1786.
- 1792 deed from Joseph Bell to David Martin, all of Elbert County, 300 acres in Elbert (which was created from Wilkes in 1790) on both sides of Falling Creek, part of 579 acres granted to George Martin. Archer Skinner– more on him later – was a witness.
- 1792 deed from David Martin and wife Alcy – a third spelling of her name – of Elbert Co., GA to Archer Skinner of Wilkes Co., an exchange of land in which David and Alcy (Alay/Ala) traded the tract David acquired from Joseph Bell. David signed in full, the only instance of that I have seen in this Martin family. His wife signed with a mark, as Alay (x) Martin. Clabourn [sic] Martin witnessed the deed, his first appearance anywhere in the records, at about age twenty-five.
Here they were, in the period from 1789 through 1792 – George and wife Elizabeth, Clay, and David with wife Alay, Ala or Alcy – linked by Elbert Co. deeds, several years before they appeared in Oglethorpe. A minor aside: Falling Creek is going to be a key link to the Martins’ extended family.
More than a quarter of a century later, Alay and David appeared again, this time in the records of Baldwin County. David had died by then, leaving his wife and children. Alay Martin, widow, and David Martin’s children participated from Baldwin as one entry entitled to two draws in the 1821 Georgia land lottery.
Baldwin County’s records were almost entirely burned to a crisp by William Tecumseh Sherman. Ironically, Baldwin (and not Oglethorpe, where there are excellent surviving records) is where I finally found conclusive proof of some family relationships among these Martins. In Baldwin, the only surviving antebellum county records were those in the office of the probate judge, which miraculously survived Sherman’s conflagration. They included the will of one William Martin, proved in Baldwin County in 1808. William’s will named his brother David Martin as his executor and David’s son John as the only beneficiary.
Because of the loss of Baldwin County records, there is little information about David and even less about William. The best source of information in Baldwin County is contemporary newspapers. Here is the little bit that I know for sure about David Martin …
First, David died between 1813 and 1819 while he was a resident of Baldwin County. He had apparently given up farming, because he owned a public establishment in Milledgeville, according to this charming advertisement in the Georgia Journal in October 1813:
“The subscriber, having taken that well known stand in Milledgeville, formerly occupied by Thomas Dent, intends keeping a House of Entertainment … He can accommodate from fifteen to twenty members of the Legislature in a genteel manner.” Signed David Martin.
A “house of entertainment” (not what you might think) was a local pub/boarding house where one could eat, drink, and perhaps get a room for the night, much like the so-called “ordinaries” of Virginia. Sherman undoubtedly reduced it to a heap of cinders, too.
David and Alay were married by at least 1796, when she appeared as a party in that Elbert County deed. By 1800, the Oglethorpe County census suggests they had only one child, a son (perhaps John, the beneficiary of his Uncle William’s will), who was then less than age ten, so “circa 1795″ seems a reasonable estimate for a marriage date. When Alay/Aly Martin (over age 45) appeared in the 1820 Baldwin County census, she had five children listed with her: (1) a male born about 1795-1800, (2) and (3) two females born about 1800-1804, (4) a male born 1804-1810, and (5) a female born 1804-1810. 
Earlier Wilkes County tax lists provide a clue to David’s age. David made his first appearance anywhere in the records in 1785 as a landowning minor in Wilkes County. In 1787, he appeared again in the Wilkes tax records, still a landowner – but of full legal age. Taken together, those two records suggest that David was born about 1765-66, since Georgia taxed free males at age twenty-one at that time. That birth year, plus a marriage and first child born some time during the 1790s, place David (and therefore his brother William) in the same generation as Claiborne (born 1767) and Gibson (born 1770).
Alay and David’s children had all disappeared from Baldwin by the 1830 census. I don’t know where they went. The only proved child is John. However, a William Martin appeared with Alay among the 1821 land lottery participants from Baldwin, and he is probably another son, named for his father’s brother. If you have a Martin family with Georgia origins and someone named Alay/Aly/Alcy in your line – possibly all nicknames for Alice – you might consider looking at this family. Check out the Martin Family DNA Project for help. I looked at it briefly, but didn’t spot Clay’s line.
As for David’s brother William Martin, there is little information about him other than his 1808 will. His first appearance in the records was in 1798 in Elbert County, witnessing a deed to a tract on the same creek where David Martin owned land. Based on William’s will – a legacy to his nephew John and no one else – he was almost certainly single and childless.
I never found the deeds by which William acquired and disposed of his tract adjacent to Claiborne and George Martin in Oglethorpe. However, his tract on Big Creek was mentioned in Henry Pope’s will and was described as containing 147 acres. The acreage figure strongly suggests that George sold the tract to William, since George sold to Claiborne a tract containing precisely that acreage.
