Marsh Butcher

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THE MARSH FAMILY AND THEIR FOWL by Mr. Mark Marsh

First, I would like to thank Carl for asking me to write the May article. It is indeed an honor to be asked and I hope some of you enjoy the article. I will be writing about my family's involvement with gamefowl for over 100 years, so I am sure I am leaving out a lot,but I have relied on memories from my father and grandfather as well as old magazines and personal notes from my ancestors. I am sure someone out there will disagree with some of the text because thay have heard or read a different version or story from some other authority, but remember that this is straight from the source.

THE PEOPLE:

  • Peter Marsh (1800's) - He was the first gamefowl breeder/cock fighter in the family. He bred and fought Whitehackles, Smokeballs, and Roundheads. Peter was not a big time fighter. He took part in small money mains and local tournaments. He became associated with George Green who was to become the father-in-law of Peter's son Phil Marsh I (1869-1945).
  • Phil (1869-1945) - is probably the best known of the Marsh Family as he became nationally known through his efforts in breeding and fighting gamefowl. It was Phil who made the Speeder bloodline and along with his son Bill, created the Butcher fowl. He operated a meat market in Fort Plain and the Butchers were named after his profession. Phil was considered to be a better breeder than conditioner and his son Bill was just the opposite. He prided himself on excellent physical condition and at the age of 70 could still kick higher than his head. Phil was an avid coon and fox hunter with hounds and took pride in his hound breeding also. He passed away after sustaining injuries brought on after being kicked in the kidney area by a cow in his slaughterhouse.
  • Bill Marsh (1894-1977) - Son of Phil I, fed and conditioned his first main alone at 13 years of age. Considered to be a better conditioner than breeder. When he and Phil fought at the Orlando Tournaments, he went down to Florida one month ahead of the tournament with the fowl. He did most if not all of the conditioning from the age 15 on. Bill fought roosters along the eastern U.S. from New York to Viginia. He worked most of his life as a cattle dealer and was a boot-legger during prohibition. Like his father he was an avid bird, coon, and fox hunter as well as an avid carp fisherman. In the 1950's Bill would occasionally fight using the name "Goodman".
  • Phil Marsh II (1918-1995) - Son of Bill and named for his grandfather, was not invloved with the fowl to the extent his father and grandfather were. Served as a captain in the Military Police in WWII and served in North Africa and Europe. Participated in the Anzio campaign and the Battle of the Bulge. He also served as an aid to General Mark Clark while serving in Italy. Phil worked as a truck driver most of his life.
  • Mark Marsh (1962-present) - Son of Phil II. Employed in law enforcement. Learned from Bill and Phil II. Started caring for fowl at four years of age. Like his ancestors he is an avid hunter and carp fisherman.

THE FOWL: While the Marsh's are known primarily for originating the Speeder and Butcher fowl, they have used other fowl, namely Boston Roundheads, Bergh Blue Muffs, Eagleheads, Smokeballs, Black Devils, Sid Taylor, and Brown-Reds Muffs.

Butchers: The Butchers are the result of a cross between Marsh Speeders and Groves Whitehackles in 1915 and by 1920 were set as a strain. Through selective breeding the Butchers come black-red with a straight comb, white and yellow legs, and have red, orange and lemon colored hackles. Additionally their breasts may have red flecks. About 5% of our Butchers will come spangled. The hens will come wheaton and partridge in color and about 1/3 will have spurs. The Butchers are known primarily as head and neck cutters as that is what is needed in short heel fighting, but they can and do cut very well to the body. In addition they are known as good side steppers.

Speeders: The Speeders were originated by Phil Marsh in 1890 and received the name "Speeder" on Decoration Day in 1900 at a main vs. Jim McHugo when McHugo remarked "ain't they speedy little devils." A sailor got two pair of fowl in the Dominican Republic and while returning to New York aboard ship one of the roosters was knocked overboard and lost while being sparred. The remaining rooster and two hens were brought to Fort Plain. These fowl came grey, blue and pyle in color with dark legs, balck eyes, and straight combs. Phil purchased a hen from Burnell Shelton of Mississippi. She had a rose comb, dark legs, and eyes. This hen was bred to one of the grey Dominican stags and the fowl from this mating came grey, blue-grey, and brown-red with dark legs and eyes. A few years later Phil purchased a blue-grey rooster from Earl Walrath of Fort Plain. This rooster was bred on the daughters of the first mating of the Shelton hen and Dominican stag. Through years of selective breeding the rose comb was eliminated. The Speeders come grey and brown-red with dark legs and eyes. They are known as excellent cutting fowl.

MYTHS:

1. White Butchers: Where did they come from? Of the thousands of Butchers that we have raised we never had a white Butcher. Occasionally a spangle would molt out about 75% white, but never completely white. In addition we have never had a peacomb or green legged Butcher as others claim they have.

2. Bill Marsh sold off his fowl: In the late 1960's and early 1970's due to advancing age Bill had to cut back to just a small number of brood and battle fowl. His son Phil was a trucker and Mark was too young to carry on by himself. Some fowl were sold, but most were given to friends such as Fred Moritz of Gowanda, NY, and Grey Erhardt, Harold Trumbull, and James Logan, all of Fort Plain, NY.

Cockers who have received fowl:

Most fighters of yesterday and today like to exchange fowl to improve their birds. Phil and Bill receive fowl from Hanky Dean, John Madigan, Dave Bergh and the hardy Brothers to name a few. The fowl from these men were bred and fought straight as well as crossed on the Butchers and Speeders, but Phil and Bill generally relied on their own breeding. Through the years, Phil and Mark have exchanged fowl with Fred Moritz, Greg Erhardt, John McKenna, and the brother combination of Tom Schweigen and Keith Schubert (Man O War entry). Some of the more noted breeders who have received fowl are Hanky Dean, John Madigin, Thomas Murphy, E. W. Law, W. C. Ledbetter, Maurice White, Carrol Bates, Al Jones, Sam Bingham, and Red Richardson.

Sources

  • Feathered Warrior; Oct. 2002


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