My ancestor Claiborne (“Clay”) Martin has been a longstanding brick wall. He was born in North Carolina in the latter part of the 18th century. Unfortunately, Martin is a relatively common name in that time and place: the 1790 federal census has 177 Martin heads of household listed in North Carolina. The numbers are daunting.
Frustrated by lack of success, I have abandoned research in NC in favor of writing what I know (or think I know) about Clay and his wife Frances. Here are the two issues this series of posts will address:
- who were Clay’s siblings and parents?
- who were the siblings and parents of Clay’s wife Frances?
God willing and the creek don’t rise, I will manage to complete a series of articles addressing these questions before I get diverted onto yet another Rankin rabbit trail. Let’s start with a brief summary of Clay’s life.
He was born in North Carolina about 1767, but had moved to Georgia by at least 1785. Given his relatively young age at the time, it seems likely he moved with family. He was a farmer and a slave owner. He married his wife Frances circa 1794, probably in Elbert County, Georgia. Clay and Frances raised a large family – two sons and nine daughters survived to adulthood – in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, before moving to Perry County, Alabama.
I like Clay, despite his slave ownership, because (among other things) he took care of his extended family. When one of his brothers died in Oglethorpe, Clay paid property taxes on behalf of his brother’s widow for several years. He also paid taxes for a year on behalf of a widowed sister. He stayed out of politics, public life, jail, lawsuits and other controversies. So did his children. He and Frances were married for roughly sixty years, which is no mean feat (said the woman who has been married more than 50 years).
Here is a charming thing about Claiborne and Frances Martin: they had mules named Bill and Cuff and horses named Jimmie and Ned. What are the odds that, 170 years from now, someone will unearth the name of your animals? Only, I’m guessing, if they are preserved in answers to the security questions on your bank account.
Clay is identified in an abstract of Georgia records as a Revolutionary War veteran. That is probably wrong. At first glance, it seems unlikely that Clay served, because he was only fourteen (maybe sixteen, given the margin of error in census age reporting) when the war was mostly over. However, my husband Gary tells me that there were actually soldiers that young.
The evidence is at odds with the abstract, even ignoring the age issue. First, Clay never applied for a Revolutionary War pension, although he would have been eligible under the act of 1828 if he had served for at least nine months – or six months, under the 1832 act. Clay was still alive in 1832, and would presumably have applied had he been eligible. Second, the abstract also names Gibson Martin, Clay’s brother, as a Revolutionary War soldier. Gibson’s grandchildren kindly erected a tombstone for him in Oglethorpe County giving his birth date as September 10, 1770. Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in September 1781, when Gibson was just turning eleven, much too young to have served. If the abstractor erred with respect to Gibson’s war service, he/she was probably also wrong about Clay, since both names purportedly came from the same list found in the office of the Oglethorpe Court of Ordinary. Eventually, I will get a look at that record. I suspect it will be evidence that Clay and Gibson were entitled to draw lots in the Georgia land lottery because their father was a Revolutionary War soldier.
In September 1818, Clay sold his land in Oglethorpe. Some time during the next twelve months, Clay and Frances and a large extended family moved to Alabama. One of Clay’s daughters – my ancestress Amy Martin – married my ancestor Isaac Oakes (also born and raised in Oglethorpe) in Dallas County, Alabama in October 1819. Clay was not listed as a head of household in the 1820 census for Dallas County, and there is no extant 1820 census for Perry County, so the census is no help. It’s a good bet, however, that Amy, age nineteen at the time, didn’t move from Georgia to Alabama without family chaperones. In fact, Claiborne’s father-in-law was definitely in Perry County by 1819.
Once in Perry County, Clay farmed and cared for family. He gave his eldest son a gift of land, provided for his children and grandchildren in his will, and took care of his widowed daughter Sarah and other family members. The Martins apparently never got to enjoy an empty nest. In 1850, when Clay was 83 and Frances was 74, they had seventeen-year-old and fourteen-year-old girls living with them (children of their widowed daughter, Sarah Martin Crow). In the 1840 census, there were six children under the age of fifteen and several young adults in Frances and Clay’s household. So far as I can determine, their own youngest child was born in the middle 1820s at the latest, and was married before the 1840 census. Consequently, the six kids living with the Martins in 1840 likely qualified as extended family, probably grandchildren. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Clay died in Perry County about September 1853, leaving a decent estate that generated a huge probate file. Those documents conclusively prove his wife Frances, the identities of children and some of their spouses, and quite a few grandchildren. The moral: in genealogy, as with everything else in this life, it pays to come from a family that is moderately well-to-do.
