Marshall is a city in Harrison County in the northeastern corner of Texas. Marshall is a major cultural and educational center in East Texas and the tri-state area. As of the 2010 census, the population of Marshall was about 23,523. The city is the county seat of Harrison County.
Marshall was a political and production center of the Confederacy during the Civil War and was a major railroad center of the T&P Railroad from the late 19th century until the mid-20th century. The city's large African American population and the presence of black institutions of higher learning made Marshall a center of the civil rights movement in the American South. The city is known for holding one of the largest light festivals in the United States, the Wonderland of Lights, and, as the self-proclaimed Pottery Capital of the World, for its sizable pottery industry.
Marshall is also referred to by various nicknames; the Cultural Capital of East Texas, the Gateway of Texas, the Athens of Texas the City of Seven Flags and Center Stage, a branding slogan adopted by the Marshall Convention and Visitors Bureau.
On January 18, 2010, Dr. John Tennison, a San Antonio physician and musicologist presented to a group of Marshall citizens the findings of his research into the origins of Boogie Woogie music. He concludes that the music first developed in the Marshall area in the early 1870s in close connection with the T&P Railroad and the logging industry. On May 13, 2010, the Marshall City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance declaring Marshall to be "the Birthplace of Boogie Woogie."
The Republic of Texas and the Civil War (1841–1860)
The city was founded in 1841 as the seat of Harrison County, after repeated failed attempts to establish a county seat on the Sabine River since the county was established in 1839, and was incorporated in 1843. The Republic of Texas decided to choose the site of land granted by Peter Whetstone and Isaac Van Zandt after Whetstone had proven that the hilly location had a good water source. The city quickly became a major city in the state because of its position as a gateway to Texas on several major stage coach lines and one of the first railroad lines into Texas. Additionally, the growing wealth and civic patriotism of the city's leading citizens led to the establishment of several colleges, including a number of seminaries, teaching colleges, and incipient universities, earned Marshall the nickname the Athens of Texas, in reference to the ancient Greek city state. The city's growing importance was confirmed when Marshall was linked by a telegraph line to New Orleans, becoming the first city in Texas to have a telegraph service.
By 1860, the city was the fourth largest city in Texas and the seat of the richest county. The county had the highest per capita farms and plantations, in the south. Its plantations were among the richest in the south whose owners had capital spread through out the west and the south. Consequently, as scions of the American ideal of agrarian yeomanry and aristocracy, whose interests were tied in the south and civic life of limited government, its leading citizens were in opposition to the growing wealth and power of industrial and financial capitalists and centralist tendencies of the North East.
In turn, Marshal's leading families were in contest of financial, economical, and political survival against the North thereby making the city a hotbed of anti-Union sentiment. Nonetheless, the city's leadership remained divided on how to proceed against the power grab by urban financial classes in the North East and many not only remained opposed to secession but remained steadfast in loyalty to the Union. For example, brothers Lionel and Emmanuel Kahn, Jewish merchants in Marshall, fought on opposing sides in the conflict. When Gov. Sam Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, Marshall's Edward Clark was sworn in as governor.
In contrast, the predominant number of Marshall's citizens were strident in their fealty toward Texas and saw the grasping power of northern corporations and rising influence of the robber baron class as mortally dangerous to the freedom of the United States of America. Consequently, the majority of Marshal's population were fervent in their patriotism toward the Confederacy which they saw as best securing the vision of the Founding Fathers. Thus, Marshal would also produce Texas's third Confederate governor, Pendleton Murrah. Marshall became a major Confederate city; producing gunpowder and other supplies for the Confederate Army, and hosting three conferences of Trans-Mississippi and Indian Territory leaders. The city also became the capital of Missouri's Confederate government-in-exile, earning it the nickname the City of Seven Flags—a nod to the flag of Missouri in addition to the other six flags that have flown over the city.
Marshall became the seat of civil authority and headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Postal Department after the fall of Vicksburg. The city may have been the intended target of a failed Union advance that was rebuffed at Mansfield, Louisiana. Towards the end of the Civil War, the Confederate States government had $9.0 million in Treasury notes and $3.0 million in postage stamps shipped to Marshall, possibly meaning that Marshall was the intended destination of a government preparing to flee from advancing armies.
