Joseph Martin Jr. held many titles in his lifetime: farmer, plantation overseer, gambler, soldier, longhunter, explorer, pioneer, Indian diplomat, Indian fighter, land agent, and Brigadier General. He is most well known as being a key person in establishing one of the first settlements in deep Southwest Virginia, a good 100 miles from previous settlements. The site became a major stopping point on the Wilderness Road as settlers moved westward into Kentucky.
The first Martin’s Station was established in 1769 after he and his companions raced to be the first to the area in hopes of securing a promised 21,000 acres. Located where Rose Hill, Virginia is now, the group built a fort, a few cabins and planted a corn crop. The creek that they settled by was named Martin’s Creek, which still holds true. They toiled and were progressing well through the summer, until the Cherokee Indians, defending their hunting grounds, swooped in, burned them out, and forced them to move back east. They returned in 1775, but were thwarted in their settling efforts by the native americans again. In 1783, they successfully returned a third time, moving the fort to a location nearer the Cumberland Gap.
Judge Richard Henderson’s Transylvania Company purchased 32 million acres from the Cherokee in 1775. Martin served as agent and record keeper for new lands in the region and further into Kentucky. The Station served the travelers coming down the Wilderness Road as a safe place to rest and resupply. In 1788, he moved back to Henry County, Virginia to the area that is now known as Martinsville.
Today, Wilderness Road State park in Ewing, Virginia has built a replica of Martin Station and has spring and fall events, featuring a “raid” reenactment in May.