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.
When and why did Frank Ross McMurry move to Prince George?
Frank was born in Olympia, Thurston County, Washington, on February 15, 1886, to Arthur Webster McMurry and Harriet Hoyt Chilson, who had just moved to Thurston County from Arkansas (after they moved from their native Illinois). He lived in Thurston County until at least 1900, and was married to Lucinda Tracey Bailey in Olympia in 1912. By 1914, he was living in Prince George, as his son Frank Bailey McMurry was born there on March 4, 1914.
|1887-08-01||Thurston co., WA||WA census|
|1889-08||Thurston co., WA||WA census|
|1900-06-18||Tumwater, WA||US census|
|1912-08-14||Olympia, WA||marriage to Lucinda Tracey Bailey|
|1914-03-02||Fort George, Canada||birth of son Frank Bailey|
|1917-04-26||Olympia, WA||birth of daughter Dorothy Ruth|
|1918-09-12||Melba, ID||draft registration|
|1918-12||Nampa, ID||living there|
|1918-12-20||Olympia, WA||moved back|
|1919-02-21||Olympia, WA||birth of daughter Kathryn Harriet|
|1920-01-07||Tumwater, WA||US census|
|1927-11-24||Olympia, WA||land purchase|
|1930-03-18||Olympia, WA||US census|
|1935||Olympia, WA||US census|
|1940-04||Olympia, WA||US census|
|1942||Olympia, WA||draft registration|
|1949-03-11||Santa Barbara, CA||death|
From the table above of Frank’s known places and dates of residence, there seem to be two possible windows of time in which Frank may have moved to Prince George: between late 1900 and mid-1912, or between mid-1912 and early 1914. Perhaps the history of Prince George will help narrow down the period.
While the North West Company set up a fur trading post in the area later to be called Prince George in 1807, the settlement remained tiny until 1903 when the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad announced it would be coming through Prince George (then called Fort George) to connect it with Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast. The laying of track began in 1905 and the line was completed in 1913. With the completion of the railroad, the town grew rapidly. Prince George was incorporated as a city on March 6, 1915, and took its current name.
Given that the railroad wasn’t completed until 1913, it seems more likely that Frank and Lucinda moved to Prince George around 1913–1914. They could have taken the ferry from Port Townsend, WA (where his uncle James Miller McMurry lived and ran a photo studio and a drug store), to Vancouver, BC, and then taken a branch of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad from Vancouver to Prince George, as shown on the map above. It’s possible that at least Frank had come out in 1912 or earlier, as his occupation was listed as “merchant” on his 1912 marriage certificate, but I’ve found no evidence of that yet.
Where was Hood’s Limited?
From the photographer’s notation at the bottom of the photo above, it’s clear it’s in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. But where in Prince George? This newspaper item from January 13th, 1916, on page 3 of The Daily Colonist gives several clues:
Fire in Prince George
Business Section of City Is Visited Second Time Within Week—Several Buildings Destroyed
Prince George, B.C., Jan. 12— For the second time within a week fire last night wiped out part of the business section of the city.
The blaze started at midnight in the basement of Hood’s Limited, the city’s largest mercantile establishment, and spread both ways, destroying every building on the east side of George Street between Third and Fourth Avenue. The buildings destroyed include Hood’s Ltd., grocery and hardware; the Conservative club rooms, P. E. Wilson’s law office. J. T. Armstrong’s realty office and one restaurant, two fur stores, J. P. Robertson’s men’s furnishings store, Frank McArthur’s dry-goods store, and the Herald Printing office.
The greater part of the contents of all except Hood’s Ltd., and the Herald office were saved. The loss is estimated at between $20,000 and $30,000 with insurance to the extent of about half. The pump of the fire engine went out of commission and it was the hard work of the men that saved adjoining buildings.
Just after I wrote the above section, Katy sent me another photograph (below), this one annotated by Frank R. McMurry himself. On the back, he wrote “Ft. George, our house and store. Frasier River.” Frank indicated two buildings on the photo above with black arrows, and specified that the river was the Frasier River. I’d guess the the building on the right was the store (as it’s the larger of the two and is in a commercial district), and the building on the left was their home (smaller, and looks to be in a residential area).
From what I can tell, this is a photo of the early settlement of South Fort George, which was erected in 1909 in a bid to have the railroad choose to build its station there instead of Fort George or Central Fort George. When the railroad decided to build its station on the Indian Reserve, the settlement of South Fort George waned. According to the Wikipedia entry for South Fort George:
By 1913, South Fort George had a population of 1,500 residents, but by the fall of 1914, it was down to less than 1,000. Part of the reason for its decline was the construction of Prince George. Several of the South Fort George business had moved to better locations along George Street in the new town.
Another of the images that Katy McMurry sent me is captioned “Laying the foundation of the store” (below). I’d guess that this initial, smaller incarnation of the store was located in the South Fort George location, and the photo at the top of the story is the later store on George Street (the one that burned down in early 1916).
What kinds of things were sold at Hood’s Limited?
According to the 1916 article about the fire (above), Hood’s Limited was both a grocery store and a hardware store. The Exploration Place at the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum has a photo of the interior of the grocery, dated 1915 (before the fire destroyed it in early 1916). The resolution of the photo is too low to be able to know with certainty whether any of the men in the photo are Frank McMurry himself.
Why was it called Hoods Limited and not McMurry Merchantile?
My first thought was that Frank was just a partner in this enterprise, and probably not the principal partner (whom I’d guess would be Mr. Hood). There were four people posing in the photo (further above) showing the laying of the foundations of the store; perhaps these were the partners? I found a mention in the contemporary press of another fellow associated with Hoods:
1915-07-24: Prince George Post (page 1):
Mr. J. R. Bradley, of Hood’s Limited, was understood to have been a candidate, but did not put in papers.
The 1911 Canadian census for the area that includes South Fort George (enumeration sub-district 8: Cariboo and South Fort George) is only 13 pages long; perhaps the names and occupations listed there will give us some clues about Frank’s business partners. Unfortunately, I found no people named Hood (and none named McMurry or Bradley, for that matter). There were several stores listed, but no names that looked familiar.
If you have any images of or information about Fort George, Hood’s Limited, or the McMurry’s involvement with either, please let me know in the comments section below.