Eben Martin in Deadwood History

Eben W. Martin was an attorney and politician who funded construction of the Martin Mason building in 1893 for his law offices.
From Wikipedia:
Eben Wever Martin (April 12, 1855 – May 22, 1932) was a U.S. Republican politician.He was born in Maquoketa, Iowa. He studied at the University of Michigan. Martin was elected as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives from South Dakota and served from March 4, 1901 to March 3, 1907. He decided to run for the United States Senate from South Dakota in 1906 instead of running for re-election to the House but failed in his bid for election. After the death of William H. Parker, Martin won a special election to fill his seat in the House of Representatives and was later re-elected to three more terms, serving from November 3, 1908 to March 3, 1915. He died in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

[divider] The following selection is from the Eben W. Martin Biography from:
“Who’s Who in South Dakota” by O. W. Coursey (1913)[divider]

[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]I’d rather have against me on a case any other lawyer I have ever known, than Eben W. Martin,” said Judge Moore at a political convention in Sioux Falls in June, 1900; “He is the shrewdest attorney in watching the fine legal points in a trial, by whom I have ever been opposed. It is simply impossible to out-wit him. [/pullquote]

True, no doubt, and Martin is just as alert in the halls of congress. Any time that some congressman wants to get through a bill with a “nigger” in it, he wants to make dead sure that Eben W. Martin is not going to be present when it comes up for final passage. Congressman Martin is just as shrewd in politics as he is in trying a law suit, or in watching the course of national legislation. In the campaign of 1908, he was identified with the “old guard” in this state, and the insurgents repeatedly declared, “We can win if we can only find some way to get Martin out of the field.” He makes no attempts at impassioned oratory. He is simply a keen, smooth, fluent, logical convincing speaker. He knows the power of argument, and he marshals his thoughts so as to carry conviction to his bearers. As a political campaigner he is an old war horse, and his opponents dread him. He can combine fluency and logic, season the mixture with high grade sarcasm, sugar coat it with wit, and then dish it out over his oily tongue, in a silver stream that will invariably turn the heads of his hearers, and make his audience become a united Martin crowd. Just a few nights ago he spoke at Plankinton, and the reporter who was present sent out the following:


[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]”Congressman Eben W. Martin was the principal speaker at a rousing republican rally held at Plankinton Monday night. His address was the best made at Plankinton thus far during the present campaign, and he was listened to with the closest attention by a mammoth crowd, which filled every inch of available space in the ball in which he spoke. Congressman Martin always has been popular among the republicans of this part of South Dakota, as well as those of other parts of the state, and he won new friends by his able address.”[/pull_quote][/one_half_last]

His style of oratory is entirely different from that of manyothers; in fact, he has a style of his own. And he is always surcharged. Wake him up in the night and call him to the platform and a stream of prose will at once gush forth over his silvery tongue like a new antigerm foundation. The fellow is actually such a walking dictionary of words that he doesn’t even need an index to find them; they are always at his tongue’s end in superfluous profusion, fighting among themselves to be released in rapid, orderly succession.


In politics Martin is a free thinker. His recent public utterances classify him as a progressive stalwart or else as a conservative progressive; that is, he has in a measure divorced himself from the old radical element, yet he has not seen fit to identify him-self with the radical insurgents. In fact the line of demarcation in thought on public questions, between him and such men as Regent Dwight of Sioux Falls who presided so ably over the last republican state convention,-himself a prominent insurgent has now grown so fine that you can scarcely detect it with a divisible lens, double objective microscope.[divider]

 The political ground on which Mr. Martin stands is feasible. If we are able to read the signs in the political horoscope, he is standing right now on the line of entrenchments where the republican party has got to make its rally against the onslaught of democracy in the future. We believe it is due to Mr. Martin to herein quote briefly from a recent interview of his on public questions, particularly with reference to South Dakota affairs:

“The South Dakota Republican platform is abreast of the best progressive thought of the day. With this platform I am in entire accord. Its most prominent principles I have advocated publicly for years as my speeches at State Conventions and in the debates in Congress will disclose. I shall continue to advocate these principles and to labor for their realization in legislation while I remain in public life.


“There has been some right and some wrong in each of the republican factions in South Dakota. The only honorable basis for a permanent union of republican forces in the state is to recognize the fact, and to treat all republicans in a spirit of justice and fairness.

“Republicanism is stalwart. And when a man has conscientiously classed himself as a stalwart republican, he has thought of the strong, fundamental stalwart principles of the party that have formed the basis of its career of fifty years of good government, sound money, protection of American industries, honest and efficient public servants, and he has not been willing to see these principles abandoned or successfully assailed.

“Republicanism is also progressive. New conditions develop new issues and new problems. Special interests seek to enlarge their privileges and to perpetuate them. Power is often misused and must be rebuked. Graft and corruption entrench themselves in high places, and there is need of a general house-cleaning. Good government cannot be perpetuated without insisting vigorously upon the highest moral and political standards. The man who conscientiously classes himself as a progressive republican has his eye upon these new and serious public questions, and emphasizes the necessity of improvement and progress. The republican party has always been the very party of progress. It has always been blessed with progressive leaders. Only by keeping fully abreast of the advance thought and demands of the people can it hope to maintain its political leadership.”

