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700 College Pl
Williamsport, PA, 17701
United States

Biography

Richard Martin was born in East Jersey, Middlesex County in 1761 to his Dutch parents Robert Martin and Mary Bloomfield.[1] In the late 1760s, they relocated to Sunbury in Northumberland County where the point of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna join. Following the Martins’ arrival in Sunbury, his father, Robert, established a tavern commonly referred to as “Martin’s Tavern.”[2] Martin’s Tavern was an important gathering place for settlers up the Susquehanna Valley during the colonial and revolutionary period.[3] In colonial Pennsylvania, the tavern not only served as place for entertainment and lodging, but it was a key establishment in the social and political realms. In rural frontier towns, taverns were gateways to the outer world as they provided newspapers and fostered political debates. During the Revolutionary War, local governments met at taverns to discuss matters regarding the war. In addition, when it was time to protect the community, taverns served as military stations where ordinary men voluntarily joined the ranks of the Continental Army or the militia.[4]

After the French and Indian War, the people of Northumberland County formed military organizations to protect the inhabitants of the frontier.[5] Unsupported by the colonial government, these extralegal military organizations were significantly voluntary. That volitional experience made it easy for men to mobilize during the revolution and Robert Martin’s position as a tavern owner put him into new leadership roles. In 1774, the Committees of Correspondence at Philadelphia urged the men of Northumberland County to establish township elected committees at which, Robert, deeply involved in the politics of revolution, served. Robert also served as a delegate to both the Provincial and Constitutional Conventions that created the most radical democratic state constitution in the Union.[6]

Following in his father’s revolutionary footsteps, eighteen year old Richard Martin entered the service of the Revolutionary War in 1778 under the command of Captain James Chatham.[7] Chatham commanded the Seventh Company in the Second Battalion in the Northumberland County Militia.[8] While under the company of Chatham, Richard Martin was elected First Lieutenant and held that title until the conclusion of the war.[9]

Martin’s experience in the war revolved around the protection of his community. Martin, and the other members of Chatham’s Company, built a redoubt and stockade to protect the inhabitants from the Indians that dominated the adjacent county (Lycoming County).[10] Martin not only served as First Lieutenant, but frequently went out with numerous scouting parties to hunt and drive back the Indians. While with the scouting parties, Richard Martin frequently took command and defended the country between Fort Augusta and Fort Muncy located on Muncy Creek present day Lycoming County.[11] In the late 1770s and early 1780s, Richard Martin joined Colonel Henry Antes to help repel what he termed the “savages” from gaining territory up the West Branch of the Susquehanna and above the Great Island (near present day Lock Haven).[12]

Although Martin served in the war for six years and his family was integral to the formation and protection of the revolutionary state, it did little for him economically. After the war he returned home and worked as a landless laborer.  According to the 1785 tax lists of Mahoning Township, Northumberland County, Richard Martin was still single and owned no property, paying only a fifteen shilling tax, which was slightly above the average tax paid in the town.[13]

Sometime after 1785, Richard Martin and his parents relocated from Northumberland County to Newberry, Lycoming County where he married Sophia Reece and together they had two children, Robert and James. While in Lycoming County, Richard’s father established the first grist mill located near Newberry in 1789.[14] Richard’s father and his family associated themselves with the Presbyterian religion and when it came time for the creation of a church in Newberry, Richard’s father was the first to donate money in its favor.[15] However, later in his life, Richard connected himself with Methodist Episcopal Church under the Reverend William Turner of Jersey Shore.[16]

 Despite Martin’s low socioeconomic status, he and his family still remained active in politics. In the 1790s, people who were located more than 50 miles from the County Seat at Sunbury expressed their grievances and pushed for a division of Northumberland County. Because of these petitions, that state created Lycoming County out of Northumberland in 1795. Governor Mifflin appointed four judges, one of which was William Hepburn, commander of his own company in the Northumberland County Militia during the Revolutionary War.[17] As the time came for the selection of the county seat in the newly formed county, two possible options would later spark disagreement within the people of the county. Jaysburg, an established old frontier town located near Newberry and an underdeveloped town, presently known as Williamsport, located on a swamp.[18]

William Hepburn and Michael Ross, founder of Williamsport, joined together to make Williamsport the county seat, sparking animosity in Jaysburg.[19]  Jaysburg citizens, who wanted the county seat in their town, feared that the ever flooding Williamsport, would spread disease. Richard Martin was one of the outraged citizens and took direct action. According to the Lycoming County Quarter Sessions in November 1795, Richard Martin was charged with viciously assaulting Michael Ross.[20] Despite opposition, the county seat of Lycoming County remains presently in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Having lived in Northumberland and Lycoming County for the majority of his life, Richard at the age 72 appeared in the local Court of Common Pleas to apply for a pension for his service in the Revolutionary War.[21] Richard received the approval of his pension and lived to be 76 years of age. Richard Martin died on June 6, 1836 and was buried at Pine Creek Cemetery located in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.[22]

Maggie Slawson                                                                                                          

Lycoming College

 

Endnotes

 

[1] Richard Martin, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S5721.

[2] DAR, Eighteenth Report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 72.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Peter Thompson, Rum Punch and Revolution Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth Century Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 75-155.

[5] Herbert C. Bell, History of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania (Mt. Vernon, Indiana: Windmill Publications, 1891), 99. 

[6] Ibid.

[7] Richard Martin, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S5721.

[8] J. Milton Furey, Historical and Biographical Work: or Past and Present of Clinton County, Pennsylvania (Williamsport, Pennsylvania: Grit Printing House, 1802), 92.

[9] Richard Martin, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S5721.

[10] Richard Martin, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S5721.

[11] Richard Martin, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S5721.

[12] Richard Martin, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S5721.

[13] Tax Records, Northumberland County, 1785, in Pennsylvania Archives ed. William Henry Egle (Harrisburg: State Printer, 1897), 19:633.

[14] DAR, Eighteenth Report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 72.

[15] William Henry Egle, Notes and Queries Historical, Biographical and Genealogical Relating Chiefly to the Interior Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Publishing Company, 1897), 236.

[16] Ibid., 100.

[17] John F. Meginness, History of Lycoming County (Chicago, Illinois: Brown, Runk and Company Publishers, 1892), 210.

[18] Ibid., 223.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Republica v. Richard Martin November Sessions 1795.

[21] Richard Martin, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, S5721.

[22] DAR, Eighteenth Report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 72.


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