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Alvin Marsh

Alvin Marsh

Alvin Marsh

6th Colorado Attorney General
Term: 1887-1888

               Republican Alvin Marsh was elected Attorney General in the November election of 1886 and served one term in 1887 and 1888. Marsh was born in Ontario, Canada in October 1834 and moved to Illinois in 1851. He was admitted to the bar in 1855 and set up a lucrative practice in Aurora, Illinois. He moved to Colorado in 1860, making the journey in a wagon train in the company of General John Thayer, who subsequently served as Governor and U. S. Senator in Nebraska. Marsh settled in Gilpin County where he served one term as Mayor of Black Hawk and two terms as Mayor of Central City. He was twice elected to the territorial legislature and chosen Speaker of the House in 1872. He was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1875. In 1876 he was elected chairman of the first Republican State Convention.

In his Biennial Report to Colorado Governor Alva Adams at the conclusion of his term as Attorney General, Marsh outlined his accomplishments and his concerns. Marsh reported on 32 cases he handled before the state’s Supreme Court involving writs of quo warranto and mandamus and involving criminal cases ranging from murder to misdemeanors. He also reported on difficult irrigation related issues that arose due to “the unprecedented low stage of water running in the natural streams of the state during the summer season of 1888.” He called upon the General Assembly to make a legislative declaration of the meaning of the term “domestic purposes,” as it pertained to water law, so as to avoid future “embarrassing” confrontations.

               Marsh indicated in his report that a large portion of his time was taken up defending the state’s interests in its coal lands. Private interests were challenging the state’s title to the lands because they were not known to contain coal at the time they were granted to Colorado by the federal government. Marsh successfully defended the state’s interest in these lands. Marsh also complained about the requirement to spend so much time advising local governments even though he had no legal obligation to do so. He also alleged the state’s “revenue laws are defective” and “county assessors in some counties are grievously remiss in their duties,” resulting in the failure to attain an equalization of property values throughout the state.

               Finally, Marsh complained that he was overworked and underpaid. He couldn’t attend all the meetings of boards he was required to be a member of and still attend to all the cases he was required to prepare. He needed more legal assistance and also suggested the Attorney General’s pay be raised from two thousand to four or five thousand per term.[1]

               In 1891, Colorado Governor John Routt appointed Marsh as District Court Judge in Arapahoe County. After one term he returned to private practice. Marsh and his wife Annie had five children, but all of them died in childhood.


[1] Biennial Report of the Attorney General for 1887-1888, Colorado State Archives.