George W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, was born at Hollidaysburg, Pa., June 30, 1841, a son of David and Mary (Howell) Martin, and is of Scotch-Irish lineage. His great-grandfather, William Martin, went from Scotland to Ireland, where his son, John, married Elizabeth Martin, belonging to another family, but also from Scotland. Their son, David, the father of George W., was born near Belfast, County Antrim, Ireland, December 1, 1814. When he was about five years of age the family came to America, locating in Indiana county, Pennsylvania. Mary Howell was born near Pittsburgh, Pa., in the year 1822. Her mother was a Spargo, whose family came from Wales and settled in Pittsburgh in 1820. David Martin and Mary Howell were married near Cresson, Pa., September 16, 1840. They reared a family of seven children, George W., being the eldest. Mary Martin died on July 29, 1892, and her husband departed this life on the following day. They were both buried in one grave.
George W. Martin began learning the printer's trade in his native town. In 1855 his father came to Kansas and located a claim near Lecompton, upon which he made some improvements and then returned to Pennsylvania for the family. They arrived at Kansas City on April 7, 1857, and the next day George, in company with another boy and four men, started to walk to Lecompton, where he arrived about 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the 9th, tired and footsore, but happy in the thought that he had reached his destination. Since that time he has been intimately identified with Kansas affairs. He secured a position in the office of the Lecompton "Union," a rabid pro-slavery paper, and remained connected with that publication and its successor, the "National Democrat," until the fall of 1859. He then returned to Pennsylvania and for some time worked in a book office in Philadelphia, completing his apprenticeship. Returning to Kansas, he established himself at Junction City, where he founded the Junction City "Union," the most westerly newspaper in the State until 1867, when the Salina "Herald" was established. For five years the "Union" was the only paper between Junction City and Denver. Concerning some of his editorials in those early days, showing the agricultural possibilities of western Kansas, Mr. Martin says: "They were marvels of nerve and ignorance. I was then an unblushing prevaricator and was held responsible for all the crop failures up the Smoky Hill, but I can now claim that I was a prophet. I have lived long enough to see those editorials vindicated." In February, 1869, Mr. Martin issued a "boom" edition of the "Union," probably the first in the State. With regard to Mr. Martin's courage and character as a journalist William E. Connelly says: "As a newspaper man Martin has never been surpassed in Kansas. He was a vigorous and sometimes a violent writer, always saying something worth while, and constantly stirring things up. From August, 1868, to August, 1870, he carried his life in his hands because he called attention to a gang of horse thieves in the vicinity of Junction City. The headquarters of the gang were in Junction City, in a saloon called 'The Unknown.' The north end of the route was Nebraska City and the south end at Douglas, in Butler county. On the 22d of August, 1868, a prominent citizen was hanged by parties unknown. Immediately the impression was manufactured that the hanging was done by a Republican vigilance committee, and because of certain expressions in the 'Union' Martin was held responsible by this manufactured sentiment. For years the friends of the dead man made life uncomfortable for Martin, and many nights the authorities had special policemen about his home. Two years later (August, 1870) the friends of the dead man concluded they were on the wrong scent. They secured from St. Louis two detectives, and Martin became their principal adviser. The result of the fight was that the leader of the gang, who had for years been a notorious outlaw defying the officers all over central Kansas and out to the Pike's Peak region, was killed. Some eight men were sent from that neighborhood to the penitentiary, and fifteen more were run out of the country. At Douglas, the south end of the route, in November following, seven men were hanged by the citizens. After that, horses had some value in Kansas."
On April 1, 1865, Mr. Martin was appointed Register of the United States land office at Junction City and served until in November, 1866, when he was removed by Andrew Johnson, being the first official to be removed for political reasons. He was the first to be reinstated by President Grant, in 1869, and continued as register until the office was removed to Salina, in 1871. In 1867-68, after his removal from the land office and before his reinstatement, he was assessor of internal revenue for all that portion of Kansas west of Manhattan. In January, 1873, he was elected State printer, after one of the most spirited contests that ever occurred in the Kansas legislature, and was three times reëlected. Prior to his election the State had been paying fancy prices for very ordinary work, and Mr. Martin immediately set about reforming the practices of the office. He was offered a bonus not to qualify, but his response came promptly and emphatically: "The men who voted for me meant something, and I will not sell them out." Each time he was reëlected a fight was made against him, and some of the members of the legislature never lost an opportunity to harass him by the introduction of bills and resolutions calculated to interfere with the successful conduct of his position. Notwithstanding this, when Mr. Martin's successor was elected, January 18, 1881, James F. Legate, who had always opposed Mr. Martin, introduced the following resolution, which was adopted by the joint convention: "Resolved, That George W. Martin, the retiring State printer, is entitled to, and we tender him, the warmest commendation of the legislature of the State of Kansas in joint convention assembled, for the high standard to which he has raised the State printing; for his integrity of character as State printer, being ever watchful of the rights of the people, even to his own expense. He commenced his career eight years ago with an untarnished character, and leaves it today with a character unblemished, even by the severest critic."
That was the only time a joint convention of the legislature ever adopted a resolution of such a character. In 1888 Mr. Martin removed to Kansas City, Kan., where he engaged in newspaper work until elected to his present position. He was one of the founders of the Historical Society and always took a deep interest in its success. Upon the death of Franklin G. Adams, in December, 1899, the directors of the society selected Mr. Martin as his successor, and subsequent events have shown that the choice was a wise one. The collections of the society have been increased under his administration, and the society has been brought into closer touch with the people. Although always a Republican in his political views he has on several occasions refused to support the party nominee or principles advocated. He bolted when prohibition was made a part of the Republican platform; he voted for George W. Glick for governor in 1882; he supported John A. Anderson for Congress in 1886, after he had been defeated in the convention by underhand methods; and after going to Kansas City he denounced his party in the selection of a congressional candiate[sic] and contributed to the election of Mason S. Peters, a Democrat. Yet he is profoundly grateful that, after all the political contests in which he was engaged, contests in which he, no doubt, was at times an unreasonable participant, he retains the respect and good will of all. Mr. Martin was grand master of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in 1872-73, having been admitted into that order at Junction City in 1867. In 1883-84 he was mayor of Junction City, and just prior to his election to that office he served a term in the lower house of the State legislature. In the Republican State convention of 1894 he received 122 votes for governor. Mr. Martin has been twice married. His first wife, with whom he was united on December 20, 1863, was Lydia Coulson, a daughter of Allen and Catherine Coulson. She was born at Minerva, Columbiana county, Ohio, March 16, 1845, and died in Kansas City on June 7, 1900. She was the mother of five children: Lincoln, Amelia, Charles Coulson, Elizabeth and Ruth, the last two dying in infancy. On October 10, 1901, Mr. Martin married Mrs. Josephine Blakely, who was the first girl he met when he went to Junction City in 1861. Her first husband, Maj. William S. Blakely, was Mr. Martin's partner for three years in the publication of the Junction City "Union." Later he went into the hardware business, and died on June 11, 1885. Mrs. Martin's maiden name was Morgan.Pages 349-352 from a supplemental volume of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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