Jonathan Martin, c. 1890

Jonathan Martin (Born Aug.26, 1831, England, Died Jan.16, 1907, aged 78) and his brother Aaron (1839-???) are referred to as the last preemptors, two of the nineteen settlers on Gabriola as of May 9, 1874, according to the Nanaimo Free Press article of that date. The brothers were about to begin the cultivation of hops, which apparently Jonathan understood well.

On July 7, 1875 (NFP), Jonathan was elected foreman for the east end (now called south end for some inexplicable reason). The government grant (for roads, etc) of $500 was shared equally between the east and west ends. The following year Jonathan was ‘appointed’ foreman. (NFP). The budget for roads, etc. was again $500 and shared between east and west ends.

The $500 budget must be considered in the light of the fact that shortly after (1879) Jonathan is delinquent in taxes for $2.40 (presumably the full taxes for 1879). Apparently his land was not sold as threatened in Sept. of that year as he is noted as the landowner of the 160 acres (North east 1/4 of Sec 2-west and north of the present location of the United Church) in the 1884/1885 maps/records of the Gabriola Museum. Aaron may not have fared as well, though. He was the owner of 196 acres west of Degnen Bay (Gabriola Museum Society) (South west 1/4 of Sec 1 and pt of SE 1/4). and the owner of SW 1/4 of Sec 15 (along what is now called ‘the tunnel’). On Nov. 7/85 the NFP notes he owes $10.40 taxes on the latter and if not paid, the land will sold by public auction on Dec. 12/85. Aaron appears to have lived on Gabriola from 1874 to the 1881 census, but is not noted on the 1888 voters list. There is no indication of him marrying and having family.

Ellen Martin, c. 1880

Jonathan had lots of family. He was married to Helen (or Ellen or Ellin) who was nine years his junior (born in B.C.– a woman of the First Nations).  Their first child Mary Isabella was born in 1863. We may presume that Helen probably came to Gabriola with Jonathan but we don’t know when either arrived here. They continued having family, Thomas (1865), John (1866), Joseph (1868), Henry (or Hendry) (1872 or 76), Sarah Jane (1874), Moses (1876), James (1877), Robert (1881), Samuel (1885), Angus (1887), and Nellie (1890). In the 1901 census Jonathan and Helen still have seven (of the twelve) children living in their ‘household’. Jonathan is 70, Helen is 61 and Nellie is listed as their daughter. It appears that Helen was 50 when Nellie was born in 1890 (though she gives different birthdates on different censuses).

Jonathan was a noted man in the community for years. The NFP noted him singing at the silver wedding of the Shaws in 1886 (though it’s possibly his 19 year old son, John). In the same year he sends ” some monster specimens of red and yellow onions.” to the NFP. He (or possibly his son, John, now 23 years old) is one of two Martins who are school board trustees in 1889. The other is a W. Martin (probably William) who shows up once in 1888 in the census history of Gabriola and is listed as a mechanic (coal drill). School Trustee Martin (probably Jonathan) wins an election by two votes in 1894. Peterson protested as “several of the votes recorded for Martin were given by married women who had not yet reached 18 years of age.”. (According to family history, related in The People of Gabriola, the two men rowed to Victoria together to get a ruling. The result of the ruling is not known.).

Mary Isabella married David Roberts from Mudge in 1883. She was David’s second wife (his first wife was also Mary, as was his third) and died in childbirth on Feb. 4, 1893. Thomas, the eldest son, is noted on the assessment roll for 84-85 as being the owner of SW 1/4 of Sec 4, 112 acres. However, the Crown Grant is given to Jonathan on April 11, 1892 for the sum of $112. On Jan. 23/93 Jonathan conveyed the land to his second eldest, John. Thomas may have been old enough (19 or 20) to be a preemptor on the land in 84/85, but he was killed in the mine explosion of May 3, 1887 (not to be confused with the Wellington Colliery explosion of 1884). He is buried in the Gabriola Cemetery.

John may also have been a preemptor — he is noted as owning 134 acres of the SE 1/4 of Sec 2 (now known as the Coho Area) on the 1884/85 assessment rolls. He was only 18 at that time, but may have lived a notable 77 years and be the John Martin who died 3/3/44. He married a Charlotte A. (dob 15/5/78) and they had three children (as of 1901 census) –Henry Chester (27/1/95 – 27/7/68), John E. (9/7/96 – ????) and Mary J. (31/12/00 – 28/10/25).

The Martin boys were busy in various sports, though it is difficult to distinguish between Jonathan, Joseph and John as the NFP often says J. Martin or just Martin. However, some were involved with foot races, baseball, sculling, and tub racing (NFP-Aug 23, 1892). The Martin name shows often in the NFP as donations are listed for the Nanaimo Hospital and mine disaster relief for families. Joseph is listed on the 1889 school roll of honour for proficiency. He becomes another family tragedy when he is kicked in the head by a horse in 1891 and dies in hospital six weeks later.

There is little information on the rest of the children. Sarah Jane married George Jackson in 1899 and died giving birth to a son (also George) in 1900. Moses also made the school roll of honour in 1889 for his deportment. Angus and Samuel served in WW I and Angus again serves in WW II (Roll of honour for Gabriola Island). They both lived through their war experiences. A registered letter dated 16 May, 1935 for a Mrs. Rose Martin is on display at the Gabriola Museum.

Much of the Martin history after 1900 is unknown as records/newspaper articles from 1900 and beyond are not yet on file in the Gabriola Museum.

Update (Nov.26, 2003)

Since this summary was written five years ago, a number of descendants of the Martin family have got in touch with the museum, and we have learned a great deal more about the family’s history. (For example, we now know of an eldest son, William.) One descendant — Donald Martin, grandson of Jonathan Martin and son of James — has put up a website which contains some of this new information, including many photographs. Don is interested in hearing from other family members — you can find his email address at the bottom of his web page. We at the museum are also glad to hear from family members. We will be adding more to this page as well, as time permits. Until that happens, if you can contribute information about the Martins, or wish to learn more, please contact the History Committee at history @

Don Martin’s Website