1-001 Editorial Note on Family Background 1878-1890

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Note on Family Background


The Marshalls of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, at the time George Catlett, Jr., was born on the last day of 1880, were a solidly middle-class family, respectable and churchgoing. George C. Marshall, Sr., had developed a prosperous business which manufactured coking coal in competition with Henry Clay Frick, the region’s dominant figure.

Although after their marriage in 1873 Laura Bradford and George Marshall established themselves in southwestern Pennsylvania, both were descendants of a long line of Kentucky and Virginia ancestors, some of prominence. George C. Marshall, Sr., was particularly interested in his connection with Chief Justice John Marshall, his grandfather’s first cousin. George C. Marshall, Jr., was somewhat embarrassed by his father’s keenness regarding the relationship. In later years he remarked that “the continued harking on the name of John Marshall was kind of poor business. It was about time for somebody to swim for the family again.” (George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue, ed. Larry I. Bland, 3d ed. [Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Foundation, 1996], p. 86. This source is hereafter cited as Marshall Interviews.)

Uniontown was the quintessential small town during Marshall’s childhood. The family lived in the last house on West Main Street beside a small stream. Hilly fields and woods stretched beyond the creek. Marshall’s world normally had a radius of perhaps five miles, but it encompassed fishing holes and hunting grounds; a few miles beyond lay historic sites like General Edward Braddock’s grave and George Washington’s Fort Necessity. This small world was bisected by Main Street—the famous and busy National Road that ran westward from Cumberland, Maryland—and into it came circuses, fairs, and an occasional trial at the town courthouse.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), p. 3.

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