Originally known as Salem, the establishment of the village of Salem was granted in 1796. Surrounded by farms, the center of the village consisted of business owners such as wagon makers, saddlers, blacksmiths, and other mechanics who contributed to the local economy. In 1852 construction of the Manassas Gap Railroad reached Salem, turning the village into the commercial farming center for an expanded agricultural community.
Produce and livestock from the farms of Fauquier and surrounding counties were shipped from Marshall to eastern city markets. At the end of the Civil War in 1865 Colonel John S. Mosby disbanded his unit of cavalry, the 43rd Virginia Battalion, at Salem. In 1881 it was decided that the town's name would changed from Salem to Marshall, mostly spurred by the United States Post Office and their concerns with continuing confusion between Salem in Fauquier and Salem in Roanoke County.
The name of Marshall was in honor of the former Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall who owned a home in Fauquier County near the town. Today, Marshall remains a small rural community still surrounded by farms and the gently rolling land of the beautiful northern piedmont.