Captain John Martin
John Martin was born in Virginia in 1756 according to some historical sources. After his father’s death in 1761, John came, with his older brother William, to that part of Rowan County that became present-day Stokes County.

About the time Surry County was formed from Rowan in 1770, it has been said that a very young John Martin laid the foundation of the famed Rock House in Stokes County. Since he was only fourteen years of age at that time, it is likely that the construction of the house began later; possibly as late as 1778.

Somewhere along the way John became known as "Jack" and that is the name some remember him by today. Before the Rock House was completed, John went to war from the old Surry County courthouse in Old Richmond as a Lieutenant in Captain Joseph Henry Smith’s company, and served with Rutherford against the Indians in 1776. He fought for several years against the Indians as well as the Tories in the western part of North Carolina. He served under Captains Smith, Minor, Phillips, and Robert Hill. He also served under Colonels William Cleveland, Shepard, and James Martin and frequently rode with Major Joseph Winston.

John Martin was a member of the party that rescued Cleveland when the Tories, under Riddle, captured him at Old Fields. Later the party captured Riddle along with his son and another Tory. He fought with Colonel William Davidson to rout a band of loyalists under Colonel Bryan when they joined the British at Colson’s mill.

In 1781 when the Tories had their headquarters in a cave known as Tories Den, on the north side of the Sauratown mountains just south of the Rock House, John Martin, along with Joseph Cloud, Joshua Cox, and others under the command of Major Winston, attacked and killed all but one of the Tories.

When the mountain men marched to meet Ferguson at King’s mountain, John Martin was in Cloud’s company under the command of Cleveland. While scouting with Thomas Lankford both men were wounded and left for dead. Martin recovered and rejoined his company but the battle at King’s Mountain had already taken place. When the mountain men joined Greene in Feburary 1781, John Martin marched with Major Winston under the command of General Pickens. Martin was wounded at least two times while fighting the Tories and British and carried buckshot in his temple the rest of his life.

In 1784 he married Nancy Shipp and reared ten children. His marriage encouraged him to finish the house, ca 1785, which he  had begun years before as a young man.

The Rock House was four stories, including the basement and attic; had walls three feet thick; and a fireplace in the basement big enough "to roast an ox." The outside of the house was covered with white stucco and could be seen for miles around.

During the war years the Rock House was used as a fort against the indians and Tories as well as the headquarters and a rallying point for the militia. You can still see the gun ports built into the walls. Captain John Martin earned the reputation of being a brave and couragous man. He did much to eliminate the Tory influence.

Martin also proved to be a good citizen during peacetime as well. From 1788-1799 and again in 1811-1812 he served as a Stokes County representative to the General Assembly. He served for thirty years as a magistrate in the courts of Stokes County and was said to have a droll humor and keen wit.

John Martin died in 1822 or 1823. His wife Nancy died in 1841. They are both buried in a small family graveyard just below the Rock House.


A seven feet, four inch high steel security fence has been completed at the John Martin Rock House. A custom, hand-built fence with supporting posts every ten feet placed thirty inches deep into concrete, it is meant to last a long time. Each post is topped with a pointed finial presenting a period look to the property which complements the 235-plus year-old structure. A ten foot wide gate is located at the southwest corner to allow access to the house. It is secured with two steel padlocks; one each at the top of the gate and at the bottom. The bulletin board, previously erected at the Rock House, has been relocated just inside the fence at the northwest corner. The historical descriptions related to the house and family of John Martin, which are attached to the board, can be easily viewed and read just inside the fence. A print of artist Frank Duncan's painting of his vision of what the Rock House originally looked like has also been placed on the board. All these items are fully protected from inclement weather. As an added bonus to the construction of the fence, the gate to the graveyard located just to the southeast of the Rock House, was also replaced. The small graveyard is maintained by the Stokes County Historical Society.

The fence was built and paid for in full by generous donations from our members, the community and proceeds from the play "Sure and Steadfast".   

Construction is still in process to complete the dedication marker.