Col. Joel Marsh of Windsor County, Vermont

Flag of the Vermont Republic [Public domain] from Wikimedia Commons

One of my genealogical research goals is to identify as many Revolutionary War patriots as I can among all the branches of my family tree and have my lineage to them verified through the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In tracing the line of my paternal surname, initial research permitted me to link generations via vital records (birth, marriage & death), as well as obituaries, headstones and census records, to my 4th great-grandfather, John Marsh (1779-1837). But I couldn’t seem to locate any document which proves his parentage.

According to Marsh Genealogy: Giving Several Thousand Descendants of John Marsh of Hartford, Ct. 1636-1895 (p. 184),  John Marsh was the son of Col. Joel and Ann Marsh. While the book, published in 1895, doesn’t cite references which would meet any standard of genealogical proof, the text asserts that the information compiled by the Marsh Family Association was gathered with diligence. The book remarks upon meetings of the Association, the election of officers and their ongoing mission:

We must ransack public libraries and town records, and records in the old family Bibles and on gravestones, and hasten to gather what is in the memory of the aged. We must compare notes. Different members of a family line have partial records, which, put together, give often great increase of light. Places of birth, and dates of removal and places of ancestral residence, and full names, are of utmost importance. Often a middle name hints a family connection. Do not neglect this pleasant work, nor think your parentage of no importance. Let us each be faithful to those who who have gone before us, and honor our family name.

Family genealogies are considered derivative sources, as opposed to original sources, and I’ve had reason in the past to be dubious of the information they contain. But whereas many of these published family histories were compiled by persons with no real vested interest in the accuracy of the information (i.e. they were paid to produce the work), the Marsh Genealogy was put together by highly learned individuals dedicated to documenting their family line.

The Marsh Genealogy includes the following sketch on Joel Marsh:

COL. JOEL MARSH
b. at Lebanon, Ct., June i, 1745, son of Jonathan and Alice (Newcomb) Marsh ; m. Jan. 25, 1770, Ann, b. Nov. 18. 1743.  Their first child was born at Lebanon, Ct., April 15, 177 1. Then we have record of four b. at Hartford, Vt., from 1775 to 1781, and then two b. at Bethel, Vt., Oct., 1783 to May, 1786. These show where the mother was and probably the home. Col. Joel Marsh figured largely in the early history of New Connecticut not yet Vermont. With his cousins. Col. Joseph, Capt. Abel and Elisha Marsh he was an early proprietor of Randolph and also of Bethel, Vt. The embryo state had a southern regiment with Joseph Marsh as colonel and a northern in which Joel was captain and major and apparently colonel, early in the revolution. He was a member of the convention to adopt the constitution of Vermont. The proprietors of Bethel, Vt. “Voted,'” “Dec. 13, 1779,” “that Col. Joel Marsh be an additional proprietor,” “and the said Marsh do accept of the Mill Lot which contains 450 acres” also that he “do build a good sawmill by the first day of September next and a good gristmill by the first day of November following upon the forfeiture of five thousand pounds, extraordinary Providence excepted.” He drove an ox team up the bed of the White River, built a log house and commenced on the mill as supposed in 1780, but Indians, “extraordinary Providences, burned Royalton in October and settlers hurried away. He finished the mill in 1781 which was for several years the only one in that region and Col. Joel Marsh was known as the miller. He soon built the first frame house which 100 years later was in good preservation. Col. Joel d. March 11, 1807. His widow d. May 6, 1813.

Children :

Jonathan, b. April 15, 1771 : m. Irene Ainsworth, 2317.
Peleg Sanford, b. Oct. 18, 1775 ; m. Mary Mills, 2350.
Mary, b. March 26, 1778; unm. and d. at Peleg S. Marsh’s, ae. over 70.
John, b. April 25, 1779 ; m. and had family and resided at Stockbridge, Rochester and Bethel, Vt.
Ann, b. Dec. 30, 1781.
Joel, b. at Bethel, Oct. 28, 1783 ; m. and had one son and two daus, (unm.) went to Maryland.
Mason, b. at Bethel, May 1, 1756.

Reading this, it seemed I’d identified another Revolutionary War veteran. (Yay!) The next step was to check whether my 5th great grandfather, Col. Joel Marsh, was in the DAR Genealogical Research System. A quick search produced two men of the same name, from the same area and with birth & death dates very close in time.

But there’s a problem here. “My” Joel Marsh was a colonel who died in Bethel, VT, in 1807. Yet, the DAR records designate him a private, and the Joel Marsh of Sharon, VT, has the rank of colonel. Did the Marsh Genealogy get it right? I’ve seen how later generations tend to inflate the rank of their war heroes. This set me about finding evidence to my own satisfaction to distinguish between the two men.

We have these two death records from FamilySearch.com:

1807 death record 1811 Joel Marsh Esq death record

Further, there is this newspaper item from The Weekly Wanderer, Randolph Vermont, Vol VII, Issue 18, Pg 3 (Monday, March 16, 1807) found on GenealogyBank.com:

1807 death notice

There are ample records of births, marriages, deaths, deeds and wills locating Col. Joel Marsh’s descendants in Bethel, VT. The mills which the Colonel built are still functioning (Bethel Mills, Inc.). As noted in the Marsh Genealogy, the Colonel’s son, John, married in Bethel and later relocated to Stockbridge, about 10 miles west of Bethel.

I’ve prepared and submitted an application to the DAR establishing myself as a descendant of Col. Joel Marsh. In the summer of 2016, I hope to see the home the Colonel built in Bethel, which still stands.

Joel Marsh home

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2 Responses to Col. Joel Marsh of Windsor County, Vermont

  1. I am very excited to see your post. I am a descendant of Joel Marsh, Esq. of Sharon, Vermont. In fact, I was the person who established him as a patriot with the DAR. While conducting my research, I discovered many errors in the DAR records regarding Col. Joel Marsh of Bethel, but there is no doubt that he was a Colonel. I agree that there is ample evidence that the Joel Marsh of Bethel was a Colonel. He was known the rest of his life as such. The problem in the records is that the Joel Marsh of Sharon played many key roles in Vermont (He was the first justice named in Vermont, for instance, and also served as Sharon’s Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace for many years; he was named Adjutant in the Vermont Revolutionary army, and served as a minuteman, and was chosen representative at the first constitutional convention of Vermont after the Revolution, etc.), but people who established Joel Marsh of Bethel as a patriot also included the service of Joel Marsh of Sharon, assuming that all the service was for the same person. Joel Marsh of Sharon was a major, I believe, but not a colonel. Also, some descendants of Joel Marsh of Sharon believed that they descended from Joel Marsh of Bethel, but they do not. So I was surprised when Joel Marsh of Sharon was given the title of Colonel in the records. I understand why it is so confusing, as both men were born in Connecticut just a year or two apart, both had sons named after themselves, and both ended up living in towns in Vermont very close together, and both were very respected in their respective communities, serving key roles. I wanted my Joel Marsh of Sharon to be designated as Joel Marsh, Esq., as he is listed on his tombstone and in life, as he served as a Judge, a Justice of the Peace, and was a respected legal expert.

    • Site Admin says:

      Thank you for getting in touch and telling more of Joel Marsh, Esq. I’ve submitted an application to the DAR and hopefully they’ll straighten out the errors and give these men their due credit for the unique contributions they made toward the settling the state of Vermont and the founding of our Nation!

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