PINNACLE — Located on a winding country road, about halfway between Danbury and Pilot Mountain, sits the historic Col. Jack Martin Rock House.
John “Jack” Martin was born in Essex County, Virginia, in 1756, and died in the acreage around his house in 1822. It is believed, though not confirmed, that he died while fighting a fire at the house.
At one time Col. Martin owned more than 7,100 acres of land in Stokes County.The Stokes County Historical Society owns the property now, and new signage needs to be added to give some of the history to aid onlookers in understanding what they are looking at. The sign there has very little information other than a list of Martin’s children.
John “Jack” was a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War but was known locally as a “Colonel” in the local militia. (Which makes me wonder if he ran with the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion.) Martin actually served in the local militia in the French and Indian War prior to the Revolution. Martin was a member of the party that rescued Col. William Cleveland when the Tories captured Cleveland. Later he fought with Colonel William Davidson from Western North Carolina to rout a band of loyalists. In October 1780, the “Overmountain Men” marched to King’s Mountain, Martin was acting as a scout when he was wounded and left for dead. Martin recovered and rejoined his company after the battle at King’s Mountain and was able to join General Nathaniel Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March 1781. Martin was wounded at least two more times while fighting the British and did rise to the rank of militia colonel in 1799. He served in the N.C. House and was a Stokes County magistrate/judge for more than 30 years.
He married Nancy Shipp in 1784 and finished building the Rock House about the time of his marriage. They had 10 children, nine living to adulthood. He and Nancy, and their youngest son William Gilliam Martin, are buried in a cemetery near the house. (William has no visible tombstone.)
The house originally was four stories tall with three-foot-thick walls, and was originally covered in white stucco. The fireplace in the basement was large enough to hold an ox. You can still see remnants of that fireplace, though much has been dilapidated due to fire and vandalism.
It was fascinating to visit this house that dates back to a American militia rallying point during the Revolutionary War. Because Martin was an officer in the America militia, it begs the question, did Alexander Hamilton come through here? Did General Greene or General Cornwallis draw blood on that very ground? There is no record that it happened, but is a neat thought, nonetheless.
The Rock House is in the process of being restored and is currently surrounded by a tall metal fence. You can still walk all the way around and see it well.
The Stokes County Historical Society website also has great information on Col. Martin and the house.
Standing there on that historic ground this week, several events came to mind; The Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Titanic sinking in 1912, the signing of The Declaration of Independence in 1977, the invention of the airplane in 1903, and Stokes County itself formed in 1789. What do all those events have in common? This house was here before them all.
Venture out in Stokes County; history is everywhere. Y’all be careful out there!