John D. Martin left an indelible impression on the public life of Fairtield county. No citizen in the community was ever more respected and no man ever more faithfully enjoyed the confidence of the people or more richly deserved the esteem in which he was held. In his lifetime the people of his district, recognizing is merit rejoiced in his advancements and the success to which he attained and since his death they have cherished his memory, which remanis as a blessed benedictian to all who knew him. Honorable in business, loyal in citizenship, charitable in thought, kindly in action, true to every trust confided to his care, his life was the highest type of Christian manhood. Few men endear themselves to so great an extent to their business associates and to those with whom they come in contact in the discharge of public duties as did John D. Martin.


A native of Fairfield county he was born in Greencastle, January 7, 1819, and passed away on the 7th of December, 1898, when almost eighty years of age. His early boyhood was a period of earnest and arduous toil but he developed thereby self reliance and various forces of character which proved strong elements in his success in later life. During his early boyhood he accompanied his parents in their removal to Baltimore, Fairfield county, and was there employed by the contractors on the Ohio Central canal to carry water to their workmen on the deep cut near Monticello. Here his commendable boyish qualities and faitiifulness attracted the attention of Nathaniel R. Usher, who, as the canal neared completion, opened a store at the new town of Millersport and who ofifered the boy a position. Later Mr. .Martin left the employ of Mr. Usher and entered the store of George B. Arnold of Utica, Licking county, Ohio, becoming a salesman. In the store was another clerk—a boy almost his own age—W. S. Rosecrans, the future commander of the army of the Cumberland.


In the yenr 1836 John D. Martin arrived in Lancaster and there more than half a century was a very important factor in business circles here, his history forming an intregal part of the professional and commercial circles of Fairfield county. He first entered the store of Levi Anderson as a salesman and afterward was in the employ of John H. Tennant. In 1840 M. B. Browning became the successor of Mr. Tennant and a new firm was formed under the name of M. B. Browning & Company, his salesmen, Martin and Stambaugh, being the silent partners. Mr. Browning came to Lancaster from the east and for a time had the financial support of his uncles, one in Canton, Ohio, and two in New York, but he was an unsuccessful business man and in a year or two the new concern failed and Stambaugh and Martin found themselves involved and liable for Mr. Browning's debts. Mr. .Stambaugh benefited by the bankrupt act and was released but Mr. Martin declined to do that and sent for Mr. Thayer, one of the creditors, a distinguished merchant of Philadelphia. Coming to Lancaster, the gentleman made a thorough examination of the affairs of the firm and effected a settlement, charging Mr. Martin with one-fourth of the indebtedness. Having no capital, our subject gave his note for the amiount and after several years had passed was free from all financial obligations. In the meantime he had determined to enter the legal profession and he began the study of law under John T. Brasee, one of the most eminent lawyers at the bar of Fairfield county. Mr. Thayer had given Mr. Martin the books of the old concern to settle up and so well did he perform his duty that when admitted to the bar collections were entrusted to him from many of the leading business houses in Philadelphia, owing to the influence of Mr. Thayer. While a law student, Mr. Martin also acted as bookkeeper for Gilbert Devol for two years and to some extent he was interested in the tin business. For ten or twelve years after his achnission to the bar he remained an active and prominent memlber of the profession. The zeal with which he devoted his energies to his profession, the careful regard evinced for the interests of his clients and an assiduous and unrelaxing attention to all the details of his cases, brought to him a large business and made him very successifl in its conduct. His arguments elicited warm commendation not only from his associates at the bar, but also from the bench. He was a very able writer and his briefs always showed wide research, careful thought and the best and strongest reasons which could be urged for his contention, presented in cogent and logical form, and illustrated by a style unusually lucid and clear. He was employed upon many innportant cases with Brasee and Hunter as opposing counsels. In 1854, S. C. Stambaugh, his former associate, returned from California with some ready money and induced Mr. Martin to join him and P. B. Ewing in a banking enterprise. The Exchange Bank of Martin & Company was organized. The agreement with Mr. Martin was that he should spend one hour each day in the bank but he could not trust important matters for which he was responsible to others when he could attend to them himself and he found it necessary to spend his entire time in the bank so that he gave up his profession. This bank did a profitahle business until the year 1864, when it was merged into the First National Bank of Lancaster, and with the new institution Mr. Martin was connected, being chosen president. For thirty-two years he was a very active factor in the financial circles of this city and handled millions of money without the loss of a dollar to any man. He not only succeeded in establishing one of the strongest financial institutions in this portion of the state, but through his capabIe business management won prosperity and in 1886 he sold his interests in the bank to the late S. J. Wright, retiring permanentlv from business.


