Friday, May 24, 2013

A Peek into the History of Marshall

On Wednesday evening, on a whim, I decided to attend the town meeting at the community center. I had read that a gentleman who used to go to school here, and is still a resident, was going to talk about some of the town's history. I'm a sucker for any local tales and listened with rapt attention. There were also a map and some photos on display and I looked forward to being introduced to the faces that peered out.
 One of the roads leading to my house is called Free State Rd and I'd often wondered where that name originated from. Apparently an area in Marshall was called Free State, a term applied to a community that is obligated to no one and nobody's rules. There were a lot of free state movements back in early America. Here, the free state was about 12 miles square, from Crest Hill Rd to Jerry's shop, turn left to Orlean and then at Carter's Run head north to Marshall again, running on the west side of the Rappahannock Mountain. It all came about over a refusal to pay taxes and the residents there were really regarded as rebels by others. They'd ride down the main street of Marshall and shoot out the lamps in the big windows. They were also widely known for moonshine, but overall the Free Staters were a fiercely proud community who as well as being highly religious and heavy drinkers, were content with their way of live and held a 'take me as I am' attitude. They took exception to being referred to as a 'bunch of hessians', a term given to men employed to fight for the British.
 The first 'king' of Free State was Timothy Bray who was heavily involved in the import and export of illegal liquors, and cop fighting. Alexander Sandy Jeffreys, the 2nd king, was an excellent fiddler, and staunch supporter of his kinsfolk. He would often ride to Richmond to protect the interest of the folks in Free State. He was known as having the prettiest eyes and the longest beard of anyone. His demise came about when Mosby's men were searching Free State for illegal stills. Jeffreys interfered and got shot. Bust Head Road got its name after incidents involving too much imbibition.
August Klipstein, above, produced carbon tetrachloride and developed a cleaning product called Carbona with his sons, Earnest & Bill at their chemical company in Marshall. The instructions on the bottom of the box were, ' Put two or more balls in a Canton flannel bag. Strain the blue through the bag under water until dark enough. Blue the clothes one by one and keep the water well stirred.'
I found this old article online about the Klipsteins.
Our speaker mentioned an interesting fact about the origination of the 'Mad Hatter' term. Years ago when  hatters would clean beaver pelts before use, they would scrub them in a mercury solution. Years of doing this and their body absorbing the poison would turn them mad...
In Marshall, there's a house called Wavelyn that used to be owned by John Augustine Washington, nephew of George. He had an overseer called James Thomas Ford, who had two sons, Bob and Charley who both moved to Missouri and got involved with the gang of Jessie James. Bob heard of the reward out for Jessie and James and shot him dead from behind. Wikipedia has the full story here. Bob is in the photo above.
J. A. Washington was an aide to General Lee and ended up getting shot in the war so Wavelyn was then bought by Edwin Glasscock.
Edwin and his wife Nancy became an integral part of Marshall's history as they had 21 children, 15 boys, 6 girls, and only lost one at a year old. Their son, Harry, used to own the farm where the community park is now situated.
Behind Tractor Supply and Warrenton Rd, there's a tract of land that was known as The Muster Field, where every spring and fall the militia would gather to practice their military skills, with Thomas Marshall in command and aided by his son John. Young boys would play truant from school and young women would gather to admire the soldiers along with many of the residents. It was splendid entertainment. Afterwards the spirit continued with the locals having races and shooting competitions along with lots of fist fights.
The gentleman above was a relative of one of the ladies at the meeting. His name was Charley Ashby and he came from Paris Mountain. He inherited about 100 acres from a relative in Free State. Apparently he was very good at pulling teeth,  horse's and people's, made baskets and was the best marksman around.
Our knowledgeable speaker finished with a great story from long ago about a lad called John Gott in Marshall. He was raised by his mother and aunts and one day went to a Free State funeral with his grandmother. A fist fight started that was so raucous involving so many folks that the casket got tipped over causing the poor deceased occupant to land heavily and roll across the floor. John's grandmother immediately grabbed and dragged him out of the house by his ear before any more violence could ensue.
Before I knew it, the evening had ended. I could have sat there for hours listening to these wonderful tales of Marshall's ancestors, but we were promised more historical evenings in the future. I can barely wait.

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