From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Marrs, Elijah P.

(born: Jan. 1840  -  died: Aug. 30, 1910) 

Elijah P. Marrs wrote an autobiography of his life as an  enslaved person in Shelby County, KY - Life and History of the Rev. Elijah P. Marrs [available on the University of North Carolina University Library's Documenting the American South website].

Elijah Marrs was the son of Andrew Marrs, who was free, and Frances Marrs, who was enslaved, both from Virginia. Elijah, who learned to read and write, left the plantation to become a Union solider. After the war, he founded several churches and became the first African American school teacher in Simpsonville, KY. He also taught at the school in Lagrange and New Castle, KY, as well as the school held in a church in Braxton [Bracktown] in Lexington, KY.

Elijah and his brother, J. C. Marrs, are credited as co-founders of Simmons University. After four years, Elijah Marrs sold his interest in the development of the school in 1874.

While in Lagrange, Elijah Marrs was the first African American to become president of the Republican Club of Oldham County and established the first colored agriculture and mechanical fair for Simpson and Logan Counties [source: Ante-bellum free Negroes as race leaders in Virginia and Kentucky during Reconstruction (thesis), by C. B. King, pp. 116 & 134]. In New Castle  he established the Loyal League for the Protection of Negroes.

For more see Notable Black American Men, by J. C. Smith; Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1879-1930, by L. H. Williams; and the video, "An Unsung Hero: Elijah Marrs" at the Shelby County Historical Society website.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Marrs, Elijah P.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 23, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-07-18 17:40:40