A man of resourceful ability he looked beyond the conditions of the moment to the possibilities of the future and did not confine his efforts alone to one line. For many years he was a partner in a dry goods store; established and was connected with two or three enterprises of that character. He was also largely engaged in tiie milling business and speculated in coal lands and engaged in mining and shipping coal on an extensive scale. His connections with business interests of Lancaster covered a period of sixty years, years of toil and anxiety, prosperity and adversity, but though discouragements and obstacles were encountered, he pushed forward with resolute heart and strong will and eventually gained a place among the most successful men of his community. The most envious could not grudge him his prosperity, so honorably was it won and so worthily used. From penniless boyhood to an honorable old age, his career was ever worthy of commendation and furnishes many examples for emulation. His sound business judgment was often sought and his advice was always faithfully given and was greatly appreciated by many men who acted upon it with profit. Senator Ewing had a high opinion of his ability and frequently sought his counsel.


In 1840 Mr. Martin was united in marriage to Mary Jane Herman, who died in 1870, leaving five children: Mrs. Clara McNeill, William L. and George K., who are residents of Lancaster; Edwin S., who is living in New Straitsville; and Charles B., who makes his home in Brice, Ohio. In 1872 Mr, Martin was again married, his second union being with Jane M. Becket, of Fairfield county, a lady of high scholarly attainments, being at one time principal of the Lancaster high school. She is still living, making her home in that city. Mr. Marrtin was a man of domestic tastes and found his greatest enjoyment at his own fireside in the midst of his family, The declining years of his life were spent in the quiet of his home where he took great pleasure in his books occasionally, however, taking summer trips to Middle Bass, Lake Erie, which outing he greatly enjoyed.


In his political affiliations Mr. Martin was a stalwart Republican, unswerving in his allegiance to his party and was recognized as one of its leaders in this part of Ohio. He gave his services freely and gratuitously to the cause of Republicanism and his efforts were potent for the party's success. He was an excellent speaker, strong and deep and convincing in his reasoning. He was a friend and associate of the great leaders of the Republican party and his influence was strong with the successive administrations. He delivered many publi aiddresses at the time what the country was involved in Civil war, when the boys in blue were upon the held of battle in the south. He was a very close friend of Secretary of State Sherman, who was born in Lancaster and during the stonny days previous to the resumption of specie payment, when Sherman was secretary of the treasury in the Hayes cabinet. John D. Martin was one of the closest advisers of the finance minister, and many of his suggestions were incorporated into law on the recommendation of Sherman. While an active factor in business and political circles Mr. Martin never neglected his duty to his fellow men and to his Creator. He regarded the former as a part of the latter, believing that Christianity largely constituted man's treatment of his fellow men. He was one of the original organizers and main supporters, financially and spiritually, of the present English Lutheran church of Lancaster, Ohio. Always ready to help the cause of Christ in any and every way he could and being a man of much more than ordinary mental capacity, he soon made himself felt in all departments of church work. He commenced life with nothing but honesty, industry and perseverance. But these he used to the best possible advantage, and soon became a power in the community, religiously, socially and financially. Churches, schools and colleges would come to him for aid and advice. He gave the first three thousand dollars toward the endowment of Wittenberg College; this he afterward supplemented by other donations, some of which ranging as high as five thousand dollars. For years he paid a fourth of the pastor's salary and other things in proportion, in the church in which he worshipped. And so scrupulous was he in matters pertaining to the church and her institutions that in a time of financial crisis, when not having plenty of ready money, we would know him to pay the interest due on his college endowment notes and at the same time leaving his taxes go by default, preferring rather to pay the penalty on taxes rather than the institution should suffer. He was unostentatious. He never tried to make a show of his benevolence or religion. He tried to see the hand of God in all his dispensations, whether prosperous or adverse. At every point in his career Mr. Martin seemed to have realized the possibilities at that point. In boyhood he was surrounded by many discouraging circumstances but his strong pupose and indefatigable enterprise enabled him to lay the foundaition to success. He possessed keen foresight and sound judgment and moreover his unfaltering honesty was one of the potent forces in his prosperity. He regarded political action not as a man's for personal advancement but performance of the duties of citizenship and the paying of the debt which he owed to his country. His church relations were largely ideal. His natural endowments were a quick and strong temper and a warm heart, a gentle manner and a quiet courtesy. To control the first and to make his life the flower and expression of the other traits was the task which nature had assigned him. We know nothing of the struggle but were daily witnesses of the victory. Kindness was the motive of his life. He had a well spring of affection and a quick and generous sympathy, which increases by giving, and became richer by being a very spend-thrift. Like all who walk through life on a higher plain than the majority of his friends, his companionship was select rather than large but the many who looked up to and respected him realized as fully as did the few who were nearer him that a true man had fallen when death claimed him.

 

From A Biographical Record of Fairfield County, Ohio, J. S. Clarke Publishing, New York and Chicago, 1902