MARTIN, CHRISTOPHER, native of Cockington, Devon, master mariner and fisherman planter in Newfoundland for many seasons; fl.1661–78.
Martin, in his deposition before the Committee of Trade and Plantations 28 Jan. 1677/78 states that for 17 years he had commanded his own ship, mostly in fishing voyages to Newfoundland, and that he had traded with the inhabitants of St. John’s, where, he said, “I have been often Admirall of the Fishing Shipps.” During this period he distinguished himself by his heroic resistance to piratical marauders and enemy invaders. In June 1665, when the Dutch under de Ruyter attacked St. John’s, Martin made a gallant attempt at defence, as he also did in 1667, when the Dutch again invaded and pillaged St. John’s. In 1673, he beat off four pirate ships under the command of the notorious Cornelis Evertsen and successfully repelled his attack on St. John’s by building, at his own expense, a crude battery near Chain Rock in the Narrows, on which he mounted 6 guns from his own ship, manned by 23 men.
Martin appears to have been a wise and sensible man. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the fishing admirals and “Western Adventurers” who opposed settlement and stable government in the island, and contrary to the home government which disallowed it, he strongly advocated immigration, a ruling governor, and organized government. Martin took the side of the planters against the fishing merchants because he believed that if the planters left, fewer fish would be taken, since the planters supplied timber and also kept the fishing stages and other construction in repair. He also thought that the planters’ removal would enable the French to advance from Placentia Bay and to take control of the island. Martin’s views did find support among some of his fellow fishermen – two of whom, Thomas Martin and Nehemiah Trout by name, testified in 1677 when Martin did – and from many of the convoy commodores. The government which in 1676 had ordered the planters to leave did not enforce the decree.