The following story of Tom's life and legacy was posted shortly after his death in 2019, and is reprinted with permission from The Friends of Auburn Heights website.
It is with deep sadness that we share news that our founder, mentor and dear friend Thomas C. Marshall Jr. (age 94) died February 12, 2019, after a long illness. It is notable that today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, one of his American heroes, and we cannot help but believe that Tom chose this historic date for his passing.
The son of the late T. Clarence and Esther Shallcross Marshall, he is survived by Ruth Pierson Marshall, his wife of 34½ years. In addition to being well known in Delaware as a philanthropist, historian and community leader, he was widely respected among antique car collectors all over North America as one of the world’s foremost authorities on Stanley Steamers.
Tom spent his first 84 years living in Yorklyn, Delaware, at Auburn Heights, the grand Victorian-era home built by his grandparents in 1897. He moved from Auburn Heights in 2008, when he and his wife, Ruth, donated it to the state of Delaware to become the centerpiece of Auburn Valley State Park. The approximately 360-acre park consists of open space donated by Tom and his cousin, Eleanor Marshall Reynolds, as well as adjacent properties of the former NVF Company purchased by the state after NVF went out of business. Although he no longer lived at Auburn Heights after 2008, Tom remained active in his role as Founding Director of the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve, and he could be found working in the museum and workshops at Auburn Heights on a daily basis well into his 90s.
After graduating from Wilmington Friends School in 1941, Tom attended Mercersburg Academy for a year before going on to M.I.T. in 1942-43. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942-46 as a weather forecaster in New Mexico and then as an aerial weather observer on a B-24 flight crew in the Western Pacific. It was while in this capacity that he had the privilege of flying low over the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor on the day after the surrender ceremony on that ship brought an official end to World War II.
Tom’s business career focused on tourism and travel in northern Delaware. He founded and operated a travel agency from 1949-63, Marshall & Burton Travel Associates (later to become Marshall & Greenplate). He opened the first of his two Holiday Inns in Wilmington in 1961 and operated them for 36 years.
Tom’s greatest impact on the Wilmington community came from his non-profit and philanthropic activities. He was long active in historic preservation and public recreation efforts in the area. Perhaps his signal achievement was the founding of the Wilmington & Western (hereafter W&W) Railroad, the historic rail line whose steam trains have carried visitors through Tom’s beloved Red Clay Valley since the summer of 1966.
He served as the W&W's first President and General Manager from 1960 through 1971, and he remained active as a volunteer and Board member for many years thereafter. Whether it was negotiating with the B&O Railroad for rights to operate over their branch line, restoring and operating a 1910 steam locomotive, or cleaning the public restrooms at the Greenbank Station, Tom did it all with dedication, hard work and good cheer.
Tom and his father, Clarence, shared a lifelong interest in steam technology, whether on the rails, in the family's manufacturing plants, or on the road. Clarence served as the sales agent for the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. – “Stanley Steamers” – from 1910 to 1920, and he began collecting, restoring and operating them in 1940, a hobby that would last throughout his life and which Tom would embrace enthusiastically.
The Marshalls' assemblage of Stanley steam cars would come to be recognized as the world’s definitive collection. Tom worked tirelessly to restore and maintain the cars, and he loved to drive them on trips both long and short. He steamed his 1912 30-horsepower Stanley touring car on four transcontinental tours, the longest of which was an 8,328-mile trip from Yorklyn to Montreal, Canada, and Tijuana, Mexico, and return in 1972 – very likely the longest single trip ever made in a Stanley Steamer.
In the late 1990s, Tom was looking for a way to share his love of antique cars and steam trains with a new generation, so he presented a series of talks and workshops on steam car technology at Auburn Heights. The group attending these gatherings became known as the "Marshall Steam Team" and evolved into the non-profit Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve in 2004. Tom donated his collection of antique cars, trains and other collectibles to the Friends, whose 80+ volunteers still maintain and operate the cars and miniature steam railroad for the public to enjoy at Auburn Heights.
Trapshooting was also a great interest during Tom's early years. He won nine Delaware State Trapshooting championships between 1939 and 1950 and was runner-up in the Amateur Trapshooting Championship of America at the New York Athletic Club in1948. He also served in several posts with regional and national trapshooting organizations during these years.
Tom was active with local Quaker organizations, serving in several positions with the Hockessin Friends Meeting and the Friends Home in Kennett Square for more than 50 years, 1953-2004. He also served on the boards of many other philanthropic and non-profit groups, including Mercersburg Academy, Historic Red Clay Valley, the Friends of Old Drawyers and the Red Clay Valley Association.