James McMurry’s letter to the “grands”

Today’s post is about a letter that James Miller McMurry wrote to his “Grands”—presumably his grandnephew Arthur (Art) and Art’s wife Ezelpha. I received a photocopy of this letter from my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry Black—Arthur’s first cousin. I saw the original letter in 1990 when visiting Art, and I’m hoping someone in the family still has this letter.

I hadn’t read this letter in over 25 years, and upon re-reading it I discovered a bounty of new information: I learned of another two relatives who fought in the Civil War, including one who possibly died at Shiloh. I realized that the recipient was my cousin Arthur Edgar McMurry, not my great-great-grandfather Arthur Webster McMurry. I learned a bit about James McMurry’s wife Grace Aitken and her life before she and James met. I learned a bit more about the timing of the McMurry’s move to Arkansas, and the location of their land there. I got a bit of description of the area around James’ last home, in Sutter County, California. I also learned a bit more about James’ adopted son and his latest sailing voyage. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading