Saturday, September 3, 2016

Interview With: Jeff Marshall

Jeff Marshall, of DeKalb, poses with some of the Haish engines in his collection. Haish began manufacturing and selling engines in the early 1900s. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Jeff Marshall's love of history and genealogy have made him an important figure in the Haish family tree.

Marshall, of DeKalb, is a Haish family descendant (Jacob Haish is his third great uncle,) the mastermind behind a lengthy Haish family tree, and the creator of the Jacob Haish Mfg. Co. website, where he shares the stories behind his collections.

He credits his family with his interest.

"We had pictures, things that were directly related to [Jacob Haish] because my family members were close to him," Marshall said. "I was always taught to respect him. The stories were that he was always the outsider, something that my family always believed, and they always 'rooted for the underdog.'"
Jeff Marshall has displays of Jacob Haish barbed wire, which he often uses to give presentations on his third great uncle. Marshall regularly gives presentations at the Glidden Homestead. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Marshall's quest into documenting the Haish family tree began more than 20 years ago, when he was in college. It's been his mission to document "any person related to Christian Haish," the father of Jacob Haish.

"Since I've started this project, I've kind of become a depository for Haish things," Marshall said with a laugh. "Once I meet with one member of the family, then I have other members of the family contacting me. It's been challenging, and I like a challenge. One generation has a generation of kids, then there's another and another; sometimes I don't know about that until someone contacts me."

But Marshall's interest runs much deeper than just the family tree. He's become an avid collector of Jacob Haish-related items, particularly farming equipment. He said he's not surprised that Haish's inventions and patents stretched beyond barbed wire.
A case in Marshall's home displays some of his Haish memorabilia and artifacts. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
"We were an agricultural community, at a much higher percentage than we are now," Marshall said. "If you're going to be developing ideas you're going to be developing them for things that would be of benefit to you here."

The list of Haish inventions is fairly extensive, and Marshall collects his fair share, including barbed wire canes and even Haish Mfg. Co. corn shellers. Unlike some collectors, Marshall's interest in Haish-related items is purely out of love for his roots. 

"I don't remember not having an interest in Haish things," Marshall said. "I've been interested in collecting Haish things my whole life. The [Haish barbed wire canes] were something I'd never dreamed of affording when I was a kid."
Marshall is very fond of his Haish barbed wire canes, a rather unique Haish item. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Marshall also loves stories about his distant relative. 

"I was always told stories as a kid, that he always did things he didn't have to," Marshall said. "Like at Christmastime, he would go to his employees and give each one of them a turkey. These are things that I think he was being smart enough to know he needed to go above and beyond and keep his employees and keep good employees. 

He cosigned on several documents that are from branches of my family that aren't Haish-related. Both sides of my family have always had good things to say about him because he had helped both sides.

I think he was a down-to-earth person, a lot of books and places don't seem to imply that he was down to earth, more like he was rough. But my family stories don't describe him that way. He seemed to be much more personable. I get the impression that he was somebody who expected you to do well, too. He was going to give you an opportunity expecting you to do something with the gift he gave you, and be appreciative of what you got." 
Haish advertising material belonging to Marshall. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Marshall considers the possibility of one day bringing together the descendants of Jacob Haish's father, Christian Haish in a big family reunion.

"To print out the family tree, with just basic information like first and last names, it would be more than 66 feet long," Marshall said. "But it can be done."

To learn more about Marshall and his interest in Jacob Haish, please visit his website at He is also scheduled to give a presentation on Haish on Sept. 25 at the Glidden Homestead, 921 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

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