Major Bryce Martin

Revolutionary War Army Officer, Virginia planter/farmer, husband, father, and devoted son.  Brice was the son of our Immigrant Martin ancestor, Joseph Martin, Sr., from Bristol, England.  He was born in Albemarle County, Virginia.  He migrated to Henry County, Virginia and owned a large farm on the west side of Smith River, a short distance from his brother, General Joseph Martin’s “Scuffle Hill Farm” approximately two miles southwest of Martinsville.

Brice was described as tall, muscular and very active.  He had dark hair; married Unity Barksdale and they had two sons, Joseph and William.  Both, eventually migrated to Tennessee, lived and died in Overton County.  William died about the time of his father, around 1819ca.  Joseph was still living in Tennessee in 1840.

A court settlement there reveals the children of William and Mary Fearney Martin were:  Unity, Thomas, Brice, John B., and Joseph.  Major Brice eldest son Joseph and wife Ruth White’s children were:  Bethiahl, Brice E., William W., Eunice, Robert Milton, George W., Milton E., Jacob Burris, Rachael Lucas, and Joseph Martin.

A son, Robert Milton Martin migrated to Little Shasta Valley, California in 1849 and established Martin’s Dairy and the Table Rock Ranch which today is still owned and operated by one of his descendents, named Brice Martin.  Brice and his family operate the 4,000+ acre cattle ranch and four Brice Martin’s lived on the ranch today.

Table Rock Ranch furnishes all the beef for the famous Harris Restaurants in California and their beef are shipped all across the United States to other famous restaurants by the Harris Cooperation of Restaurants.

Major Brice traveled on many frontier expeditions with his brother, General Joseph, and General Joseph’s son Colonel William L. Martin for most of thirteen years.  All three of these Martins were involved in establishing Martin’s Station near Cumberland Gap, in Lee County, Virginia.  Many stories, manuscripts and books have been written about this area and General Joseph Martin, he being the leader of the western movement into Kentucky and Tennessee.  Daniel Boone spent several days at Martin’s Station during his venture into Kentucky and was surprised to find Joseph Martin there with about 25—30 men.  Joseph was appointed the United States Indian Agent and chose to live in the Cherokee nation establishing his Headquarters at Long Island, today Kingsport, Tennessee.

Major Brice was named after the ship, “Brice” in which their father came to America on.  The name has since been a family name.  During one of the expeditions he took up lands under Henderson & Company in Powell’s Valley, near Beaver Dam Creek, some 8 miles from Martin’s Station.  He was at Long Island by the Holston River for a while with General Joseph Martin.  In 1802, he or his nephew of the same name was one of the surveyors to the Tennessee and Virginia Boundary Commission.

He shared the hardships of the settlers and protected them with the company of rangers under his command.  He was sometimes stationed in a fort, was often times pursuing marauding Indians, sometimes opening up channels of travel by which the 200,000 plus emigrants could more easily reach the forming frontier settlements, especially those going to Kentucky and the Ohio Valley.

Brice’s military experiences are given in many Virginia magazines and from Pittsylvania and Henry County records and other historical documents as follows:

  • Major Brice Major Martin’s Company of Henry County Militia received orders on March 11, 1781 to march to Guilford Court House, Hillsboro, North Carolina to assist General Green.  Most historians credit this successful battle and the Kings Mountain Battle as the turning point for our American forces in the Revolutionary War.
  • In 1769 Brice accompanied his brother, then Captain Joseph Martin, Jr. to Powell Valley, Southwestern Virginia in his attempt to establish a fort, later known as Martin’s Station and survives today as the only re-constructed authentic Revolutionary Fort in the United States.  Located eight miles east of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee on Virginia Highway 58, Ewing, Virginia.
  • From Militia payrolls of Pittsylvania County, Virginia for 1774——1775 Brice was paid for service in western frontier outposts in the Cherokee Nation.
  • Major Brice was in the battle at Point Pleasant, along with his youngest brother, Colonel John (Jack) Martin and General Joseph Martin’s oldest son, Colonel William Lucas Martin; under the command of Colonel Andrew Lewis.
  • Major Brice took the “Oath of Allegiance” to the Commonwealth of Virginia renouncing alliance to Great Britain on August 30, 1777 and formed the first militia company in Henry County.  Some of his engagements were:
    • Cherokee Expedition—August 25, 1776 through March 7, 1777.
    • Fort Patrick Henry—1776 through year 1777.
    • Frontiers of Fincastle County, Virginia—July 1, 1776 through August 31, 1776.
    • Rye Cove on the Clinch River Virginia—February 1 through March 31, 1777.
    • Washington County, Virginia Rye Cove—May 1 to June 30, 1777.
    • Major Brice formed the first Henry County Militia Company, known as Captain Brice Martin Militia Company.
    • Brice was Captain of the Militia and licensed to keep an ordinary at the Courthouse.  John Barksdale was appointed 2nd Lieutenant under Brice.
    • 1782—Brice was commissioned as Major by Governor of Virginia.

After the death of his wife, Unity Barksdale, he re-married Rachel Lucas on August 7, 1793 in Orange County, Virginia.  Brice died at his farm on the Southside of Smith River, Henry County, Martinsville, Virginia, 1919ca.  (*Rachel was the sister of Sarah Lucas, first wife of General Joseph Martin).

By:   Colonel Joseph Martin  (16 June 2008)

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