Congressman Martin has always been a great admirer of Theodore Roosevelt. He knew the Colonel when he was only a western ranchman, twenty odd years ago. He believes in Roosevelt and his policies. Mr. Martin was the first public man in the west to advocate the ascendancy of Roosevelt. He came out boldly for the Colonel in a public address delivered away back in May, 1900.

And Martin always supported the Colonel. During his recent western trip, while speaking at Sioux City, Col. Roosevelt said: “While I was president there were some men from the west who always stood with me. Congressman Martin of South Dakota, was one of the fellows who always stood without hitching.” It pleases the people of this state to know that they havein public life a man who is, and who for so long has been, in accord with the Roosevelt policies.


The telegraph diminishes the size of the continent. The cablegram brought the two continents together and diminishedthe size of the world. Wireless telegraphy put on speaking terms and made immediate neighbors of a billion and a half of human souls. Crippen riding along silently on the ocean’s heaving breast was unknowingly already in the arms of the law. Wellman and his brave crew scrambled into a life boat hung beneath his giant dirigible, cut the ropes, dropped into the sea, were picked up by the “Trent,” and before they had gotten time to exchange their wet clothes for dry ones the story of their rescue had been wafted ashore on ethereal wavelets, and in less than thirty minutes load-voiced newsboys, standing on street corners, were distributing to anxious throngs the daily papers which broke the printed intelligence to a nervous world. This shriveling of the earth into an articulating community has changed conditions wonderfully in the past ten years. Today, a man in public life betrays his constituents; and in a moment, as it were, after the evidence has been made public, people living in far-off island dependencies are informed by the press, of the fellow’s misdeeds, and they are advised to turn him down at the polls.

For this reason no man can long stay in public life nowadays whose character and whose public services are not above reproach. One careless step – suspicion is aroused-the X-ray of public opinion is turned on – an investigation held; and down goes McGinty. Herein lies Martin’s strength. He has set up and maintained before the people of our state, and, as well, the nation at large, an unimpeachable character, an untarnished manhood and a standard of public service that have inspired unbroken confidence and commanded universal respect. While a student at Cornell, be identified himself with the Christian work of the school. The moral lessons inculcated at that impressionable period of his life, have lingered with him. Today he is, and has been for many years, a member of the great Methodist Episcopal church. The church folk of all denominations have stood by him to a certain extent. It may truthfully be stated that today ninety per cent of the voters of the state are members of some religious denomination, either Protestant or Catholic; and he who in his political life ignores the church, will soon find himself counted out. He might have done so twenty years ago; he dare not do it now.

One of our sages said. “Character is three-fourths of life.”  In politics it is just the reverse-four-thirds; that is, you have got to have character enough to go round and then have some left over (just like the biblical story of the loaves and fishes), so as to fill up the dents in your armor plate, that have been made during a political bombardment.


Eben Martin is an Iowa product. He was born in the old-fashioned burg of Maquoketa, in Jackson county, situated on a branch line of the N. W. R., R. running from Clinton to Anamosa, April 12, 1855. On one side of the parental house he came from English stock; on the other, from Scotch-Irish. This mixture of bloods from Johnny Bull, from the Land of Mary, and from Old Erin, is enough to produce just exactly such a specimen as the Martin whom we have heretofore pictured.

Every man’s success depends largely upon: (1) his preparation. (2) his application, and (3) his determination, to succeed. Martin laid a broad foundation for his success in life.  Handicapped in childhood by being passed into another home for rearing, be nevertheless worked his way through Cornell college where he graduated in 1879. at the age of only twenty-four. He took his B. A. degree and three years later he was again honored by his alma mater which granted to him his Master’s degree. But this was only a part of his preparation. From Cornell he went to the University of Michigan, entered the law department, became a leader in the school, was elected president of his class, and graduated at the end of one year with signal honors. Upon the completion of his law course, young Martin was admitted to the bar, and he immediately struck west to “growup with the country.” He did not stop in the settled eastern portion of Dakota, as most professionally inclined men would have done, but he made his way overland to a little lonely village neatly tucked away along the sun-kissed hillsides of a deep Black Hills canon, stuck out his newly-stenciled law sign, went to work; and for thirty years Deadwood has echoed with his name and responded to his call.


Martin’s triumphant success in polities has been due largely to his strength in his home town and county. He has repeatedly come up to state conventions with a MAJORITY of over 2.000, from his own county. The entire Black Hills region has always stood loyally by him. This year, be did not even return from Washington to look after his own political interests, but remained at his post of duty; yet he carried not only Lawrence county, but his opponent’s county as well. When a man continuously on the ground during a campaign, cannot overcome the influence of a man who is continuously absent, then the absentee must have a hold on the affections of his opponents’ home folk which is pretty hard to break.


