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John H.  Marshall

John H. Marshall, Jr., was born in 1931 in Massachusetts and died August 24, 2008. He grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, until his father went overseas to fight in World War II, and his working mother sent him to St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts. It was there he met Bart Jacob of Bedford, New York. The two became great friends through their shared interest in nature and the outdoors, and would talk for hours about birds, snakes and anything else concerning natural history. In the summer of 1944 Bart invited John to his family's home in Bedford, and it was during that stay that John developed his lifelong love of collecting minerals. One hot summer day the two young men decided to go swimming in one of the old abandoned feldspar quarries close to Bart's home. On the road to the quarry John found what turned out to be a beautiful specimen of rose quartz. (This specimen became catalog no.1 of the over 4,000 specimens in the John Marshall Collection). From that day on John methodically cataloged each specimen he collected, making sure to note who he bought the specimen from, how much he paid, and carefully saving any old labels that would help trace the provenance of the specimen. Arriving home John began reading about some of the local quarries and would ride his bicycle to the Hammond Street quarry, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the Emery mine in Chester, Massachusetts, and even to the Strickland quarry in Portland, Connecticut, over 50 miles away.

After graduating from St. Mark's, John decided to pursue his interests in minerals and took a summer job at the Homestake mine in Lead, South Dakota. He also applied and was accepted into the Geology Department at Harvard University. During his four years at Harvard John continued his interest in minerals by working at different mines during the summer, including mining underground at Butte, Montana. He also pursued another passion, playing hockey, while at Harvard and later with the Berlin Maroons. After graduation from Harvard in 1954 with a BS Degree in Geology, John enlisted in the army and was stationed in Europe, where he developed an appreciation for European culture, and as a result he visited England and the continent frequently during the years that followed.

After leaving the service he enrolled at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Unfortunately the length of time needed to receive an advanced degree turned out to be a lot longer than he had anticipated, so John came back east, became a lumber broker, and eventually met his first wife, Mimi. She lived close to Philadelphia, where on Sundays they would stroll in the nearby fields. During one of these strolls John noticed what appeared to be a mine dump. Upon a closer examination it was determined to be a dumping area for the nearby Brookdale mine in Phoenixville. It was on this rubble pile that he found a magnificent specimen of pyromorphite, a species that he immediately fell in love with; he decided to focus his efforts on acquiring a pyromorphite specimen from every known worldwide location. In 1971, while exploring Caldbeck Fells in Cumbria, England, he met Lindsay Greenbank, an avid English mineral collector and dealer. With pyromorphite being the common interest they became close friends in the quest of minerals. At the time of John's death, his pyromorphite collection contained representative specimens from most well-documented worldwide locations.

When not collecting minerals, selling lumber, or helping to raise his four children, John was pursuing his other passion, birding. John traveled the world in hopes of adding another new bird to his extensive list of documented bird sightings, and always participating in annual bird counts. Over the next few years John's company transferred him to several locations—first to Berlin, New Hampshire, then to Pembroke, Ontario, and finally to Cincinnati, Ohio. Luckily all those locations were close to several mines and John was able to continue field collecting during this time. In 1967 he moved back to Massachusetts where he settled in Millis, and began exploring New England mines, collecting fluorite in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, amethyst in Bellingham, and pyromorphite in Loudville, Massachusetts. (In November-December 1975 the Mineralogical Record, published an article by John on the Loudville lead mines, co-authored with Pete J. Dunn.).

In 1973 John became a partner in Plumbago Mining Corporation when he acquired the interests of George Hartman, one of the original partners. (More detail regarding his activities with Plumbago Mining can be found in the chapter on the Dunton mine in the recently published book, American Mineral Treasures.) Also in 1973 The Mount Mica Land Company, a subsidiary of Plumbago Mining Corporation, purchased the Mount Mica property from Mrs. Sarah Spencer. (More on the history of Mount Mica can be found in the chapter on Mt. Mica in American Mineral Treasures; John was a co-author of both of these chapters.) On John's many trips west he developed a strong love for the Rocky Mountains, and exploring back-country roads and abandoned mines. He was particularly fond of the San Juan Mountains and Ouray in the southwestern part of Colorado. In the early years of going to Colorado he rented a jeep for exploring the high country, but later he bought a jeep that he parked near Aspen, awaiting his next visit. His greatest thrill was to take people over Black Bear Pass and down the face of Mt. Ingram overlooking Telluride, Colorado, one of the more challenging jeep roads in the Rocky Mountains. From these visits John developed a deep interest in Colorado mining history and started a Colorado mineral collection that grew to several hundred specimens. In 1999 John arranged to donate his Colorado collection, together with custom-built cases, to the Ouray County Museum and Historical Society. A link to the museum mineral room can be found at Over the years he has also donated specimens to St. Mark's School, Harvard University, and to the Colorado School of Mines.

John was dedicated to enhancing and preserving our mineral heritage. By supporting activities that would expand the knowledge and appreciation of minerals, providing financial support for worthy publications (including Mick Cooper's book on the history of British mineral dealers) and donating collections for others to enjoy, he made important and lasting contributions to the mineral community.


FLYNN, S. (2009) Obituary: John H. Marshall, Jr. (1931-2008). Mineralogical Record, 40, 99-100.
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The Mineralogical Record - John H.  Marshall John Marshall
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