The Marsh Family: 175 Years in Greenville

By Bruce Marsh

Following is the story of the Marsh Family which will be published in Insight in a series of installments over the year. Dr. Marsh is professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University. His family heritage is a 2018 feature of our tour in the Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan Historical House this season.

Hannah (Roberts) Marsh must have been a remarkable woman, for almost immediately after she died on July 9, 1844 at her farm on the East Ridge Road in Cornville, near Skowhegan, her many children and grandchildren began dispersing to other parts of Maine. They established farms and homes in Palmyra, Cambridge, Shirley Mills, Sangerville, Athens, Bangor, Exeter and Greenville. She was nearly 90 years old and had been born in Brentwood, New Hampshire, on September 8, 1754, had 12 children, 10 of whom lived to old age, and had lived in Maine since 1801, having moved here from Gilmanton, N.H. This dispersal did not have anything to do with settling her estate, for that had been done 14 years earlier when her husband, Noah, died on October 25, 1830, and the farm had gone to their eldest grandson, Cotton Gilman Marsh (b. 1802), who in taking the farm had agreed to look after Hannah.

Noah, who was also born in Brentwood (July 1, 1755), had been a soldier in the American Revolution (2nd N.H. Regiment) and had been at Ticonderoga and in the big battles against Burgoyne in the autumn of 1777, where he was wounded at Bemis Heights, losing a finger and disabling his right hand, which must have been a hindrance in his profession as a blacksmith.

After the war, Noah and his brother Joseph moved in 1780 north from Brentwood to Gilmanton Iron Works, N.H. where they established a major blacksmith shop that continued on for over 100 years. Having long heard of the fine lands in and around Norridgewock, Maine, from his friends and neighbors who had been with Benedict Arnold on his march to Quebec City in 1775, Noah and Hannah sent their newly married eldest son, Stephen Dudley Marsh (“Dud- ley,” b. February 8, 1778) with his wife Susanna (Dow, b. 1773) north to Skowhegan in 1800. Noah and Hannah and the whole family followed in 1801, and they purchased land, established farms, and prospered in and around Cornville.

Upon the death of Hannah in 1844, Dudley and Susanna’s son, and namesake, Stephen Dudley Marsh II (1811-1901) with his wife, Hannah (Brawn; 1814-1880) and several young children moved here to Greenville, thus establishing the Marsh Family in Greenville ever since. Stephen had been here earlier scouting out land, and family lore has it that Stephen and Hannah made the trip from Cornville, which took several days, driving a team of oxen pulling a large cart-style wagon with block wheels carrying all their belongings. Greenville was eight years old and beginning to thrive with lumbering and sporting activities. Their initial dwelling, judging from village records, may have been near West Cove, for in 1846, the village agreed to cut a road from his dwelling near Wiggins Brook to the “west county road” (now Route 15). It is also interesting to note that not too far due south of West Cove, on what was then the Squaw Mountain Road linking Shirley and Greenville, that Stephen’s Aunt Mehitable (Noah and Hannah’s daughter, b. 1786) and her husband Andrew McLuer (1782-1852) in their own dispersal from Cornville in 1844, had established a farm some four or five miles north of Shirley.

Other branches of Noah and Hannah’s family, mainly stemming from Noah, Jr. (1788-1883), still live in the area of Parkman (David and Dawn Marsh), Guilford (Floyd and Nathalee Marsh, and Leigh and Linda Marsh) and their sister Donna lives in Veazie. Although our common ancestor is Noah, born in 1755, we are well acquainted and share many obvious family characteristics.

A deep family characteristic, so it seems, has been the ability to find highly functional land to farm. Noah’s farm on the East Ridge Road in Cornville, kitty corner from the Union Church (established in 1850 by the Moody, Marsh, and other families) is on high fertile ground with good water. His son Dudley’s land is similarly placed farther south on the East Ridge Road, and Stephen did the same here. That is, within a few years Stephen had found and staked out the high ground forming the drainage divide between Moosehead and the Piscataquis drainage basins just south of town at the end of what is now Spruce Street, containing the Town’s sanitary operation.

Village records show that an official road was cut south from the “Indian settlement” to the “Marsh Farm” in 1862. With spectacular views both north up the lake and westerly towards Sugarloaf, the land has a remarkable spring-fed pond within which Stephen stored manure to keep it in a denatured, non-oxidizing, highly fertile state to be later retrieved and used on his fields. This method of making excellent fertilizer was evidently a very old family practice. Moreover, the flow of the water from the springs at the margins of the pond to the center allowed wells to be dug around the pond to supply clean, pristine drinking water. One of these wells, restored by Lew Wortman as a monitor of water quality, was lined with free-fitting stones to 20 feet and has a flow of 90 gallons per minute. How Stephen ever succeeded in digging and lining this well in the face of such flow is a mystery.

This article on the Marsh Family in Greenville will be continued in the October 2018 issue. It will begin with a discussion of the more widely known Marsh Farm just south of Greenville.