University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

John Hill Martin
Family Papers

1618 - 1899

(bulk dates 1872 - 1899)

Manuscript Collection Number: 97, item 148
Accessioned: Purchase, 1957
Extent: One volume, circa 400 pp.
Content: Ink drawings, printed illustrations, Bible records, newspaper clippings, advertisements, letters, leases, deeds, financial receipts, portraits, a business card, family crests, poems, announcements, diplomas, and lyrics
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: April 2001, by Sally W. Donatello

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Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Author, editor, genealogist, illustrator, lawyer, and publisher John Hill Martin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1823. Martin, who remained single, became well known in Pennsylvania for his writings about genealogy, history, and marine insurance. His parents were William Martin and Sarah Ann Smith (b. 1801-d. 1876), and his grandparents were Dr. William Martin, Jr. (d. 1862) and Eleanor Crosby (who later married John F. Hill) and Margaret S. and William Smith, Jr. His father gave up his law practice to move to the Lungren House near Lungren Mills, which he named Lenni Mills after the Lenni Lenape Indians of Delaware. These mills later became Lenni Station, which was part of the Philadelphia, West Chester, and Media Railroad. After his father’s faltering career in the mills in the late 1820s, Martin was sent to live with his grandparents, the Hills, who lived on a farm (possibly called Martin’s Plantation) in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

When his family moved to Chester after his father was elected Secretary of the Delaware County Insurance Company, Martin returned to his parents’ home. Young Martin attended the Ridley School. At fifteen Martin was appointed a midshipman to West Point. He wrote that he was “too young and entirely unprepared for the course of education persued [sic.] at the Military Academy.” In 1841 after a checkered experience, he was asked to leave. He returned to Philadelphia where he studied law under George L. Ashmead. Martin was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1844, and practiced law until 1881. He concentrated his cases on the admiralty and insurance.

John Hill Martin incorporated his love of history and literature into his everyday life. For almost fifty years he was the legal editor for the Insurance Intelligencer (Philadelphia Intelligencer), and became an author and publisher in the 1870s. Many of his summers were spent in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His fondness for the town inspired him to chronicle its history in a two-volume edition called Historical Sketch of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, with Some Account of the Moravian Church (1872-1873). At the same time he wrote “Sketches in the Lehigh Valley,” which were several articles written for the Bethlehem Daily Times. Martin edited and published Historical Notes on Music in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania by Rufus A. Grider. He also published Martin’s Bench and Bar of Philadelphia (1873) and his work Chester (and its Vicinity) Delaware County, in Pennsylvania (1877). A member of the Moravian Historical Society and the Pennsylvania Historical Society, he bequeathed many of his papers to the latter. By 1897 Martin lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He died in 1906.


Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. VI. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958.

Historical and biographical information obtained from the collection.

Scope and Content Note

The single bound volume of family papers in this collection was originally created by Philadelphia native John Hill Martin in 1872. As noted in the volume, he had the “book rebound, St. Martin’s Day, November 11, 1894.” The original title page is transcribed: “Family Papers consisting of copies of Wills, and other important papers, or memoranda thereof; extracts from Family Bibles. Short sketches of personal history, and other interesting matters, relative to the families of Martin of Chester, and Philadelphia, and of the Crosbys of Ridley, in Delaware County in Pennsylvania, and their relatives and connections there and elsewhere. Written and collected and copied by J. Hill Martin. Of the Philadelphia Bar. Member of the Moravian and Pennsylvania Historical Societies. Apl. 10th- 1872.”

The book, which is approximately 400 pages of information spanning the dates 1618-1899, chronicles Martin’s Quaker family, who lived in Chester, Philadelphia, and Ridley, Pennsylvania. Other relatives resided in Wilmington, Delaware, and Baltimore, Maryland. Most of the volume—a combination of memoir, record book, and scrapbook—is handwritten by Martin, and includes many of his pen-and-ink drawings of family crests and homes. “Written, collected, and copied” items are letters, obituaries, Bible records, wills, leases, deeds, diplomas, surveys, listings of births, marriages and deaths, family crests, inventories of family holdings, poems, personal documents, and the lyrics to “Martin, the Man at Arms” by Bellamy. Also in their original form are advertisements, announcements, a business card, financial receipts, newspaper clippings, two portraits, and printed illustrations. The book is a compilation of miscellaneous family information, and has no logical arrangement. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century documents are interspersed among nineteenth-century ones, though the bulk of the volume consists of earlier documents copied or anecdotes written by Martin in 1872.

This collection demonstrates Martin’s dedication to recording his family’s lineage. The book is filled with numerous genealogical records and historical notes. Several renowned local and national historical figures from the Mid- Atlantic region are chronicled: Jacob Broom (1752-1810), who was born in Wilmington, Delaware, became a representative at the Constitutional Convention as well as the first Postmaster of Wilmington; and John Morton (c. 1724- 1777), who was born in Ridley, became a delegate for the First and Second Continental Congresses, as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Martin’s Family Papers is a compact and complex history of his family. He provided a list of 167 names that are interwoven into his ancestry. Although he did not complete genealogies for all of the families cited, he copied Bible records and other documents to substantiate relatives’ births, marriages, and deaths in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Personal notes are scattered throughout the text, often accompanied by drawings. He devoted considerable space to certain branches of the Martin family tree: Crosby, Smith, Bartram, Bond, Morton, Welsh, Broom, and Pierce. Other familial names can be found on pages 367-370. Martin was sure that his family was Quaker, but he was “never able to prove where the family came from.” His father told him that they were Irish Quakers from Dublin, but he found no evidence of this heritage (p. 321).

Within various sections of the volume Martin summarized his life (pp. 50-77, 165-168, and 257-249). He wrote about his childhood, and explained the passage from early school days to a lifetime career as a lawyer. In this book he also wrote the history of Ridley School, which he extracted from the school’s meeting minutes (pp. 195-218).

Martin also wrote sketches of some of his immediate family, as well as “family servants.” He wrote lovingly of both parents, describing their characters as well as their relationships to other relatives (pp. 309-310). Martin copied several other documents commemorating his brother, Dr. Ernest Dudley Martin, who was appointed by President Andrew Johnson to the position of Assistant Surgeon of the Navy (pp. 328-363). Dr. Martin served as Acting Assistant Surgeon in 1865, and from 1866-1868 he had a full commission. He died of yellow fever on the US flagship Powhatan. Martin’s brother was “aged 25 years and 16 days.”

From 1894-1896 Martin listed “some old family servants,” his “grandfather’s old servants,” his “father’s servants at Lenni Mills,” and their “servants in Philadelphia” (pp. 376-383). Two pages are filled with names and positions that included nurses, day workers, cooks, chambermaids, and waiting maids. Martin’s mother said that “[we] always had colored servants, slaves, and father was a very hard master” (p. 305). Many of the workers were Irish. When Martin lived with his Hill grandparents in Ridley circa 1833, they hired Irishmen to work in their three quarries. His father’s nurse became his grandmother’s cook, and like many domestic workers she became part of the extended family. Other workers were blacksmiths, quarry supervisors, night watchmen, and tailors.

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