George Faulkner McMurry, part I

Today’s post will be my first look into the life story of George Faulkner McMurry, one of the two brothers adopted by James Miller McMurry and his wife Grace Aitken. My cousin Crystal turned me on to this story, and if you haven’t read her post on George, you should go read it now!

Crystal learned that George and his brother Douglas survived a shipwreck that killed their parents. The brothers were then adopted by James and Grace McMurry in Port Townsend, Washington. She also learned that George was married briefly, and that he was murdered in San Francisco in June, 1945. All tantalizing stuff!

In addition to this story having a lot to recommend it on its own, I suspect that the story of George and his brother may shed light on Grace Aitken’s family in New York, and that it may help explain why widower James McMurry moved in his later years to Sutter County, California, where he apparently had no family. Continue reading

Luke McMurry and the University of Illinois

The Elephant, 1870Luke Robinson McMurry was a well-travelled and multifaceted person who had his fingers in a great many pies, as I continue to learn. I’ve noted elsewhere his childhood journey overland from Kentucky to Indiana, his migration to Illinois after marrying Elizabeth Miller, his appointment to the Executive Committee of the Agricultural Society of Effingham Countyhis wholesale millinery and straw goods business in Chicago, his founding of a narrow-gauge railroad in Effingham, Illinois, in 1867, his mysterious departure to Arkansas with his family, and his journey to the Washington territory with his sons several years after his wife died.

Thanks to an unexpected find—an entry for Luke in the University of Illinois’ 1916 publication, University of Illinois Directory: Listing the 35,000 Persons who have ever been Connected with the Urbana-Champaign Departments including Officers of Instruction and Administration and 1397 DeceasedI’ve recently learned of another enterprise he was involved in—the founding of the University of Illinois. In this volume, I found Luke’s name enumerated as a Trustee of the University of Illinois from 1867 to 1873:

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Why Nampa?

map-idaho-nampaThis is a post that’s been sitting on the back shelf for over a year, as I’ve been hoping to uncover more details before posting the story. I’ve made some headway, but not as much as I’d like, so I’m putting this post out there today in hopes that some McMurry or Chilson relative will be able to fill in some of the missing details.

I recently learned that my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, lived in Nampa, Idaho, when she was very young. She never mentioned this to me while she was alive, and I had never heard about her or her parents living in Idaho before. I knew that her grandfather, Arthur Webster McMurry in Nampa, Idado, on November 17, 1917, after moving there in December, 1916. Arthur’s daughter (and my grandmother’s aunt) Maud “May” Belle (McMurry) Jeglum was living a few miles south in Bowmont at the time of the 1920 census, having moved there with her husband and three children at some point after 1914.

The evidence for my grandmother having lived in Nampa comes from two sources. First is this short mention published on page 6 of the Friday, December 20, 1918, edition of the Olympia Daily Recorder:

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Who was Anora Lee Horan Prettyman?

In my previous post, I concluded that my 3rd-great-grandmother Anna/Annie Horan and Anora Lee Prettyman (the wife of my 3rd-great-uncle Francis M Prettyman) were the same person. In this post, I’d like to present what I know about who Anora Lee was and where she came from. I’ll focus here on her pre-marriage years, as I’ve already written a bit on what she did once she got married and had kids.

Anora (aka “Anna”, “Annie”, and “Anny”) Lee was born in Wayne Township, Randolph County, Indiana. Modern Wayne Township has a population of 4,611, and includes the western two-thirds of Union City, as well as the small towns of Harrisville and South Salem. Wayne township used to be the location of five towns: Bartonia, Harrisville, Randolph, Salem, and Union City. Randolph ceased being a town before 1850 according to the History of Randolph County, Indiana.

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An old coffee grinder

Overview of box millIn the 1970’s, my parents were given a number of antiques from my paternal grandfather’s side of the family. These were said to be old objects from the sod house that my adoptive great-great-grandparents, Lewis J. Black (1839–1901) and his wife Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black (1841–1915), built in Jewell County, Kansas. My grandparents made a trip back to that area in the 1970s with their motorhome and came back with these and other items.

I’d like to take a closer look at these items to see what I can learn about their origins and history. The items include a coffee grinder (the subject of the current post), a chopping knife or ulu, a coin purse, a rocking chair, a kerosene lamp, and two pendulum clocks—a schoolhouse regulator style clock, and and a tabletop style clock. They’re all in rather poor condition and would have almost no value as antiques, but to me, they’re priceless.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 4

P1000912I spent a fair part of the day today talking with a conservator about evaluating and treating the two paintings that my cousin Carole McMurry let me borrow for a year to research and conserve (introduced in parts one, two and three of this series). It’s usually quite an enriching experience talking with a conservator, and today was no exception. In just a few short hours I learned several key facts about the two paintings:

  • The paintings had almost certainly never been rolled to make them easier to transport;
  • The paintings were almost certainly not restretched onto their current stretcher bars;
  • The canvases were almost certainly bought already stretched and primed (rather than being stretched and primed by the artist);
  • The paintings were almost certainly painted while the canvases were on their current stretcher bars;
  • The paintings appear more consistent with having been painted in the 1880s than in the 1860s to mid-1870s, as I had expected;
  • The style of the paintings was described as American Folk, but a sophisticated type of American Folk that indicates the painter may have received formal training at some point.

