Biography of Achilles Martin
Riverside County, CA Biographies





ACHILLES MARTIN
As secretary of the East Riverside Water Company for the last twenty years Achilles Martin has proved his worth to the community in which he has resided for a quarter of a century. A native of Illinois, he was born in Vermilion county February 25, 1834, the son of Henry and Mary (Morgan) Martin, both of whom were descendants of West Virginia ancestors. Morgantown, of that state, was so named in honor of David Morgan, one of the maternal ancestors. The latter and his brother, Zackwell Morgan, founded that city and were foremost in subduing and bringing under rules of civilization all that rich farming and mineral region. An incident worthy of mention in this record occurred about the year 1779, at a time when the Indians were troublesome to the first settlers and at all times hostile, but during the hunting season especially so, when the settlers all fled to their stockade or fort for shelter and protection. One day David Morgan, the great great grandfather of Mr. Martin, being somewhat indisposed, sent two of his children to the field on an errand and during their absence slept and dreamed that they had returned to the fort bleeding from the loss of their scalps. He woke suddenly and finding them still absent took his gun and started for the field a mile distant to find them busy at work. He saw two Indians at his house and signaled the children to "run to the fort." The Indians saw and pursued them, but did not see the father who intervened and the unequal combat was on. Morgan hid behind a tree and rested his gun, the Indians did the same, but finding one Indian exposed, Morgan fired first and the Indian fell. Morgan then ran with an empty gun, pursued by the other Indian, who was more fleet of foot (Morgan being then over seventy years of age) and when but a few yards behind fired and missed. Morgan finding he was overmatched in the race turned for a hand to hand encounter. The Indian threw his tomahawk, which Morgan parried with his gun, losing two fingers of his left hand; the antagonists closed, Morgan threw the Indian to the ground, but the latter being the stronger, was soon on top with a terrific yell. Morgan seized him by the throat to find his fingers gone. The Indian began fumbling for his knife, which was obstructed by a woman's apron he had just stolen from the house and bound around his waist. Morgan seized one of his antagonist's fingers between his teeth with a deadly grip, the Indian again reached for his knife, grasping the handle near the blade; at the same time Morgan grasped the hilt and drew the blade through the Indian's hand, plunged the knife into the Indian's body and left it there; this ended the tragedy.

The grandfather of Mr. Martin was at the fort when this Indian was brought in and buried and frequently rehearsed the story to his many descendants with thrilling effect. The story of this engagement in full is narrated in a history known as "Border Warfare," to be found in our public libraries, also in the history of Marion county, West Virginia. In the early '90s the descendants of this celebrated patriarch of the family to the number of a thousand or more met on this same battle ground and rehearsed with pride the scene above narrated; exhibited the identical knife and apron and many other trophies. They also contributed funds and erected a monument on the spot where the scene was enacted and organized for an annual reunion on September 1st of each succeeding year. Say what you may about the "dove of peace," families are known to cherish and bless the brave deeds of noble ancestors, nations will ever honor their great captains and the world is forever worshipping at the shrine of its heroes.

Achilles Martin was reared and educated under pioneer conditions, when log school houses were in vogue and farming was the only occupation for young men. The progressive spirit of the young man was manifest in the first vote which he cast, it being in favor of a public school system. Politically he was a disciple of Owen Lovejoy, Richard Yates and Abraham Lincoln. With the first call to arms he was mustered into the service as color bearer in Company A of the Twenty fifth Illinois Volunteers, and afterward was promoted to second and first lieutenant respectively, holding two commissions signed by Richard Yates, governor of Illinois He was severely wounded at Chickamauga, Ga., September 19, 1863. His army record we glean from a farewell address by Col. W. H. Gibson, of Ohio, commanding the brigade before Atlanta, Ga., delivered under the fire of the enemy's guns, to-wit: "Soldiers of the Twenty fifth Illinois Volunteers, as your term of three years' service has expired it is fitting and proper that the colonel commanding should express to each and all his earnest thanks for the cheerful manhood with which during the present campaign you have submitted to every hardship and overcome every difficulty. Your deportment in camp has been worthy true soldiers, while your conduct in battle has excited the admiration of your companions in arms. Patriotic thousands and a noble state will give you a reception worthy your sacrifice and your valor. You have done your duty you who rallied under the starry emblem of our nationality at Pea Ridge, Corinth, Chaplin Hills, Stone River, Chickamauga. Mission Ridge, Noonday Creek, Pine Top Mountain, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, and Atlanta have made history for all time and for coming generations to admire. Officers and soldiers, farewell. May God guarantee to each health, happiness and usefulness in coming life."

Returning home from the field of battle, Achilles Martin spent one year in college preparatory for a change in occupation necessitated by wounds received in battle. He then entered the office of circuit clerk and recorder as deputy at Danville, Ill., and compiled an abstract record to all lands in the county. Continuing in this business for twenty years, during which time he also compiled a complete abstract record of titles for Doniphan county, Kan. In January, 1887, he joined an excursion to the Pacific coast, on which he chanced to visit Riverside, and so captivated was he with the outlook, that he sold his return ticket and at once engaged in the development of the town and its surroundings. Among other things he caused to be laid out and added to the city a number of additions. He also incorporated and took charge of a large tract of land near Perris and was largely identified in negotiations with the United States government in locating the first Indian school at that place. This was afterward removed to Riverside on account of the failure of the water supply and is now known as Sherman Institute. Meanwhile, in preparing an abstract satisfactory to the government on which to establish the school he visited San Diego to direct the character of the work, and while thus engaged was again captivated, this time by a lady who subsequently became his wife. She was Lida Lair, the descendant of an old and prominent southern family of Kentucky, antedating the celebrated Daniel Boone. On the paternal side Mrs. Martin was the great granddaughter of Lady Hubbard, of England, who gave her hand in marriage to Andrew Lair, of Huguenot blood. The ancestral name was borne by one of Napoleon's most trusted marshals, whose descendants still hold places of honor in the French nation. On the maternal side the great grandfather was of German blood and held high honor in the king's body guard, being known as the king's smiter. Coming to America in his infancy, he became rich and powerful. His son, George Smizer (the name being a corruption of "smiter" of former days), came early to Kentucky and became wealthy and influential. These two families have the same root stock of French and English blood joined to the hardy German stock. In politics this lady was a disciple of John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky, who threw down the challenge of war to perpetuate slavery which deluged the land in blood. These two extreme views appeared in this new acquaintance, but cupid was present and commanded peace, and it was so. May God speed the day when this same god of love, though deaf, blind and invisible, shall supplant armies and navies and command the peace of the world. Their marriage occurred February 17, 1889, and from that time Mrs. Martin was an important factor in the social and civic life of the town - home, church and club feeling the influence of her sweet but forceful nature. Her crowning effort was the organization of the Shakespeare class, of which she was for many years leader, and which became a permanent and helpful auxiliary of the Woman's Club.

From:
History of Riverside County, California
With a Biographical Review
History by Elmer Wallace Holmes
And other well known writers
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1912


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