This article is reprinted from a series on surnames names originally published in the year 1920. This one appeared in The El Paso Herald in El Paso, Texas, on November 6, 1920,. For more stories from yesteryear, check out our ArchiveAmericana.com site.
Facts about the name: Its history, meaning and significance
Although the founders of several of the families of Marshall in the country came from Ireland, the name seems always to have been of English origin. And if you want to link yourself with noblemen of long ago, you might persuade yourself that you are a descendant of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, who lived 800 years ago. He enjoyed the distinction of being regent of the kingdom of England for several years.
William belonged to a family upon whom William the Conquerer showered many honors, incidentally making the head of their family Earl of Pembroke. Their family name remained Marshall, which had been derived from their calling, and meant keeper of the horse. For, according to one authority, they were his stable keepers and saw to the curry combing of his horses and the pitchforking out every day of their dung to the heap. But then equally humble was the origin of their name to the steward or chief cook of the king.
Many of the name of Marshall in England, and some in America doubtless are descended directly from the noble house of Pembroke. Others derived their name from the same origin, but not through the earls of Pembroke. That is, they were keepers of the horse. However, not being in the service of a king, they remained commoners and their descendants are named plain Marshall with no further title.
Not only did the early Marshall take care of the horses, but they likewise shod them and so they have something in common in their origin with those who are called Smith. Doubtless when men were first taking onto themselves last names some blacksmiths became Marshalls, while others became Smiths.
The name is more usual in England than in the United States, but here especially in the south, it enjoys considerable distinction. No other family has contributed so many able lawyers and jurists to the country as have the Marshalls. In a list of distinguished men of our history that includes six soldiers and one clergyman of note of the name, no fewer than twelve Marshalls were lawyers or jurists.