History of Martin’s Station

The original Martin’s Station played a relatively short but significant part in the history of southwestern Virginia and the early settlement of Kentucky. The station takes its name from Joseph Martin, who was born cir. 1740 in Albemarle County, Virginia. Following a somewhat restless early life which included service in the French and Indian War, Joseph Martin became the overseer for a wealthy relative who was closely connected with Dr. Thomas Walker. This connection with Dr. Walker proved valuable for Joseph Martin, who would eventually be selected by Dr. Walker to lead an expedition into the Powell’s Valley.

To help assert the legitimacy of his land claims to the Powell’s Valley region, Dr. Walker organized an expedition and promised Joseph Martin 21,000 acres if his group were first to settle on the land. On March 26, 1769, after an arduous journey through the wilderness and a literal race with a rival expedition, Joseph Martin’s group entered Powell’s Valley – two weeks ahead of the others.

Joseph Martin and the members of his expedition identified a tract of land near the present-day village of Rose Hill, Virginia. They erected a stockaded fort, some crude cabins, and planted a corn crop. These efforts at settlement proved to be useless, as an Indian attack occurred in the fall of 1769 and the station was abandoned before the corn ripened. Joseph Martin and his men returned to Albemarle County, but retained title to their land.

Indians Attacking Martin’s StationJoseph Martin would not be long absent from the station, and in January 1775 returned to Powell’s Valley with a party of 16 or 18 men. They set about to build a more permanent station, which included four or five cabins for the men and a stockade, on the site of the old station.

The importance of the station greatly increased when on 17 March 1775 the thirty-two million acre Transylvania Purchase between Judge Richard Henderson and the Cherokee Indians was finalized at the Sycamore Shoals of the Watauga River. Joseph Martin was appointed by Henderson as an agent and entry taker, a duty that would keep him constantly moving in and out of Martin’s Station. As the last fortified station along the Wilderness Road prior to reaching the new lands Henderson was opening in Kentucky, Martin’s Station was a well-known stop for the early settlers.