Charles C. Marshall’s mail route was long — real long, stretching from Piqua in the south to Defiance in the north. And roads were rare, though roaming Shawnee, Ottawa and Wyandot hunters were not.
Marshall was not yet 15 years of age in September 1829 when he began the weekly trip.
“This route was all wilderness through which the Indians, supposedly confined to their reservations, roamed at will,” Spencerville historian Ernie Robison wrote in a biographical sketch of Marshall. “This mail route was about 95 miles long, was traveled by horseback and the mail ‘went one week and returned the next,’” Robison added.
In a life stretching seven decades from his birth in what is now Shelby County through his footloose early years to his death in 1884, Marshall witnessed much of Allen County’s early history and took part in a great deal of it. He was married to a woman known as the “Daughter of Allen County” and was so well thought of that he was elected or appointed to many public offices, ranging from justice of the peace to state senator.
In 1884, when he died in Delphos, where he had once been mayor and was a longtime justice of the peace, the Delphos Daily Herald wrote, “The last sad rites brought out almost our entire population and large numbers from the country and neighboring towns, which attests more strongly than any words from the pen could the firm and abiding hold Charles C. Marshall had on the hearts of the people among whom he lived for so many years.”
Marshall’s hold began as a teenager delivering mail on a route that took him from Piqua through the town of Hardin in Shelby County and then to Wapakoneta, which at the time was the principal village of the Shawnee. From Wapakoneta, Marshall traveled to Fort Amanda, which, after its abandonment following the War of 1812, was occupied by a few settlers, notably the Andrew Russell family.
From Fort Amanda, Robison wrote, Marshall followed the west side of the Auglaize River to the long-gone settlement of Sugar Grove, which stood where the Blanchard River meets the Auglaize, then downstream through “the old Indian town of Charloe” in Paulding County and on to Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee rivers.
Marshall was born in what would become Shelby County on Nov. 24, 1814, five years after his father, Samuel Marshall, had moved the family there from Washington County, Penn..
“In spite of the numerous sketches of his life,” Robison wrote, noting he is mentioned in at least five county histories, “it is impossible to portray or bring his image to life. As to his character, nothing is known to suggest he was other than the ‘Honorable’ Charles C. Marshall, a term by which he was always designated – even to the inscription on his tombstone.”
During his little more than two years delivering the mail, Marshall witnessed the passing of the Indians from northwest Ohio.
“Mr. Marshall became acquainted with the celebrated chief and warrior Black Hoof, who died in August 1832 and was buried near the Indian town of Wapakoneta,” the Daily Herald wrote in his 1884 obituary. “In these lonely trips,” the newspaper added, Marshall met other frontier figures, including the sons of the Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket as well as Francis Duchouquet, a French fur trader who lived among the Shawnee.
“I was present at the old council house at the signing of the treaty by Blackhoof, Waywealeapy, Henry Clay (a sub chief) and others of the Wapaughkonetta and Hog Creek reservations, ceding all their rights to lands in Ohio,” Robison quotes Marshall as saying, “and the next year I saw them bid adieu to their old homes in Ohio and leave for their far western homes.”
After bidding adieu to the mail route at the end of 1831, the barely 17-year-old Marshall briefly disappears from the histories. Robison wrote that “in his earlier years, he seems to have been always on the move, eager to secure a little of the cash so scarce at that time. So fast were his moves and so often did he change occupations, it is difficult to trace his activities.”
It is known, however, that in September 1837 he married Jane Akin and moved to the town of Hartford in Marion Township, where Marshall served as postmaster while dealing in furs, operating a sawmill and winning election to the board of county commissioners.
“Here in 1838 his young wife died and two years later, in 1840, he married Susannah Russell, ‘The Daughter of Allen County,’” Robison wrote.
The child of Andrew and Isabella Russell, Susannah was born in July 1817 in the blockhouse at Fort Amanda and was often described as the first white child born in Allen County, although Allen County did not exist at the time. Fort Amanda became part of Auglaize County when it was organized in 1848.
William Rusler, in his 1921 Allen County history, noted that Russell had likely caught Marshall’s eye when she was a young girl, and he was a teenager dropping off mail at Fort Amanda.
Hartford, which was platted along the Defiance Trail in the hope the Miami & Erie Canal would pass nearby, disappeared when the canal was dug two miles to the west in the 1840s, making Spencerville the town Hartford had hoped to become. Marshall moved on to the Spencerville area around 1846, almost immediately becoming a justice of the peace and winning election to the first Spencer Township board of trustees. He also served as postmaster at Deep Cut from 1848 to 1851.
Now, according to Robison, Marshall “began to move up into big time positions.” In 1851, he was appointed superintendent of the canal from St. Marys to near Defiance, an appointment which, according to Robison, “induced him to move to the growing town of Delphos” in 1853.
Marshall, a Democrat, was elected state representative in 1857, served one term and declined renomination. In 1862, he was elected to the state senate and again served one term before declining renomination.
“It is a mystery why,” Robison wrote, “after serving successfully one term each as county commissioner, county representative and state senator, he invariably declined to run again.”
He might have been too busy in Delphos, where he was elected justice of the peace in 1865 and was re-elected every three years until his 1884 death.
“He served as a member of the Delphos City Council in 1854-55. He was elected and served as mayor for the terms 1860-61; 1866-72; 1878-80; 1880-82,” Robison wrote, adding the “boy mail carrier had come quite a distance.”
Susannah, with whom he’d had three children, Samuel, Alexander and Margaret, died in June 1871. In 1873, Marshall married Mary Hedges Reeves, who survived him.
When Marshall died in June 1884, the Daily Herald wrote, “In the death of Mr. Marshall, his family loses a devoted head, Delphos an honored citizen and northwestern Ohio one of its prominent figures – one who took an active part in all the stirring political scenes of the last half century.”
This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.
See past Reminisce stories at limaohio.com/tag/reminisce
Reach Greg Hoersten at [email protected].