Here are Claiborne and Frances Martin’s children and their spouses, all proved in Clay’s will and/or in Perry County estate files.
- Elizabeth Martin,vb. abt 1794 Oglethorpe, d. by 1851, Perry, m. Theodoric Oliver 1820, Dallas AL. Two children.
- Haney Martin, b. abt 1796 Oglethorpe, d. after 1880, Perry, m. Thomas Oakes (1785-1857) in 1816, Oglethorpe. One child, Lucy Oakes
- Fanny Martin, b. abt. 1798 Oglethorpe, d. 1860-70, Union Par. LA, m. John Smith 1814 Oglethorpe. Six sons.
- Amy Martin, b. 1800 Oglethorpe, d. 1865 Claiborne Par. LA, m. Isaac Oakes (b. 1797 Oglethorpe d. 1885 Claiborne) 1819, Dallas Co. AL. Ten children: Elizabeth, Elijah Moseley, Haney, Washington Lafayette, Reuben M., Susan, Isaac C., Lucy Frances, Nancy Wisdom, and John L. Oakes.
- Frances Martin, b. bet. 1800-1810 Oglethorpe, d. bef. 1865, m. David Chandler 1827 Perry Co. 6 children.
- William Buckley Martin, b. abt. 1806 Oglethorpe, m. Susan A. MNU. Probably 10 children.
- Sarah A. martin, b. abt. 1807 Oglethorpe m. Silas Harlan Crow 1827, Perry AL. Children Mary Frances, Silas H. and Isaac M. Crow.
- Clara Martin, b. abt 1812 Oglethorpe d. aft 1880 m. John J. Hunter 1830 Perry AL. 8 children.
- Lucinda “Lucy” Martin, b. abt 1812 Oglethorpe d. bet. 1860-70 Perry, m. Jesse Suttle 1831 Perry AL. Eleven Children.
- Claiborne Jackson Martin, b. 1815 Oglethorpe d. 1892 Freestone Co., TX, m. Elizabeth b. Kelly (1818-1903) 1837 Perry AL. Five children.
- Malinda Martin, b. abt 1823 Perry d. 1853-56 Perry, m. Zachariah Chandler 1839 Perry AL. Seven children.
Frances Martin died in Perry County in 1865, about age ninety. By my count, the Martins had 69 grandchildren. I may have missed some. She and Clay were undoubtedly both buried in Perry Co., probably on their own farm. Their tombstones, if there were any, have long since either been reclaimed by the land or swiped by someone who collects that sort of thing.
That will have to remain a mystery. There is NO WAY I am wandering around any more woodsy cemeteries in Perry County looking for ancestors’ tombstones. Gary and I did that during a genealogy trip in August 2007, and we learned a very, very hard lesson about Alabama chiggers.
That is pretty much everything I know about Clay’s life, other than some facts relevant to identifying his family. I will save those for subsequent posts in this series.
See you on down the road. It’s kind of nice to let the Rankins be for a while.
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1850 federal census, Perry Co., AL, Radfordsville, dwl 61, listing for Claiborne Martin, 83, b. NC, farmer, Frances Martin, 74, b. VA, Sarah Crow, 43, b. GA (neé Martin), and Sarah’s two daughters.
Clay first appeared in the records in a Wilkes Co., GA deed of 28 Dec 1792, when he was about twenty-five (see note 1). Michal Martin Farmer, Wilkes County, Georgia Deed Books A – VV 1784 – 1806(Dallas: Farmer Genealogy Co., 1996), abstract of Deed Book PP: 1, deed from David Martin and wife Alcy of Elbert Co., GA to Archer Skinner of Wilkes Co., witnessed by Clabourn Martin. David Martin had been appearing in the Wilkes County records since 1785. Assuming that David was Clay’s brother, which is highly likely (more on that later), it is reasonable to assume that Clay had alsobeen around Georgia since at least 1785.
