Thomas Marcellus Marshall 1851-1925
Principal of the Glenville Branch of the West Virginia State Normal School
1872-1873 & 1875-1881
“I was sent to the wilderness where there was neither house, nor ground, nor money in which, on which, nor with which to locate or maintain a school.”- T.M. Marshall
Thomas Marcellus Marshall was born May 17, 1851, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert R. Marshall of Stouts Mills, WV. He received his early education in Gilmer County, and later graduated from Marshall College.
The West Virginia state legislature approved the creation of a branch normal school at Glenville on February 19, 1872, under the condition that local citizenry would provide a suitable location and building for the school without cost to the state. Soon thereafter, fifty-six citizens of Gilmer County met to establish the school. While funds were being raised locally for the purchase and conditioning of a more suitable building, the first classes began on January 14, 1873 in the old court house building which served as a temporary classroom. Twenty-two year old T.M. Marshall, a member of the first graduating class at Marshall College in 1870, was hired as acting principal.
Due to T. M. Marshall's young age, a recent law graduate from Weston named Louis Bennett was appointed principal for the term beginning in September of 1873. Marshall remained at Glenville as first assistant to the new principal. When Bennett returned to Weston to practice law in 1875, Marshall took over again. This time, he would remain in the position until June of 1881.
T.M. Marshall was instrumental in these first turbulent years of operating a school without state funding. It is said that he hauled coal, cleaned the building, and sold apples to defray some of the school’s financial obligations. Glenville was located twelve miles from the nearest railroad, so he publicized its rural isolation as being free from crime, drink, and other temptations.
After resigning his position as principal to enter the ministry, Marshall went on to live a very interesting and traveled life. Marshall was married to Olive A. Hays on September 5, 1881, and they had many children together; some sources say seven while others state eleven. From 1882 to 1884, he was principal of Ward School in Omaha, Nebraska. He then organized an “Indian” school at San Juan, New Mexico. In 1893 he taught in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. T. M. Marshall was very prominent in the N.E.A. and was its first life director. Marshall had a wide range of interests. During his lifetime, he was a teacher, a farmer, a minister, a lawyer, a doctor, a linguist, an author, an engineer, and a business man.
Marshall has also been described as a world traveler and eccentric scholar. In his world travels, he visited nearly every county. He could speak at least six different languages. He was known for his ability to negotiate the cheapest rates possible for his excursions. Although having made a grand amount of money in his investments, he chose to always travel third class. Upon being asked why he always went third class, he replied, “Because there is no fourth class.” T.M. Marshall passed away on November 13, 1925.
Although he was very accomplished and much is owed to him for the institution we have today, many who knew the man have described him as very odd. It is believed that he did not want close friends, allowed no visitors, locked food away from his family to ration it, abused his animals, and dressed very strangely. It is also believed that he drove many people off of his property with a shotgun. One story says that he bought a new car in the early 1900’s but refused to get directions on how to operate it. Upon driving it home from Glenville, he could not get it stopped and had to drive it into a creek bank.
At his burial site, near his property at Stout’s Mill, a twenty-foot monument stands in his honor. It is said that he had a hand in the placement of the monument before his death. He wanted it positioned there so it could be pointed out from the riverboats that brought new students to Glenville. The Glenville State College Archive Department is lucky enough to have a collection of personal papers from T.M. Marshall that gives a glimpse into his life. A few items of interest include his passport, contracts, lease information, and financial records.