Reconstruction and the Railroad era (1865–1895)
Marshall was occupied by Union forces on June 17, 1865. Subsequently, according to terms of President Abraham Lincoln and the National Union Party, the Confederate States declared an armistice with the Union and ordered their armies to cease fighting. In turn, the Union re-admitted the States of the Confederacy into the Union if they emancipated slaves. All of the Southern States accepted these terms and had elected new Congressional delegations.
However, with the assassination of Lincoln, Radical Republicans and Robber Barons began seizing control of committees in Congress, isolating Lincolns, successor and eventually succeeded in either arresting or unseating all of their political opponents in Congress. These activities caused an immediate constitutional crisis which culminated in the impeachment of President Johnston, and the Coup de etat of 1867 which included the military overthrow of all of the state governments in the South, the arrest of all remaining opponents to the Republican Party, and the establishment of military despotism in the United States which became known as Reconstruction.
A Union Army encampment in the city which had been established to maintain order and oversee the emancipation of the slaves was used to launch a raid on the civil authorities of the city. The Mayor, the city legislature, and the county court administration was arrested in the dead of night. The encampment itself, which had been regularizing emancipated slaves became the headquarters of an office of the Freedmen's Bureau. The Freedman's Bureau became the local headquarters of the Republican Party, its leaders handpicked by the Radical Republican Congress, and all local and state expenditures were disbursed through its leaders. In turn, the Freedman's Bureau leaders used their money to buy the votes of both emancipated slaves and any other white citizens. When the vast majority of white citizens in Marshal campaigned against the despotism, the Radical Congress immediately disenfranchised any who had formerly served in the Confederacy or refused to join submit to military control. As a result, this left blacks and a few white scalawags as the sole electorate in Marshal.
Despite its despotic nature, Reconstruction government did have a vision of creating a New Man in the South, which was to be based upon freed blacks. Part of this policy including a program of education for emancipated slaves. In 1873, northern leaders of Methodist Episcopal Church unilaterally took over the churches of their southern counterparts. With money provided by the Union and military governments, the Methodist Episcopal Church founded Wiley College in Marshal as a seminary to educate free black men who would take over the white and black churches which in turn would be forcibly desegregated.
Indeed, with the abundance of money provided by the Federal government and the largess of state and local funds provided by redistributionist and racist tax polices large numbers of freed black slaves came to the city seeking welfare, government jobs, and opportunities provided by the Freedmen's Bureau. Agitated by Bureau agents and filled with promises of coming power, Marshal was overrun with large numbers of black gangs. In turn, Marshal's former leaders were hounded by taxes, summons to military courts, threats of imprisonment, and assaults on their persons and property by freed slaves. As a result many fled to the city to escape both the crime and arbitrary courts aimed at seizing their property. Consequently, Marshal became increasingly lawless.
Although large numbers of Texans fled this environments to outer areas of the countryside, many, especially the officer class of the Confederacy refused to abandon their homes. Backed by large numbers of other Confederate Veterans, they formed their own paramilitary organizations to counter the Freedman's Bureau, the Union Army Occupation forces, and the various gangs and bandits which soon infested places like Marshal. Some of these resistance included insurgent attacks, vigilante courts, and even pitched battles with Freemdman militia and Union Army forces. Combined with the growing disgust in Northern public opinion to the flagrant disregard for due process and Constitutional Law, and especially with the sunset of the Force Acts which ended censorship and military imprisonment in the North, the Radical Republicans lost massive support in the electorate. By 1872, the Radicals had lost majority control of Congress and been forced to concede the return of civilian rule in several Southern States. Eventually in 1876, the Radicals lost predominant party in Congress and in turn was forced to end what remained of military rule in the South.
Thus, 1876, under great fanfare, almost all of the white citizens of Marshal had their franchise returned and in 1878 won a resounding victory against the minority and formerly military backed Reconstruction parties. Under great fanfare, the Citizens Party, led by former Confederate General Walter P. Lane and his brother George, took control of the city and county governments and ran what remained of Unionists, Republicans and many African-Americans out of town. Thus, in a recall to an earlier period of American history dealing with rescuing and redeeming kidnapped American families from Indian tribes, the new government declared Marshall and Harrison County redeemed from Union and African-American control.
