The Martin Families of 1782
Halifax County, Virginia
The starting place is the 1782 Halifax County, Virginia, Personal Property Tax List, which included 15 Martin households in Halifax County after the war, five of them named John. Each John was a member of what seems to be an unrelated clan of Martins, which included:
Isaac Martin of Childry Creek
Benjamin Martin of Banister River
John William Martin of Burch Creek
Henry Martin of Spotsylvania County, Virginia
The Weaver John Martin of Lawson Creek
Major John Martin of South Carolina (not in Halifax in 1782)
The families to which Robert and Samuel Martin belong are not identified. In fact the original list seems to show Samuel’s name as Morton. One of the William Martins is a descendent of Henry Martin of Spotsylvania. Frank and William Peters Martin are likely related to John William Martin’s Burch Creek family, but the connections are not verified
The weaver, John Martin of Lawson Creek, does not appear to be related to any of the other Martin clans or independent Martins. His background is unknown. There are very few records still existing, and no known DNA tests have been performed. If contact with the True family is any indication, he may have been a descendant of Spotsylvania’s Henry Martin. But this is tenuous.
As soon as the colonies won independence in 1781, the first thing they decided to do was collect taxes to pay for the war for independence. They needed to know who to collect from so in 1782 the commanders of each militia district of each county was responsible for listing all eligible taxpayers. This consisted of all free white males over the age of 21 who owned over 100 acres of land. And it helps identify the locations of each Martin household
Halifax County was less than 30 years old: carved out of Lunenburg county in 1752. It was a crossroads for settlers and frontiersmen in and out of Virginia, and was the starting point for travelers using Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road to move their families west to the Kentucky territory.
Centered on Virginia’s southern border with North Carolina, Halifax was also a major artery for travel to the southern colonies. The Roanoke River forms its North and East border, and Halifax is intersected by the Dan and Banister Rivers. Large tributaries, or creeks, flow into the Dan and Roanoke, and provided easy transportation where there were no roads -- and throughout the 1700’s that included much of the county.
Schools in Virginia were rare, and schooling in Halifax County was almost nonexistent, except for the wealthy and clerical-minded. The occupations of the Martins separate the clans, because the level of education was different for each. After the revolution, opportunities for schooling grew some, but mostly for the sons of planters.
Education could mean the difference between one of the Martins being an itinerant Irish farmer, or the younger son of a wealthy English family. Or it could have been the more secretive training of a dissident religious sect, knowing education was necessary to spread the gospel the proper way.
Thomas Jefferson believed democracy was best suited for an educated people, and in 1779 offered a plan to Virginia politicians that would provide education at public expense for three years, and longer for boys who excelled, but Jefferson was opposed by the ruling class, who felt education should be controlled privately for those who could afford it, and by clergy, who felt education for the sons of common folk should by controlled by the church -- although the church did little in this regard. It was another forty five years before Jefferson could take credit for any achievement in state-wide education -- the University of Virginia.
Unfortunately, the established institutions were available only to the wealthy. In A History of Halifax County, Wirt Johnson Carrington related a letter written by Bishop Meade of the Church of England at the time, in which he said, “Private schools, at rich gentlemen’s houses, kept perhaps by an unmarried clergyman or candidate for orders, were all the means for education in the Colony, and to such the poor had no access.” By 1850, Halifax County was packed with over 11,000 free citizens, and the public schools of Halifax boasted of 252 pupils. And 36 students attended it’s private academy.
The Tax List does not help identify Jonathan’s father, but it does enumerate the county’s Martin families that included a John, and it helps identify the individual Martins listed in the county’s public records that can possibly be confused with Jonathan’s father.
The 1782 Halifax County, Va.
Personal Property Tax List
Selected entries listed in order of homestead, and separated to show important distance
Martin, William P.