Francis J. Marshall was born April 3, 1816, in Lee County, (West) Virginia, and finished his education at the College of William and Mary. In 1842 he moved to Ray County, Missouri, and in 1847 married Miss Mary Williams. [Haworth, Gypsum, 85] The couple later moved to Weston in Platte County. In 1849 Marshall established a ferry on the Blue River at the Independence Road crossing on the California Road. He later built a second ferry six miles north at the Government Crossing where he established a trading house and a blacksmith shop.
Frank and Mary Marshall
First Citizens of Marysville, Kansas
The Government Crossing on the Blue had been surveyed by Major Edmund Ogden from Fort Leavenworth who found the river:
"...often swollen by floods and impassible, so that the troops, contractors and emigrant trains frequently encounter there very serious delay. At this place (the future Marysville) there should be a bridge and a party of twenty soldiers stationed for its protection." [Barry, Annals, 909]
In 1852, Marshall was granted an Army contract to ferry troops and government freight across the river and was also granted a license to trade with the Pawnees by Indian Agent John E. Barrow. [Barry, Annals, 1067] Marshall spent his winters at his home with Mary in Weston, going out to the Blue River in the early spring before the Oregon and California emigrants were on the trail. A traveler starting out from St. Joseph in 1852 said there were thousands of people at the ford waiting their turn to cross. The crowd was so great that Marshall would only cross wagons and people, forcing owners to swim their livestock. His ferry boat accommodated three wagons at a time, for which he charged $3.00 a piece plus 25 cents for each person or animal. [Root, Ferries, Blue River, 137]
Most of the time, the Blue could be easily forded but often, for as much as six weeks at a time, it could not be crossed without the ferry. Between 5,000 and 10,000 people a month were on the trail from April to June 1852. On May 7 they all needed the ferry, but by May 12 no one used it. At such times Marshall fell back on his second source of income, his store:
"Here was a private post office, trading post and ferry kept by a company of men who had enlisted themselves to rob the emigrant of what little money he happened to have after leaving the States. Twenty-five cents for a glass of bad whiskey, one dollar for taking your letter to the States and three dollars for crossing each wagon. We gave neither, for we bought no whiskey, wrote no letters and drove our wagons through the drink."
John H. Clark, May 16,1854 [Barry, Annals, 1067]
If Clark was unhappy about the cost in 1852, he would have been shocked by the 1853 rate of $5.00 per wagon. A traveler in that year wrote: "Mid-May 1853 River bank full and 'roaring like a mill-race.' There were 'hundreds of wagons' at camps in the vicinity. The (Independence Road Crossing?) ferry...was a rough flat boat just large enough for one wagon and a yoke of oxen. A stout rope spanned the river, and upon it a block and tackle run the current, propelling the boat across. The ferry men crossed a wagon every fifteen or twenty minutes at five dollars a wagon...The approach to the ferry was in deep mud, and had to be constantly renewed by putting down logs and boughs. One man in the ferry crew had been drowned that day and been carried down stream." [Barry, Annals. 1153]
Marshall was active in politics in pre-territorial Kansas. In October 1852 he was on a committee that met at the St. Mary's Catholic Mission to petition for organization of the Nebraska Territory. [Barry, Annals, 1130] In September 1853, he chaired a meeting at the Kickapoo village north of Fort Leavenworth to elect a congressional delegate. At Kickapoo, Thomas Johnson, the Atchison faction candidate, was "elected without opposition." [Barry, Annals 1179]
Governor Reeder appointed Marshall an election judge in the March 30, 1855 election in which he was a candidate. [KHC 3:255] The voting place for the district was at Marshall's trading post on the Blue River. During the session of the Bogus Legislature, Marshall was granted charters for both Blue River ferries [Root, Ferries, Blue River, 138 ] and was given the contract to haul materials for the new capital building at Lecompton from St. Louis to the territory. The Superintendent of Public Buildings, answering Governor Geary's question about the cost, admitted, "I am unable to say at what price." [KHC 4:557]
After the first session of the Legislature, Governor Shannon appointed Marshall as Brigadier General in the Kansas Militia [KHC 3:284] and he was later promoted to Major General of the northern division by Governor Geary after the death of W. P. Richardson. [KHC 4:737] Marshall was in the field with 250 men in August 1856 pursuant to the call of Acting Governor Woodson [KHC 4:476] and a large number of his men remained in Douglas County after being ordered home. They chased free-state settlers, stole horses and took some property. [KHC 4:488] Marshall, in his capacity as northern division commander, ordered the arrest of two free-state petitioners as they left Governor Woodson's office in LeCompton in September 1856. Governor Woodson responded to complaints from members of the free-state "Kansas State Central Committee:"
"They were arrested by order of Genl. Marshall as spies, he doubtless having the authority in the present insurrectionary state of the country to do so. They have been and are still very kindly treated. I will simply add that with their wagons or teams and hack-- or rather, as it appears from your letter, your wagons, etc.--were found two persons who were recognized as being engaged in the attack on Col. Titus's house, and the burning thereof, and with whom some of Col. T's property, of which he was robbed, was found." [KHC 3:333]
A vote was held January 2, 1858 to ratify the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution and to elect state officers under that constitution. In earlier votes, both parties had boycotted elections called by their opponents. In this vote, some free-state voters chose to vote for officers and boycott the vote on the constitution, so that if Congress accepted the constitution, they would at least have their own officials. Frank Marshall was the pro-slavery candidate for governor. Judge G. W. Smith on the free-state ticket got 6,875 votes, Marshall 6,545. The constitution received about the same number of votes as Marshall. Nine voters in Leavenworth wrote on their ballots: "To hell with the Lecompton Constitution." [Crawford, Candle Box, 197] After long debate, Congress rejected the Lecompton Constitution.
The town that grew up around Marshall's store at the government crossing was chartered by the Bogus Legislature and named Marysville in honor of Mary Marshall. Although he had just built an elegant new home in Marysville, Marshall left Kansas in 1859 for Colorado and the gold fields. In Colorado he was first in freighting business and later in mining. He died in Denver on November 25, 1895. [Haworth, Gypsum, 85] Marysville grew as a stop on the Pike's Peak road. One prospective miner traveling through Kansas in 1860 wrote:
"Marysville, from which I wrote you a week ago, was founded by "Governor" Frank Marshall, of Border Ruffian notoriety, and so called in honor of his wife, who bears the name of Mary. It is admirably situated, but wears the unmistakable indications of a pro- slavery town. For shooting and stabbing affrays, whisky-drinking and horse-racing, Marysville can bear away the palm from all other towns in Kansas. When we passed through, the grand jury had just found a number of indictments against residents, for horse racing, and arrests were made. Several gentlemen who informed us of the fact seemed to be in great glee at the procedure, inasmuch as Judge Elmore himself, according to their assertions, had acted as judge at one of the recent races." [Barry, Richardson's Letters, 19]