Marshall, Texas was founded by cotton plantation owners.
Most of its wealth originally depended on the cotton fields and slave labor. Established in 1841, Marshall, Texas was the seat of Harrison County. It immediately became an important city, because it was the entryway to Texas. Multiple major stagecoach lines and one of the first railroad lines in Texas ran through Marshall. Because of the amount of traffic that ran through Marshall, many places of education were established here. There were many seminaries, teaching colleges, and incipient universities. This earned them the nickname, “the Athens of Texas,” due to its emphasis on high education. Marshall was the first city in Texas to have a telegraph; this particular one ran to New Orleans.
By 1860, Marshall was the fourth largest city in the state of Texas and was particularly known for being the seat of the richest county. However, this city was so wealthy because of the heavy emphasis on cotton plantations, worked by slaves. Because of this, much of the city was very anti-Union, though there were many who did fight on the side of the Union. Sam Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, so Edward Clark-a resident of Marshall, Texas-took his place instead. Pendleton Murrah, the third governor of Texas, also lived in Marshall. The city became a major Confederate supply depot and the manufacture of gunpowder. It was also the seat of the Confederate civil authority.
Of course, though, the Confederate Army lost the war and was forced to disband. Quickly after the Civil War ended, the Reconstruction Era began. The Union forces moved into Marshall on June 17, 1865, and became an important city for them quickly. Marshall was home to one of the Freedman’s Bureau offices and it was a base for federal troops. A few years later in 1873, the Methodist Episcopal Church established Wiley College, to help educate freed slaves. Not everyone was a fan of the changes that went on in Marshall. Former Confederate General Walter P. Lane and his brother George Lane both founded the White Citizen’s Party. In an attempt to purify the city, the two formed a small militia and basically ran Unionists, Republicans, and many blacks out of the city. Even after this, many African Americans remained.
Marshall was one of the most progressive cities in Texas. Marshall was wealthy for a number of reasons, including its successful cotton plantations and the railroads to ship the products. Harrison County donated $300,000 and land to the Texas and Pacific Railroad, contingent on them building a station in Marshall, a little bit north of the downtown. With the new station came many stores and offices, and J. Weisman and Co., the first department store in Texas. One light bulb was installed in the Texas and Pacific Depot, and Marshall became the first city in Texas to have electricity.
Marshall, Texas continued to thrive and grow into what we know today!