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.

This won’t be a full biography of George, but rather an exploration of a few documents I’ve recently found that advance our understanding of George a bit. The first document I’d like to present is George Faulker McMurry’s Petition for Naturalization and its accompanying documentation:

It was interesting just discovering that this Petition for Naturalization exists, as George had previously stated that he was a U.S. citizen who had been born in New York City.

From his Petition for Naturalization, we finally learn the truth: George Faulkner McMurry was born on September 14, 1899, on the island of Curaçao in the Dutch West Indies. And he claimed that his full name at birth was George Talbot Faulkner (although as I’ll show below, this wasn’t completely accurate). He also stated that he was a British citizen by virtue of the nationality of his father’s mother.

George was 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 160 pounds, had blue eyes and brown hair, and had tattoos on both arms.

He also stated that he had gotten married to Fay O’Connor of Colorado on March 5, 1928, in San Francisco, California, but that they had since divorced.

According to the attached Form N-400, “Supplement Re Service On American Ships,” between May, 1918, and November 1943, George worked on at least 15 American ships that were over 20 tons, serving on at least 18 voyages on these ships, for a total of 7 years, 5 months, and 20 days at sea over that 25-year period. He may have been at sea even longer if he worked on any smaller ships or non-American ships.

George’s Petition for Naturalization was dated February 25, 1944. Why did he seek formal naturalization when he was nearly 45 years old, and not earlier? I suspect it had to do with World War II and an increased scrutiny being put on the citizenship of those serving on ocean-going vessels, but this is just a hunch.

According to the Petition for Naturalization, George emigrated to the United States in May, 1900, when he was only 8 months old. The ship he was on was the “G.B. Lockhart.” This is the ship that would later sink with George and his family aboard, taking the lives of his parents.

Now that we know that George was born in what was then called The Colony of Curaçao and Dependencies, a Dutch colony from 1845 to 1936, we can turn to the wonderfully organized, accessible, free, and mostly bilingual archives of the Netherlands, wiewaswie.nl. Sure enough, since George was born on Dutch soil, the Dutch have a record of his birth. And not just one record, but two records—one for when he was born with both of his parents’ names, and one registered 3½ months after his birth with just his father’s name and a statement that the father is aged over 50 years.

First birth record for George (click here for full record):

Child’s nameDe George Talbot Faulkner
Birth dateSeptember 14, 1899
Birth placeWillemstad
FatherRupert de George Faulkner
MotherChrissie Harlan Jordan
Note“Kind werd op 01-05-1900 (Stadsdistrict) erkend door zijn moeder en door Rupert De George Faulkner” (Child was recognized on 1 May 1900 (City District) by his mother and by Rupert De George Faulkner)

Note that George’s full first name is De George, his father’s middle name.

Second birth record for George (click here for full record):

Child’s nameDe George Talbot Faulkner
Birth dateSeptember 14, 1899
Birth placeWillemstad
FatherRupert de George Faulkner
MotherNN (no name given ?)
Note“Leeftijd vader is 50” (Aged father is 50)

Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao, a charming Old-World-esque city that was founded in 1634.

The next document I found was George’s Application for Seaman’s Certificate of American Citizenship or Intention Papers, dated December 12, 1918, when George was 19 years old and just beginning his career as a mariner. The first thing you’ll notice about this application is that it contains two copies of a photo of a 19-year-old George:

On this application, George claims to have been born in New York City, and the Deputy Collector of Customs for Washington certifies that he has seen proof of George’s citizenship. While I have no evidence of this, I suspect that the Deputy saw a white, blue-eyed boy with an American accent and figured there was no cause to suspect that he was anything other than the U.S. citizen he claimed to be. It’s also possible that George didn’t know at this point that he was adopted, as he claimed his father’s birthplace was Illinois, which is actually the birthplace of his adopted father, James Miller McMurry. I don’t believe that was the case, however, as the 1910 census shows George and his brother Douglas living with James and Grace McMurry in Port Townsend, and has both George and his brother clearly marked as adopted sons (see detail image below). I find it hard to believe that they would freely disclose this to the census taker if they were trying to keep it secret from their sons.

Finally, from this application, we learn that one of George’s tattoos was an anchor on his right forearm.

I also found the 1930 census for George, which catches him living with his wife, Fay O’Connor McMurry, and her 15-year-old son John O’Connor (lines 33–35):

The G. B. Lockhart

I’d like to turn now to the ship that took the lives of George’s parents. According to page 188 of the Reports of the Harbour Commissioners for Montreal, Quebec, Three Rivers, Toronto, North Sydney, Pictou and Belleville: Report of pilotage authorities—Reports of port wardens, shipping-masters and of wrecks and casualties, the G.B. Lockhart was a 16-year-old wooden-rigged sailing ship registered in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada, when it was wrecked on May 31, 1906:

Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, Volume 1, has additional information of the G.B. Lockhart (see line 4, below), including that the G.B. Lockhart was a 305-ton, 120 foot 8 inch vessel that was sailing under a British flag. And most importantly, the captain of the ship was listed as “R. de G. Faulkner.”

