MARSHALL, JOSEPH, jp, judge, militia officer, politician, and farmer; b. c. 1755 in Glenkeen (Northern Ireland), fourth child of Joseph Marshall and Mary (Hagan?); m. Margaret —, probably in Georgia before 1783, and they had three sons; d. 3 June 1847 at his home in Guysborough, N.S.
Joseph Marshall was a boy of 13 in 1769 when his family immigrated to Georgia. They settled on the Ogeechee River, west of Savannah. Family tradition recounts that the Marshalls moved to British-controlled territory in West Florida at the outbreak of the American revolution. Along with several of his brothers, Marshall joined the loyalist forces, and in April 1779 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of a Georgia militia regiment. In May 1780 he was commissioned captain in the Carolina King’s Rangers, a loyalist corps raised in the Floridas but composed principally of Georgians. The Rangers fought through the bitter southern campaign and were finally withdrawn to St Augustine (Fla), the last British foothold in the south. Most of the corps, as well as veterans of two other Carolina regiments, were evacuated with their families to Halifax in October 1783. They were disbanded there early in November and, despite the onset of winter, were then transported along the eastern shore to Country Harbour, where the loyalist township of Stormont was surveyed the following spring.
The inhospitable, although scenic, terrain of Country Harbour presented formidable difficulties for the new settlers, and within a few years many had left in search of brighter economic prospects elsewhere. Although Marshall had been granted 1,100 acres of land at Country Harbour, he too moved, to the more sheltered shores of Chedabucto Bay. He purchased land on the east side of Guysborough Harbour early in 1795 and developed a substantial property, called Glenkeen after his birthplace.
Marshall played a prominent role in the Guysborough area throughout his long life. He was appointed a justice of the peace in May 1784 and served as a judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas from 1799 until the court’s abolition in 1841. One of the most senior loyalist officers to settle in Guysborough, he was commissioned a major in the Sydney County militia in 1794, although he does not appear to have served, possibly being disgruntled at the appointment of the less experienced but more influential Thomas Cutler as lieutenant-colonel. In 1808, when the county regiment was divided in two, Marshall was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 10th (Dorchester) Battalion with Cutler’s son, Robert Molleson, becoming lieutenant-colonel of the 19th (Guysborough) Battalion.
Marshall also represented Sydney County in the House of Assembly for two terms, the first of three generations of his family to serve in the legislature. He was elected in February 1800, too late to attend the first meeting, but he took his seat at the spring session of 1801. Despite the problems of travelling from one of the most isolated areas of Nova Scotia, Marshall was in regular attendance through the heated debates of the eighth assembly. He served on a number of committees, principally those dealing with road appropriations, and usually voted with William Cottnam Tonge*’s “country party.” Re-elected in 1806, Marshall again was usually found among Tonge’s supporters. He endorsed, for example, Tonge’s attempt to eliminate complimentary references from the assembly’s address to the retiring lieutenant governor Sir John Wentworth*.
Marshall did not attend the 1811 legislative session and planned to retire in favour of his son John George* when an election was called that autumn. The younger Marshall and another new candidate, John Ballaine, were to stand unopposed but at the last moment one of the former members, John Cunningham, decided to run. Joseph Marshall, Cunningham, and Ballaine then met and agreed that in order to avoid the expense of a contested election the two previous members would be acclaimed. However, John George, who had not been at the meeting and was irritated at its outcome, determined to stand. His father then willingly withdrew to help with the younger man’s ultimately successful campaign in the contested election that ensued.
Unlike many Guysborough residents, Marshall was primarily a farmer, and he served on the first executive of the Guysborough and Manchester Farmer Society in 1819. He exemplified the many loyalists of middle rank who became community leaders in their new homes, and indeed as a southerner he is more representative of Nova Scotia loyalists than traditionally has been acknowledged, since analysis of their origins indicates that as many as 30 per cent were from the southern colonies. One of the founders of what is now Guysborough County, Marshall was the progenitor of a family of prosperous farmers and merchants whose tradition of public service culminated in the career of his great-grandson Sir John George Bourinot*.
PANS, Biog., W. M. Marshall, scrapbook (mfm.); MG 100, 186, nos.17–19; RG 1, 169, 171–73. Harriet Cunningham Hart, History of the county of Guysborough (Belleville, Ont., 1975). A. C. Jost, Guysborough sketches and essays (Guysborough, N.S., 1950).