Hon. John Martin, who died at his home in Topeka September 3, 1913, was one of the distinguished Kansans of both the territorial and statehood eras. He was born in Wilson County, Tennessee, November 12, 1833, and was nearly eighty years of age when he died. He was the oldest son of Matt and Mary Martin, who were descended from some of the first settlers of Virginia. It was possible to gain only a meager education in the schools of the frontier district in which he lived, but John Martin made the best of his opportunities and aided by a strong native intelligence he became known for his scholarship as well as his practical judgment.
He was a participant in many of the early territorial affairs of Kansas. He came to Kansas soon after reaching his majority in company with Judge Rush Elmore. Judge Elmore was one of the first associate justices of the Territory of Kansas, was a Southerner by birth and education, had served as an officer in the Mexican war, and was a conspicuous figure on the southern side in the early territorial history of Kansas. After Kansas became a state he located in Topeka, in partnership with the late John Martin, and remained there until his death in 1864.
John Martin’s first location in Kansas was at Tecumseh. He was soon afterward elected assistant clerk of the House of Representatives in the Territorial Legislature. From 1855 to 1857 he served as clerk and register of deeds of Shawnee County. In 1856 he was admitted to the bar, and the following year was appointed postmaster of Tecumseh. In 1858 he was elected the first attorney of Shawnee County, serving one year and then resigning to become assistant United States attorney, an office he filled until he opened an office and began private practice in Topeka in 1861. He attained a reputation as one of the most prominent attorneys of Kansas. During the war he served as a member of the State Militia.
In spite of the war he remained true to his old party faith, the democratic, and was long prominent in the party. He was a delegate to the National Convention of 1872 and a member of the committee which notified the fusion candidate, Mr. Greeley, of his nomination. In 1873 he was elected to the Legislature and was re-elected in 1874, and in 1876 was on the democratic ticket for the office of governor and a delegate to the national convention of the same year. Not long afterwards he was appointed to the district bench and subsequently was elected judge. With the death of Senator Preston B. Plumb, John Martin was elected in 1893 to the United States Senate and served until 1895. In that year he was elected clerk of the Kansas Supreme Court, but he resigned that office and resumed his private law practice in 1899. He was a member of the Baptist Church and was affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Senator Martin married Caroline Clements on November 12, 1860. Her father, Caleb B. Clements, was one of the prominent pioneers of Kansas and long a resident of Tecumseh. Mrs. John Martin was born in Indiana in 1842 and died at Topeka in 1894. Her children were: John Elmore Martin of Emporia; Charles Clements, who was born October 2, 1864, was for a number of years connected with the Bank of Topeka, and at the time of his death in Hutchinson in 1892 was serving as receiver for the Hutchinson National Bank; Caroline, born May 29, 1872, is the wife of Charles F. Martin, who is territorial agent for the International Harvester Company and lives at Little Rock, Arkansas.