Robert Morris Marshall

Robert Morris Marshall was born December 7, 1905, in Piqua, Ohio, the fourth, and last, child of Mary (Hubbard) and James A. Marshall.  Robert had one sister, Helen Margaret, and two brothers, William Hubbard and James Edward. 

As a small boy Robert experienced a traumatic event that surely had a major impact on his life.  In July, 1917, at age eleven, Robert was swimming in a pond near his house with two cousins, Charles Henne and Frederick Henne, that were about his same age.  The three boys were alone without any supervision, and Charles drowned (see newspaper articles).  Obviously Robert would have felt guilty about the tragedy, and the newspaper accounts probably added to his guilt, particularly these two lines:  “At one time the former [Robert] was able to get his hand on the drowning boy’s neck, while Frederick Henne held him by the ankle.  Robert Marshall, however, was unable to retain his grasp and the boy sank to his death.” 

About 1920 Robert, his parents, and brothers, moved to Columbiana, Ohio, his sister Helen stayed in Piqua.  Robert attended Columbiana High School, graduating in 1924.  He was quite active in school (see yearbook excerpts), playing basketball and football, his senior year he was class president, a member of the Senior Lyceum, president of the Anabasis Literary Society, and had a part in the school play.  From his high school yearbook, it is apparent that his high school sweetheart was Kathryn Detwiler.

Within a few years after Robert’s graduation from high school the family moved to Mansfield, Ohio.  The three brothers and their parents lived together, first at 77 West Second St., then at 160 Rae Ave.  About 1928 Robert’s parents moved back to Piqua, the boys all stayed in Mansfield.  Robert’s first job in Mansfield was working at the Columbia Tire and Rubber Co., he worked there until his marriage to Mary Teresa Wilkinson, June 12, 1929 (see wedding announcements).  The newlyweds lived with Mary’s aunt, Mae Belle Wilkinson, at 219 West Fifth St., until some time after the birth of their daughter, Mary Ann, April 14, 1930.  Robert then took a job working at Stuhldreher’s truck farm, and the family moved to 293 Cline Ave.  In 1938, Robert took a job at the Ohio State Reformatory and moved his family (now four, Richard Eugene being born April 23, 1934) to 533 South Main St.  He worked the rest of his life at the reformatory.  The family made one more move, in 1945, when his father-in-law died the family moved in with Mary's mother at 138 Helen Ave.

The majority of Robert’s adult life was spent working at the honor farm at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield (see newspaper articles).  He started there in 1938, working in the greenhouse.  In 1948 he was made superintendent of the farm, Robert held that position until 1972.

The circumstances that led to Robert’s promotion to superintendent were some of the most gruesome in the history of the reformatory.  In July, 1948, two paroled inmates returned to the reformatory, kidnapped the farm manager, John Niebel, along with his wife and daughter.  The three victims were found shot to death in a field near the reformatory the next day.  The killers had intended to murder a particular guard with whom they had had problems with while inmates at the reformatory, but were unable to get inside the reformatory to carry out their plan.  The farm manager and his family lived in a house on the property, and the duo took advantage of the opportunity to extract their revenge on the innocent victims.  When Robert was promoted to fill the position of his murdered boss, he was supposed to move into the house the family was kidnapped from.  His wife Mary was very adamant that she was not going to live in that house.

Robert was a big man.  As an adult he was about 6’2”, and around 240 pounds.  Robert never served in the military, being too young for WWI and too old for WWII.

Robert’s death came suddenly, he had just finished Sunday dinner, was on the couch watching television, when he suffered a ruptured aorta.  He was rushed to the hospital, but there was nothing that could have been done to save him, he died early Monday morning, November 13, 1972.  He is buried in the Mansfield Catholic Cemetery.

Personal Remembrances

David Brian Torski (grandson of Robert through his daughter, Mary Ann):

Robert Marshall, my grandfather, died when I was 14 years old, leaving me with only a few memories of him.  My main impression of “Grandpa Marshall” is that of a big man, tall and heavy.  All adults are large to a child, but he was larger, by quite a bit, than any other adult in my life.

I have one memory associated with his job at the reformatory.  He would take us (his grandkids) there to get our hair cut.  To get to the barbershop we had to walk past some of the cells, and if his intention was to show us that prison was a place to be avoided, it worked.  I remember it as a very scary place.  Today the reformatory is turned into the best haunted house in the area every fall.  35 years ago, when the reformatory was still used as a prison, it didn’t need any decorating to scare a ten year-old kid.

