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Alumni Feature 1

Edward Marsden, Class of 1895

Minister, Educator, Musician

Edward Marsden

Son of a Tsimpshean Indian chief, Edward Marsden was born in 1869 at a Christian colony in British Columbia. Eighteen years later, Tsimpshean members of the colony fled to Alaska to escape "British tyranny and ecclesiastical oppression." By the age of 19, Edward had composed Tsimpshean hymns, cantatas and oratorios and had applied himself not only to books but to mechanics and the trades, becoming skilled as a brick maker, carpenter, blacksmith, engineer, and machinist and licensed as a marine steam engineer and navigator.

Having come to the attention of John Eaton, Marietta College President and former U.S. Commissioner of Education, Edward entered Marietta College in 1891. He continued his education at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was ordained by the Presbytery of Athens before returning to Alaska to teach his people.

The Presbyterian Church sent Edward first to the village of Saxman. Later he started additional churches and missions in Ketchikan, Gravina, Loring, Metlakatlan, Chomley, Quadra, Moira Sound, and North Arm. These southeast Alaskan villages, accessible only by waterway, prompted Edward to build his own boats, including a steamboat he named The Marietta. In addition, he helped over 100 young men and women go on to further education in the States.

The Tsimpsheans of Metlakatlan, with Edward as their Presbyterian minister, built the "finest church in Alaska," dedicated and visited by President Harding in 1923. Marsden died in Ketchikan, Alaska, nine years later.