General Joseph Martin and Betsy Ward

Excerpted from Wikipedia:

“Martin was a robust figure in the history of the early frontier,” according to the WPA guide to the Old Dominion. “He was born in Albemarle County in 1740, ran away to fight Indians at 17, became an Indian agent, land agent, and officer of militia, fighting Indians all up and down the frontier. In 1774 he came to Henry County, established himself at Belle Monte on Leatherwood Creek, for nine years sat for his district in the general assembly, and in 1793 was made a brigadier general of state militia. He was a brawny, picturesque man, more than six feet tall and the father of 18 children; wore buckled knee breeches and a great beard, braided and thrust inside his shirt.”

Martin first married Sarah Lucas in Orange County, Virginia.  After her death in Henry County, Martin married Susannah Graves, a descendant of Captain Thomas Graves of Jamestown, Virginia. While married to Sarah Lucas and then to Susannah Graves, Martin was simultaneously married to his half-Cherokee wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Ward, the daughter of Nancy Ward, a power within the Cherokee tribes, and her husband, English trapper Bryant Ward.  The polygamous relationship, justified by Martin as common practice among frontiersmen operating among the tribes, caused considerable consternation to General Martin’s son, Col. William Martin.  Joseph Martin and Betsy Ward had two known children.  (Joseph Martin’s son by his Cherokee wife was educated in Virginia schools, but afterwards elected to return to the Cherokee.)

Joseph Martin had 18 children by his two European wives and his Cherokee wife.  There were many rumors of additional Native wives, none of which are well documented, and any or all of which could be true. 

One daughter through Betsy Ward is known, a son is reported as well, and a third female with the Martin surname, speculated to be a daughter is married into the Cherokee Benge family.  One thing is for sure, if Joseph Martin’s DNA line is identified and confirmed, we could then one day know which Martins are descended from his line and which are not.

Additional genealogy information about General Joseph Martin is available here:


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Cherokee, Military. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to General Joseph Martin and Betsy Ward

  1. Rose Starlight says:

    you have a good website. I searched all over the internet and could’nt find it. i’m writing a newspaper about the revolutainary war and every single of its battles and generals i have to write about. YOUR WEBSITE SAVED MY LIFE THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!


    • Love Starlight says:

      Thanks for giving my sis what she needed! she looked all over the internet but could’nt find it. Thanks Again!!

  2. Patricia scott says:

    I am Martian and hilderbrand Samuel born to Joesph that’s all

  3. Patricia scott says:

    Maryann Martian great great grandma Virgina Henry and Annabell hilderbrand great grand parents

  4. Patricia scott says:

    William Henry Hilderbrand and yes John Hilderbrand my 4 th great uncle Peter Hilderbrand my cousin George Hilderbrand my5th Grandfather

  5. Maxine Williams walters says:

    Nancy ward, Elizabeth Betsy ward, Rachel Christie , Mary Christie , Franklin Williams , Mack Farland Williams then me Maxine Williams

  6. Maxine Williams walters says:

    Nancy ward, Elizabeth Betsy warrd , Nancy 6 Martin , Mary polly7 e hilldebrand, Susan Jane Mayfield, Grace v. Milligan, Mack Farland William , Maxine Williams

  7. Wanda Diane Cole says:

    Hi Roberta, May 2020 be your best year yet!

    Are you still looking for a direct male descendant of Joseph Martin the Indian Fighter? Our shared Speak cousins are direct Y-DNA descendants of Joseph Martin, who is their 3x GGF, through Joseph’s son Col William Lucas Martin, Sr. Their grandfather was John Henry Martin 1880-1964. There are 2 Martin males who are my first cousins, 3 in the following generation, and 3 across two subsequent generations. You can find John Henry Martin in my Cole-Speak family tree on Ancestry. If you find I erred, please let me know.

    Would you like me to talk to them about running their DNA? Does it matter which generation the sample comes from?

    Wanda Diane Cole

    • Hi Wanda. I think it would be a good think to test this line, I don’t believe that it has been tested, or if so, I’m not aware of it. If you can get a Martin male from this line to test, it does not matter the generation.


    If anyone can help me I would be grateful. I am looking for information on Betsy Ward and Joseph Martin’s daughter Marilla (Marcella?) Summer Martin. What information I have found has said “officially” they only had one daughter and her name was not Marilla, but Marilla definitely does exist because she is my 3XGGM and her name is linked in marriage, tax and census documents to my 3XGGF. I have hit a brick wall with anything involving Marilla’s husband Robert M. Whitehead before their marriage in 1818-1820.

    • Terry landreth says:

      Have you done an ancestry dn a test? Please do. I would like to see if you match. With the thru lines on ancestry it is matching is up dn a wise. I believe Martin had several kids with Cherokee women.

  9. Do you know if any of Joseph Martin’s, Cherokee daughters were raised by a Martin Family in Floyd County, KY. . My great Grandmother was Catherine Nancy Martin who lived in that county in 1850. I was told as a child that my GGmother was half Cherokee and her Mother was important to their tribe. My DNA goes back to the Joseph Martin family. I believe my Great Grandmother was born around 1845 and her first husband was named Thomas Walker. They lived in Floyd County, KY . Any information would greatly appreciated!

    • Terry Landreth says:

      Have you done Ancestry or 23 and me DNA? I have done both. I have a public tree on Ancestry. Look up my name under member search and I am the one with the photo. Would like to hear from you. You can send me a personal message inside Ancestry. Thanks Terry Landreth

      • Also upload your DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GEDMatch. It’s free and there are different people in each database. Also the different vendors have different tools.

    • Dawn Kilpatrick says:

      Please contact me directly at .. my husband’s mother is a Stilwell and directly descended from Betsy Ward. I have the family tree. Looking forward to hearing from you, Dawn Kilpatrick

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