The Wilkinson-Martin house is one of the oldest remaining structures in the area. It was built in the Federal style for cotton gin mechanic Francis Wilkinson, son of War of 1812 veteran Thomas Wilkinson. The Wilkinsons were some of the earliest white settlers in Giles County, arriving in 1809. Today it is privately own but available for use by community groups and organizations.
The Wilkinson-Martin House is among the oldest houses in Pulaski. Built of timber frame
construction, this Federal Style home was built 1830-1835 for early settler
Francis H. Wilkinson (sometimes written Wilkerson). Francis (Frank) Wilkinson was born a
Virginian in 1804. In November of 1809, the Wilkinson’s moved to what would
become Giles County following the cession of Chickasaw land. They
were among the first white settlers to arrive in the recently acquired
Frank Wilkinson gained prosperity as a mechanic, building cotton gins
to process the region’s biggest cash crop. In 1854, he was selected to oversee construction of the Giles County Courthouse, designed by Adolphus Heiman. By 1860, Frank
Wilkinson had accumulated $36,000 in real estate and $25,000 in
personal property, which included 21 enslaved people.
During the Civil War, Union troops occupied Giles County and the town of Pulaski due to its strategic location along the Nashville & Decatur Railroad. During the occupation, an African American contraband camp formed on Fort Hill, just west of the Wilkinson-Martin house. The residential neighborhood now occupying the site was originally settled by descendants of the camp. Enslaved people from around the area often followed the Union army, establishing contraband camps at sites of Federal occupation.
In 1875, the house passed to Wilkinson’s daughter Mary L. Martin and her
husband David Martin, who served two terms as mayor of Pulaski. A succession of Martin
family members owned the house until 1968, when Henry Sims, the Industrial Arts
teacher at the Bridgeforth High School purchased the property. As a prominent
member of the African American community, Sims had lived in a home adjacent to
the property since 1945 and had a close personal relationship with the last
generation of Martins in the house.
Little has changed to
the houses exterior since its construction, giving the Wilkinson-Martin house
the distinction as being one of the last remaining Federal style home in
Pulaski. Not only is it possibly the oldest house in town, but an enormous
Mulberry tree, possibly the largest in the state, grows in the back yard.