Concise History of the Mashburn Family

Water Alum

Water Alum

by Steve Allen Mashburn

Mashburn is a family of the southeast United States where the majority of its members can still be found (1940 Federal Census).

Despite several sources citing the meaning of the name as “he who dwells on the marsh stream,” the true meaning of the name is “the stream where the water arum grows.”

The name “Misseburne” first appeared in 1407 as the name of a river in Buckinghamshire, England. It derives from the Old English roots mysse (the water arum, a form of water lily) and bourne (an intermittent stream that flows over porous chalk (Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names).

The nearby villages of Great Missendene and Little Missendene (denu is the Old English names for valley) were listed in the 1086 Doomsday Book. In 1300 the title of the manor of Great Missendene was awarded to one Thomas who took the last name Missendene but there is no evidence that the Mashburns were descended from that landed gentry.

More likely, the family migrated to Brackley, Northampshire County (30 miles north) in the early 1500’s and became known as the “people from the Misbourne.”

In the 1400’s, the Brackley parish books show the surname spelled as Mishborne but Mashborne was in regular use a century later. The evolution of the spelling of surname is explained by the Great Vowel Shift. This shift, which is still not completely understood by scholars, was a series of changes in the pronunciation of English words that took place between 1400 and 1700.

Several Mashburns served as mayors and councilmen in Brackley. A son of Matthew Mashborne,  Samuel Mashborne, a student at Oxford, was killed in 1666 when lightning struck his boat while on a outing with his college friends. He was the first person to received a brain autopsy which was done late at night to avoid the ire of the public.

The Mashburn surname disappeared from England during the 1800’s but flourished in America though the descendants of Edward Mashborne who was born in 1676 in St. Giles-in-the-fields, London. He was the son of Edward Mashborne, Sr. and Sarah Sindery but was raised by his stepmother Elizabeth Nash Mashburn who may have been a dame school mistress on Dogwell Court in Whitefriars. In 1698, Edward migrated to North Carolina where he became the colony’s second known schoolmaster (Letterbooks of the SPGFP).

The two events may not be connected, but shortly before or after his move to America, his step-mother Elizabeth married Edward Lloyd, the owner of a coffee-house that was frequented by insurance brokers. The establishment later became the famous Lloyd’s of London (British National Dictionary).

Edward’s American descendants adapted the current spelling, “Mashburn.” They may be divided into two main groups: (1) the Western Branch who travelled across North Carolina and on into north Georgia and the other southern states, and (2) the Onslow County Branch who settled on the coast of North Carolina and then to south Georgia and then into the other southern states. Some of the family that remained in Onslow County began using the “Marshburn” spelling in the 1800’s probably as result of local dialect (Federal Census Records).

One of the oldest family reunions in America is held by the Florida descendants of the Onslow Branch who commemorate the return of Richard B. Mashburn from the hands of Union soldiers who imprisoned him in 1864 (recognized in the 1988 Congressional Record).

Other notable Mashburns include:

  • Joseph Marshburn – professor of English, University of Oklahoma, expert in the English Renaissance and witchcraft.
  • Joe Mashburn – Dean of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston.
  • Thomas Marshburn – American physician and NASA astronaut.
  • Sid Mashburn – nationally famous clothier in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Harold Mashburn – Major General, Marine Corps.
  • Brian Mashburn – guitarist and vocalist in the ska band Save Ferris.
  • Deborah Mashburn – timpanist with Dallas Opera, Ft. Worth Symphony.
  • John B. Mashburn – named as one of the nation’s top 50 School Band Directors.
  • Jack Mashburn – State Representative who desegregated Florida’s beaches in 1953.
  • John Mashburn – policy director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Bob Mashburn – heavy-weight boxer, won 8 (KO 5) + lost 11 (KO 7) + drawn 2.
  • Jamal Mashburn – American professional basketball player and son of Bob Mashburn.
  • Gary Mashburn – world record skier.
  • Jesse Mashburn – winner of gold medal in 4×400 meter relay at the 1956 Summer Olympics.
  • Many teachers and ministers.

Copyright 2020 by Steve Allen Mashburn.