Marshall's Railroad Era began in the early 1870s when Reconstruction government offered bounties to well connected Robber Barons in the North for building a rail-road line. Harrison County citizens voted to offer $300,000 bond subsidy, and the City of Marshall offered to donate land north of the downtown to the Texas and Pacific Railway if the company would move to Marshall. However, the passage only succeeded with assurances that shares would be offered to what remained of Marhsal's southern populace. T&P President and New York City robber baron Jay Gould accepted and located the T&P's workshops and general offices for Texas in Marshall.
When the general lawlessness and corruption of the Reconstruction Marshal ended, the city benefited immediately from a population explosion as white citizens began returning to the city after it was redeemed. Additionally, although most of the great antebellum agrarian wealth had been destroyed, careful rebuilding had restored some of the plantation economy. By 1880 the city was one of the South's largest cotton markets. Although a far cry from its earlier period, the city's new prosperity was enough to allow the opening of the J. Weisman and Co., the first department store in Texas, and with the installation of a single lightbulb in the Texas and Pacific Depot, Marshall became the first city in Texas to have electricity. Prosperity brought out elements which led to some nationally known crimes being tried in the city, including the trials for the attempted murder of Maurice Barrymore. During this period of wealth, many of the city's now historic homes were constructed upon the ruins of the antebellum period homes which had been destroyed in the war or damaged during reconstruction. The city's most prominent industry, pottery manufacturing, began with the establishment of Marshall Pottery in 1895.
Despite the prosperity of the railroad era, poverty continued to be a problem in the city among all races. Although some of the agrarian wealth had been restored, the majority of county's citizens remained yeoman farmers whose commercial success never recovered from the war. Additionally, reconstruction had established a black quarter in the city which had not existed previously and whose tenets competed with whites for many jobs. Additionally, although black crime had existed in antebellum Marshal, reconstruction Marshal saw an explosion of black crime which although reduced had never fallen back to antebellum years. Consequently, tensions between whites and African-Americans continued to worsen. The rural areas of Harrison County saw greater interaction between white people and African-Americans.
Early and mid- 20th century
Natural gas arrived in the city from a field on Caddo Lake in 1909. Under the leadership of John L. Lancaster, the Texas and Pacific Railway experienced its height during the first half of the 20th century, Marshall's ceramics industry expanded to the point that the city began to be called the "Pottery Capital of the World." Marshall's industry received a boost with the discovery of what was then the largest oil field in the world at nearby Kilgore in 1930. Small landmarks of progress, such as the first student at Marshall High School to have a car, Lady Bird Johnson, excited the working class and poor.
Meanwhile, black's began making some intellectual progress. In the early and mid-20th century Marshall's traditionally black colleges were thriving intellectual and cultural centers. Three major civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and later Jesse Jackson attended Bishop College while James L. Farmer Jr. went to Wiley College, and Texas's member of the Harlem Renaissance, Melvin B. Tolson, wrote while teaching at Wiley.
With the increasing success of Wiley and Bishop, Marshall developed as one of the hearths of the civil rights movement, spurring key court challenges to Jim Crow on a national and state level. In 1950, the Marshall Board of Censors banned the movie Pinky from the city because it portrayed an interracial couple. The theater manager was convicted of a misdemeanor for showing the film and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction.
Inspired by the teachings of professors, such as Melvin B. Tolson, students and former students of the colleges mobilized to challenge and dismantle Jim Crow. Fred Lewis, as the secretary of the Harrison County NAACP, challenged the oldest White Citizens Party in Texas and the laws it enforced; ultimately abolishing Jim Crow in the county with the Perry v. Cyphers verdict. Heman Sweatt, a Wiley graduate, tried to enroll in the University of Texas at Austin Law school, but was denied entry because of the color of his skin; he then sued and the United States Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of postgraduate studies in Texas in the Sweatt v. Painter decision. James L. Farmer Jr., another Wiley graduate, became an organizer of the Freedom Rides and a founder of the Congress of Racial Equality.
In the 1960s, students organized the first sit-ins in Texas in the rotunda of the county courthouse on Whetstone Square in a move to end segregation of public schools; in 1970, all Marshall public schools were integrated. Also in that year, Carolyn Abney became the first woman to be elected to the city commission.
However, the progression of civil rights would again be stillborn in the cradle to criminal activities in the black communities. Black crime rose exponentially in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and although making a slight downturn later, stayed at such a level as to drive what existed of the black middle class out of the city and almost all of the white community as well. By driving out much of the white middle class, a new black leadership managed to emerge by force and in April 1975 a local gang leader, Sam Birmingham became the first African-American to be elected to the city commission.
