Ephraim Martin, the son of Ephraim and Keziah Runyon Martin, was born in 1733, either in Piscataway, New Jersey, or in Somerset County, where his parents had settled near the confluence of the Passaic and Dead Rivers in what is now Warren Township about that time. He appears to have moved to Sussex County as a young man and raised a family, genealogical sources claiming the birth of a son there in September, 1760. He evidently prospered and became sufficiently well established to assume a role in public affairs during the Revolutionary War when he served the America cause in military and political capacities. Martin was one of five deputies from Sussex County who attended the Provincial Congress of New Jersey held in Trenton in October, 1775. He was commissioned as a colonel of the Second Regiment, Sussex County Militia on June 14, 1776 and appointed as colonel of the new fourth New Jersey Battalion of the Continental Army on November 28th of that year. Stationed at Princeton in the autumn of 1777, he advertised the desertion of a soldier from his “quarters” there on November 20th, and passed some portion of the following winter with his regiment at Valley Forge.
Resigning his army commission in 1779, Col. Martin embarked on a life-long career of government service, which encompassed both elected and appointed positions. He was chosen in the general election of October 12, 1779, to represent Somerset County on the New Jersey governor’s council, the upper house of the new state legislature, and thereafter served many terms on the council until 1806, the year of his death, first as representative for Somerset County and beginning in 1795, after moving to New Brunswick, for Middlesex County. He was appointed by the state legislature in 1783 as one of the commissioners for draining the “drowned lands” along the Wallkill in Sussex County and by Congress in 1786 as surveyor under director of Thomas Hutchins, Esq., to survey the Western Territory of the United States.
In 1789, Ephraim Martin had a prominent role in securing the approval of the first amendments to the U. S. Constitution by the New Jersey legislature. The state legislative council appointed Martin and three other councilors to a committee to discuss the proposed amendments on November 4th. The state assembly having appointed a similar committee, the two committees quickly issued a joint report recommending the adoption and ratification of the amendments within a few days. Consideration of the report by the legislature began on November 6th, and final approval occurred on November 20th, making New Jersey the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
A prosperous landowner, Ephraim Martin acquired property in Sussex County and the Ohio country, in addition to his Bernards Township farm, which he appears to have owned and made his residence until 1794. Surviving Bernards Township tax records indicate that his local landholdings reached 375 acres of “improved land” in 1784, although his taxable acreage declined in subsequent years. They also provide some evidence as to the nature of his farm operation. In 1778, for example, he was assessed for four horses, seven hogs and seventeen head of cattle, and between 1778 and 1792 his livestock assessment included four horses in most years and averaged 12.5 head of cattle. In various years throughout the period he was taxed for a riding chair, sleigh, chaise and covered wagon, and in most years for two or three vehicles. While the historical record provides almost no information about the physical character of the farm during his ownership, his livestock and vehicles suggest the existence of a substantial barn and wagon house. A prominent man with his resources may not have been satisfied with a small house like the one described in the Kennedy sale advertisement, and it is quite possible that he enlarged or replaced the earlier dwelling. In addition to their double pile, one-and-one half-story plan and Dutch framing system, the west and east portions of the main block both exhibit features typical of 18th century construction such as corner fireplaces, Georgian style mantel, raised panel doors and other woodwork.