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Biographical Sketch
John A. Martin
Atchison County, Kansas


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The following transcription is from a 750 page book titled "Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas, dated 1900.  These have been diligently transcribed and generously contributed by Penny R. Harrell, please give her a very big Thank You for her hard work!

Gold Bar

John A. Martin

No compendium such as the province of this work defines in its essential limitations will serve to offer fit memorial to the life and accomplishments of the honored subject of this sketch, a man remarkable in the breadth of his wisdom, in his indomitable perseverance, his strong individuality; and yet one whose entire life had not one esoteric phase, being as an open scroll, inviting the closest scrutiny.

True, his were "massive deeds and great" in one sense, and yet his entire accomplishment but represented the result of the fit utilization of the innate talent which was his, and the directing of his efforts along those lines where mature judgment and rare discrimination lead the way.

There was in Hon. John A. Martin a weight of character, a native sagacity, a far seeing judgment and a fidelity of purpose that commanded the respect of all.  A man of indefatigable enterprise and fertility of resource, he carved his name deeply on the records of Kansas.

Hon. John A. Martin was born March 10, 1839, at Brownsville, Pennsylvania, and died when in the prime of life, October 2, 1889.  His career began when a boy of fifteen, he learned to set type in the office of the Brownsville Clipper, and so rapid was his advancement that in the last year of his apprenticeship he was both foreman and local editor of that paper.

In the spring of 1857, when in his eighteenth year, he went to Pittsburg and was employed as a compositor on the Commercial Journal.  In the latter part of the same year he came to Kansas and located at Atchison, where he for a short time set type in the office of the Squatter Sovereign and subsequently worked on the Crusader of Freedom at Doniphan.

In February, 1858, Mr. Martin purchased of O. F. Short the Squatter Sovereign, changed its name to Freedom's Champion and on the 20th of the same month began his long and successful editorial work in Kansas.

From the very beginning of his career in the state he was, first and last, a stanch and fearless free state man and an ardent, stalwart Republican, being one of the organizers of the party in Kansas, and for 25 years the honored chairman of the Atchison county Republican central committee.  He was the secretary of the Wyandotte constitutional convention and was elected state senator of the district composed of Atchison and Brown counties before he had reached his twenty-first year.

He was a delegate to the territorial convention at Lawrence April 11, 1860 and to the national Republican convention which followed shortly afterward.  He was secretary of the state railroad convention which met at Topeka, in 1860, for the purpose of devising a system of railways for the state, and was a member of the first state senate in 1861.

The outbreak of the Civil War found this brilliant young man ready to sacrifice his business prospects and his life, if need be, in preserving the unity of the government.  In the summer of 1861 he assisted in organizing the Eighth Kansas Infantry, of which he was appointed lieutenant-colonel, and during the fall and winter of that year was on duty on the Indian border.

Early in 1862 he was appointed provost-marshal of Leavenworth, and in March following was ordered with his regiment to Corinth, Mississippi, being assigned to the division that formed a part of General Buell's command in Tennessee.

During his entire service he was with the Army of the Cumberland.  On the 1st of November, 1862, he was promoted to the colonelcy of his regiment and was assigned to duty as provost-marshal of Nashville, Tennessee, which difficult post he filled with credit and distinction from December, 1862 to June, 1863.

Colonel Martin participated in the battles of Perryville and Lancaster, Kentucky, in the famous campaign against Tullahoma and Chattanooga, the battle of Chickamauga, the siege of Chattanooga and the storming of Missionary Ridge, the campaign in eastern Tennessee in the winter of 1863-4, the campaign from Chattanooga to Atlanta and the subsequent pursuit of Hood northward. 

On the second day of the battle at Chickamauga, which took place in the latter part of 1864, Colonel Martin was placed in command of the Third Brigade, First Division, Twentieth Army Corps, and subsequently commanded the First Brigade, Third Division, Fourth Army Corps, from August, 1864 until he was mustered out at Pulaski, Tennessee, November 17, 1864.

In all these responsible positions he won the highest commendation from his superior officers and the respect and esteem of the men under him for his splendid courage and executive ability, as well as for the admirable discipline which he maintained in his regiment.

After his return home, in January, 1865, Colonel Martin resumed control of the Champion and on the 22nd of March following issued the first number of his paper as a daily.  In addition to his work as an editor Colonel Martin filled many important civil and political positions.  He was the first commander-in-chief of the state encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, a delegate from Kansas to the National Republican Conventions of 1860, 1868, 1872 and 1880, a member of the national Republican committee from 1868 to 1884 and secretary of that body from 1880 to 1884.

He was one of the vice presidents of the United States centennial commission and took an active interest in that great exposition in 1876. Colonel Martin was one of the incorporators of the Kansas Magazine Company, a member of the State Historical Society, of which he was president one term, and was president of the State Editorial & Publishers Association in 1878.

In the last mentioned year he was elected by both houses of congress on the board of managers of the National Soldiers' Home, was re-elected in 1882 and in 1886 and at the time of his death was the second vice president of that association. 

He was elected mayor of the city of Atchison in 1865 and was the third postmaster of that place, an office which he held for twelve years.  Colonel Martin was elected governor of Kansas in 1884 and re-elected in 1886.

At the close of his second gubernatorial term he resumed control of the Champion, of which he was sole proprietor, and up to a few weeks previous to his death was at his desk daily, writing and supervising the affairs of his business.  He was a man of strong character, brimful of energy, forceful in his writing and public spirited in every way.  He was very popular and made friends without any effort, his death being felt as a personal bereavement as well as a severe loss to the public at large.

On June 15, 1871, Colonel Martin was married to Miss Ida Challiss, daughter of Dr. W. L. Challiss, of Atchison, who with six children, Ruth, Grace, Ethel, Faith, Paul and Harres, survive him. Evan C. Martin, one of the children, died September 4, 1892.

No name has figured more conspicuously or honorably in connection with the history of Kansas than that of John A. Martin.  He was connected with the public progress along business and political lines, his efforts were potent in advancing charitable and benevolent work, and upon the battle fields of the south he displayed personal bravery and heroism that inspired the men whom he commanded to
deeds of valor.

Certainly the life of no citizen of this commonwealth has been more varied in service, more firm in principle, more blameless in conduct and more stainless in reputation.

  Gold Bar

Last update: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 02:10:14

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