Grandpa Marshall loved to fish, he would often take us to Lake Erie to go perch fishing.  We had to leave very early in the morning to catch the boat, spend the better part of the day on the lake, catch a bucket full of fish, bring them back to Mansfield, “Grandma Marshall” would clean the fish and cook them for dinner that evening.  He was a pretty heavy cigar smoker, it seemed to me that he was always puffing on a cigar, and when we were at his house, he would send us down to the corner market to buy cigars for him.  Looking back it’s hard to believe that a couple of little kids, eight to ten years old, could walk into a store and buy cigars. 

My most vivid memory occurred one day when my grandparents came to our house for a visit.  We were playing basketball in the driveway when they arrived.  I was about 12 years old, and prior to this incident I had always thought of my grandparents as “old people,” didn’t know my grandfather had played basketball in high school, in fact probably never thought of him as being in high school.  Well, the ball bounced his way, he caught it, put up a crazy-looking (to me) two-handed set shot from about 15 feet, and swished it!  You could have knocked me over with a feather, I don’t remember him ever touching a ball of any kind before or after that shot.

Robert’s Cousin Drowns

Piqua Daily Call, Saturday, July 21, 1917:


Charles Henne, Son of Mr. And Mrs. George Henne of Mansfield is Drowned.


Lad, Who was Poor Swimmer, Gets into Deep Water - Companions Try to Save Him.

Charles Henne, 12 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. George Henne, of Mansfield, formerly of this city, was drowned this afternoon at 1:30 in Keyt’s pond, opposite Broadway and Riverside drive.  At 3 o’clock the body had not been found although a search was being made.  Charles Henne and Fred Henne, cousins, with their cousin, Robert Marshall, had gone to Keyt’s pond this afternoon to swim, Charles Henne was not a good swimmer.  The boy got out beyond his depth and went down.  His cries and struggles attracted the attention of the other boys, Frederick Henne and Robert Marshall, who tried with all their power to get him but in vain.  The boys gave the alarm and called for help.  One of the first persons to come to their aid was Service Director John F. Luckey who also sought vainly to locate the body.  Later members of the fire department were called and a systematic search was made for the body.  Charles Henne had come to Piqua from his home in Mansfield, in company with his mother and sister, for a visit at the homes of Walter Henne, on West Ash street and James Marshall of Gordon street.  The family lived in Piqua before their removal to Mansfield.  The boy is a nephew of Walter Henne.  This afternoon the boys went to Keyt’s pond to swim.  They have been accustomed to go to the pond frequently and it was believed that they were familiar with it and its dangerous places.  The news of the drowning spread over the city rapidly and gave occasion for many expressions of horror and sympathy for the stricken parents and relatives.  It is the first drowning that has happened in Piqua in several years.  The search for the body is to be prosecuted vigorously and unremitently until it is found.


The body was recovered at 4 o’clock near where it went down.

Piqua Daily Call, Monday, July 23, 1917:


Funeral of Unfortunate Charles Henne to be Held on Tuesday Morning.


Many Expressions of Sympathy for Stricken Family and Relatives Spoken Here.

The body of Charles Henne, the boy who met an untimely death by drowning in Keyt’s pond on Saturday afternoon, was taken to the home of the parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Henne, in Mansfield this morning.  The party left at 5:53 this morning via the B. & O. R. R. for Lima where they change to the Pennsylvania R. R.  The sorrowing mother left for her home in Mansfield on Sunday.  It was 4 o’clock Saturday afternoon before the body was found and taken from the water.  Members of the fire and police departments had made a fruitless search of every place where it seemed likely the body might have lodged.  The body was discovered by Officer Earl Pursell and was taken from the water by Raymond Alsmeyer.  Pursell and Alsmeyer had searched for some time before the body was found.  Pursell had touched the body with a pole.  Alsmeyer went down into the water and after a long time came up with the body in his arms.  The water where the body was found was between eight and nine feet deep and intensely cold.  There are many springs in the bottom of the river and pond by which the river is fed from underground.  Desperate efforts had been made by Robert Marshall and Frederick Henne to save the drowning boy.  At one time the former was able to get his hand on the drowning boy’s neck, while Frederick Henne held him by the ankle.  Robert Marshall, however, was unable to retain his grasp and the boy sank to his death.  After the body was taken from the water efforts were made to resuscitate it by the use of the pulmoter.  These efforts however, were wholly fruitless as the body had been in the water so long that life had fled.  The body was brought to the morgue of Cron & Walker’s where it was prepared for burial.  Coroner Ullery came over from West Milton and after viewing the body and learning the circumstances gave a verdict of accidental drowning.  Hundreds of expressions of sympathy for the sorrow stricken family have been spoken by friends and others since the deplorable accident of Saturday afternoon.  The funeral is to be held in Mansfield on Tuesday morning.  Mrs. Henne, the mother, was accompanied to Mansfield, yesterday, by Miss Francis Henne, Miss Helen Marshall and William Marshall.  Accompanying Mr. Walter Henne and Mrs. Mary Henne, the grandmother of Troy, this morning were Mr. and Mrs. William Hubbard, and Mrs. Walter Henne.

