Biography of Prof. James M. Martin
Fresno County, CA Biographies





PROF. JAMES M. MARTIN, who made for himself, in times past, a record as one of the foremost educators of California, but who, as a resident of Fresno County, is now an active factor in her development, was born in a log cabin in DeWitt County, Illinois, in 1837. His father, John E. Martin, a native of Virginia, emigrated to Illinois in 1834, when that country was wild and unsettled, and located near the town of Clinton, where he carried on general farming. Being a minister of the Christian Church, he performed much pioneer work in the chnrch, often riding many miles, and returning the same day, to deliver a sermon or perform a Christian duty. He came to California in 1869, and is now living at Pomona, having reached the ripe old age of eighty four years, hale and hearty and in the enjoyment of all his faculties.

James M. Martin, the subject of this sketch, was educated at Abingdon College, Abingdon, Illinois, and graduated in the classical course in 1859, receiving immediately the honorary degree of Master of Arts in 1864. After graduation he took charge of the High School Department of the public schools at La Harpe, Illinois, where he taught for two years. In 1860 he was married at Abingdon to Miss Angelina Bennett, a native of New York State. The following year he moved to Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, and there took charge of the high school. He remained at the latter place until May, 1862, when accompanied by his wife and their worldly goods, he started with a mule team across the great plains to California The company in which they traveled numbered forty five men, and all were well armed. Being very cautious, they proceeded without difficulty; and crossing by the overland mail route, arrived at Virginia City, Nevada, in August. After tarrying at that place thirty days to recuperate, they came on to California and located at Woodland, Yolo Comity. Soon after his arrival in this State, Mr. Martin was elected vice president of Hesperian College, and the following year, 1864, was elected its president. The college was at that time financially embarrassed, and opened with a list of but twenty nine pupils, which included those in the primary and preparatory departments. Mr. Martin was given entire charge of the finances and management, and, as the result of his untiring zeal and perseverance, his second year showed a catalogue of 231 pupils,175 being in the higher grades, the institution having so rapidly grown in popularity. When he resigned his office in 1875, the college led all like establishments in the State, and was second only to the University of California. As president and financier, his management was eminently successful, and in place of being in debt, as he found it, he left the college out of debt and with a handsome endowment fund.

In 1875 Professor Martin was called to the presidency of the Christian College at Santa Rosa, and his career as an educator there was also distinguished by marked success. Two years later, however, delicate health compelled him to resign, and through active exercise in the open air he sought a restoration of his impaired health. He made a trip on a mule through Arizona for the purpose of examining the mining interests of that section of the country. While there he made investments in the Globe District, purchasing the Stonewall Jackson, which at one time was the most noted silver mine in Arizona, and which produced fabulous returns; but, being a pocket mine, the solid silver deposits were soon exhausted, and dividends discontinued.

In 1882 the subject of our sketch located in Fresno, being attracted to this valley by an impression he had gained in 1869, when, on a holiday journey, he rode through the valley. He was then so favorably impressed with the locality between the King and San Joaquin rivers that he prophesied it would become rich in resources and population if irrigation should ever be successfully established. In 1882 the Iowa & California Fruit Company, with which Professor Martin was connected, purchased 320 acres of land, known as the Iowa Vineyard, and he was elected manager. He at once went to work to improve the property, setting eighty acres in stone fruits and the rest in vines. He gave his attention to the place and resided there until 1889, when the tract was sub divided into twenty acre lots and sold, Professor Martin retaining sixty acres of raisin grape vines as his interest.

Since coming here he has also been connected with other enterprises of a like nature. In 1887, when the Fresno Investment Company was organized, he was elected president, the object of the company being to buy, sell and deal in real estate, and also to loan money. In the spring of 1888 the I Street Improvement Company was organized, our subject being a leading spirit in that enterprise and becoming vice president and a director. The company built the Pleasanton Hotel, and owns large interests in that locality. Professor Martin, aside from the companies with which he has been connected, has individually dealt extensively in real estate, and has met with marked success. He recently purchased 240 acres of land east of Fresno, which he planted to raisin grape vines in the spring of 1891.

He and his wife are the parents of five children, all of whom have received a liberal education, the youngest being a member of the Senior class of the Oakland High School for 1891-'92.

The Professor has passed an eventful life, filled with activity and enterprise, but always characterized with the closest application to the duties in hand, and this trait has been an essential element in his successful career.

From:
Memorial and Biographical History
of the counties of
Fresno, Tulare and Kern,
California
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago 1891


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