Mr. Martin was married in 1883 to Miss Jessie A. Miner, of Cedar Falls, Iowa. They are the proud parents of five children, three boys and two girls-all living. He has prospered greatly in a business way in the Hills. Investing the small savings ofhis early law practice, he has seen these investments double, triple, quadruple, quintuple and even sextuple in value so many times over that today he is one of the richest men in the Black Hills. He has a large ranch just north of Buffalo Gap that is rapidly developing in earning power. In addition to this he has heavy interests in Hot Springs and at Deadwood.


Congressman Martin has never “tooted his own horn.” He has kept on plugging, and evidently intended to let the next generation tell of his work. Here is where we shall, in this respect thwart his inclinations. His speech on the trusts and how to curb them, delivered before the students of the State University at Vermillion, some four or five years ago, is now regarded by able critics as the most powerful public utterance on this all important theme that has ever been delivered. President Roosevelt in one of his latter messages to congress urged that all interstate corporations be compelled to take out federal licenses. Where did he get the idea? From Eben W. Martin. Bless you! we have it on good authority, not gained from either of the interested parties, that Congressman, Martin wrote that portion of Roosevelt’s message for him, and the latter only recast the phraseology here and there so as to put it more nearly into his own language. Not one single man dare deny that Martin was the pioneer advocate of this reform. He introduced a bill in congress to this effect, and came very near getting it through. Powerful corporations all over the country sent delegations to Washington to defeat it. They wrote certain people in South Dakota and even sent secret agents to see them, in an effort to get Mr. Martin’s constituents to hold him in check.

But, let us tell you that Congressman Martin was right, and that the Martin idea of regulating the trusts is the one that isyet going to find its way into the federal statutes of the country and in the not far-distant future either. In his next message to congress President Taft is going to recommend the Martin scheme.

It was our original intention to incorporate herein a long list of the meritorious measures that Mr. Martin introduced into congress, which have now become laws, but space forbids. However, this part of his worthy public life is already largely familiar to our people.


Martin got into the political game early in life. At twenty nine he was a member of our territorial legislature. Then he was elected to the fifty-seventh, fifty-eighth and fifty-ninth congresses, in succession. At the eventful Sioux Falls convention of 1906, he went down to defeat with the “old guard” before the tide of insurgency. Called to the platform by his friends for a speech, he laughingly remarked, “Vox populi, vox dei,” added a few pleasing words and sat down.

But Fate said, “This worthy son shall not remain in private life.” Congressman Parker of Martin’s own town, who was nominated in his stead, died during his congressional career. A clamor went up from the whole state for Martin’s immediate return to congress. A campaign was already in progress. Martin had been nominated. He confidently expected to be elected, but in this event he could not take his seat until March 4, following. The governor called a special election, in conjunction with the regular election, to elect a congressman for the four months of Mr. Parker’s unexpired term. Martin’s name was placed on the special ballot. He was, therefore, elected twice the same day; and as a result he took his seat in December following.

Under these peculiar circumstances, Mr. Martin was out of congress only a portion of one term. He was renominated at the primaries in June of this year, and he will be overwhelmingly re-elected on November 8, 1910. It will thus be seen that he has been a member of five congresses in succession, and he will be a member of the sixth. What the future will bring forth in the career of this ambitious, ably-qualified and far-seeing westerner, none can definitely say. He is yet a comparatively young man filled with vigor. The west is gaining more and more recognition in the larger field of national polities. In the last national campaign, the lamented Dolliver, of Iowa, was favorably talked of for vice-president, but he declined the honor. Nebraska, on our south, has been honored with a presidential candidate for three campaigns. “Westward, the march of empire takes its way.” The whole migratory movement of the United States is westward. ‘Western states are rapidly settling up. Railroad developments have opened to settlement vast empires that heretofore were occupied by only an occasional ranger. Westward! Westward! Ohio can no longer claim the balance of power between the east and the west and set herself up as the mother of presidents. Iowa will be the dividing line in the future, and the west is going to demand recognition. A competent, progressive, congressman’s services become valuable to his state in direct proportion to the number of years he is kept in public life. Let South Dakota keep at Washington our legislative twins, Martin and Burke.

(Later.Martin was again elected to Congress this year 1912).

The Martin Mason Building is located in downtown Deadwood South Dakota.  Built in 1893, it was recently restored in the 00’s and was reopened in 2007. Now operating on the ground floor as the Wooden Nickel Casino with over 80 slots and restaurant. On the second floor is Deadwoods favorite downtown hotel the Martin Mason Hotel which features eight rooms restored in Victorian style. On the third floor is the 1898 Ballroom, a large gathering space for deadwood weddings, events, conferences and meetings. Deadwood and the Martin Mason Ballroom is fast becoming a favorite location for black hills weddings with it’s central location to everything Deadwood has to offer. [divider]