Marshall Museum Remembers 1870's Barrymore Shooting - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/15/08-Longview

Marshall Museum Remembers 1870's Barrymore Shooting

English actor Herbert Blythe and his future generations might not have become giants in the acting industry if his traveling theater hadn't performed in Marshall in 1879.

"Marshall was known as a cultural oasis. It had all kinds of theaters here.  The most distinguished theater was the Mahone Opera House" said Marshall historian Claire Evans.

Evans has painstakingly researched Blythe's story.

"It's well known in Marshall.  People have heard about it for years, and there are various stories that go around" she said.

On that night in 1879 while waiting for a train to the next town, a railroad worker named Jim Currie insulted a female member of Blythe's cast. In defending her honor, Blythe and fellow actor Ben Porter were shot.

"Blythe was hit in the shoulder and ran out the door. Porter was hit in the stomach and died 40 minutes later in the hotel" Evans said.

Blythe survived, and Curries trial made national news. It also made Blythe a household name.

"He was fairly well known, but this incident really helped his popularity" Evans said.

Amazingly Currie was acquitted, and newspapers around the country voiced their outrage.

"Currie was found innocent by reason of insanity, and the verdict infuriated the nation.  They thought we were ruffians here and outlaws," she said.

History knows Blythe better as Maurice Barrymore, who spawned actors Ethyl, John , Lionel and his great-granddaughter Drew Barrymore. And it may not have happened without a shooting right here in East Texas.

Bob Hallmark, reporting. bhallmark@kltv.com

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