Miles Marshall, Pioneer Iowan

I, Miles Marshall, was born in North Carolina in 1789, and married Martha in a Friends’ Meetinghouse in Tennessee in 1810. Shortly thereafter we became part of the Tennessee Quakers who settled in Wayne County, Indiana, where I served as Justice of the Peace 16 years, and in the Indiana State Legislature twice.

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My Martha died in 1854. My friend John Maulsby had moved west to Iowa, telling of its wonderful climate and soil, encouraging me to come, and three of my children had married Maulsbys. So, in my 66th year, the next spring I came to Dallas County with two daughters and four of my sons–Maben, Calvin, Collin, and Miles Jr. (called Bob).

I bought 480 acres of prairie and 30 acres of timber. The Bear Creek Friends meeting accepted my membership, and I was a member of the Whig party, believing that it was the political party that would abolish slavery.

Both of my younger sons, Coll and Bob, as well as grandson Clayton Marshall, joined Col. James Redfield’s Company H of the 39th Infantry to fight in the Civil War. Coll was killed by Rebs in Georgia July 4, 1863. Bob brought his body back to Eddyville, then Calvin took a wagon down and brought it on home. Redfield’s Marshall GAR Post, recently restored, was named for my son. Coll, age 36, is buried at Wiscotta, along with Col. Redfield who was also killed in that war. 

Marshall GAR Post, Redfield, Iowa

Son Maben is why Dexter’s main street is called Marshall Street. When the Rock Island Railroad crossed Dallas County in 1868, it passed through the prairie farms of Maben and Bob. Maben and another man lost no time in platting a town site, made streets wider than most small towns, and had shade trees planted. Called Marshalltown at first, it was changed to Dexter when they learned there already was a Marshalltown in Iowa.

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Maben J. Marshall

Son  Calvin bought land north of Dexter and built a log cabin. His original home is now part of the Bob and Dode Reynolds home. Some of you know it as the Howard and Ardis Walker place. Calvin retired from his farming, he moved to his land northwest of there near the river, where he discovered a mineral spring. Meskwaki Indians also lived in that area. With his sons, Calvin enlarged the spring, had six copper-lined tubs made, built a bath house, and opened Marshall Springs. I guess these days you’d call it a spa. People even came out from Des Moines for a healthy soak. 

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Calvin eventually moved to town, bringing one of those copper-lined tubs with him. Marshall Springs became Dexter Springs after WWI. In 1915 it was bought out by four Valley Junction men who enlarged it into Iowa’s first amusement park, named Dexfield Park. The infamous Bonnie and Clyde shootout happened there in 1933.

Maben and Calvin and Miles Jr. are also buried in the Dexter Cemetery.

Photo taken by C. E. Charles in 1961. Notice that the GAR star is by the wrong Miles Marshall. It should be next to his son Miles C’s stone.

My oldest son Thomas stayed in Indiana, where his house still stands. Our old letters back and forth were found in the attic, and that’s how my history became known. Thomas remembered seeing me pull out my grammar book while plowing, when the horses made the turn at the end of the furrows.

Two of Thomas Marshall’s sons and a daughter came to Iowa. The daughter Rhoda married John Neal, all buried with his parents SW of my tombstone.

Rhoda had five daughters and one son. The son, O.S. Neal was on the committee to plan your historic 1916 Community Building, known as the Roundhouse, and did the hiring and contracting of farmers for the Dexter Canning Factory. The Dexter Neals are also my descendants.

Granddaughter Rhoda (Marshall) Neal is seated, O.S. Neal, and John Neal. O.S. stands for Orlando Swain, who were two of Rhoda’s brothers.

My tombstone is the oldest in the cemetery here. I died on April 19, 1868. Yes, 150 years ago, the year Dexter officially became a town.


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Source: 1968 Dexter Centennial history, pages 7-13 and 52; correspondence with historian C.E. Charles.

CE and Alma Charles, Indiana, 1986


  1. Loved reading Miles’ words–such a great idea for a post! My Quaker ancestors also lived in Wayne Co., Indiana; there’s a good chance they knew each other.

    • They lived at Economy, Indiana–the old house is still there. Miles’s oldest son, Thomas, visited Iowa but stayed in Indiana. I know there were problems with some Quaker ancestors in this line, getting disowned because of “deviation from the plainness of dress.” And soldiering, too. But having Quakers in the past sure made Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy handy! (I did the genealogy long before the internet.)

      • “Mine” lived in Webster and Richmond–I’ve actually scheduled my first post about them for this Friday! Their cabin still stands, too, but it’s been moved around a few times.

        Deviation from plainness of dress–HA! I haven’t found anything like that so far, but I’ve only just started researching the line. Quakers kept the BEST records–Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia is a genealogy gold mine for sure. There aren’t any Marshall’s in my family tree yet, but I’ll kept looking for a connection!

    • Gabe Wagner read this for the Dexter Sesquicentennial. They’re supposed to make copies of the eight presentations. Gabe used a southern drawl. At first I was surprised, then realized that Miles was from the south!

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