Prime Time: Builder of Bristol Tom Martin

Published on Sunday, 11 March 2018 20:54
Written by Bob Montgomery

Staff Writer

First of two parts

During the years including and following our nation’s bicentennial in 1976, The Builders of Bristol series was shown weekly in The Bristol Press. These were short biographies of those who made Bristol the town that it was and were written by family members and local historians.

Beginning in 2000, the series was updated by those under the umbrella of The Builders of Bristol - Millenium Edition. The following talks about Tom Martin of Tom Martin’s Hill and it was written by Tom Doyle in 2007:

“‘Tom Martin lived on Tom Martin’s Hill. Now he’s gone but his name is there still.’ ”

“On Thursday, Feb. 13, 1890, the weekly Bristol Herald had a story on page 1 on landmarks that still stood in town. At the bottom of the page the last name mentioned was Thomas Martin. Ironically, he never got to see the article because on page 5 was his obituary.

“Thomas Martin, an old resident of this town, died at home on North Street Saturday at the age of 74. Mr. Martin came to this country when a young man and had by industry gained comfortable property. He had never rented a building or paid a cent for rent in his life. He was formerly employed at the Copper Mine. His death followed a long illness caused by a well caving onto him in Terryville some two years ago. He leaves a wife, a son, P.T. Martin, and a daughter, Maggie.

“The weekly Bristol Press in that same day had a shorter account - ‘Everybody in town knew Thomas Martin, the well digger. It was a surprise to all to hear of his death Saturday. He had been ill only two days. The cause of his death was heart failure Mr. Martin was born in Ireland, and came to this country many years ago. He owned the place where he lived near Lewis’ Corner. The deceased took an active part in politics. He leaves a widow and one daughter.’

“In addition to these accounts, some information also has appeared in the Smith History of Bristol of 1907. Mrs. Harry Shelton Bartholomew (Sabra Peck) wrote about School District 9 (Edgewood) and she included a map of homes and gave accounts of the people who lived therein up to that time. This is what she said about Tom Martin, who had lived in house No. 31 on the map:

“‘At the hilltop next south, Thomas Martin built a small house. Only the well, 40 feet deep with nearly a filled cellar, are left of the former home. Thomas married first a sister of the wife of William Ward, who died leaving children, Catherine, James, Mary and Patrick. The second wife had a daughter Margaret (Maggie). Only Patrick is known to be a resident of Bristol in 1907. When the house burned after 1860, the family moved to the Austin Wilcox house on Farmington Avenue, on the mountain opposite the spring. Thomas Martin died Feb. 8, 1890.’

“The first house that Thomas Martin owned was next to the Wilson Shelton place on Jerome Avenue, referred to as ‘The House by the Brookside.’ A picture of the Shelton Place is on page 236 of the Smith History of Bristol.

“Thomas Martin was a native of Wexford, Ireland. Both he and his wife, Ann Sullivan, were born in 1816. This year was known as ‘1800 and froze to death.’ Mount Tambora in Indonesia had exploded in 1815 and caused adverse weather worldwide. In Bristol a couple of colder years made food scarce and hence, more expensive. Our town lost population as some farming families moved elsewhere.

“The first child of the Martins was a daughter, Catherine, born in 1845 in Ireland. This was the first year of the Great Potato Famine, which lasted five years. After Dublin, Tom’s Wexford had the fewest deaths from famine.  

“The Martins came to Bristol around 1848. Ann Martin had an older sister here, Mary Sullivan, who was married to William Ward. The Wards came over in 1845 with their three children. In 1849, the Martin’s son, James, was born in Connecticut. This was the year of the Gold Rush. Some Bristol men became ‘forty-niners’ and Tom may have been one who went to California in search of gold. The 1850 census for Bristol shows that Ann Martin and her two children are living in a dwelling near the copper mine.

“Next door is her sister’s family, the Wards, who now have six children. The miners’ cabins were rent free and were located near today’s Skipperine Road off Mines Road. This section was called Skipperine after a small seaport near the city of Cork, Ireland.

Part 2 of 2 will appear next Monday.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 11 March 2018 20:54. Updated: Sunday, 11 March 2018 20:57.