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National Trust of South Australia


Martin, Michael

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth c. c.1794
Place of birth unknown
Date of arrival 1837
Principal occupation Farmer & horse breeder
Date of departure 1864
Date of death 1878
Place of decease Yarrowie, SA

Michael Martin, aged about 33 years, married Mary Fleming, aged about 23 years, (c.1804-1844) in Ireland in 1827. They had 4, or possibly more, children:

  • Malachy (or Malachi) (1831-1862) b. in Ireland, m. Catherine Bracken (formerly Robinson) (1830- ) at Adelaide on 23 June 1858, d. executed at Adelaide Gaol in late 1862
  • Thomas (c.1835-after 1880)
  • Margaret (1836-1906) aged 29, married James Donovan (1839-1912), aged 26, in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Adelaide on 21 Jan 1865, d. aged 70 years, at Quorn, SA and buried in Quorn Cemetery
  • Michael (1843-1903) b. at Willunga, m. Caroline McCudden (1848-1890) on 11 Jan 1865 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Adelaide, d. at Hornsdale, SA on 1 Aug 1903

Mr. Martin, his wife and three children (Malachi, Thomas and Margaret) arrived at Holdfast Bay from Hobart aboard the 161-ton brig Emma on 5 March 1837. Religion – Catholic.

In April 1838 Michael Martin was a shepherd for the South Australian Company and he was resident at Sheep Station No.1. On 28 Oct 1839 he purchased section 191 in District C for £80. Although he was reported as purchasing section 190 in the South Australian Gazette, this appears to be a mistake, as section 190 was purchased by Eleanor Morrison in Oct 1839. Martin called his property Somerset (or Summerset) House (or Farm). The 1840 map of John McLaren’s survey of District C showed section 191 with the name M. Martin and Somerset written on it and the name Morrison appears on section 190. In the March 1841 SA Census, Michael Martin, his wife Mary and their three children (Malachy, Thomas and Maria) were listed as resident in District C. Michael Martin was listed in an 1840-41 resume of the Willunga/McLaren Vale district, published in England in 1844, as one of the 21 settlers in the region. He was listed as having 70 male and 106 female sheep (176 total) in the first half of 1841 and the Country Returns of Aug 1841 described Somerset House as “A lath & plaster dwelling”. In the 1843 Land Return he had 20 acres of wheat, 4 acres of barley, 2 acres of potatoes, 1000 ewes, 300 lambs, 50 cattle and 7 horses. By 1844 Michael Martin was also the contractor for the conveyance of the mail to Encounter Bay.

Mary Martin was described as a strong and industrious woman and a most exemplary wife and mother. She was pregnant at the time she was reported to have committed suicide by drowning in a water hole at some distance from her dwelling on 10 July 1844.

Michael Martin remarried on 2 Feb 1845 to Honora Gorman (1820-1889). They had at least 4 children:

  • Ellen (1846-1906) aged 30, married William Martin (1841-1877), aged 35 on 4 March 1876 at the Mission Church at Point Macleay, d. at East Adelaide
  • Owen (1848- )
  • Margaret Julia (aka Maria?) (1850-1894) m. John Fitzgerald (1832- ) on 18 Nov 1957 at Willunga (St. Joseph’s Church?)
  • James ( - )?

By 1846 Somerset Farm had increased in size to 160 acres and it appears that Michael Martin had acquired section 192 (80 acres). In 1850 Michael Martin rented a seat at St. Josephs Roman Catholic Church in Willunga.

From the mid 1840s Michael Martin regularly appeared in court cases, often as the defendant. In July 1847 Michael Martin, described as a “carrier”, was charged in the Police Commissioner’s Court with stealing a mare, the property of Archibald Elliott, stock-keeper at Lake Alexandrina, but the case was not proven and Martin was discharged. Then in August 1847, Martin was accused by labourer Patrick Reading with failing to pay him the balance of his wages. He was ordered to pay the wages in full and costs within a fortnight. In June 1849 Martin pleaded not guilty to the charge of refusing to pay Johann Finke, a shepherd boy, £12 wages. The verdict was for the complainant and Martin was ordered to pay £7 9s. In Jan 1849 Michael Martin, of The Swamp (section 191) applied for a publican’s license that was refused. In May 1852 Matthew Taylor appeared in the Willunga Local Court, on the basis of information provided by Michael Martin, for forcibly taking a colt from the possession of Bernard Hanley, the informant's servant boy. The case was dismissed. In Dec 1854 Michael Martin was charged with horse stealing when August Dornwell, a butcher of North Adelaide, lost a black pony valued at £50 and retrieved it eight weeks later from the Willunga Pound. The magistrate said there was no evidence whatever to show that the prisoner (Martin) stole the pony and he was discharged.

