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The John Wilson Martin House in Warren (Bradley County), the oldest surviving residence in the town, was the home of a notable Civil War doctor. Now housing the Bradley County Historical Museum, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 27, 1990.
John Wilson Martin was born on June 8, 1819, in Harrison County, Virginia, and went to New Orleans, Louisiana, around 1843 to attend lectures at Tulane University. He was settled in Warren by 1848, when he married Mary Elizabeth Franklin and established what became a flourishing medical practice. It was said that Martin would ride by “horseback all day to reach the frequently remote residences” of the sick. Martin’s medical practice was especially active, if unprofitable, during the Civil War. Stories abound of his nightlong rides around the countryside to reach wounded Confederate soldiers while trying to avoid Union patrols. After the war, Martin embarked on a mercantile business, which he pursued along with his medical practice. He died on February 11, 1910.
Oral tradition maintains that he began the house for his family in 1862. The building is typical of the vernacular interpretations of the Greek Revival style found throughout Arkansas during this period. The features of this style include the standard transom and half-sidelights; the six-over-six wood sash windows (which are sets of two windows, each of which has six panes of glass set in wooden frames, designed so that the lower sash can be lifted or the upper sash can be lowered); the full-length, two-story porch galleries along the front of the house; and the long rear ell in which meals were prepared and brought around through the covered rear shed rooms to the dining room.
Examples of other notable features include the main façade (southern elevation), which is six bays in total length; the eastern elevation lighted by two symmetrically placed six-over-six wood sash windows on the second floor that flank the central brick chimney; and the northern elevation, accessed by a single-story gable roof near the porch, placed to the east. The interior has large single-panel doors, unmilled baseboards and door facings, and a simple balustrade that ornaments the stairwell at the back of a central hall. A total of at least six outbuildings are known to have existed on the Martin property.
Martin and his wife had twelve children, eight of whom lived to adulthood; all eight built houses and settled near their parents’ home. Dr. Charles Nicklin Martin moved into his parents’ house in 1919 after his own home burned to the ground. After he died in 1944 at the age of ninety, his two daughters continued to live in the house. Eventually, the house was renovated for use as the Bradley County Historical Museum, which was founded by the Warren Woman’s Club before becoming a separate organization.
For additional information:
Bradley County Historical Museum. Warren, Arkansas. Online at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~arbradle/places/bradley_museum.html (accessed September 19, 2016).
“Dr. John Wilson Martin House.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/BR0008.nr.pdf (accessed September 19, 2016).
Meek, Elizabeth M. “Two Pioneer Doctors of Southeast Arkansas: John Wilson Martin and Charles Nicklin Martin.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 5 (Summer 1946): 114–122.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 9/19/2016
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