Marshall's railroad industry subsequently declined with the conversion of most trains to diesel fuel, the proliferation of air travel, and the construction of the Interstate highway system after World War II. The T&P Shops closed in the 1960s and T&P passenger service ceased in 1970. The Texas oil bust of the 1980s devastated the local economy and the city's population declined by about a thousand between 1980 and 1990.
Subsequently, large scale economic dislocation occurred as the recession of the late 1970's and early 1980's was followed by general de-industrialization with Globalism in the late 1980s and early 1990's. This caused a general collapse of the city's economy and further losses of the white population which left the depressed and increasingly crime prone city for the new planned city of Longview, Texas. In turn, the black community, subsidized with both federal, state, and local welfare and general lack of opportunities elsewhere remained in the city. Thus, blacks in Marshall became the majority of the city and in the 1980's elected the first African-American mayor. Birmingham, long suspected of crime, graft, and corruption became a target of investigations which eventually resulted in his retirement in 1989 for "health concerns". However, the Birmingham crime syndicate remained in power as he was succeeded by his wife, Jean Birmingham, who became the first African-American woman to serve on the commission.
During the mid to late 20th century the city lost many of its landmarks. Some buildings were demolished, especially under the Birmingham regime. Many of their owners were unable to maintain them, refused to rent them to blacks, and were subsequently condemned by the increasingly black commission. By 1990, Marshall's opera house, the Missouri Capitol, the Moses Montefiore Synagogue, the original Viaduct, the Capitol Hotel, and the campus of Bishop College (including the Wyalucing plantation house) had been demolished. In the 1970s the city began to look at the preservation efforts of nearby Jefferson, increasingly developing a preservationist trend throughout the remainder of the 20th century.
Due to newly completed construction projects, the city was one of ten designated an All American City in 1976 by the National Civic League. In 1978, then Taipei mayor, Lee Teng-Hui, and Marshall mayor, William Q. Burns, signed legislation recognizing Marshall as a sister city with the much larger Taipei. During this period Bill Moyers won an Emmy for his documentary chronicling the history of race relations in the city. Despite these instance of national and international attention the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s where largely a period of social and economic decline, as the city was surpassed in population and economic clout by its younger rival Longview.
The city began to concentrate on diversifying its economy in the 1980s and 1990s, with tourism emerging as an increasingly important area of the city’s economy. Two new festivals joined the longstanding Stagecoach Days, the Fire Ant Festival and the Wonderland of Lights. The Fire Ant Festival gained national attention through television features on shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, but it was the Wonderland of Lights that by far became the most popular—growing to become one of the largest light festivals in the United States. By 2000, the Wonderland of Lights had become such a part of the cityscape that the lighted dome of the Old Courthouse had become the most recognizable symbol of the city. 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the famed Wonderland of Lights festival and the City expects more than 200,000 visitors during the event's 40 day run beginning with the official lighting ceremony on November 23, 2011.
The 2000s (decade) saw moderate economic growth and a renaissance of the downtown. By 2005, the Joe Weisman & Company building, the T&P Depot, the former Hotel Marshall (now known as "The Marshall"), and the former Harrison County Courthouse were either restored or under restoration. Restaurants, boutiques, and loft apartments infused the downtown economy and saved historic structures in decline. Many historic homes outside of downtown continue to deteriorate and some structures in moderate condition were approved for demolition for replacement by prefabricated or tin structures. The square has become quite busy again, with few empty buildings. However, lack of funding and manpower has slowed movement on demolition and salvage of historic homes.
The Sam B. Hall, Jr. Federal Courthouse became one of the busiest courthouses in the country, the venue for such cases as the Democratic challenge to the 2003 redistricting of Texas and the TiVo suit of EchoStar over DVR patent rights.
An unusual number of patent lawsuits are being filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas which includes Marshall, Tyler, and Texarkana. Marshall has a reputation for plaintiff-friendly juries for the 5% of patent lawsuits that reach trial, resulting in 78% plaintiff wins. The number of patent suits filed in 2002 was 32, and the number for 2006 has been estimated at 234. Only the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles will have more patent suits filed than Marshall.
The city entered into a legal battle with local residents and environmentalist about the amount of water it could draw out of Caddo Lake—the source of the city’s water—which dominated city-county relation during the decade.