Lee County Biography

Finley McMartin, one of the prominent and representative citizens of Dixon, doing business as a money broker, and real estate agent, has been identified with the history of the community since 1864, and taken a prominent part int he upbuilding and progress of the town and county.

Mr. McMartin was born in Amsterdam, Montgomery County, NY, May 22, 1819, and is of Scotch descent. His grandfather was a Scotchman, who spent his entire life in his native land, and was a prominent citizen of the community where he resided. His son, Finley McMartin, the father of our subject, was reared to manhood in Scotland, and acquired a military education. He became Captain of a company of English soldiers, and was sent to irritate and keep in subjection the irish, but when he found out what would be required of him he would not consent to do his duty as was expected by the English peers, and so resigned. He then came to the US and settled near Amsterdam NY where he lived for many years, his death occurring at the age of 60. He married a Scottish lady, Henrietta Bell, daughter of a prominent Presbyterian minister, and she too, died at the old home in Amsterdam in 1851, a few years after her husband, being then 75 years of age. Both were members of the Scotch Assoc. Reformed Church, and in their lives exemplified their religion. Three of their children are yet living - Finley of this sketch; John of Amsterdam NY and Mrs. Ayers of Denver Col.

Our subject was one of the self made men of this county. He began life for himself at the early age of 14 years, at which time he learned the trade of a woolen manufacturer, working at that industry and at carpet weaving until 1846 when with a friend,he embarked in business as a photographer, making pictures by the old process known as daguerreotype. They did business in VA for some time, after which MR. McMartin went to Oxford OH, then entered the employ of P.P. Roots, a cloth manufacturer. After a few months he was assigned to the management of Mr. Roots mill at Connersville IN, where he was engaged in buying wool and selling the finished cloth. Subsequently he was employed in a woolen mill in Dayton OH until Dec. 1848 when he returned to his native city and afterward went to NY. WIth the $1,500 which he had saved he now purchased goods, which he loaded on a sailing vessel, and on the 8th of March 1849, started for San Francisco CA by the Cape Horn route. The vessel reached its destination in September. As the sailors deserted the ship, Mr. McMartin helped to discharge the cargo. The Western metropolis was then a town of adobe houses and cabins on stilts. It was most difficult in those days to get goods transferred from one place ot another. They transferred the cargo to another boat and took it up to Sacramento. Finally he secured a four-horse team and a portion of his stock was taken to Auburn. That which could not be loaded onto the wagon was left in tents in San Francisco and a fire breaking out, all was destroyed. The party with which Mr. McMartin had come, opened up a mine in that locality, where they worked until the following spring, and then went up the Yuba River, where our subject engaged in gold digging until he had acquired quite a little fortune. After 18 months spent in the mines, he returned to NY by way of the Isthmus route in 1851, and thence went to his old home in Amsterdam. On the return trip they had stopped in Havana Cuba where they celebrated the first day of the year 1852.

Mr. McMartin soon after traveled Westward, but his journey was not of such length as that which he had just made. In 1853 he located in Washington Co IA where with the gold he had dug in CA, he built a flouring and saw mill on Skunk River, and continued its operation for nine years. During that time, in Lancasater IA he was married to Martha E. Russell, a native of Greenville TN and a dughter of Thomas and Nancy (Galbraith) Russell, the former born in Scotland and the latter in Ireland. Both were members of the old Presbyterian Church, with which their ancestors had been connected for long years. During youth Mr. and Mrs. Russell had come to this country and were married in TN where a family of children were born. Removing to IL they located in Henderson County and some years later went to Keokuk County IA. Both died in Brighton, that State - Mr. Russell at age 58 and his wife at 75. Of their children, four are yet living - Mrs. Rosanna Kemp, a widow living in IA, William H. a resident farmer of Washington Co NE; Martha, wife of our subject; and Thoams, a fruit grower of CA.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. McMartin were born 5 children but only two are now living; Thomas B who married Jennie Bowen and living in Sioux Falls SD, where he is doing an extensive business; and Ellie B, a well educated and accomplished young lady, at home. Clementine died at the age of 25 years, leaving a husband; Carrie died in infancy.

Mr. McMartin is a supporter of Republican principles and his wife is a member of the Presbyterian Church. In his business affairs he has prospered and is now numbered among the substantial citizens of Dixon. For some years he has carried on operations as a money broker, and is now also engaged as a real-estate dealer. He owns three good dwellings on 6th St. near Peoria St, and two on 3rd St, together with his own pleasant residence at the corner of Everett and Wilkinson Streets. HE also built in Dixon a woolen factory and a flouring mill, both of which he carried on for some years. He has been closely connected with the grown of Dixon and one of its best citizens.

Portraits & Biographical 1892 Pg 511

The Dixon Telegraph on 1 May 1951 wrote this:
"In 1865 one enterprising citizen started two manufacturing business', both housed in the same building. He was F. McMartin who on August 2, 1865 started a woolen mill, and at the close of the year installed a flouring mill in the same building. Apparently the two business' were more than he could handle for not long afterward he disposed of both and in 1867 the combined business' came into the hands of two brothers, Lorenzo Wood, a Dixon attorney and jurist, and his brother Thomas L. Wood.

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