Daniel Marshall, a Baptist pastor and itinerant preacher, is generally considered the first great Baptist leader in Georgia. He founded Kiokee Baptist Church, the oldest continuing Baptist congregation in the state.
Born in Windsor, Connecticut, on August 24, 1706, Marshall had no formal education. He began his career as a farmer and served for twenty years as a deacon in the First Church in Windsor, one of the nation’s oldest Congregational churches. In 1742 he married Hannah Drake, and they had one child, Daniel Jr.
Coming under the influence of the revivalist George Whitefield around 1745, Marshall became a Separate Congregationalist, a group considerably more evangelistic and charismatic than the establishment Standing Order Congregationalist churches of Connecticut. As a layman he preached in New York and Pennsylvania for about three years. During this time his first wife died, and in 1747 he married Martha Stearns, the sister of an evangelical preacher. Together they had ten children: Abraham, John, Zaccheus, Levi, Moses, Solomon, Joseph, Eunice, Mary, and Benjamin. Marshall’s wife later became a preacher in her own right, although she was never ordained.
From 1754 to 1771 Marshall ministered in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, becoming an ordained Separate Baptist leader second in influence only to Shubal Stearns, his brother-in-law. During these years Marshall was a revivalistic and emotional farmer-preacher who influenced at least fourteen men to enter the ministry and assisted in founding at least eighteen Separate Baptist churches and two district associations.
Marshall moved to Columbia County, Georgia, in 1771, and soon thereafter he organized the Kiokee Church, probably about three and a half miles east of the town of Appling. As the Baptist patriarch in the area, he was a mentor to at least sixteen younger preachers. During the Revolutionary War (1775-83) Marshall was an American patriot; after the war he and others fought for legislation favoring religious liberty. Just before his death he acted as moderator of the Georgia Baptist Association, founded in 1784 at Kiokee Church. Of the 104 known Baptist churches organized in Georgia during the eighteenth century, a large number of them trace their origins to Marshall or to one of his junior colleagues.
Marshall died in Columbia County on November 2, 1784. He was succeeded as pastor of Kiokee by his son Abraham and later by a grandson, Jabez. Thus he founded a sixty-one-year ministerial dynasty, an occurrence rare in Baptist circles. He apparently owned at least 400 acres of land in Georgia (but no enslaved people) and left an estate “of considerable value.” To his contemporaries Marshall was a man of holy zeal, meekness, and patience, but his gifts, in the words of his son Abraham, “were by no means above mediocrity.” One honest friend, Morgan Edwards, described him as “a weak man, a stammerer, and no scholar,” and admitted that Marshall’s success was “surprising when we consider that he is a man of no bright parts, nor eloquence nor learning. Piety, earnestness and honesty are all he can boast of.”
The Marshall Historical Site, near Appling, was dedicated in 1984.