The Works Progress Administration

Biography of William Thomas Martin of El Monte California

“Let the world wag as it will
I’ll be gay and happy still”—

This little jingle for a slogan together with “Don’ Worry,” constituted a rule for longevity as set forth by William T. Martin, better known by the early pioneers of El Monte district as “Tooch” Martin, who until his death in the year of this edition at almost ninety two years of age, was as alert and interested in the activities and events of the times as he ever was.  His knowledge of the early events and his numerous experiences, together with his keen memory, regarding same, materially aided the author of these sketches in the search for necessary and authentic information.

Born October 8, 1844, near Clarksville, Texas, Mr. Martin with his sister Henrietta Jane, and parents, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Martin, came to California in the fall of 1853.  (A sketch of the father, W.C. Martin is to be found elsewhere in this volume).  They came by the way of Tucson and El Paso, in a wagon train of sixty wagons drawn by ox teams.  They had no direct attacks by the Indians, while en route, but there was a skirmish with the Spaniards at El Paso, which with hardships and privations, made the long trip one not to be forgotten.

Landing in El Monte in October of ’53, Mr. Martin’s father, instead of going on north to the gold fields as so many did, decided to remain in this district and engage in farming.  An incentive which prompted this decision was the fact that corn was selling here, at that time, for three dollars per hundred pounds, whereas, in Texas, from where he had just come, corn was worth but thirty cents per hundred.  Thus with their two oxen, Mr. Martin and his father, for a time, plowed and raised corn and other crops, near El Monte.  The subject of this sketch, received the rudiments of his education in the public schools, and in 1863 was granted a certificate for teaching the primary school in the Old Mission District.  In 1864, he attended the Soloma Institute, and received a Grammar school Teacher’s certificate, and returning to El Monte, taught school here for another year, and also, the year following in Downey.  Of interest in this connection, is the fact that Mr. Martin’s wife-to-be, Nancy M. Thompson, was among his first El Monte pupils, the romance of their courtship as told by Mr. Martin, being sufficient subject matter in itself, for a very interesting chapter.

They were married in 1865 (Mrs. Martin having come to California with her parents in 1852), and lived in El Monte and vicinity until 1869, during which time, Mr. Martin engaged in farming and the bee industry.  In ’69 he moved to a place in San Dimas Canyon, and in ’71, he rented and tended bees “on shares” near Claremont.   Soon after this he took a government claim, which he held until in 1884, when he moved to Pomona, where he resided with Thomas, one of his sons, until called by death April 23, 1936.  Mr. and Mrs. Martin raised a family of two girls and six boys.  Both girls and one of the boys are still living, namely:  Margaret M. (Mrs. Piercy) of El Monte; Floretta C. (Mrs. Edward Ward) of Pasadena, and Robert A. of Ontario.  The deceased children are:  Gabriel M., John S., Richard R., Hugh T., and Thomas C., whose death occurred only five days after that of his father.  The mother died in 1909.

Mr. Martin took an active part in Civic affairs and rendered valuable services to the public welfare of the community.  For four years he held the office of County Supervisor.  He was for six years, a deputy sheriff, and seven years, Justice of the Peace.  During his term as County Supervisor, the old Court House in Los Angeles, which recently underwent demolition, was erected.  Mr. Martin recently remarked that at the time of the construction of the building, he little thought he would live to see it torn down.  And yet he did, visiting the spot and watching the work of demolition only a few weeks before his death.

Politically, Mr. Martin was a staunch Democrat, and always took a deep interest in the success of his party.  Mr. Martin was made a member of the Masonic fraternity in 1868, and was active in promoting the growth of that order.  In 1873, he served as Master of Lexington Lodge, No. 104, in El Monte.  He was the first Master of the Masonic Lodge, in Pomona, and was during the late ‘80’s re-elected to that office for six consecutive terms.  He was also a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Knights of Labor Lodges.

Source: C. D. Mayon, F. Brow, L. Stoddard, and C. Mudd; El Monte from the Pioneer Days. WPA Project No. N-5740, 1936. In record 19-187072. (California Historical Landmark No. 765: El Monte). On file at the SCCIC, CSU Fullerton.

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