Thanks to William’s will, David’s probable age, and the conveyances of land on Big Creek, I would bet a decent sum that David, William, Claiborne and Gibson Martin were brothers. I would also bet that their parents were George and Elizabeth. Of course, it is always possible that Elizabeth was not George’s first wife and she was not the mother of those men (or not all of them). It is also possible that George was an uncle or other relative rather than their father. But … c’mon, now …
Finally, we haven’t yet followed Gibson Martin, and I’m pretty sure the Martin brothers also have at least one sister waiting in the wings. This is more than enough for now, so let’s save them for the next post.
See you on down the road, friends.
FHL Film 158,674, Oglethorpe County, Georgia Deed Books C and D, 1798 – 1806, deed of 15 Aug 1799, George Martin to Claybourn Martin, both of Oglethorpe, $225 for 147 acres adjacent William Martin, Mrs. Waters, John Tanner, part of 538.5-acre tract granted Jesse Sanders, then located in Washington Co. Signed George (x) Martin. Thomas Wooten and Gibson Martin, witnesses. Deed Book C: 434.
FHL Film 158,673, Oglethorpe County, Georgia Deed Books A and B, 1794 – 1798, deed of 19 Aug 1797, John Tindall of Columbia Co., GA to George Martin of Washington Co., GA, 538.5 acres on the Big Creek of Oconee Waters, part of Jesse Sanders survey granted 27 Aug 1786. Signed George (x) Martin. Witnesses John Barnett, Jacob Hinton. Deed Book B: 209.
FHL Film 158,674, Oglethorpe Deed Book C: 420, deed of 20 Nov 1797 from George Martin to David Martin, both of Oglethorpe, $200 for 125 acres on the west side of Big Creek adjacent Miles Hill. Signed George (x) Martin. Witnesses Thomas Wooten, James Thomas, JP.
Id., Oglethorpe Deed Book D: 73, deed of 11 Jan 1800 from George Martin to Henry Pope, both of Oglethorpe, $400 for 187 acres on both forks, waters of Big Cr., adjacent William Patrick, Claybourn Martin and Samuel Waters, part of the Sanders tract; Deed Book D: 74, deed of 28 Jan 1800 from George Martin to Henry Pope for $200 for 104 acres adjacent John Tanner, David Martin, Tindal. Signed George (x) Martin. Witnesses David (x) Martin, Thomas Wooten.
Id., Deed Book D: 5, deed of 29 Jan 1800 from George Martin to Gibson Martin, both of Oglethorpe, $500 for 175 acres including the plantation where George lives adjacent Hinton, Pope, Tanner and Tindal. George Martin and wife Elizabethto retain possession during their lives. Witnesses Thomas Wooten Jr., Jacob Hinton.
There was no administration of George’s estate in Oglethorpe, undoubtedly because he had no significant assets left to administer. He evidently sold all of his land between 1797 and 1800, and he owned no slaves in the 1800 census. In those circumstances, there is virtually no chance that anyone applied to the court for an estate administration, nor would a court order sua sponte that one take place.
FHL Film 158,674, deed of 20 Feb 1801 from David Martin to Henry Pope for $400, 125 acres on the east fork of Big Cr. including the plantation where Martin now lives, adjacent Henry Pope, Miles Hill. Signed David (x) Martin. Witnesses Charles Bedingfield, Thomas Wooten. Oglethorpe Deed Book D: 75.
The Third and Fourth or 1820 and 1821 Land Lotteries of Georgia (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press and Georgia Genealogical Reprints, 1973). A child whose father died was referred to as an orphan, notwithstanding that the child’s mother was still living.
1820 census for Baldwin Co., GA, p. 39, listing for Aly Martin, 010100-01201, no slaves. Birth years for the children are estimated based on listings for the family in 1800, 1810 and 1820. The 1820 census shows 1 male 16 < 26, probably born 1795 -1800 (since he appeared in the 1800 census), 2 females 16 < 26, but born 1800 -1804 (since they did notappear in 1800), 1 male 10 < 16, born 1804 -1810, and 1 female 10 < 16, born 1804 -1810.
Fred W. McRee, Jr., Oglethorpe County, Georgia Abstract of Wills 1794 – 1903 (2002), abstract of Will Book B: 10; FHL Film 158,674, Oglethorpe County, Georgia Deed Books C and D, 1798 – 1806, Deed Book C: 434.
Note that Claiborne and Frances Martin named their first child Elizabeth. Typical English naming patterns suggest that one of the child’s grandmothers had that name. Frances’s mother was named Amy, not Elizabeth. Thus, Claiborne and Frances’s child named Elizabeth is some evidence, although slender, that Claiborne’s mother shared that name.