The People:
W.J. Martin

W. J. Martin (1863-1950) was born William Julius, but everyone called him “W. J.”  He was a woodcarver and wood turner and, like most craftsmen who worked during the Craft Revival, he was also a farmer.  He lived in Cherokee County in the Martin’s Creek community, near Brasstown.  He was photographed during the summer of 1933 by Doris Ulmann, a photographer who chronicled the Craft Revival.  An outdoorsman and hunter, Martin was “a great authority on the out-of-doors life,” according to musician John Jacob Niles who assisted Ulmann on her trips into the mountains.   “He is classified as one of the finest carvers in the Martin’s Creek Community,” Niles wrote.  Niles also noted that at one time Martin made his own boom-and-treadle lathe.  Doris Ulmann’s photograph shows Martin carving a pig with a pocketknife in hand.

It is not known whether or not Martin was carving before his association with the John C. Campbell Folk School.  In 1929 the folk school established a craft guild for local residents and, the following year, Park Fisher began teaching woodworking.  In Niles notebook, Martin reported that, in 1932, he made all of his cash income from carving.  Like other community carvers, Martin sold his carvings through the John C. Campbell Folk School.  He is listed on the 1942 sales roster as having sold almost $50.00 worth of carvings for the year.

He was married to Mary Ricks Martin, a weaver and spinner.  Their grandson, also named W. J. Martin, was known to all as “Dub.”  In 1936 Dub Martin married Murrial Galt, a young teacher at the folk school who taught carving to multiple generations of Brasstown carvers.