These observations about the paintings, when combined with the fact that the woman alleged to have painted them—Elizabeth Miller McMurry—died in 1876, bring into question the true identity of the painter.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 3

P1000926In part one and part two of this post, I introduced and discussed a trio of oil paintings that I had last seen back in the 1990s. These paintings were reportedly done by my great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller McMurry, who died near Carlisle, Arkansas, on February 6, 1876, when she was only 47 years old. I was told by my first cousin twice removed, Art McMurry, the owner of the paintings at that time, that they were painted by Elizabeth while she and her husband were traveling west by wagon. If that were indeed the case, then these canvases would have been painted at some point between Elizabeth and Luke’s marriage in 1851 and Elizabeth’s death in 1876.

Last month I traveled to Olympia, Washington, to see my father and do some family history research. Thanks to the help of my cousin Crystal (Art’s great-granddaughter), a fellow family historian, I was able to locate and visit two of the three paintings. These two—the pastoral scene and the still life with flowers—were in the home of Crystal’s grandmother Carole (Art’s daughter). The last time I had viewed the paintings, the rain had prevented me from being able to take good photos of the paintings. For the five days I had been in Washington before meeting with Crystal and Carole, the weather had been mild and clear. On the day I was to meet Crystal and drive out to her grandmother’s house, the sky opened up and we had torrential rain as well as thunder and lightening; even the locals were surprised by the volume of the downpour.

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Thanks for the dandelions, Dr. Prettyman

Bierstadt_Albert_Oregon_TrailToday’s post is about Dr. Perry Elgin Prettyman, the brother of my 4th-great-grandfather, and the uncle of Alfred Wharton Prettyman, the subject of a recent post. Perry was, by all accounts, an intelligent and hard-working man. Among other things, he was a medical doctor who specialized in herbal medicine, a pioneer, and an inventor. He was also the man who was quite possibly single-handedly responsible for introducing dandelions to the Pacific Northwest. More on that later.

Perry Prettyman, like two centuries of Prettymans before him, was born in Sussex County, Delaware. He was born on March 20, 1796, in Georgetown, Delaware, to Thomas and Mary Prettyman. He married Elizabeth Hammond Vessels in Georgetown on October 23, 1824. A couple of years later, in 1828, he began studying medicine at the Botanic Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Perry and some of his siblings, for whatever reason, made the decision to leave Delaware and head west to seek their futures. His brother Robert headed to westernmost Virginia (now West Virginia), and another brother headed to Chicago. Perry arrived in Missouri in 1839, and stayed there for eight years. On May 7, 1847, he and his family started west again, traveling by wagon over the Oregon Trail to the Oregon Territory, a journey that took them five months and three days to complete.

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Francis Gores (1826–1899)

Prussia_1854_thaler_Sincona_4-04335At the age of 27, in the spring of 1854, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Francis “Frank” Gores (born Franciscus Gores), left his native homeland in the Kingdom of Prussia (or Königreich Preußen) with two of his siblings—Johann, aged 29, and Maria, aged 25. Francis was noted to be a farmer, and his brother Johann was recorded as being a butcher. They were leaving Schönecken, a small market town in Rhenish Prussia (in what is now the Rhineland-Palatinate on the western edge of Germany), home to the Gores family for many generations prior to them.

The village of Schönecken is located in the valley of the Nims river, which meanders through the hilly landscape of the Rhineland-Palatinate. The 400-million-year-old sandstone bedrock that forms the hills produces rich soils for agriculture. The population today is essentially the same as it was in 1854—about 1500 people.

I do not yet know why the three siblings decided to give up their lives in Europe and head to the United States, but one contributing factor may have been the famine that struck much of Europe due to repeated crop failures that began in 1846–1847, most notably potato rot. Land prices were also rising at a pace that exceeded the profitability of farming the land; if a farmer sold his land, however, he could easily afford to relocate his entire family to the United States.

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Alfred Wharton Prettyman (1823–1892)

My 3rd-great-grandfather, Alfred Wharton Prettyman, was the man responsible for bringing the Prettyman family to Minnesota. I haven’t yet written a post about Alfred W. Prettyman, so this will be an overview of his life, to be built upon in future posts.

By the time of Alfred’s birth, seven generations of his Prettyman ancestors had lived their lives on the Delmarva peninsula. The immigrant John Prettyman moved to the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1643 (he actually immigrated from England a few years earlier, first settling on the the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay 1638, in St. Mary’s, Maryland). While the immigrant John died in the Virginia portion of the Delmarva peninsula, his son John and his descendants have lived in and around Sussex County, Delaware, ever since. In fact, this year marks 370 years that Prettymans have lived in Delaware, and 375 years that Prettymans have been in North America.

Alfred Wharton Prettyman was born in Georgetown, Sussex County, Delaware, on December 1, 1823, to Robert Prettyman (1800–1863) and Elizabeth (Pepper) Prettyman (1803–1837). While Alfred would be the last Prettyman of his line to be born in Delaware, it was actually Alfred’s father, Robert Prettyman, who first broke tradition and departed the Prettyman’s ancestral stomping grounds in Delaware for the wilds of West Virginia (then just the western portion of Virginia). According to Edgar Cannon Prettyman’s 1968 work, The Prettyman Family in England and America, 1361–1968, Robert lived most of his life in Woodsfield, Ohio. Woodsfield is just about 15 miles to the west of the Ohio River and the West Virginia border.

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