Columbiana High School Yearbook  —  1924


Robert Morris Marshall - “Bob.”

Anabasis; President 4.

Basketball 2-3-4; Captain 3.

Football 3-4.

Class President 4.

Lecture Course Committee 4.

Faculty Play 4.

“I’m a twelve o’clock fellow in a nine o’clock town.”

Kathryn Elizabeth Detwiler - “Kate.” [Robert’s high school sweetheart]

Anabasis; Program Committee 4.

Faculty Play 4.

Orchestra 3.

“Words are cheap and she spends abundantly.”

Class Prophecy:

“You are cordially urged to attend the reunion of the CLASS OF ’24 at Marshall Manor, Pine Lake, three miles northeast of Columbiana, July 25, 1940.  The old C.H.S. spirit will be revived.  Dinner at 6:30.”


Host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Marshall (Mrs. Marshall was formerly Kathryn Detwiler).



Robert played halfback, is seated front row center, holding football.

C.H.S. Basket Ball

Robert is in back row, second from right.

The Boy’s Basketball Review - Marshall was the star of this year’s squad, and, although handicapped with a heavy knee-brace, he played an exceptional game throughout the season.  He was the main offensive man and also played a fine defensive game.  Robert received his letter in basketball.


Senior Lyceum, Robert Marshall

Anabasis Literary Society, President, Robert Marshall

Senior Representative, Kathryn Detwiler


cast of characters:

Anthony Goodly, D.D.—Bishop of Ballarat, Robert Marshall

Minerva—Ebenezer’s daughter, Miss Kathryn Detwiler


Was Robert a good Marshall?

Willson - “Bob, have you taken a shower?”    Marshall - “No, is there one missing?”

Did you ever see: Bob Marshall dance? - Well! you’ve missed a lot!

About 8 o’clock Pa and Ma helped entertain with Sis,

Both Kate and Bob in separate seats,

were      far      apart      like      this.

At 9 o’clock Pa withdrew and followed Ma upstairs;

and then, ye Gods, what bliss,

Those lovers sat till nearly one,


Marshall  —  Wilkinson Wedding

The Mansfield News, Wednesday, June 12, 1929

Wilkinson—Marshall Nuptials Are Solemnized at St. Peter’s Catholic Church

One of the loveliest weddings of June was that of Miss Mary Teresa Wilkinson, daughter of Harry J. Wilkinson of Helen ave., and Robert M. Marshall, son of Mr. And Mrs. James A. Marshall, of Piqua, which was solemnized by Rev. Father R. C. Goebel in St. Peter’s Catholic church Wednesday morning at 9:30 o'clock.  The church, filled with friends and relatives, presented a stately appearance with palms and ferns forming a background.  Beautiful garden peonies formed an artistic appearance.  The ushers, Fred Wilkinson and William Marshall, preceded the bridesmaid, Miss Mary Butler, to the altar.  The bridesmaid wore a becoming frock of French blue chiffon and lace, wearing a hat to match.  She also wore blonde slippers and carried a bouquet of sunburst roses and blue delphiniums.  The bride, charmingly gowned in a cameo blush lace dress, with hat to match, trimmed in nile green, followed the bridesmaid, on the arm of her father, to the chancel.  She carried a beautiful wedding shower bouquet of pink roses.  The best man was Edward Wilkinson, brother of the bride.  Raymond Baum presided at the organ.  The bride’s mother wore a gown of beige chiffon and the bridegroom’s mother wore a gown of blue chiffon.  Following the ceremony, a wedding breakfast was served at the Woman’s club for the immediate families.  The table was beautifully decorated, a large bowl of roses and blue delphiniums being used for a centerpiece.  The out-of-town guests present were Mr. and Mrs. James A. Marshall, and Miss Helen Marshall, of Piqua.  Mrs. Marshall is a graduate of the Mansfield high school and Mr. Marshall is a graduate of the Columbiana high school.  Mr. Marshall is employed at the Mansfield Tire and Rubber Co., and after the wedding trip they will be at home to their friends at 219 W. Fifth St.

