Joseph Hartwell Marshall Sr. boarded a Georgia Railroad passenger train during the mid-1890s and headed to Atlanta, where he planned to attend Georgia Tech. He never got there.
In his 20s at the time, the Appling native saw a newspaper story that described the adventures of gold mining in the West. It was enough to derail his college plans.
Being the adventurous type, Marshall wound up in Cripple Creek, Colo., where gold had been discovered in October 1890, according to Internet sources. Marshall befriended a like-minded would-be miner named Bill Starbuck, who lived in or around Cripple Creek, according to Marshall’s grandson, Joseph Marshall, of Albany, Ga.
In 1897 word of a gold strike in the Klondike River near Dawson City, in Canada’s Yukon Territory, attracted the attention of both men. So off they went, joining thousands of others, in what then was called a “stampede.”
Gold was first discovered in Rabbit Creek, later named Bonanza Creek. The Bonanza, Eldorado and Hunker creeks were rapidly staked by miners. Men from all walks of life headed for the Yukon from as far away as New York, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Stampeders were required to carry a year’s supply of goods, about a ton, and more than half of it food, over the passes to be allowed to enter Canada. That regulation was strictly enforced by the Northwest Mounted Police, now called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Dan Marshall, of Appling, another of J.H. Marshall Sr.’s five grandsons, owns a copy of a photo showing the “Marshall & Starbuck Claim No. 3 below Discovery Hunker Creek.” The photo shows four men, and Dan believes the man standing on the right is his grandfather.
Yet another photo (provided by Joseph Marshall) shows a group of miners standing in front of a rustic log cabin. Marshall is standing to the left of a support log, and to his left is Starbuck and Starbuck’s wife, holding a child. The others are unidentified.
The miners survived years of horrific winter conditions, including 40-degree-below temperatures, while in pursuit of the yellow metal, according to Marshall family accounts.
In 1899, another gold strike in Nome, Alaska, drew thousands of Klondike miners, but Marshall and Starbuck stayed on in the Yukon until at least 1908 or ’09, according to Joseph Marshall. After he returned home, he brought his mother, Ellora Hope Reese Marshall, a necklace made of gold nuggets he’d mined in the Yukon. A large nugget was used as the pendant, with smaller nuggets strung all around.
“She treasured it highly and was never without it during her lifetime,” Joseph Marshall said. “She died in 1931. It was given to me by my mother during the 1980s. I am not sure how it got from my paternal grandmother to my mother.”
J.H. Marshall Sr. was born Nov. 27, 1880, the youngest of 10 children to survive childhood. After returning home from the mines about 1909, he settled in Modoc, in present day McCormick County, S.C., where he entered the dry goods business with an older brother, Jabez Orion Marshall, for a year or two. He married, but his wife and child died during childbirth.
He returned to Georgia and, with his gold mining earnings, bought a farm in the Double Branches section of Lincoln County. He married Myrtle Mae McCrary on May 23, 1911. She had been hired as a schoolteacher for the community.
He built an octagon-shaped house with rooms all along the outside as well as the porch. “In the center was a big floored open area planted with flowers and tropical plants with glass overhead. The plants did not thrive because of ventilation issues,” Joseph Marshall said. The house eventually was torn down with the coming of Clarks Hill Reservoir.
The couple had five children, with three surviving childhood – Joseph Hartwell Marshall Jr., born April 17, 1911; Ila Mae Marshall, born Aug. 14, 1913; and Dorothy, born Aug. 5, 1916.
One anecdote passed down by family members involved Asa Candler, of Atlanta, who spent the night at the Marshall home. He tried to get his host to buy some stock in his fledgling Coca-Cola Co. “My grandfather said something to the effect that ‘I’m not about to spend hard-earned money on foolishness like that’!” Joseph Marshall recalled.
J.H. Sr. later sold the Lincoln County property to Georgia Power Co., then moved near present day Evans, where he bought 640 acres. His son, J.H. Jr., established the Sandspur Dairy there about 1930, delivering bottled milk to many area residents until the mid-1930s, when the milk was wholesaled to Sancken’s Dairy near Augusta.
After J.H. Jr. died in 1997, the land was sold to be developed into present-day Evans Towne Centre and Marshall Place.