Friday, June 13, 2014

J. L. Murray, 1854-1951


One of the things John Lewis Murray will be remembered for is a long life. He was born in Fredricktown, Madison, Missouri on 13 June 1854. He was the oldest son of the seven sons of Bennett and Olive Wood Murray. On 10 August 1878 he married Esther E. Thornton in Dent County, Missouri.
Of her grandfather, Betty Locke said, "Grandpa in his early years had a trait that some of the Murrays I later knew also had. They loved to trade. To buy and sell was all right, but nothing was quite as good as making a trade. I suppose always trying to get the best of the deal was a challenge." Needless to say, the family moved around as he bought and sold homes and businesses. Given his many pursuits, he must have been resourceful and versatile, with a sense of adventure and an innate optimism that allowed him to continue to plan and dream.

Betty said, "In Missouri, Grandpa owned a livery stable. He was never a farmer, always a business man. When he bought the livery stable, that was the end of his buying and selling. Once on the way home from traveling, Mother (Leta) stopped off in Willow Springs to visit old friends. She said as the train was coming to town, it passed an old building being torn down. It had been attached to another old building. On the outside wall of the standing building, in very faded painted letters were the words J. L. Murray, Livery Stable."


John and Esther had three daughters who survived to adulthood--Leta, born in 1881 in Salem, Dent, Missouri; Lota, born in 1885 in Fort Worth, Tarrant, Texas; and Nelle, born in 1887 in Alvarado, Johnson, Texas. Three other children did not live past childhood. William, the boy on the 1880 census, was nicknamed Willie according to his sister, Nelle. Mollie does not show on a public record, but was mentioned by Nelle, who thought she was buried next to her mother, Esther in Willow Springs, Howell, Missouri. There is no stone there for her, but Jonnie is buried there. His stone is broken and lying on the ground (2014). In February of 1890, with the birth of Jonnie, Esther also died. John, a father of three little girls, then married America Lovan on June 25th of the same year at Willow Springs. Mec, as she was called, belonged to a large Willow Springs family. Leta always said she was good to the three girls and saw they had the things girls want and need. In 1901 they adopted Fred, who was born in Willow Springs that same year.

Leta remembered going with her father on one of his ventures. He was restoring a house, and her job was to cook for him. He had biscuits and gravy every morning, and she hated making the biscuits. She said she would go to the market and get a pinch of beef and a pinch of sausage to make the gravy. She also remembered being in the back of a wagon when she was small and watching him talk to the others while they were traveling to Texas on a wagon train. Most of the time the family lived in Willow Springs, but Lota and Nelle were both born in Texas.

On the 1900 census, the family was living in Douglas County, Missouri, and John was trying his hand at farming. His brother, Ora, was living with them at the time. By 1906, John L. and America had made the move to Tacoma, Pierce, Washington; where his daughter, Leta lived with her family. He ran a real estate and employment office for a time. At Tacoma, on 6 December 1909, John and America had a baby boy who was stillborn. Harold Lewis Murray, John's last and America's only biological child was born on 30 January 1911 in Tacoma. The family is listed in Tacoma, Pierce, Washington on the 1910 census. He listed his occupation as being a carpenter for the railway. Fred and Harold were both living at home with them.


John L. owned a drayage business for a time. According to Dale Boucher, it was the Northern Pacific Transfer and Livery Stable, and it was located in downtown Everett across the street from the city hall, and next door to the fire department. Dale remembered that the fire engines were pulled by horses and he and his brother Russell "got quite a kick out of watching the horses exercise. They were all big dappled grey percherons and they were turned out to exercise twice a day. They were just turned loose by themselves and would make a trip around the block and back to the fire hall. They had a small dog who went with them and rode on the big rump of one of the horses. Granddad's livery drays would meet the passenger boats down at the public dock to pick up freight." He was in Everett on the 1920 census, and listed his occupation as carpenter for the railway.

Betty remembered, "I don't think Grandpa and Grandma lived in Tacoma very long. They moved on to Seattle and Grandpa bought a grocery store. He made a comfortable living, but then was talked into selling the store and putting the money into an old apartment house. At that time he must have been almost seventy and would take advice from no one. He bought it; or rather put all of his money into the apartment house. Grandpa didn't have it very long until he was swindled out of everything. I remember that apartment house well. I must have been about four years old. We were living in Spokane and had gone to Seattle to visit. Grandpa and Grandma had a small apartment and so our family slept in one of the vacant apartments. Mother and I were together. During the night something kept bothering us. Finally Mother turned on the lights to see what was wrong. The bed was alive with little bed bugs. They scurried in all directions. I don't think I will ever forget it. We immediately packed and left for home.” 

Betty continued, "After Grandpa lost everything, Mother went to Seattle and moved them to Spokane where we were living. She found them a place to live near us. I always knew him as an old, old man." In 1930, Fred was a widower with a one year old child, and he was living at home with his parents. They probably helped him with baby Fred. By 1940, it was just John and America in the home. John Lewis Murray died at the age of ninety-six years, nine months, and four days on 17 March 1951. America married a second time to Harry Allen. She died shortly after, on 14 May 1954. Both are buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Spokane, Spokane, Washington.

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