In late 1858 Michael Martin announced that he had the contract for carrying the Mail from Adelaide to Willunga, from the 1st January 1859. By May 1859, Michael Martin was clearly in financial trouble and he assigned John Richardson and Edward John Peake to manage all his real and personal estate in the province of South Australia, in trust for his creditors. In August he was in the Insolvency Court represented by the law firm Belt, Cullen and Wigley. Richardson and Peake appointed Mr. Richard Bowen Colley, of King William-street, Adelaide, Accountant, as their agent to collect the estate and to wind up the affairs of Michael Martin. The auctioneers Green, Parr and Luxmoore, acting on behalf of the trustees for Michael Martin, then conducted two auctions of stock in March 1860 and again in March 1861.

Michael Martin continued to appear in the courts into the 1860s. In the Willunga Local Court in October 1860 he made a claim for £24 on the basis of a promissory note from Thomas Ball. This time he was successful and the verdict went in his favour with costs. Unfortunately, in June 1861 Archibald McCallum was awarded £25 against Michael Martin in a case involving a reaping machine and Martin said during this case that he was “nearly 70 years of age”. Then in July 1862 Mr Burgess successfully pursued Michael Martin in the Morphett Vale local court for the sum of £39 0s 6d for goods “sold and delivered”. Finally in March 1863 Michael Martin was charged with “misconducting himself” whilst driving a licensed vehicle. He pleaded guilty and was fined 10s and costs.

Michael Martin was involved in horse breeding on behalf of others, for example, he managed John O’Dea’s sire Young Milton in 1857 and his own sire Aggravator in 1862 and 1863. By 1861 Michael Martin had a total of five sections on the Aldinga Plains (161, 191, 192, 201 and 202). In August 1862 these five sections and five other sections (160, 170, 180, 190 & 761) were advertised for sale at auction “By order of the Mortgagee”. There was a stone house of six rooms that had either replaced or been added to the "lath and plaster dwelling" described in 1841. It appears that only five of the sections sold, as another advertisement appeared in 1864 for just five of the sections (161, 170, 180, 190 & 761) that were then for sale. Presumably these sections were sold as, by Oct 1864, Michael Martin directed that all his communications should be directed to Stirling (now Stirling North) near Port Augusta. In 1866 he purchased Lots 47 & 48 (part section 870) in the township of South Stirling (Hundred of Davenport) (CT 89/15).

Despite owning land at Stirling, Michael Martin became a farmer at Hoyle’s Plains (Hundred of Hall) near Balaklava (CT 87/89) and by 1869 he again became insolvent. Michael and Honora Martin were resident at Yarrowie by 1874 and he appears to have died at his son Thomas’ property in 1878. In December 1879 Honora Martin placed an ad in the Adelaide Observer asking her sons Owen and James (last heard of in Orroroo) to contact her through her solicitor Wigley.

By 1880 Honora Martin had been admitted into the Adelaide Destitute Asylum but she still had a case in the Supreme Court against her stepsons, Thomas and his brother Michael, for damages of £300 associated with disputed ownership of horses and cattle.

Honora Martin (nee Gorman), aged 69, died on 30 Nov 1889.


  • Passengers in History Database – South Australian Maritime Museum
  • South Australian Births – Index of Registrations 1842-1906
  • South Australian Marriages – Index of Registrations 1842-1937
  • South Australian Deaths – Index of Registrations 1842-1972
  • SA Census 1841
  • Ratepayer List Willunga & Aldinga Councils 1850-1888
  • SAILIS 1863-1868 M 57
  • Linn. R. Cradle of Adversity. 1991:30
  • Launceston Advertiser 23 Feb 1837:2
  • South Australia Gazette and Colonial Register. 7 April 1838:1
  • South Australian Gazette. 13 Nov 1839:4
  • Southern Australian. 24 Aug 1841:2
  • Adelaide Observer. 13 July 1844:5
  • Adelaide Observer. 25 June 1847:7
  • South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register. 17 July 1847:2
  • South Australian Register. 26 Aug 1847:3
  • South Australian Register. 13 Jan 1849:4
  • South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal. 16 June 1849:4
  • South Australian Register. 24 May 1852:3
  • Adelaide Times 27 Dec 1854:3
  • Adelaide Observer 7 Nov 1857:3
  • The South Australian Advertiser 31 Aug 1859:1
  • South Australian Register 26 Oct 1860:3
  • Adelaide Observer 16 March 1861:1
  • South Australian Weekly Chronicle 3 Aug 1861:1
  • South Australian Register 28 July 1862:3
  • Adelaide Observer 2 Aug 1862:1
  • South Australian Weekly Chronicle 30 Aug 1862:1
  • South Australian Register 27 Sept 1862:3
  • South Australian Weekly Chronicle 28 March 1863:7
  • South Australian Register 26 Jan 1864:8
  • South Australian Register 13 May 1865:2
  • South Australian Register 7 Oct 1875:4
  • South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail 15 Nov 1879:23
  • Adelaide Observer 6 Dec 1879:1
  • Adelaide Observer 17 April 1880:24
  • Evening Journal 17 April 1880:2

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