Gen. Joseph Martin will be remembered as a founding father of both the nation and Martinsville, descendants and historians agreed Saturday.
Martinsville is named after Martin (1740-1808), who was commissioned as brigadier general for the 12th Virginia Militia in 1793. He was the first Henry County soldier to attain that distinction.
The village of Henry County Courthouse was renamed Martinsville by an act of the General Assembly in 1791.
A granite monument honoring Martin - donated by his descendants - was unveiled Saturday on the lawn of the historic Henry County courthouse in uptown Martinsville. The unveiling was held during a bicentennial celebration among his descendants, recognizing his legacy 200 years after his death.
About 200 descendants from 25 states took part in the celebration, noted Martinsville Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr.
"It's great to see so many new faces" in Martinsville, City Manager Clarence Monday said. He added that he hopes the monument will remind people not only of the sacrifices made by Martin, but also those of everyone who has served in the armed forces.
"Because of their actions, we live in a free society today," said Joe Martin, the great-great-great-great-grandson of Joseph Martin.
While he was in the military, Martin "put himself in harm's way on multiple occasions" to preserve freedom, said Jim Adams, chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors who represents the Blackberry District.
Martin was a brigadier general during the Revolutionary War. The monument references him also serving as an Indian agent for Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1789.
Denise Morrison, a Martinsville teacher who wrote a master's degree thesis on Martin, said she considers his 12 years as an Indian agent to be his most important service to the nation.
He was the chief negotiator of the first treaty between Native Americans and the federal government, and he helped bring about peaceful relations between Indians and the first colonists, Morrison pointed out.
Martin, who also was fur trader and land agent, had only a rudimentary education and generally lived a rugged life on the frontier, Morrison said.
Still, he had "a keen sense of compassion," she said, as was evidenced by him demanding supplies for Indians.
Although he was born in Albemarle County, Martin later lived at the Scuffle Hill estate in Henry County. His residence during the last four years of his life, though, was the Belmonte Farm on Leatherwood Creek, where he is buried in a family cemetery, according to local historian/archivist Desmond Kendrick.
Fifth District U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Rocky Mount, said Martin and other colonial soldiers ridded the U.S. of British tyranny. Today, everyone must continually strive to preserve democracy and make sure the U.S. stays the world's most prominent nation, he said.
Also during their celebration, Martin's descendants visited Bassett Historical Center to research family history and had dinner at the Martinsville Armory.