Piqua Daily Call


Colonel and Mrs. Charles Augustus Lindbergh aren’t the only honeymooners who can slip a quick one over the friends whose curiosity is excited over the destination of newly weds.  Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Marshall are putting over just as unobtrusive a bridal tour as the more famed couple and are enjoying fooling all of the people at least some of the time right down on Wood street, Piqua, at the home of the bridegroom’s parents.  Mr. and Mrs. Marshall, whose wedding was solemnized Wednesday morning from St. Peter’s Cathedral, Mansfield, Ohio, departed on their wedding trip with due ceremony immediately after the wedding, keeping their destination a deep dark secret.  Knowing that Father and Mother Marshall were safely installed at Mansfield where they had gone to attend the important event of the marriage, the young folks cagily headed their trusty automobile straight for Piqua, broke into the parental residence and are chuckling to themselves at the neat little trick they are playing on their friends.  Mr. and Mrs. James A. Marshall are the bridegroom’s parents, who with their daughter, Miss Helen Marshall, drove to Mansfield Tuesday for the wedding are presumably still celebrating the nuptials in that beautiful Ohio city—anyway they aren’t in Piqua.

Reformatory Honor Farm

Mansfield News Journal, Thursday, November 26, 1964:

Capt. Bob Marshall Looks Back Over 26 Years

OSR Farm Work Aids Inmates, Manager Says

Capt. Bob Marshall, farm superintendent at Ohio State Reformatory, believes the intangible satisfaction in doing a good job are as important as the pay check.  This amiable, soft-spoken officer whose 26 years at OSR give him senior position on the active staff, lives his philosophy.  He’d rather talk about the 120 to 150 inmate trusties whose lives, he hopes, will be touched by living and working close to nature than the cold statistics of a bumper harvest.

Not that he wasn’t happy to see the gross income from the institution’s 1,326 acres reach near the $300,000-mark last year or that this year’s huge tomato crop was saved from an early frost.  But Bob Marshall knows that anyone who works with the soil is dependent upon nature and, at the same time, humbled and made more thoughtful by it.  “I feel there’s nothing better for inmates than to work outside in the open air,” he says.  “It’s a wholesome kind of work which whets the appetite and makes you tired.  A boy who works on the farm eats well and rests well.  “And,” Marshall added from his observations of 16 years as head of the farm operations at OSR, “inmates have a better color after a few weeks out in the open air and they usually gain weight.”

Practical Psychology in dealing with both inmates and officers (he has 18 officers working under him) has earned Marshall this tribute from OSR Supt. M. J. Koloski:  “Bob Marshall is an officer who can use his rank and gain the respect of his men.”  Marshall likes to point to the farm boys who have made good on their paroles.  There are a couple “good mechanics” now with farm machinery dealers and making good in their jobs.  There are others who have hired on as farm laborers and some who manage farms.  “Some would like to own their own farms but it’s hard to have a producing farm nowadays without considerable capital for equipment,” he pointed out.  Oddly enough, Marshall was a city boy who went to the farm.  A native of Piqua. O., he started out in the business office of the Piqua Daily Call while still in high school.  His late sister, Miss Helen Marshall, was well known there for her 50 years on the newspaper.  Coming to Mansfield in the 30’s, Marshall first worked in truck gardening for the late Leo Stuhldreher.  When he went to OSR in 1938, he was put in charge of the greenhouse where he worked under John Niebel, then farm superintendent.  The tragic deaths of Niebel, his wife and daughter at the hands of the murderous team of OSR ex-inmates West and Daniels in July, 1948, was a personal loss to Marshall who looked upon Niebel as a “good friend as well as a boss.”  In the good measure quarter century he’s put in at OSR, Marshall has seen farming methods change as rapidly as theories on peneology.  “When I came here we had 32 horses and four tractors to work the farm and the farm crew had to get up every morning to feed and curry the horses before they were ready to start work.  Now we jump on the tractors and we’re ready to go.”  Although he was sorry to see the last of the OSR teams sold in 1959, it was a logical move.  “It got to the point where we couldn’t get an inmate who knew how to harness a team.”

Availability of farm labor is a matter of an inmate passing a review board of institution officers “If he can prove that he’s worthy of trust, he stands a pretty good chance of becoming a trusty.”  Marshall pointed out.  In contrast, he recalled the “old days when we’d call in for 10 or 12 boys if we needed them in the greenhouse.”  With the proposed sale of 358 acres of farm land (200 acres especially suited to the production of garden crops) to Empire-Reeves Steel Corp., Marshall faces another change in farm operation.  The change, which Marshall sees as “inevitable, either now or in the future” is just another challenge. And he’ll work it out with the help of his officers and the cooperation of his “boys.”  Off duty hours find him at home with Mrs. Marshall at 138 Helen Ave. where he enjoys visits from his daughter, Mrs. John Torski of Mansfield, his son, Richard, of Cincinnati, and the 10 grandchildren.

