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Martin City

Martin City Hall is located at 109 University Street, Martin, TN 38237; phone: 731-587-3126.

Beginnings [1]

Located in northwestern Tennessee on the Cane Creek, the city of Martin is a modest trade center serving Weakley County and its environs. The city was formed around the intersection of today's U. S. Highway 45E and Tennessee Route 22, and that of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad and the former Louisville & Nashville Railroad, causing it to become a town serving as the railhead for commerce and the agricultural interests of the region.

Settlement of the town site was begun by William Martin (1806-1859) in 1838, who acquired a 2,500 acre tract on which the town now stands. William Martin established a large and prosperous plantation on the tract and became a powerful influence in the affairs of Weakley County. In 1852, Martin and other citizens of the county made substantial donations to a drive to connect the county with the Hickman and Obion Railroad at Union City in adjacent Obion County. Before this effort could reach fruition, the Hickman and Obion Railroad was bought out by the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad in 1855, and completed the link between the Mississippi River at Hickman, Kentucky, and the Memphis and Ohio Railroad at McKenzie in Carroll County in 1861. An eastern section of this line was completed in 1866 to Nashville. The Nashville and Northwestern Railroad was succeeded by the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad in 1870, and later by the Nashville Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad, before finally becoming the Louisville & Nashville Railroad ca. 1880.

In spite of the arrival of the railroad in Weakley County prior to the Civil War, the movement to establish a town on the site of Martin did not begin to solidify until ca. 1872; when the Mississippi Central Railroad reached a decision to develop its right of way through the Martin family lands in Weakley County. The new rail line was completed in 1873.

Before the completion of the Mississippi Central Railroad through Weakley County, the little village of "Green Briar Glade" had already begun to grow. The little town was renamed "Frost" soon after the completion of the Mississippi Central in 1873, but was renamed to "Martin" at the time of the formal incorporation of the town in 1874. The name of the community honored the contributions of William Martin to the growth of the area. The death of William Martin in 1859 had left his extensive landholdings divided between his three sons and his only daughter. The right of way of the Mississippi Central was established on the dividing line between the lands willed to George W. Martin on the east, and Marshall and William Martin on the west.

The development of the townscape of Martin began with the formal platting of lots and streets by civil engineer Thomas I. Little in 1873. Two story brick commercial buildings were constructed on both sides of the Mississippi Central Railroad. This development pattern has left Martin with the sense of having two "downtown" areas east and west of this railroad. Light industrial uses developed at the edge of the commercial district, in the area of the crossing of the Mississippi Central and the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis railroads. Among the first of these were a sawmill, a planing mill, a gin, and a flour mill, all begun by the Martin brothers (Vaughn 1983: 77). Residential development of Martin spread outward from this central core, though it was largely concentrated to the east of the Mississippi Central and south of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis railroads.

† John Linn Hopkins, Hopkins & Associates, Architectural and Historic Resources of Martin, TN, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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