Edwin R. Martin, an old settler of Eaton County, has materially contributed to its wealth and high standing as a great agricultural center, and has been prominent in its civic and political life in various important offices of trust and responsibility. He has long been associated with the leading farmers of Chester Township, coming here in pioneer times more than forty-four years ago, and has been active in promoting its growth by clearing and developing a fine farm within its borders.

Born in Cayuga County, New York, October 24, 1821, Edwin R. is a son of the late Rev. John Martin, who was born in the same county as himself in the year 1879 and in the prime of a stalwart manhood became a pioneer of Michigan, coming here in 1831 in territorial days, and locating in Oakland County. He purchased a tract of land on which he made his home for about thirty years. In 1860 he removed to Clinton County and taking up his residence at Ovid, spent the closing years of a long and useful life in that town, dying in 1886 in his ninetieth year.

For fifty years Mr. Martin was a minister in the Baptist Church, and was an earnest and faithful worker in the cause of religion, doing much to establish his faith in this state. He was well adapted to his calling, physically as well as mentally, as he was a large man, possessing a strong constitution, which enabled him to endure the many hardships such as are only known to pioneer ministers in a newly settled country. His big, warm heart is sympathy with all afflictions to which human flesh is heir, and he responded quickly to all calls for help from the needy and suffering whether for spiritual or material aid. When a fellow being was in distress he never rescued to go to administer comfort and consolation, and often rode eighteen or twenty miles to attend a funeral. During a residence of more than half a century in this State he made many warm friends, who regarded him with reverence and love.

Mr. Martin comes of a long-lived race that originated in Scotland. His grandfather, John Martin, was a native of Vermont, and a pioneer farmer of New York. He died in 1860, at the age of eighty-five years. His sons also lived to be old men. He was a boy ten years old at the time of the Revolution, and on one occasion while on his way to mill he was taken prisoner by the Indians, and was carried to Gen. Burgoyne’s camp, where his father found him several days afterwards. The maiden name of the mother of Edwin was Margaret Dickinson. She was born in Cayuga County, New York in 1799 and died in 1887, at the venerable age of eighty-seven years. For nearly seventy years she was a faithful member of the Baptist Church which she joined when eighteen years old. She was the mother of nine children, five of whom survive.

Edwin R. Martin, of whom this biography is written, was born and reared on a farm. He received good common-school advantages, though after he came to Michigan with his parents when he was ten years old, he only attended school about three months in the year, as his services were required on the farm. At the age of eighteen he left home to work by the month as a farm laborer, and received $12 a month the first year. For some time he worked out or farmed on shares, and in 1846 came to Eaton County and settled in Chester Township in the woods, the land on which he had purchased two years previously being heavily timbered. He erected a small log house, 18 x 20 feet in size, only two boards being used in its construction. He then actively entered upon the pioneer work of clearing and preparing his land for cultivation. The surrounding country was still in a very wild, sparsely settled condition, and game was very plentiful, though Mr. Martin never had much time to hunt, being occupied in improving his farm. One morning during the first year he lived here he went out of the door and saw three deer standing at the corner of his house. Indians used to pass thorough the settlement on their way to market twice a year.

Prior to taking up his residence in Chester Township, Mr. Martin was married to Miss Mary J. Butler December 14, 1845, and to them were born two children, Arthur E., and Albert G. Mrs. Martin was a native of this State, born in Oakland County in 1826. She died September 16, 1849, after a wedded life of nearly four years. She was a member of the Episcopal Church. Mr. Martin was married a second time, in 1851, to Miss Susan Butler, a sister of his first wife. They had five children, as follows: John, deceased; Mary E.; Andrew J., deceased; Emma E., and a child who died in infancy. The mother of these children died on the 16th of September 1864. In 1873, Edwin married Helen E. (Allen) Cunningham, his present estimable wife, and to them have come two children, Charles A., and Ernest R. Mr. Martin gave his children good educational advantages and his eldest son is now a well known lawyer at Boyne, Michigan. His eldest daughter was successfully engaged in teaching several terms prior to her marriage.

The life of Edwin had been guided always by the highest principles of right and honor, and the power of honesty and unswerving integrity is shown by the implicit confidence in which he is held and his influence for good in the community. His fellow-citizens in just recognition of his great worth and his capacity for affairs have often called him to take part in the local government. He was at one time Deputy Clerk of the township and for five years was Township Clerk. He was Justice of the Peace four years and has represented Chester as a member of the County Board of Supervisors eleven years. This may be regarded as quite an honor, as he was elected to this important office in a township that is strongly Republican, two-thirds of its voters belonging to that party, though he is a stanch Democrat, and a leader among the men of his political faith. In the discharge of his official duties he has always been strictly non-partisan. He was the Democratic candidate for representative to the State Legislature in 1886 against his personal wishes. Although he took no active part in the campaign, he ran ahead of his party one hundred and seventy votes in this district. He has been a delegate to county, district and State conventions.

Mr. Martin is conducting a good business as a general farmer, raising all kinds of stock with success, but paying especial attention to raising sheep. He formerly owned one hundred and eighty-five acres of land, but has disposed of eighty-five acres at a good profit, and his farm now comprises one hundred acres of well-cultivated soil. It is provided with substantial buildings, and in its various departments is well ordered and in good condition. Mr. Martin has accumulated his property solely by hard and well-directed labor, for when he left his boyhood home in 1840 he had but a quarter of a dollar in his pocket as capital with which to begin life independently. He has always made it a point to deal fairly and justly by others, doing in all things as he would be done by and never has he sued a man or been sued for debt. In the words of the immortal Henry Clay, “he would rather be right than be President.”

Portrait & Biographical Album of Barry & Eaton Counties Michigan– 1891


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