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William H. Martin Biography


This biography appears on pages 363-364 in "History of Dakota Territory" by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915) 

William H. Martin, chief of police at Sioux Falls, was born at Ashippun, Dodge county, Wisconsin, February 17, 1850, and is descended from Scotch ancestry, his parents being John Duncan and Caroline (Wilks) Martin, both of whom were natives of Dundee, Scotland. In the public schools of his native town William H. Martin pursued his education and remained upon the homestead farm until his fifteenth year, when his patriotic spirit was aroused and he enlisted as a private of Company I, Forty-eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, continuing in active duty at the front until mustered out on the 24th of June, 1865, following the cessation of hostilities. 

Returning to his home in Wisconsin, Mr. Martin became apprenticed to the carpenter's trade, which he followed for several years. When twenty-one years of age he was elected constable in his native town, gaining thus early in life experience in handling those who do not hold themselves amenable to the law. He continued in that position for six years and in 1876 he removed to Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he engaged in business as a contractor and builder until 1882. At that date he was appointed deputy sheriff of the county and made an excellent record during his six years' incumbency in the position in 1889 he removed to Dakota territory, settling at Sioux Falls, where he again began contracting and building and was thus engaged until May, 1890, but his ability for public service led to his being again called to office. He was appointed a member of the police force and for two years acted as a patrolman, when the eminently satisfactory character of his service made him the logical man for chief of the police department and he was appointed to the office on the 1st of May, 1892. Endorsement of the able manner in which he discharged his duties came to him in his reappointment on the 3d of November, 1895, for a term of two years, and following his retirement from that position, he served during 1897-8 as a guard at the state penitentiary. On the 2d of May, 1900, he was again made a member of the police department and appointed chief, in which important position he has continuously served, covering a period of fourteen consecutive years. That Sioux Falls has the reputation of being one of the best policed cities in the west is due in large measure to the executive ability and high sense of official honor of the man who stands at the head of the police system. From July 7, 1905, to October 1, 1911, he was deputy warden of the South Dakota State Penitentiary, and for more than a third of a century he has held office in one capacity or another, a record that is seldom equaled. 

On the 13th of December, 1876, Mr. Martin was united in marriage to Miss Mary A. Best, a daughter of John and Margaret Best, of Dousman, Wisconsin, and they have one child, Stella M., now Mrs. E. E. Smith, of Wilmer, Minnesota. 

In fraternal circles Mr. Martin is widely and prominently known, as he holds membership in Unity Lodge, No. 130, A. F. & A. M.; has taken the thirty-second degree in the Scottish Rite; belongs to El Riad Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S.; is a member of the Elks Lodge, No 262; and is identified with Joe Hooker Post, No. 10, G. A. R. The last named enables him to maintain pleasant relations with the boys in blue with whom he was connected through the ties of active military service on the battlefields of the south. His political allegiance is given the republican party and he keeps in close touch with the issues and questions of the day, but at no time have political or personal prejudices or views interfered with the faithful performance of his official duties. His record is indeed most commendable and there is perhaps no other chief of police in all the state whose incumbency in office covers so extended a period.