According to one of Martha's descendants, Martha was the second of John and Sarah ("Sally") Dunaway's twelve children. Further, she was reportedly born in an ox cart in the Boston Mountains where the family camped on the way to Arkansas.
There are discrepancies in records regarding Martha's birth date. Family trees indicate that Martha was born in April 1832. The 1900 census indicates her month of birth was May and birth year of 1822, but with an age of 68, so 1832 may be correct. Other census records indicate a birth year range from 1831 to 1836. The 1850 census shows the surname spelled Drane.