John Martin (c.1757–1837)

JOHN MARTIN was a convict transported per Alexander (1788). He is one of 17 First Fleeters with memorial plaques buried at St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. MARTIN is also one of 11 “black founders” – African men who were likely all former slaves from the American colonies and were transported as convicts with the First Fleet. Upon serving nine years on his seven year sentence, MARTIN was granted land as a settler in the Northern Boundary Farms district (now Carlingford) where he outlasted all the other original grantees. He later became a constable of the district. He is the only one of the 17 First Fleeters with memorials whose grave at St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta is unmarked, location unknown. His First Fleeters memorial plaque is attached to the grave of his wife, MARY MARTIN (née MARY RANDALL), the daughter of another ‘black founder’: JOHN RANDALL.


  • Born: c.1757
  • Tried and convicted: Old Bailey, Middlesex, England, 3 July 1782
  • Sentenced: 7 years transportation to Africa
  • Incarcerated in Newgate Prison: July 1782
  • Transferred from Newgate to convict transport Den Keyser: October 1782 (bound for Africa)
  • Returned to Newgate from Den Keyser: 1 November 1782 (due to “gaol fever”)
  • Transferred from Newgate to Ceres hulk: 1785
  • Transferred to the convict transport Alexander: 6 January 1787
  • Sailed with the First Fleet per Alexander: 13 May 1787
  • Arrived at Botany Bay per Alexander: 18 January 1788
  • Arrived at Port Jackson per Alexander: 26 January 1788
  • Received 25 lashes: 30 August 1788
  • Sentence expired: 3 July 1789
  • Petitioned Judge Advocate for freedom: 28 July 1789
  • Emancipated: 9 July 1791
  • Married ANN TOY: 26 August 1792 at St. John’s Church, Parramatta
  • Granted 50 acres of land: 29 November 1792 at Northern Boundary Farms (Carlingford)
  • Off Government stores: 24 October 1795
  • Acknowledged for his industry: March 1798
  • Appointed district constable: c.1799 at Northern Boundary Farms
  • Death of wife ANN TOY: 12 February 1806
  • Birth of son JOHN MARTIN (II) with MARY RANDALL: c. November 1807
  • Birth of daughter Sophia Martin with MARY RANDALL: 30 December 1809
  • Birth of daughter Frances Martin with MARY RANDALL: 21 February 1811
  • Married MARY RANDALL: 20 July 1812 at St. John’s Church, Parramatta
  • Birth of son HENRY MARTIN: 5 April 1813
  • Birth of daughter HANNAH MARTIN: 20 November 1815
  • Recommended to be Parramatta constable: 8 December 1825
  • Arrested for violent assault and trespass: 3 May 1826
  • Dismissed from Parramatta police force: 3 May 1826
  • Died: 21 December 1837 at Field of Mars
  • Buried: 22 December 1837 at St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

Burial Location

  • Unmarked grave, location unknown, parish of St. John’s, Parramatta. His First Fleeter memorial plaque is attached to the grave of his wife, Mary Martin, Section 2, Row P, No. 11, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta.

Trial Records


  • Spouse of ANN TOY
  • Spouse of MARY RANDALL
  • Parent of JOHN MARTIN (II)
  • Parent of SOPHIA MARTIN
  • Parent of FRANCES MARTIN
  • Parent of HENRY MARTIN
  • Parent of HANNAH MARTIN
  • Fellow Prisoner of DAVID KILLPACK at Newgate Prison, London
  • Son-in-law and neighbour of JOHN RANDALL: fellow “black founder.”
  • Friend of RICHARD PARTRIDGE: fellow First Fleet convict, fellow constable, and Northern Boundary Farms neighbour; witnessed the marriage of RICHARD PARTRIDGE  and MARY GREENWOOD.
  • Ancestor of THOMAS CONQUIT


  • Farmer
  • Constable


  • Convict, Den Keyser, 1782
  • Convict, Ceres, 1785–1787
  • Convict, Alexander, 1787–1788.
  • Northern Boundary Farms District constable
  • Parramatta constable

Related Content

John Martin: The Self-Freed Slave (2016)

By Michaela Ann Cameron

Abstract: Escaping slavery in the American colonies was only the beginning…A second kind of bondage had to be endured: convictism. Most likely a slave who fled the American colonies during the American Revolutionary War, John Martin found his way to London where extreme poverty drove him to steal a bundle of clothes. For his crime, he was thrown in London’s Newgate Prison where he contracted “gaol fever.” The highly contagious, potentially fatal illness actually saved his life, as it led to his removal from a convict transport ship bound for Africa. Having survived gaol fever, Martin eventually found himself on board the First Fleet convict transport Alexander, bound for what was to become the Colony of New South Wales. Within a few short years, the “self-freed slave” and convict found freedom in Parramatta; living the majority of his long life as a settler and a district constable there more than 70 years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. more>>

A. M. Fernando: Return to the Old Bailey (2016)

By Michaela Ann Cameron

Abstract: An epilogue to John Martin: The Self-Freed Slave, this short piece explores the interesting ways the life story of John Martin overlaps with the life stories of two men believed to be his descendants, Thomas Conquit and Anthony Martin Fernando, almost a century after the First Fleeter’s death. more>>



Primary Sources

  • Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.2), 3 July 1782, trial of JOHN MARTIN (t17820703-5) accessed 4 March 2016.
  • Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 8.0), 3 July 1782, punishment summary of JOHN MARTIN (s17820703-1), accessed 9 March 2018.
  • Parish Burial Registers, Textual Records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.

Secondary Sources

  • John Cobley, The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts, (North Ryde, N.S.W.: Halstead Press, 1970), p. 182.
  • Judith Dunn, The Parramatta Cemeteries: St. John’s, (Parramatta, NSW: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 1991), p. 134.
  • Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989), p. 239.
  • Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders: The Unknown Story of Australia’s First Black Settlers, (Sydney, NSW: University of New South Wales Press, 2006).
  • The Digital Panopticon, John Martin Life Archive, (ID: obpt17820703-5-defend93), accessed 9 March 2018.


# Event: American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

# First Fleet

# Black Founder

# African-American

# Convict

# Trial Place: Old Bailey

# Hulk: Ceres

# Ship: Den Keyser (1782)

# Ship: Alexander (1788)

# Burial year: 1837

# Grave: unmarked