Back in Time: Fayette Marsh — battling personal demons

The Marsh-Mower- Torinus Block where Fayette Marsh fell and died in 1901. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)


Substance abuse is a widespread problem today, but it’s nothing new. It was also prevalent 100 years ago. One of the leading citizens of Stillwater in the 19th century was also a man with addiction that he could never quite overcome.

Fayette Marsh was born in the town of Coldspring, New York, on Oct. 26, 1843. He attended the district schools in his early days and later completed his education at Champerton Institute in Randolph, New York.

He came west in 1865 as one of the engineers in a government surveying party, and in this capacity traveled a large portion of what is now North and South Dakota. At the end of the term with the surveying crew, Marsh stayed in the area, living in St. Paul.

He studied law in St. Paul with George Otis, at that time one of the leading attorneys of the Northwest.

Fayette March in 1874. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

In 1867 he came to Stillwater and started a partnership with attorney J.N. Castle. The firm continued for several years when Marsh became associated with Judge William McCluer. The latter firm became highly successful throughout the region. This firm was hired by such companies as the Northwestern Manufacturing, Company; the St. Croix Lumber Company and many others. The firm’s business easily averaged $10,000 per year from many years.

On Sept. 26, 1871, Marsh married Emma Nelson, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Socrates Nelson. Together they had three children. Mrs. Marsh died Nov. 23, 1880, at the age of 32. Fayette remarried on April 16, 1884, to Kate Greeley, and together they had two children.

Want to keep reading? Grab the May 19, 2017, edition of The Gazette, at newsstands through May 26. Subscribe to The Gazette to read Peterson’s column in its entirety each week. Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. Contact him at [email protected].