John Martin

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Capt. John Martin (c.1560 - 1632) was a Councilman of the Jamestown Colony, in America.

Early life

John Martin was the son of Sir Richard Martin, a goldsmith and master of the mint and Lord Mayor of London.[1] Martin's Hundred in Virginia was named after Sir Richard. His mother was Dorcas Eccleston, a highly educated woman who did translations from French and was involved in the book trade. She is said to have Puritan sympathies.

Martin attended Cambridge University in 1578, graduating in 1582/3 from Peterhouse, where his eldest brother Thomas was already a Fellow. From 1585 to 1586 John Martin commanded one of Sir Francis Drake's vessels.

In May 1586 he married Mary Brandon, the daughter of a leading London goldsmith and supplier to the Queen, Robert Brandon.

Virginia Colony

Martin arrived in Virginia along with his teenage son John Junior on April 26, 1607. Martin was named a councilman by the Virginia Company in an order that was held in a sealed box which was only to be opened in Virginia.[2]

After finding a location to build their settlement they landed on May 14, 1607 and founded Jamestown. Shortly after this the Council elected Edward-Maria Wingfield president of the colony.[3]

Martin was sickly during the early period of the settlement due to malnutrition and disease.[4] His son died on August 18, 1607. When councilman Bartholomew Gosnold died on August 22, Martin, John Smith, and John Ratcliffe (Governor) made a pact to depose President Wingfield because of what they considered mismanagement of the Jamestown government and because of suspicions that he was hoarding food for himself and friends. Martin also blamed Wingfield for his son's death by not letting him get enough food.[5] Thus on September 10, Martin, Ratcliffe and Smith presented the president with a signed order discharging him from the council and his office. He was promptly imprisoned. Ratcliffe was made the new president and the next day he, Martin, Smith and Archer all spoke against Wingfield at the assembly.[6]

Wingfield reported that, "Master Martyn followed with, he reporteth that I do slack the service in the collonye, and doe nothing but tend my pott, spitt, and oven, but he hath starved my sonne, and denyed him a spoonfull of beere; I have friends in England shalbe revenged on him if ever he come in London." [7]

In November of 1607 Martin and Smith refused to allow the remaining colonists to return to England on their ship, the Discovery.[8] Martin objected during the winter, when John Smith was away having been captured by Indians, to President Ratcliffe's appointment of Gabriel Archer as councilor.

Martin came into conflict with John Smith when, in the spring of 1608, the two gold refiners that Christopher Newport had transported to the colony led to the fruitless efforts of looking for gold to be sent back to London. Martin, being the son of a goldsmith was very enthusiastic about the development, Smith was not.[9]

Martin returned to England on the Phoenix in 1608. He may have returned to Virginia in 1624 on the Swan. He died in 1632 at Martin’s Brandon in Virginia.


  1. Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation, David A. Price,Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2003, page 30.
  2. Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation, David A. Price,Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2003, page 30.
  3. Ibid. page 36.
  4. Ibid. page 50.
  5. Ibid. pages 49-51.
  6. Ibid. pages 50-51
  7. Ibid. page 51.
  8. Ibid. page 58.
  9. Ibid. pages 76-77.