John Marshall House
Born in Fauquier County in 1755, John Marshall was the oldest of Thomas and Mary Randolph Keith Marshall's fifteen children. He was home-schooled before attending one year at Campbell Academy in Westmoreland County. He fought in the Revolutionary War and studied law with George Wythe at William & Mary College. After his election to the state legislature in 1782, he moved to Richmond. Within ten years he had became the city's most respected appellate attorney. He served on the city council and as a magistrate. A moderate Federalist, he was influential in the ratification of the U. S. Constitution.
On the national scene Marshall served as Minister to France during the XYZ Affair and was elected to Congress. He served as Secretary of State for President John Adams before Adams appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1801.
John Marshall served on all three levels of government and in all three branches of the federal government. Raised on the frontier in modest circumstances Marshall became one of most dynamic leaders of the new republic and had a distinguished career of public service for 60 years.
John Marshall's legacy to his family was a love of books, a keen wit and a sense of humility, duty, devotion and fidelity. His judicial career is unsurpassed in the history of the United States. His legacy to the nation was a life of service. His judgments shaped the role of government and strengthened the Constitution. He was man of exemplary character, a man of Law.
John Marshall resided in Richmond from 1782-1835 during the time when the city transitioned from a small frontier village into a thriving metropolis. At monthly "lawyer dinners," Richmond's elite gathered in his home to discuss the future of the city. Whether at the helm or behind the scenes, Marshall's imprint was on Richmond's growth and development.
Historian Virginius Dabney said that John Marshall was Richmond's leading citizen for decades. He was a founder of every civic, benevolent and social organization in Richmond established during his lifetime including the volunteer fire department, the Mutual Assurance Society, and the library. He was appointed first president of the Virginia Historical Society in 1831. He was Grand Master of the Masons and made the motion in the Town Council meeting to erect Masons Hall in Shockoe Bottom. Social activities included membership in the Quoits (the ancestor of horseshoes) Club, the Richmond Assembly (dancing), and the Jockey Club (horse racing).
John Marshall had a life-long interest in agriculture. He owned and personally managed a 1,000-acre farm on the Chickahominy River in Henrico and Oak Hill in Fauquier. After Thomas, the sixth Lord Fairfax, died in 1781 Marshall formed a syndicate to purchase the Fairfax manor lands and ultimately acquired 200,000 acres in Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.
In 1799 John Marshall traveled to Kentucky to spend several weeks with his respected father. Between 1800 and 1807 he wrote the first biography of George Washington. After 1801 he continued to make Richmond his home, traveling to Washington for the annual session of the Supreme Court. He presided over the Fourth District of the Federal Circuit Court hearing cases in Richmond and Raleigh, NC.
Marshall enthusiastically supported the economic development of Richmond. He served as a superintendent for the initial sale of stock in the James River Canal and later invested in railroad stock. In 1811-12 he chaired the committee to build Monumental Church. In 1812, he was asked by the state legislature to view "certain waters of the state" to determine the best route to extend the James River Canal to the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. He led this expedition in September 1812 and wrote the final report himself. (His father, surveyor and land agent for Lord Fairfax, had taught him surveying as a youth.) Today the railroad and I-66 west of I-81 follow the route surveyed by "The Great Chief Justice of the United States."
In 1824 he was the official host for Lafayette's last visit to Virginia traveling to Yorktown and Williamsburg to welcome Lafayette to the state of Virginia and to lead the festivities. He gave speeches at all of the public functions and hosted a private dinner for Lafayette at the Eagle Tavern in Richmond. Lafayette was inducted into the Masons and attended Sunday services at Monumental Church and sat in Marshall's pew.