Born: January 20, 1828 in Westville, son of William Martin and Dolly Branch (residents of Westville and later Bangor).
Died: March 1895 in Saranac Lake
Married: Roxy Rachael Miller
Stephen C. Martin was a well-known, popular and colorful guide who lived near and worked out of his brother William F. Martin's hotel, Martin's. He had one other brother, Henry, and two sisters, Clarinda and Susan Martin.
The family of Stephen and Roxy Martin lived in Saranac Lake when the 1870 and 1880 Censuses were taken.
He is buried in Pine Ridge Cemetery, though without a stone.
STEPHEN C. MARTIN AND THE DEER FIGHT
"Steve," as he was popularly called, was a unique personality and one of the most famous guides of his day. He was born in Westville, on January 20, 1828. He married Roxy Miller, a sister of Ensine and Milo B. Miller, and lived and died in Saranac Lake.
He was the youngest but tallest of the three Martin brothers. He stood six feet two in his stocking feet, was lean, lank, and red-headed, and of great muscular strength. He guided at "Martin's" for many years. Later he took charge of the E. J. Dunning property, which is now the Swain Camp. 1 When, after a few years, the Dunning Camp was sold to Nathan Straus, Steve bought the "Chet" Peck house in Saranac Lake village (now No. 1 Riverside Drive), and lived there until his death in March, 1895.
He was the favorite guide of many notable men, and his name is mentioned in all the early Adirondack books. It was Steve Martin who, with W. J. Stillman, prepared the first "Philosophers' Camp" on Follansbee Pond. It was Steve Martin whom Adirondack Murray has immortalized in his famous deer-fight story in his Adventures in the Wilderness. It is in the last part of the chapter entitled: "Jackshooting in a Foggy Night," and the hero of the final episode is ushered into the action by a full-page description. Murray says of him:
A tall, sinewy man he was, in height some six feet two, in weight turning perhaps 170 pounds,—every ounce of superfluous flesh sweated off his body by his constant work at the paddle and oars, which gave him a certain gaunt, bony look, to be seen only in men who live the hunter's life and eat the hunter's fare along our frontiers. Yet there was a certain litheness about the form, a springy elasticity in the moccasined foot, a suppleness of motion, which, if it was not grace, was something next akin to it ... a good guide, I warrant, easy and pleasant of temper when fairly treated, but hot and violent as an overcharged and smutty rifle when abused.
The highly laughable escapade that follows has been frequently branded as fabulous, but Steve never denied the essential facts of the occurrence. One thing is certain—that of all the guides of his day he was the one of whom such an extravaganza could most readily be believed. From all reports he was constantly projecting himself into the unexpected and unusual. He had about him a sort of lovable grotesqueness that made him strongly resemble a Dickens character. Further corroboration of the probability of the deer story, and a very brief but comprehensive pen-picture of Steve, is placed at my disposal by Dr. William B. Dunning of New York, who was a frequenter of "Martin's" in the old days:
Bill Martin had a brother, Stephen—popularly known as Steve Martin, and famous as a guide throughout that entire region. He was a tall, powerful man, with red hair, and if ever a man was born to his craft, I should say that was true of Steve Martin. He had the native instinct of an Indian—a perfect genius for meeting practical ends by the most instant means. I do not remember ever seeing him at a loss in any emergency. If he wanted to drive a tack, and the nearest hammer happened to be your gold watch lying on the table, he would drive that tack, without regard to what became of the watch. I recall one instance related of him: when going down the Raquette River, and when for some wonderful reason he was without his rifle, a fine buck appeared on the point of the river. Instantly Steve, hugging close to the shore and creeping up on the animal unobserved, suddenly barked like a brace of hounds, and the deer, frightened, plunged into the river to swim across, supposing the dogs after him. Steve easily caught up with him, and, rowing alongside, whipped an oar out of the oarlock and brained the animal before he reached the opposite bank. It was part of Steve's religion never to let an animal get away from him, and it didn't matter in the last what implements he chanced to have at hand.
Steve was famous for physical strength in his early years. W. J. Stillman, the journalist, told my father that Steve swam five miles one day after a boat which had drifted away. When he first came into the Adirondack region, he brought with him a wide reputation as a wrestler. He was perhaps the most famous of the old guides so well known in the Adirondack region. He will always be a picturesque figure in the history of Saranac Lake.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 18, 1955
This 'N' That by Mrs. Albert Tyler
The late Stephen Martin, of Saranac Lake, better known as "Steve," was one of the most popular guides of his day. Were he now living he would be nearly 130 years of age.
Steve was a man of great strength and many a story has been told of his endurance as a swimmer, of his prowess at the oars and of his ability to bring home the game. One of the stories most frequently told about him was of a time when he was rowing down the Raquette River. Suddenly he saw a beautiful big buck come out onto a point of land that jutted into the river. He had the name of never letting game get away from him, but when he started to reach for his rifle he remembered he didn't have it with him. It was also said of him that he always found a way to meet every emergency, and this time was no exception. Steve quickly brought his boat close to shore, and hugging the shore-line he floated down stream until he reached a spot fairly near the buck and sort of behind him. From that vantage point he suddenly began to bark like a dog, or two. Such a noise coming out of the previously quiet forest frightened the buck so that he plunged into the river and started to swim across.
That was evidently what Steve had hoped he would do for he followed him in the row boat and soon overtook him. He then took an oar out of the oarlock and hit the deer over the head, killing him. It was then an easy matter for him to tow the buck to shore, and so he had gotten his game again.
1. The original Dunning Camp, built in the autumn of 1881 and spring of 1882, was the first luxurious one erected in these parts. It had real plumbing, and both the fixtures and the plumbers were imported from New York.