1660 – Joshua Marshall

Marshall Hall was a pre-colonial mansion said to rival Mt. Vernon in scope and style. Joshua Marshall, born ~1660 in Maryland, is sometimes credited with the establishment of Marshall Hall. As it turns out, this is at best only partially true. Nevertheless, the biography of Joshua Marshall helps us understand the early history of the American south and how the fortunes underpinning its mansions and large plantations were acquired.

Joshua Marshall was the second son of William and Katherine Marshall. William was born in England, and came to the town of St. Mary’s in Maryland Colony sometime between 1640 and 1650. During that period, there was an ongoing struggle between Catholic and Protestant factions for control of Maryland, which ended for a time after the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649. The records I have seen do not show whether William Marshall was one of the many Catholics who followed Leonard Calvert (brother of Cecil Calvert, aka Lord Baltimore) to Maryland, a Protestant loyal to the Church of England, or a reform-minded Puritan. What the records do show is that William and his sons understood the value of acquiring land and used various methods, including debt financing and legal process, to increase their holdings from an initial 500-acre tract to an estate so large that, several generations later, the Marshall’s were said to be able ride 12 miles without leaving their property.

It was in 1651 that William Marshall obtained his initial 500-acre tract of land. According to the Maryland State Archives, “between 1634 and 1680, the Calverts encouraged settlers by promising to grant each settler so many acres (usually 50 acres) for himself and for each other person he or she brought into the Province.” It seems that William Marshall obtained some of his land rights by transporting others to Maryland and some in payment for debts. After acquiring this initial tract of land, William Marshall continued to acquire grants and purchase land so that, by one account, he owned 1,870 acres at the time of his death. [1]

In 1656, William married Katherine, widow of Thomas Hebden. William and Katherine had three children: William (b. ~1658), Joshua (b. ~1660), and Elizabeth (b. ~1667). When William Marshall died in 1673, each of his three children inherited some of his land.

As Joshua had not yet reached the age of 21, he was put under the charge of Francis Wyne, who also was named as the executor of William Marshall’s estate. The will of William Marshall refers to Francis Wyne as “brother.” This is regarded by many as a mystery. One solution, which I have not seen mentioned elsewhere, is that the wives of the two men are sisters. There are records indicating that Francis married one Elizabeth Bayne. There’s also speculation that William’s wife Catherine is the sister or daughter of a Thomas Payne who made Katherine’s first husband his “Executor and Sole Legatee.” Katherine also received a payment in 1651 “–in right of Thomas Paine a ffort Soldier deceased by Vertue of an Act of Assembly.” It seems possible to me that “Bayne,” “Payne,” and “Paine” are variations of the same name, given the lack of standardized spelling characteristic of the period.

By 1700, Joshua had added to his inherited lands a 360-acre tract that had originally been patented by Randall Hanson as “Charley.” This seems to have been a complex transaction in which Hanson first sold two tracts of land jointly to John Fendall and Joshua Marshall in 1696. Shortly afterwards, the land was partitioned, with Joshua receiving “Charley.” Then, in 1700, Joshua and John Fendall got a deed of confirmation signed (with an X) by John Ackatamaka, head of an Algonquin community with which there had been some kind of prior transaction or understanding concerning the land. In this deed, John Acatamaka is referred to as Emperor of the Piscataway, the term “emperor” being the title the colonists used to refer to a Native American chief.[1] According to one source, this deed remained with the family until 1870, when it was sent with a letter lost in transit from New Orleans to Frederick, MD.[2]

I have not been able to find out whether Joshua Marshall married or had children. I’ve seen one undocumented reference to a son named Richard Marshall. However, when Joshua Marshall died in 1702/3, the four children of his brother William, who died in 1698, became heirs to Joshua’s property. While records indicate that John Fendall initially was executor of the “Charley” property on behalf of Williams oldest son, also named William, the land seems to have passed from him to Thomas Hanson Marshall.

It’s not known who first began building on the land once known as “Charley,” but architectural analysis dates the original construction of the landmark house that was known as “Marshall Hall” to c. 1725. Unfortunately, this historic building was ravaged by fire in 1981, so that plans for its restoration by the National Park Service were never implemented.


[1] Webpage entitled “Marshall Hall on the Potomac” by M. E. Marshall, copyright 1997. URL: http://www.marshallhall.org/history.html, visited April 5, 2011.

[2] American Monthly Magazine, Vol. VII, July-Dec. 1895, published by National Society D. A. R., Washington, D. C., pp. 409-10. Courtesy Google Books, accessed online April 5, 2011.

[3] Various postings by anonymous authors at wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com.