E.g.,1840 federal census, Perry Co., AL, p. 250, Claiborne Martin enumerated with five slaves; 1850 federal census, slave schedule, Perry Co., AL, Radfordville, Claiborne Martin listed with twelve slaves.
The Martins’ marriage date of 1794 is a rough estimate based on Frances’s birth date (1775 or 1776 according to the 1860 or 1850 census) and the births of their children, three of whom were born during the 1790s. Seenote 1 (1850 federal census); 1860 federal census, Perry Co., AL, p. 633, dwl 22, listing for Frances Martin, 85, b. VA; Mary Bondurant Warren,1800 Census of Oglethorpe County, Georgia(Athens, GA: 1965), Claiborne Martin enumerated with three females under age ten in his household. Clay and Frances were likely married in Elbert Co., because that is where both lived when they married.
FHL Film 1,509,297, Perry County, Alabama Probate Records – Lockett, Napoleon to Martin, George M., File #53-022-1069, estate records of Claiborne Martin (hereafter “Martin Estate Records”). The file, which I copied in its entirety and have transcribed, contains numerous documents identifying Clay’s children and heirs. Documents include Clay’s will, depositions, and several accounts of the estate distribution. Clay and Frances left Oglethorpe for Perry Co. about 1818.
FHL Film 177,699, Oglethorpe County, Georgia Tax Digests, 1806 – 1815. Claiborne paid county land taxes on behalf of Gibson Martin, deceased, or his widow Sarah/Sally Martin, during 1810 through 1816.
Martin Estate Records, appraisal dated 8 Sep 1865 of the personal property of the estate of Claibourn [sic] Martin, taken after Frances died. Per her husband’s will, Frances owned only a life estate in their property. That ownership interest terminated when she died. As a result, the estate remaining after her death was administered as part of Claiborne’s estate, even though Frances died about twelve years after Claiborne. The remaining estate was therefore disposed of in accordance with the terms of Claiborne’s will.
Rev. Silas Emmett Lucas, Some Georgia County Records Vol. 7(Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1993) at p. 465, from a list dated 1 Feb 1804, “Names of Revolutionary Soldiers who drew Land Lots, found of record in the Ordinary’s Office of Oglethorpe County, Georgia.”
The 1828 act did not require the applicant to prove he was indigent, as had the previous pension legislation. W. T. R. Saffell, Records of the Revolutionary War(Baltimore: Clearfield Company, Inc., originally published 1894; reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1969).
FHL Film 158,677, Oglethorpe Co., GA Deed Books J and K, 1818 – 1823, deed of 18 Sep 1818 from Claborn [sic] Martin of Oglethorpe to John McCleath, 170 acres on the waters of Big Creek, Deed Book J: 154. Clay’s last appearance on the Oglethorpe County tax list was also in 1818. FHL Film 177,700, Oglethorpe County, GA Superior Court Tax Digests, 1816 – 1824.
The first Alabama record I found for Clay was a May 1822 order in the court minute book appointing him to a jury to lay out a road. Original of Perry County Record Book 1826 – 1840 at p. 29, viewed at the Perry County courthouse in August 2007. Note that the title of the book suggests that it dates from1826. However, actual entries begin in 1820. Perry County was created 13 Dec 1819.
FHL Film 1,578,227, item 1, Perry County, Alabama Deed Book B (cont’d), deed from Claiborne Martin to his son, Buckley Martin, for love and affection, 158.52 acres. Deed Book B: 56. See also Martin Estate Records and notes 6 and 7.
See id. Claiborne and Frances’s eleven children were Elizabeth (wife of Theodorick Oliver), Haney (second wife of Thomas Oakes), Fanny (wife of John Smith), my ancestor Amy (wife of Isaac Oakes), Frances (wife of David Chandler), William Buckley Martin (wife Susan LKU), Sarah (wife of Silas H. Crow), Clara (wife of John J. Hunter), Lucinda (wife of Jesse Suttle), Claiborne Jackson Martin (m. Elizabeth Kelly), and Malinda (wife of Zachariah M. Chandler). Isaac and Amy Martin Oakes had a daughter named Haney, my ancestress, who is easy to confuse with her aunt Haney Martin Oakes, wife of Thomas.