It is safe to venture the assertion that no one attains eminence in
business or any profession without passing through a period of more or less
unremitting toil, of disappointments and struggles. He who has brought his
business to a successful issue through years of work and has established it
upon a substantial basis, and yet retains the appearance of youth, who has
in his step the elasticity of younger days and shows little trace of worry
or care that too often lag the footsteps of the direction of large affairs,
must be a man possessed of enviable characteristics. Such is a brief word
picture of the worthy gentleman whose name forms the caption of this sketch,
as he now appears, after a long, active and prosperous business career, the
peer of any of his contemporaries in all that enters into the make-up of the
successful man of affairs or that constitutes a leader in important business
enterprises. Therefore, by reason of the fact that Mr. Martin has attained
worthy prestige as a business man, and also because he was one of the
patriotic sons of the North who went forth on many a hard fought battlefield
to defend the flag in the days of the Rebellion, and also because of his
life of honor, it is eminently fitting that he be given just representation
in a work of the province assigned to the one at hand.
B. E. Martin was born in what was formerly Estillville, now Gate City, Virginia, February 27, 1845, the son of John S. Martin, also a native of Virginia and the representative of a fine old Southern family. The father of the subject was Clerk of the Court in his home county for a period of twenty-four years. He moved to Illinois in 1846 and entered government land near Alma, the land that Alma now stands on. He laid out the town of Alma and there went into the mercantile business, in which he remained until the breaking out of the Civil war. He died in that town in 1866. He was a man of unusual business ability and became well known in his community. The mother of the subject was Nancy Brownlow, a native of Virginia. She died shortly after she moved to Illinois. She is remembered as a woman of gracious personality. Seven children were born to the parents of our subject, four sons and three daughters, named in older of birth as follows: Eliza, deceased; Mrs. Nancy Bradford, of Greenville, Illinois; Emily, deceased; Robert; Mrs. Kate Bennett, of Greenville, Illinois; Thompson G., of Salem; B. E., our subject, being the youngest. The father of these children was married three times, his first wife being Malinda Morrison, of Estillville, Virginia, to whom three children were born, two dying in infancy, the one surviving becoming Col. James S. Martin, now deceased, who lived to be eighty years of age, a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this volume. The second wife was the mother of the subject of this sketch; the third wife was Jane See, to whom one child was born, who died in the Philippine Islands.
B. E. Martin, Sr., was reared in Alma, this state, remaining there until he was sixteen years of age, attending the local school. When only sixteen years old he could not repress the patriotic feeling that prompted him to shoulder arms in defense of the nation's integrity, consequently on July 25, 1861, he enlisted in the Fortieth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was in many skirmishes and engagements, having fought in the great battle of Shiloh, where his regiment lost two hundred and forty-seven men in the two days' fight, and he was in several small engagements as they advanced on Corinth. His brother, Thomas G., was in every engagement and skirmish in which this regiment was involved, never being sick a day, and never missing a roll call. He enlisted in 1861 and at the expiration of his term of three years re-enlisted as a veteran and served until the close of the war. Our subject had three brothers and one half-brother in the army.
After his career in the army Mr. Martin went into the drug business at Greenville, Illinois. He later went to Olathe, Johnson county, Kansas, where he engaged in the same line of business from 1867 to 1869; then he returned to Marion county, Illinois, and resumed the drug business here, in which he remained a short time. Selling out his stock of drugs, he began selling agricultural implements, adding the lumber business in connection with his brother. He made a success of all the lines in his various locations. In 1877 he established his present business, that of wholesale seeds, in which he has quite an extensive trade, having become known as the leading seed man in this locality, consequently his trade extends to all parts of the country. He uses the most modern and highly improved machinery for cleaning seeds.
Our subject was united in marriage in November, 1866, to Florida Cunningham, who was born and reared in Salem, the daughter of John Cunningham, then a merchant of Salem. He was a man of honest principle and influence in his community.
Eight children have been born to the subject and wife, one of whom died in infancy, the others are now living in 1908. They are: Mary, the wife of Charles T. Austin, of Indianapolis; B. E., Jr., who is engaged in the general mercantile business in Salem; Bertha is the wife of John Gibson, living in Manila, Philippine Islands; Nancy is living in Salem; John C. is cashier of the Salem National Bank; Edith and Gena.
The subject has achieved success in an eminent degree owing to his well directed energy and honesty and persistency. He is a stockholder and director of the Salem National Bank. He owns a modern, comfort-able and nicely furnished residence.
Mr. Martin has served as Supervisor of Salem township. He discharged the duties of this office with his usual business alacrity and foresight. He is a Democrat and has always been active in politics. In his fraternal relations he affiliates with the Masons. He also belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic, and is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, also the Gideons. He is an honorary member of the Woodmen, and he is well and favorably known in lodge circles, business life and social relations, being regarded as one of the most trustworthy and substantial citizens of Salem and Marion county.
Before closing this review it would not be amiss to quote the following paragraph which appeared in a Salem paper some time since under the caption, "A Remarkable Record":
"There resides in this city four brothers who have a record which is remarkable and doubtless without a parallel among their fellow countrymen. They were all soldiers in the Civil war; two enlisting in the Fortieth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in 1861, and the other two in the One Hundred and Eleventh Regiment of this state in 1862. They participated in every battle in which their respective regiments were engaged, were never in a hospital, and none of them ever received the slightest wound, notwithstanding they were in the thickest of fights where thousands were slain or wounded. At the battle of Shiloh nearly three hundred of the Fortieth Regiment were killed or wounded, but 'Tom' and 'Ben' were among those who came out without a scratch. These four brothers with the remarkable record are James S., Thomas, Robert and Benjamin E. Martin, honorable, substantial citizens of Salem."
Extracted 10 Jul 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 29-32.