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Marsh, Robert Henry

by John R. Woodard, 1991

8 Nov. 1837–6 Oct. 1924

A photograph of Robert Henry Marsh published in 1924. Image from the Internet Archive.Robert Henry Marsh, Baptist minister and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, was born in Chatham County, the son of Robert and Lucy Marsh. His grandfather, William Marsh, moved to Chatham County from Virginia as a young man, served in the American Revolution, and obtained land grants from the state of North Carolina. Young Marsh received a B.A. degree from The University of North Carolina in 1858 and was appointed tutor in languages at Wake Forest College in 1859. After attending the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Greenville, S.C., in 1860–61, he was awarded the M.A. degree at Chapel Hill in 1861. In 1886 he received an honorary D.D. degree from Wake Forest College.

Marsh was baptized on 2 Oct. 1856 and was licensed to preach by the Chapel Hill (now University) Baptist Church on 5 Mar. 1859. He was ordained on 1 Sept. 1861 at the First Baptist Church, Raleigh. A few hours after ordination, he was on the march as chaplain of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, North Carolina Infantry. He served with this regiment until superseded by a Confederate army chaplain. In the spring of 1862 Marsh became a professor in the Oxford Female Seminary, where he taught until 1864.

The Reverend Mr. Marsh served as pastor in the Flat River Baptist Association for fifty years, including Grassy Creek (1863–65 and 1887–97), Tally Ho (1863–65 and 1874–93), Hester (1869–1916), Oxford (1869–72), Enon (1875–86 and 1897–1916), Henderson (1877–80), State Line (1894–1901), Bullock (1905–16), and Dexter (1906–12). He was deeply interested in everything that affected the people to whom he ministered, and they sought his advice about their business affairs as well as their spiritual welfare.

The work of Robert H. Marsh lay far beyond the borders of the Flat River Association. He was president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina for fourteen years (1891–1905), a trustee (1870–1916) and president of the board of trustees (1890) of Wake Forest College, a trustee of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1896–1913), and vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1897 and 1912).

On 22 June 1863 he married Lizzie Hayes (24 Sept. 1842–19 Sept. 1917), the daughter of Henry C. and Ann E. Hayes, of Mecklenburg County, Va. They had one daughter, Mrs. C. D. Ray. Marsh died, according to his physicians, of "advanced age." The funeral services were held in the Oxford First Baptist Church, with burial in Oxford.


John Thomas Alderman Papers and Robert Henry Marsh Papers (Baptist Historical Collection, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem).

Flat River Baptist Association Minutes, 1924 (portrait).

North Carolina Baptist State Convention Annual, 1924 (portrait).

John R. Sampey, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: The First Thirty Years, 1859–1889 (1890).

Additional Resources:

Ashe, S. A. "Robert Henry Marsh." Biographical history of North Carolina from colonial times to the present volume 6. Greensboro, N.C.: C.L. Van Noppen. 1917. 370-375. Internet Archive / N.C. Government & Heritage Library. (accessed September 18, 2013).

Image Credits:

"Robert Henry Marsh." Photograph. Annual of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina 1924. Raleigh [N.C.]: Presses of Edwards & Broughton Printing Co. 1924. Frontispiece.

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