Black history tribute set at Marsh House

Black history tribute set at Marsh House

February 6th, 2010 by Yolanda Putman in News

Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Hubert A. Marsh, a direct descendent of Marsh House owners, stands in front of the LaFayette historic site. Mr. Marsh serves on the Marsh House Task Force. There will be a black history month program held at the house on Feb. 20.

Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Hubert...

LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- The Marsh House may not have the cachet of sites featuring civil rights victories or black achievers, but family members say it provides an education of how black servants lived.

"We don't try to do the first thing," said Hubert Marsh, a Marsh family descendant. "We just try to give you some education, give a tour of the house and enlighten you on what was going on during those days."

On Feb. 20, the Marsh family will host a Black History Month tribute in the historic home. Atlanta-based storyteller Akbar Imhotep will tell fables about freedom, survival and determination.

"The more we study black history, the more we know what was taken from us," Mr. Imhotep said. "Not to moan and groan, but to show that we've prevailed regardless."

Located on North Main Street in LaFayette, the historic Marsh House was owned by Spencer Marsh, a slave owner and Hubert Marsh's great-great grandfather.

"I refer to him as Mr. Marsh rather than granddaddy," Hubert Marsh said while standing in front of a portrait of Spencer Marsh.

The large, round-framed painting and a portrait of Spencer Marsh's wife, Ruth, hang on the left wall and can be seen when visitors enter the house.

The Marshes built the house in 1836 using mostly slave labor. Spencer Marsh fathered a child with a black slave.

"Whether we like it or not, these things happened," Hubert Marsh said.

Wiley Marsh, Spencer Marsh's mulatto son, is the first recorded black person in LaFayette. He could read and it is assumed that Spencer Marsh helped him learn because not many people were educated at the time, Hubert Marsh said.

Wiley Marsh became a minister and started several churches in the area in the late 1870s, including Happy Home Baptist Church in LaFayette and Friendship Baptist Church in Chickamauga. He also started churches in Chattooga County and pastored the Mount Zion Baptist Church in LaFayette, where Hubert Marsh is a member.

A National Register of Historic Places sign outside the home says the Marshes left it in 1863 to escape the Civil War. When they returned, they found blood-stained floors and hoof marks from federal cavalry horses in the hallway.

"The house is a living history for our children," said events coordinator Mary Smitherman. "This house survived the Civil War."

IF YOU GO

What: Black History Month tribute at the Marsh House

Who: Atlanta storyteller Akbar Imhotep will discuss how blacks came to America; the Mount Zion Baptist Church praise team will appear.

Where: 308 N. Main St., LaFayette, Ga.

When: 1 p.m. Feb. 20

Admission: Free

THE MARSH HOUSE

Regular tours are offered from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for children age 17 and younger. The house may also be used for wedding and luncheons. For more information, call 423-718-9918 or go to www.marshhouseoflafayette.com.

The house still includes several furniture pieces and other items from the 1800s. She said children appreciate the house because they can see and touch the pieces of history.

The house remained in the Marsh family for 150 years until the early 1970s, when a family member had to be taken to the nursing home. With no one to watch over it, the house started to decline.

Eventually it was sold to a private owner, then the county purchased it and it now is managed and maintained by the Marsh House Community Task Force.

Hubert Marsh said it warms his heart to know that he is a part of the history in the house.

"Just to know that my family was there in the beginning gives me a a great feeling," he said. "And to know that our people, enslaved African-Americans built this."


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