Marker Text: About one half mile southeast, just across the railroad, a stone marks the site of the birthplace, September 24, 1755. He died at Philadelphia, July 6, 1835. Revolutionary officer, congressman, Secretary of State, he is immortal as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. During his long term of office his wise interpretation of the U.S. Constitution gave it enduring life.
Location: On VA Route 28 (Catlett Road), 0.1 miles south of Smith Midland Lane, on the west side of the road near Midland, VA. Erected by the Virginia Conservation Commission in 1950.
“The events of my life are too unimportant, and have too little interest for any person not of my immediate family, to render them worth communicating or preserving” John Marshall
John Marshall, known as The Great Chief Justice was instrumental in assuring America's acceptance of the judiciary as the third branch of government and establishing its power to overturn legislation whose language was in conflict with the Constitution. As Chief Justice, John Marshall embodied the majesty of the Judicial Branch as fully as the President of the United States represents the power of the Executive Branch.
Photo taken at the beginning of the trail to walk back to the site of John Marshall’s birth, the green trail ahead goes about 1/2 mile to the site.
Today's marker tells us about the birthplace of John Marshall who was born on September 24, 1755, in what is now Fauquier County (county was not formed until 1759) and was in Prince William County, Virginia at the time of his birth. John Marshall was born eleven weeks after Braddock's defeat at Fort Duquesne in Pennsylvania during which Braddock was mortally wounded. George Washington, then twenty-three years old, led the Virginia rangers who served with Braddock. One Virginian who did not join the campaign was Washington's close friend Thomas Marshall, John Marshall's father. Washington and Thomas Marshall were both surveyors by profession and had worked together mapping the vast expanse of Virginia's northern neck or Fairfax Estate. Like Washington, the elder Marshall was an officer in the Virginia militia, but with his wife expecting their first child, John. Thomas remained at home that summer in the tiny community of Germantown, a settlement of less than a dozen dwellings, all of which disappeared when the frontier moved westward.
Site of John Marshall’s birthplace at the end of the trail.
In 1754, Thomas Marshall married Mary Randolph Keith, the 17 year old daughter of the Reverend James Keith and Mary Isham Randolph of' Tuckahoe. John's mother, Mary Randolph Keith Marshall was related to the Randolph family lines from Turkey Island and Williamsburg, Virginia. The Randolph descendants included not only Marshall, but Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, and numerous generations of Randolphs. Both parents, while not formally educated, were considered adequately educated for the times and could read and write.
The family grew rapidly. Besides John, there were eight girls and six boys as well as several cousins, such as Humphrey Marshall, a future Kentucky senator, who were raised with the family. All of the Marshall children were accomplished, literate, and entirely self-educated under their parents' direction. Unlike most families of the period, the girls were educated alongside the boys. The Marshall's held a significant social, religious, and political status in the newly formed Fauquier County area.
Though John Marshall is the best known among the Marshall children, his sibling were also quite accomplished during their lives. His brother, Thomas born in 1761 became a lawyer and farmer. His brother James Markham was born in 1764 and married Hester Morris, the daughter of Philadelphia financier Robert Morris, and was a frequent partner with the chief justice in various land acquisitions. His brother, Louis born 1773 was a noted physician, educator, and early president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University). Alexander Keith Marshall, who became a prominent lawyer in Kentucky, was born in 1770.
John Marshall lived here until he was about nine years old, when his father moved the family to northern part of Fauquier County about 30 miles away. (Another marker indicates this location) Unlike most frontier dwellings, Thomas Marshall built a home of frame construction rather than log and was one and a half story. The home no longer exists and only the pyramid shaped marker indicates the location of this home.
John Marshall’s Birthplace
Plaque at the site of this birth.
Inscription. Near this spot on September 4, 1755 was born John Marshall, Fourth Chief Justice of the United States.
This marker erected by Marshall Inn of the Legal Fraternity of Phi Delta Phi, 1928.
A marker erected by Marshall Chapter of Phi Delta Phi in 1902 is enclosed herein.
The work and accomplishments of John Marshall are quite extensive, as a Chief Justice, Lawyer and property owner. Some of these I will cover in future markers related to him. As stated in the beginning quote, Joseph Story was working on a biography of John Marshall and I found one statement by Story quite interesting about John Marshall's character. Story captured the chief justice's unusual appreciation of the ability of women when he spoke of the high esteem in which Marshall "held the female sex, as... the equals of man. I do not refer to the courtesy and delicate kindness with which he was accustomed to treat the sex; but rather to the unaffected respect with which he spoke of their accomplishments, their talents, their virtues and their excellences."
English feminist, Harriet Martineau who knew Marshall in his later years, notes how Marshall's attitude was sufficiently unique and how he “maintained through life and carried to his grave a reverence for women, as rare in its kind as in its degree. He brought not only the love and pity ... which they excite in the minds of the pure, but the steady conviction of their intellectual equality with men, and with this a deep sense of their social injuries.”