Family Legends recounted by Paxton

Source – Entry #16 in Paxton’s Marshall Family
(written circa. 1885)

It was my purpose, when I commenced this work, to eschew all legends, but I find- ‘Tis better the past be embellished with story, Of maiden and lover, or hero and glory; Than left a dark void which the fancy may fill, With fiends to affright 1181 or monsters to kill. Then list to my legend : 


(u) James Keith (the Parson) was-educated at the Maxeschal Col­lege, at Aberdeen, Scotland. Though a divinity student,· yet he was tainted with infidelity, like most of the youth of his day. He had an intimate associate and fellow student, named William Frazier, who also doubted the truth of the Bible, and a state of future rewards and punishments. These youths often talked upon religious topics. In full confidence in each other, they often expressed their doubts. Though they had Moses and the Prophets, yet they thought that if one should return to them from the dead, they would believe, They therefore made to each other the solemn pledge, that he that died first would return to the other and impart the truth or falsity of the Bible. This compact was written and sealed in their own blood. . , .

Years· past, and the young men went to opposite extremities of the earth. Keith went to America and Frazier to India. Keith had taken orders in the Episcopal Church. His doubts, however, had not been wholly removed, and his life was not consistent with his professions. In his family was a white servant named McLeod. She attended to the dairy. One evening, after the Parson had grown old, while Mrs.. McLeod was employed at her usual duties, a stranger in military garb, appeared before her and said that he was the spirit of William Frazier, who had just died in India, and who in early life had been the compan­ion of Mr. Keith. He told of the ·compact, and ordered her to tell her master that the Christian religion was true, and that there was a state of future rewards and punishments. She was further to state that her master would live but one year, and that he should at once prepare for death. The woman· was alarmed, and being afraid of her master, failed to make the report as requited.. The next evening the soldier appeared again, and severely threatening her, exacted a promise that she would tell her master.· When Parson Keith heard the story from Mrs. McLeod, and had the description of the man, he was convinced of the reality of the a:apparition, and was satisfied of the truth of the ‘Bible. I He set on foot inquiries for William·Frazier, and found that he had died in India only .a few days prior to his appearance in America. He changed his mode of life, became an exemplary Christian, and died one year after the apparition.

(v) ·· This tradition is supported by the credence of all the older members of the family, and is corroborated by the fact that the Mc­ Leod family,· of Baltimore, have a record of it in their possession. In 1808, two descendants of Mrs. McLeod came to Kentucky, from Marv­land, to confer with Martin P. Marshall and Col. Charlee A. Marshall, both of Washington, Ky. They represented that they were descended from Mrs. McLeod, and that their ancestress was an heir to estates in Scotland, and they were in search of evidence to establish their claim. They represented that her Bible was still an heirloom, and reference was there made to the same story. This confirmation of the old legend caused surprise to all parties.

Whether this story may be entitled to our respect or not,it is strange that no descendant of Parson Keith that I have ever known or heard of, has more than temporarily denied the. truth of Christian revelation. Dr. Louis Marshall and J. A. McClung, for a time, had their doubt.s, but both devoted their last years to the Redeemer. Senator Humprey Mar­ shall had no Keith ·blood in his veinR. His wife was a pious believer. 


( w) I shall not take sides in the controversy over this question, but shall content ‘myself with presenting the issue. The Randolph lineage has just been stated. The line of Pooahontas is as follows: 1. Pocahontas=John Rolfe. 2. Thomas Rolfe-= Miss Poythress. 3. Jane Rolfe = Col. Robert Bolling. 4. Major John Bolling= Miss Blair. Their dr.: 1. Mary Bolling=Jan. 20, 1727, CoL. JOHN FLEMING. “i. A daughter, Judith= Thomas Randolph, of Curls. 1. Mary Isham Randolph= Rev. James Keith. 1. MARY RANDOLPH KEITH= CoL. Thomas Marshall.

If this genealogy is correct, the Keiths and Marshalls are tainted · with Indian blood. It is denied that Thomas Randolph married a Fleming, but confidently asserted that his wife was Judith Churchill,

From my earliest recollection, I have heard it asserted by the aged members of the Keith and Marshall families that the proud and noble blood of Pocahontas coursed their veins. Bishop Meade, and Campbell, the Virginia historian, say that Thomas Randolph’s wife was a Fleming. Judge Keith, of Warrenton, so asserts most positively. Col. Thomas M. Green, the best living authority, has no doubt on the question. John Randolph, of Roanoke, who ought to have known, said that his great uncle married a Fleming.

But a writer in the Richmond Standard, of September 21, 1881, mentions only two daughters of Col.”John Fleming, who married, re­ prospectively, Barnard and Branch. The following Paper, furnished by Alex. Brown, of Norwood, names a third daughter and embodies the evidence that Thomas Randolph did not marry a Fleming: 

“Extract from the Descendants of Pocahontas, by E:x:-Gov. Wyndham Robertson:

  • Mary Bolling, =Col. John Fleming, and had issue, 8 children, of whom two were daughters: 
    • 1, Mary Fleming; William. Barnard, and 
    • 2, Caroline, =James Deane.” “According to John Randolph, of Roanoke, the wife of Thomas Randolph, of Tuckahoe, second son and child of the emigrant William Randolph, was a Miss Fleming; but according to Richard Randolph, he married Miss Judith Churchill. Mrs. Ellen Wayles Randolph Harri­son, of “Edge-Hill,” Albemarle Co., Va.,.(a descendant) states that her name was “Judith Churchill,” and that no marriage between a Randolph and Fleming took place until a later period. 

“Mr. Wilson Miles Cary, of Baltimore, writes in 1883:” in the conflict of authorities as to the wife of  Thomas .Randolph of Tuckahoe, I have always accepted  Richard Randolph’s account rather than that of John Randolph, of Roanoke, because the former was a professed antiquary, and more likely to be correct then the eccentric and erratic statesman who probably took no pains to verify his opinion by general research; -there being no extracts from parish records, there is noth­ing left but to choose between their statements, aided by such corrob­ orating testimony as one can obtain at this late day.

“Like Mr .Cary, I do not rely on John of Roanoke ,as anantiquary. The children of this couple were:  

  1. William b. about 1715, d. prior to 1765,=1736, Maria Judith P; 
  2. Judith, b .about l718,-July 13 1738, Rev. William Steth, the historian;
  3. Keith of Scotland, who came to virgin1a prior to 1730-in Henrico parish 2d of March, 1733,-said to have removed to Maryland in 1735; but from some time prior to 1745, to about 1758, he was in Hamilton parish, Prince William Co., Va.”