Mansfield News Journal, Sunday, August 15, 1971:

Program Benefits Taxpayers

Boasting “the most diversified farm” in Richland County, Ohio State Reformatory agricultural operations save the state about $200,000 a year in food bills.  That's the amount of “profit” — or value of food that the state doesn’t have to buy — shown after expenses for running the OSR Honor Farm are deducted.  The institution produces all its own eggs, milk products, pork and most of its vegetables, as well as a large quantity of food for other state hospitals and penal institutions.

Last fiscal year, the OSR Honor Farm produced:  123,663 pounds of dressed pork, more that 1.4 million eggs, 1.4 million pounds of milk, and 15,000 pounds of dressed beef.  The harvest also included 20,000 pounds of green beans, 48,000 pounds of cabbage, 2,200 pounds of carrots, 7,300 pounds of head lettuce, 10,000 pounds of lima beans, 131,000 pounds of shelled peas, 294,000 pounds of tomatoes, plus tons of wheat, field corn and silage.  Orchards yielded 163,000 pounds of apples, 2,200 pounds of peaches and 1,000 pounds of plums.

Capt. R. M. Marshall is the man in charge of the farm and its 300 Holstein dairy cattle, 600 swine, 84025 laying hens and operations of the greenhouse, creamery, slaughterhouse, fields and orchards.  Marshall came to OSR 34 years ago to run the greenhouse and was named head of farming operations in 1948.  Back then, the farm had 32 horses and two tractors.  Now, the institution has 13 tractors, plus combines, pickers, balers and feed - mixers.

Including lawns, feed lots and orchards, the farm takes in 1,110 acres.  The state owns about 645 acres, and the balance of 465 acres is leased; 350 acres purchased from the state by Empire - Detroit Steel several years ago are farmed rent- free, however.  Sixty - five inmates, who are housed separately from the main institution, work the farm.  Most of them are from cities in the northern part of the state and are unfamiliar with farming.  New men start out on one of the field crews, Marshall said, and later are sent to the dairy barn or one of the other departments to work.  About half the men work a five - day week, although workers in the dairy, swine and poultry put in seven days.

Due to its size and diversity, the farm saves the state a sizable amount of money in food bills.  Last fiscal year, total production at the OSR farm had a market value of $403,936, according to Ohio State University estimates  Expenses were $206,807, leaving a “profit” of $196,128.  Since nothing produced there is sold, but either used at OSR or transferred to other state institutions, there really isn’t a dollar profit.  What the “profit” figure means, OSR Supt. Bernard I. Barton explained, is that the state saved nearly $200,000 in food costs through farm operations last year.

The farm does not presently raise beef, one of the most expensive food items, but Barton said reformatory personnel are looking into that problem.  The state farm at Grafton supplies some beef, and the rest is bought.  The greater amount of food for the animals also is grown at Mansfield.  There were 207,000 pounds of silage hay. 123,000 pounds of corn silage and 172,000 pounds of wheat last year.

Generally, the institution raises enough for about 10 months of the year, Marshall said, and the rest is bought.  Work at the OSR Honor Farm, “like any other farm,” Marshall said, goes one year - round.  Right now, crops are being harvested, and there’s the constant demand of the animals.  Work will continue right through the winter, with fences and machinery to repair and seedlings to be planted for next spring.


Mansfield News Journal, Monday, November 13, 1972

Robert M. Marshall, 66, of 138 Helen Ave, died this morning at Mansfield General Hospital shortly after being admitted.  Born in Piqua Dec 7, 1905, he came to Mansfield as a young man and was a retired farm manager at the Ohio State Reformatory, having been an employee there for 35 years.  He was a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the Holy Name Society Council of Catholic Men.  He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Mary Wilkinson Marshall; one son, Richard of Mercer Island, Wash.; one daughter, Mrs. John (Mary Ann) Torski of Mansfield; 10 grandchildren.  Friends may call at the Geiger-Herlihy Funeral Home Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.  Mass of the Resurrection will be offered by Msgr. Edward C. Dunn at St. Peter’s Catholic Church Wednesday morning at 10.  Burial will be in Mansfield Catholic Cemetery.  The rosary will be recited at the funeral home Tuesday evening at 7.