Wyly (Wiley) Martin, soldier, judge, and legislator, was born in Georgia in 1776. As a young man he worked as a clerk, as a teacher, and at a variety of other occupations. During the War of 1812 he was commissioned a third lieutenant in the Ninth United States Infantry on August 9, 1813. He served as a scout for Gen. William Henry Harrison and fought under Gen. Andrew Jackson at the battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. He was promoted to first lieutenant in the Thirty-ninth Infantry on July 29, 1813, and to captain of the Third Rifle Regiment on March 17, 1814. He was honorably discharged on June 15, 1815, and reinstated on December 2. On June 1, 1821, he transferred to the Sixth Infantry. He resigned his commission on July 21, 1823, reputedly because he killed a man in a duel. In 1825 he immigrated to Texas, where he was appointed alcalde of Stephen F. Austin's colony. In 1835 he was acting jefe político of the Department of the Brazos. He was a delegate from San Felipe de Austin to the conventions of 1832, 1833, and 1835. As a member of the so-called "Peace party," Martin disavowed the actions of William B. Travis and others of the "War party" at Anahuac (see ANAHUAC DISTURBANCES) and was opposed to Texas independence from Mexico; but with the coming of the Texas Revolution he signed the declaration of war against Antonio López de Santa Anna's Centralist regime, on November 7, 1835. At Bexar in December he drew a pen-and-ink sketch of Travis, the only known portrait of the man done from life. Martin raised a company that joined Sam Houston's army at Columbus. He was promoted to major and detached to guard the crossings of the lower Brazos River, then flanked out of his position at Fort Bend when the Mexican army crossed at the site of present Richmond. Although both Houston and secretary of war Thomas J. Rusk approved his action in falling back before superior numbers of the enemy, Martin was irate because he had been given an inadequate command-forty-six men-to observe the four fords and ferries he was responsible for holding. When he was ordered on April 13 to rejoin the main army at the Donaho plantation, he marched his force back to Houston's headquarters and relinquished his command. Subsequently, he was an outspoken opponent of Houston and his political policies. Martin saw little service for the remainder of the war, and on May 15 Rusk regretfully accepted his resignation.
After independence Martin made his home in Fort Bend County, where he was appointed chief justice of the county on December 29, 1837, and was elected to the post on September 6, 1841. He was admitted to the bar in 1838. He was elected to represent Austin, Colorado, and Fort Bend counties in Congress. At age sixty-five, he was the oldest senator in the Sixth Congress of the Republic of Texas. He died at the home of Randal Jones in the Fort Bend settlement on April 26, 1842, in the interval between sessions. Martin County is named for him.
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Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Thomas W. Cutrer,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 1, 1995