Presley Martin (1773-1855) & the Point House

Submitted by Vicki (Riggenbach) Reed


Presley N. Martin & Margaret MartinPresley Martin was born in Martin’s Fort in Monongalia County during an Indian attack in 1773, the son of Col. Charles Martin, commander of the fort. This same fort at Morgantown was used to defend the colonial people against British attacks during the Revolutionary War.  

Pressley came to the territory that is now New Martinsville in 1808. He boarded at a house on the south side of Fishing Creek and the Ohio River then owned by Abraham Hanes (known as the Myers house - close to the Brooklyn Bridge). In 1810, Pressley purchased the land on which is now situated the town of New Martinsville. The land was part of Edward Doolin’s original homestead where he lived with his family until he was killed in 1785. In 1810 this land was still owned by Edward’s widow who sold the 80 acres to Pressley Martin.

In 1811 New Martinsville consisted of that 80 acres bounded by North Street, Maple Avenue, Fishing Creek, and the Ohio River. There he built the Point House which stood on the property now occupied by the residence of Clem Clegg on the north side of Fishing Creek where it joins the Ohio River. He carried the wrought iron nails for the house from Morgantown to New Martinsville in packsaddles. (Another account states that the nails, made by a blacksmith, came from West Liberty.) The weather boarding was 1½ inches thick and was grooved on the underside leaving a flap to cover the next board something like the present filistered weather boarding. His house was very large, and on many occasions, people going up and down the river used it as a stopover. It is shown in the top center of the collage.

A short time after purchasing the land, he was married to Margaret Clinton. In 1815, Pressley became the first postmaster in this section and received the handsome salary of $9.00 for the year 1817. The salary was based on the amount of postal business passing through the office. In 1957 Mrs. Westerman still had many of Pressley’s letters addressed to “Postmaster, Mouth of Fishing Creek, Virginia”.  

In 1836 Martin laid out the town of Martinsville, Va, which was later changed to New Martinsville since there was already a Martinsville in Henry County, Va. He was a member of the committee that formed the town and county government. In 1846 when Wetzel County was formed from Tyler County, the home of Sampson Thistle was purchased for $400, and it was repaired and modified to serve as the first Wetzel County Courthouse. This building was located at Main and Jefferson  Streets where the Shiben Building now stands. The committee also selected the permanent site of the courthouse to be built on two town lots Pressley and Margaret Martin donated at the northeast corner of Main and Washington Streets. An additional lot was purchased for $300. The second courthouse building was completed in 1850, and it faced south on Washington Street where it served for the next 50 years.

Pressley Martin died in 1855.  He and his wife Margaret are buried in the old Williams Cemetery at the south edge of Steelton where many of the early New Martinsville family grave sites are found.

One of the often-repeated stories about Pressley Martin seems to be not well founded.  When Edward Doolin was killed in September 1785, his wife took refuge in a blockhouse in which a man named Martin was living alone. This blockhouse was located at the site of the New Martinsville Fire Station and old City Hall on Ohio Street.  Some accounts say it was Presley Martin at the blockhouse, but he was only a  teenager at that time, and was not likely present in the area.  Born in 1773, he would have been about 12 years old.  Although young men and even teenagers had to grow up fast on the frontier, it doesn’t seem likely that a 12 year old would be living there. A number of other Martins were on the frontier in those days. Mrs. Westerman’s account states that Pressley first came to the Ohio Valley in 1808 when he would have been about 25 years old, a more reasonable likelihood.

Information for this story was published in the Wetzel Republican on January 17, 1957. It originated from an interview with Mrs. S. W. Westerman, of New Martinsville, the great-great granddaughter of Pressley Martin. Jim Fitzsimmons (’42) provided the Republican story; Ruthie (Wood) LaFon (’60) was also a contributor; and Bill Shepherd, Martha’s husband, made the photographs of the Martin grave site in Williams Cemetery. Compilation, editing and additional comments by SWMc.

Sam McColloch - Dec 4, 2007  

" I just noticed the disagreement between Pressley Martin's birth date as recorded on his grave monument (1778) and that reported by Mrs. Westerman in her interview (1773). If the actual date was 1778, then he would have been 7 years old at the time of Edward Doolin's death in 1785,
and it is even more unlikely that it was Pressley at the blockhouse where Mrs.Doolin sought shelter. Another possibility is that there has been a typo error in writing the date - 1773 can become 1778 by just closing in the number 3, or an 8 can become a 3 by not writing the number carefully. This is another example how history gets rewritten."

Does anyone have the true facts/date and proof of it somewhere in your history files?


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