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Sgt. Elijah P. Marrs

Born in Shelby County, Ky in 1840 to Andrew Marrs, a free man and Frances Marrs, Elijah lived on the Robinson Plantation with his mother and about 30 other slaves. Marrs learned to read with the help from local white boys who were unaware that it was dangerous for a slave to read and write. Becoming a Christian in around 1851, he was permitted by his master to attend Sunday school and read the Bible. When the Civil War broke out, Marrs' thoughts soon turned to a new life of possibilities, those of being a free man. He joined the Union army in 1864, along with 27 other men, whom Marrs had convinced to come with him.


Marrs had enlisted on the 26th day of September, 1864 and was assigned to Company L, Twelfth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery. Finding out that he could read and write, Marrs was promoted to 3rd Duty Sergeant of his company. His company was assigned to Camp Nelson. The 12th "Heavies" as they were called participated in several hostile actions around the state.


After the war Marrs taught elementary school and Sunday school. He became 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.