52 Ancestors – #3 John Thomas Martin (1848-1914)

All of my life I heard family stories of the Cherokee blood that was passed down through my 2nd great grandfather on my mother’s side, John Thomas Martin.  Every time his name was mentioned to any one in the family the first response was always “he was the Indian”.  According to one of his sons, John Thomas was probably three-eighths (3/8ths) to one-half (1/2) Cherokee but no one knows if this Native American heritage was through his father or through his mother.  A few descendants have related stories that Grandpa Tom was of a very, very “different culture”.  A grandson of John Thomas visited Georgia and did some research on the Martin family in Bibb County.  He is now deceased, and apparently no written records exist.  It seems there have always been more questions than answers regarding John Thomas.  No pictures have ever been found of him which is a bit unusual given the time period in which he lived.  This is the ancestor who started my journey into our family history and genealogy research over 20 years ago.  He is also the one who has been my most elusive ancestor.

 John Thomas was born in Georgia but the year is not certain.   According to the 1900 census, he was born in February 1850, but according to the 1910 and 1880 census, he was born in 1848.  Since his grave stone also has 1848, the family has accepted this as his date of birth.  Family tradition, which is almost all I have regarding my great great grandfather, has been that he was the eldest of six children.  His father is believed to have been James Martin, born about 1828 in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia and his mother’s identity remains unknown.  The 1900 census shows that she was born in Tennessee but the 1900 and the 1910 census states that she was born in Georgia.  There is a marriage record for one James Martin who married Mary Scott in Bibb County, Georgia, on 18 April 1847.  I have searched census records for this couple as well but have not been able to locate them again.  It is believed that some of the family migrated from Georgia to Texas during the 1860s possibly due to the Civil War and worsening economic conditions in Georgia.

 The 1880 census is the earliest census in which I have positively identified John Thomas Martin as head of household, with wife Fannie, and three children – the oldest being my great grandfather.  I also have him on the 1900 and 1910 censuses.  The 1910 census clearly shows that he was a survivor of the Confederate Army.  He would have been between the ages of 13 years old and 17 years old during the Civil War.  It is not impossible for him to have served because many young men gave the wrong age in order to enlist, or he could have enlisted near the end of the war.  This has proven extremely difficult to research because I don’t know where he was living in 1860.  John Martin is such a common name that it is almost impossible to search Civil War records, or any other records, without more information.  I found a Thomas Martin, age 19, born about 1851 in Georgia, working as a farm laborer, living in the household of George Spruce, age 46, born in Georgia, his wife Carrie, age 40, born in Georgia, and six children in Troupe, Canton Beat, Smith County, Texas.  There are a couple of reasons why I believe this to be my 2nd great grandfather:  George Spruce was born in Georgia as was John Thomas and his father; they lived near Fannie Rushing, his future bride and his age is close enough (ages often differ).  George Spruce was about the same age as John Thomas’s father and could have been a friend of his in Georgia since I have found the Spruces in a Georgia county which was near Bibb county.

According to a handwritten memorandum written by one of Grandpa Tom’s grandsons around 1956, he had a younger brother named Morgan who went to Cleburne, Johnson County, Texas, to live with another family.  There is a Morgan Martin, age 16, born about 1854 in Georgia, in the household of G. B. Turner, age 31, born in Georgia, wife Mattie J., age 28, born in Georgia, and two sons, in Grandview (small community near Cleburne), Johnson County, Texas.  I believe this is probably the brother of John Thomas because of his age, location, G. B. Turner was born in Bibb County, Georgia (Find A Grave), and G. B. Turner’s wife’s maiden name was Scott (Georgia Marriages, 1808-1967), and last but not least, John Thomas’s third child was born in Cleburne.  G. B. Turner enlisted in the Confederate States Army in Georgia on 1 May 1862.  Could this be another connection?   Is it possible that the above mentioned Mary Scott who married James Martin is related to Mattie J. Scott in whose household Morgan Martin was living?

Marriage Record of J. T. Martin and Fannie Rushing

John Thomas Martin married Frances Ann (Fannie) Rushing in Rusk County, Texas on 20 June 1874.  In 1886, Tom and Fannie purchased an 81-acre farm for $326.00 which was located about five miles south of Van.  They had eleven children but one of them died at age four and another one died in infancy.  The other nine children built their homes and raised their families in the same area in which they were raised.  It was known as the Owlet Green and Watts communities.  John Thomas died in October of 1914 and is buried in the historic Marvin’s Chapel Cemetery just a few miles down the road from where he lived, farmed and raised his family.  I visited the Van Zandt county courthouse and found no death certificate for John Thomas Martin nor have I been able to find an obituary.  Tom and Fannie’s modest frame home is gone and all that remains on their land as a reminder is a concrete foundation in the corner of the pasture at County Road 4901 and Farm-to-Market Road 314 just a few miles south of Van off Interstate 2

Concrete foundation in the pasture of the homestead ofTom and Fannie Martin.
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