This series of posts will provide a chronological overview of the life of my father, Keith Black (1942–2016), who passed away on March 8, 2016. My aim in this first installment is to give an overview of his first seven years, from his birth and early childhood in Washington state to his entering elementary school after his family moved to Santa Barbara, California.
If you have any stories to share about my father, whether privately or stories I could share publicly, I would be grateful. Please do so by leaving a comment below (comments stay private until I publish them).
Details on my father’s memorial service will be posted here in the coming weeks.
You can also sign Keith’s guestbook and see his obituary here.
I’m writing a series of posts on the chapters of my father’s life. Links to these are below. One thing I’m realizing as I write these is that I know little or nothing about large chunks of my father’s life. If you’d like to share any memories or stories to help fill holes in my father’s story, whether privately or for inclusion in a biographical post, please do so by leaving a comment below.
Luke 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 County, his 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 Deceased—I’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:
In the first post of this series, I presented a mystery—two photos of an older man that had alternately been confidently identified as both Arthur Webster McMurry (1854–1917) and his father Luke Robinson McMurry (1825–1913). At the end of that post, I was still not sure who the man really was, but was leaning towards him being Luke McMurry.
Right after I published the post, a couple of inconsistencies became apparent that now make me fairly certain that the mystery man is indeed Luke R. McMurry.
Until last week, I thought I knew what my great-great-grandfather Arthur Webster McMurry (1854–1917) looked like throughout his life. But then Katy McMurry showed me a photo that I could have sworn was of Arthur W. McMurry later in his life, relaxing in a rocking chair.
There was one problem, however—Katy said that this person wasn’t identified as Arthur W. McMurry, but rather was his father. According to Katy, my great-grandfather Frank Ross McMurry (Arthur W. McMurry’s son) identified the photo as being of his grandfather Luke Robinson McMurry (1825–1913), not of his father Arthur. Well, dang.
My grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry, told me that her father, Frank Ross McMurry (1886–1949) was among other things a merchant. His 1912 marriage certificate lists his occupation as merchant, and his obituary in The Olympian from March 13, 1949, also notes that he was a merchant. Until last week, though, that was the extent of my knowledge of his early profession.
Last week, I was contacted by Katy McMurry, the wife of Glenn McMurry (nephew of my grandmother and grandson of Frank Ross McMurry). It turns out that Katy and Glenn have inherited much of the McMurry tangible heritage, and she was more than happy to show me what they’ve got.
Among the photos that she’s got are at least a couple of Frank Ross McMurry’s store, which was apparently in Prince George, British Columbia.
I’d like to wish all of my family, old and new, near and far, a wonderful Easter and happiness throughout the Spring.
Because I couldn’t find any vintage Easter-related photos that I haven’t already used (I went a little overboard with last year’s Easter post), I’ll leave you with a few Easter photos of me, my sister Jill, my mother Polly, my father Keith, my uncle Gary, my grandmother Dorothy McMurry Black and my grandfather Vernon C. Black taken by by father at my grandparents’ home at 13846 Hamlin Street, in Van Nuys, California, on Easter Sunday, April 11, 1971.