Sergeant Elijah P. Marrs – Artillery NCO, Educator & Minister
Elijah P Marrs was born into slavery in 1840 in Kentucky. His mother was a slave and his father a free man. He grew up in Simpsonville on the Robinson Farm near Louisville. In his youth he worked as a house servant and a field hand. At a young age he took it upon himself to learn to read, and got his master and the white boys to teach him. He began to learn too about Christianity. At the age of eleven, after a series of encounters, Marrs began to seek God earnestly. He and his young master went into the fields to work and spent the whole day discussing Christianity and prayer. The next Sunday he went to Church and accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior and was baptized in 1851. It was against the law in Kentucky in those days to teach a slave to read and write, but the Robinsons ignored that law and encouraged every boy on their farm to learn how to read the Bible. Marrs became active in the Church from that day forth.
At the beginning of the war, Marrs remained on the Robinson farm. He acted as clerk for all those slaves who had enlisted in the Union forces before him. Rebels in the community had threatened to take action. Marrs decided to join the Army and invited his comrades to join him. They elected him their Captain and 27 strong they marched to the Union lines around Louisville. Once there, it wasn’t long before the officers heard that Marrs could write and appointed him as Third Duty Sergeant, Co. L. 12th U. S. Heavy Artillery. His brother was appointed as a Sergeant Major. While stationed at Camp Nelson, he and Sergeant Major George Thomas started a choir for the men. During his service he was involved in several minor engagements. A regiment of Confederates once surrounded his company . His officers surrendered on terms that they would be directly paroled. Marrs' service as an NCO was excellent, and was appointed to the position of the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant.
After the war Marrs taught elementary school and Sunday school. He was often accosted by the local KKK and in his autobiography tells of the many incidents where the KKK raided his home. He was the first president of the local Republican Party. He was active in fighting for the rights of freedmen against laws like the “Whipping Post Bill”. On the 9th of June 1873, he preached his first Sermon, and from that point on dedicated his life to Christ in preaching the Gospel. He entered into Seminary in 1874, and was ordained a Baptist preacher in 1875. He was the first pastor at the Beargrass Baptist Church and continued to teach school. He was active with other ministers in his community in promoting temperance. He joined with his brother to establish the Baptist Normal and Theological Institute in Louisville in 1879. In 1883 he was examined by the Jefferson County Board of Education and given a four-year teaching certificate, causing quite a sensation in the city of Louisville. He continued to work for his people’s education and salvation until his death on August 30, 1910.
Elijah P. Marrs, b. 1840 ; Life and History of the Rev. Elijah P. Marrs, First Pastor of Beargrass Baptist Church, and Author. Louisville, Ky.: Bradley & Gilbert, 1885. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/marrs/marrs.html
Elijah P: Marrs Camp, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War: http://www.geocities.com/campfive/Camp5.html
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