History of Martinsburg, Kansas
From: History of Atchison County, Kansas
BY: Sheffield Ingalls
Standard Publishing Company
Lawrence, Kansas 1916
Martinsburg was laid out near the present site of Potter in the early days. It is not generally known, even among the old settlers, that there was such a place. George Remsburg said that this was due probably to the fact that Martinsburg was born dead. It was conceived in the town craze of early territorial times, but it came a still born infant and its promoters succeeded in viewing it only long enough for it to give a feeble gasp and fall back dead again. Though this proposed municipal enterprise of pioneer days did not materialize, it was, nevertheless, an interesting and important fact of local history, thitherto unrecorded, that such a town was actually staked off and laid out in Atchison county at a very early period. The only old-timers who remembered it were James B. Low, of Colorado Springs, formerly of Mount Pleasant, "Uncle Joe" Potter, and W. J. (Jack) Bailey. All three settled in the southern part of Atchison county in 1854. Mr. Low settled with his parents in Walnut township in the fall of that year, and says that Martinsburg was laid out that fall. It was situated in what is known as the Mercer bottom, on land belonging to Felix Corpstein and Fred Poss, in the west half of section 24, a little northeast of the present site of Potter, or immediately adjoining it. What is known as the Mercer spring, one of the finest in this section, was included in the town site. Mr. Low and his brother went out to look at the place in the fall of 1854 and decided to spend the winter there. It consisted at that time of a few huts and a small store; and never amounted to any more than a village, if it could be called that, although Mr. Low says the town site originally comprised about 100 acres, and a few lots were actually sold. The store was a small frame building, erected by one Alex Hayes, who had previously taken a claim on Plum creek, near Kickapoo. Mr. Low thinks this was the first frame building in Atchison county. Hayes carried a small stock of goods. This was long before the town of Mt. Pleasant, in the same vicinity, was ever dreamed of, and even before Tom Fortune opened a store there. It seems that the chief promoters of Martinsburg were two brothers named Martin; hence the name. Not much is known concerning them, or what became of them. "Uncle Joe" Potter says that one of them came to his house on one occasion when he and his brother, Marion Potter, were making rails. Martin stood around a while and finally insinuated that they were foolish for working so hard, and in a confidential way, "just the same as told them," as Mr. Potter expressed it, that they could make lots of money and make it easy stealing horses, whereupon Marion Potter promptly ordered him off of the place, and told him never to return. James Low's father bought the town site of Martinsburg in the fall of 1855 and moved onto it in the spring of 1856, converting it into a farm. Thus perished Martinsburg. Even the name did not survive in the memory of the settlers, and it was only by accident that it was recently recalled after a lapse of fifty-four years. At an early day the locality became known as Mercer's Bottom, after Joe Mercer, one of the earliest settlers, and it is known by that name today. It is not known what became of Mercer. James Low says the last time he saw him was in Denver, in 1859. Mercer was a queer character. It is told of him that he lived in a little cabin and subsisted principally on mussels, which he found in Stranger creek. Alex Hayes, the Martinsburg storekeeper, has also been lost trace of, but Dick King says there was an old-timer named Alexander Hayes, who died many years ago and was buried in the Sapp graveyard at Oak Mills. The town site of Martinsburg was a favorite camping place for soldiers and emigrants passing over the old Military road in the early days on account of the fine spring, the large meadows and the protection of the hills around it. To catch this tide of emigration was, in all probability, the object of those pioneer town projectors in selecting this site.