Martin was established in 1873 on land belonging to the sons of William Martin. It was then the intersection of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad and the Mississippi Central Railroad. The original settlement was called Green Briar Glade, so named because of the scrubby timber and bramble briars. Once the Central Illinois Railroad was completed in late 1873 it was renamed Frost Depot in honor of a Mississippi Central Railroad official. The property which later became the business and transportation hub of the City of Martin was sold by George W. Martin, M. P. Martin and W. H. Martin to agents representing the Mississippi Central Railroad company for five dollars on February 11, 1874 (the original land transactions can be viewed (here). The name Frost Depot however was deemed inappropriate for advertising land to potential settlers and thus the name was changed to “Martin” in honor of William Martin.
The town of Martin was layed out on September 22, 1874 by a surveyor named H. C. Draughon. Two days later on September 24th, G. W. Martin, A. M. Clemons and H. C. Draughon filed a petition seeking incorporation of a township. Later that same day the County Clerk, W. R. Ross, endorsed a a writ of election which called for a vote to be held on November 27, 1874. A majority of the thirty-six inhabitants living on the proposed land voted in favor of incorporation and appointed John L. Smith the first mayor. On January 22, 1875 the County Chancery Court called for a special election to be held on February 5th to elect a mayor, six aldermen and a constable. B. F. Crawford was elected the first mayor of Martin.
Within two years Martin had a population of 500 residents. That same year the town contained six dry-goods stores, four groceries, two drug stores, one furniture store, three saloons, one millinery shop, one watchmaker, two marble yards, one cabinet and undertaker’s shop, two blacksmiths , one shoe and boot shop, one saddle and harness shop, one hotel, one livery stable, one grist/saw mill and one steam cotton gin. The population continued to grow until 1878 when the a yellow fever epidemic struck. Over 400 cases were to be reported and the death toll reached 52 before the end of the summer.
The service business to the railroad industry brought prosperity to the growing town in the early part of the 20th century. With the town’s prosperity came a burgeoning population. By 1920, the population of Martin reached over 3,300. In the Spring of 1927, the University of Tennessee purchased the Hall-Moody Institute and began a state supported junior college which now is a successful four college appropriately called the University of Tennessee at Martin. During the Great Depression and pre-war years the population grew steadily. In 1937, Martin would serve as a haven for flood victims and as a training center for Army and Naval Aviation Cadets from 1942 to 1944. In 1970, Esquire magazine labeled Martin as one of the happiest towns in the United States. Since that particular issue, many people in the region have given Martin the nickname “Happy Town”.
Some excerpts were taken from “Weakley County” by Virginia C. Vaughan (1983) and “Martin Centennial 1873-1973” by the Martin, Tennessee Centennial Committee (1973)
McFerrin College Baseball Team, 1916
Players : 1 – Jolley; 2 – Duncan; 3 – Hughes; 4 -Barlow; 5 – Ralph; 6 – Chambers; 7 – Maddox; 8 – Hynds; 9 – Waren; 10 – Coleman; 11 – Luten; 12 – Thomas
McFerrin College was a Methodist liberal arts college and preparatory school, was financed and built by the Methodist people of Martin and deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Located one block south on a 6-acre campus donated by George W. Martin, it was named in honor of John B. McFerrin, prominent Tennessee preacher, editor and administrator. Its first president was J.T. Williams. Another well-known administrator was George W. Morelock. After 1924, its buildings were used first by Martin High School, then Weakley County Hospital.
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