I haven’t been able to find any accounts of the wreck of the G. B. Lockhart so far, but I did find this one brief mention in the Report on the Trade and Commerce of Curaçoa for the Years 1905–06 by British Consul Jacob Jesurun (1907, pages 4–5):

Thanks to the Connecticut Digital Archive of the University of Connecticut, we have this gloriously large image of the G. B. Lockhart taken during a stop it made in New Haven, Connecticut:

The Connecticut Digital Archive’s caption for this print is: “Starboard view of the brigantine G. B. Lockhart at Canal Dock, New Haven, taken from Long Wharf. Buildings and smokestacks spewing smoke can be seen in the background.”

The shipwreck that killed George’s parents

The British Consulate in Curaçao recorded the deaths of George’s parents. George’s father Rupert is listed on line 5 of page 2:

George’s mother Chrissie is listed on line 1 of page 3:

A few interesting things to note:

  • George’s parents, Rupert and Chrissie, are apparently the only deaths reported from in this document from the wreck of the G.B. Lockhart. As a wooden-masted sailing ship, Rupert would have needed a crew (other than his wife and two small children), so either there were crew members who survived the wreck, or they were not British subjects, so their deaths weren’t recorded on this British document.
  • The wreck happened off the coast of Bonaire, an island just 40-50 miles east of Curaçao.
  • The wreck and the deaths occurred on May 30, 1906, and the date given in the Lloyd’s register and in the Reports of the Harbour Commissioners is the following day, so these references were probably recording when they received notice of the wreck, not when the wreck actually occurred.
  • Chrissie’s death certificate lists her name as “Chrissie Harlam Sears,” but George’s birth certificate lists her name as “Chrissie Harlan Jordan.”

I had seen that other researchers have looked for contemporary news accounts of the sinking of the G. B. Lockhart without success, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyhow, given the rapidly increasing number of digitized newspapers becoming available. And sure enough, after a short while I discovered the Caribbean Newspaper Digital Library site and saw that they had digitized issues of a historic newspaper from Curaçao for the years 1884 to 1986. What a glorious time to be alive!

Taking up nearly all of page three of the June 2, 1906, issue of Amigoe Di Curaçao was an account of the sinking of the G.B. Lockhart:

 

If you don’t read Dutch, what follows is the best translation I’ve so far been able to muster (if you do read Dutch, please let me know in the comments section below of any errors in my translation):

„G.B Lockhart”

Het treurig bericht van het vergaan
van deze schoenerbrik zal onzen
lezers reeds bereikt hebben.

De volger.de bijzonderheden hebben
wij van een der geredde matrozen
vernomen.

Het was een hooge zee, er liep
een steike stroom, terwijl telkens
valsche rukwinden de golven over
het schip joegen. De brik was niet
bijzonder zwaar geladen, zoodat het
sturen bij zulk een weer zeer moeilijk
viel. De nacht was buitengewoon
donker; zware, zwarte wolken
beletten ons de sterren te zien. Drie
mannen werden uitgezet op het dek
om te waken en goed toe te zien.
De 7 overigen waren allen beneden.
Opdat de brik níet al te snel zou
varen, en men dus meer kans zou
hebben ver van de kust verwijderd
te blijven, reefde men alle groóte
zeilen, en hield de fok met nog twee
kleine zeiltjes op.

Plotseling omstreeks vier uur in
den morgen ziet een der matrozen,
een Curagaonaar, Federico de Lannoy,
heel dicht bij, iets zwarts vlak
voor het schip. Voordat hij nog
kon uitmaken of het land, of een
hooge golf was, had de brik al op
de rots gestooten. Op hetzelfde
oogenblik vliegt de kapitein naar
boven met zijn vierjarig kind in
de armen en werpt het in zee,
terwijl Federico reeds over boord
was gesprongen, welk voorbeeld
onmiddellijk door de andere matrozen
was gevolgd. Federico moest op het
geschreeuw van den kleine afgaan,
daar hij geen hand voor oogen kon
zien; hij was zoo gelukkig het kind
te grijpen, sloot het in zijne armen
en worstelde met mannenmoed tegen
de golven, die hem het voortgaan
over de scherpe, puntige rotsen
bijna onmogelijk maakten. Zijn
bloote voeten werden aan alle kanten
opgereten. Ook de kleine schramde
en sneed zijn voeten open aan
die spitse, ijzerharde steenen.
Goddank, kwam Federico behouden
aan’t strand met zijn kostbare
vracht. Hier ontdeed hij zich
van zijn kleedereu, wierp die
over het kind en sprong weer
in het water, daar hij van
alle kanten zijn naam hooide
roepen om hulp en redding. De angst,
waarmede hij zich opnieuw aan die
woedende golven overgaf, is
onbeschrijfelijk, want toen hij
nauwelijks met het kind van boord
was, hoorde hij een vreeselijk gekraak
en biak de eene mast na den andere,
stortte op het dek en plofte in het
water. Het schip lag heelemaal over
zij en al heel spoedig werd de
achtersteven van het schip afgeslagen
en de geheele brik aan splinters.

Door schrik overmeesterd wisten
sommige matrozen niet, wat zij doen
moesten, terwijl de hooge golven
rondom hen en de scherpe, ala
bajonetten stekende rotsen onder
hen, hun bijna iedere heweging
onmogelijk maakten. Federico hield
een der matrozen vast, die
onmogelijk verder kon, en hem
smeekte een oogenblik te rusten,
daar hem het voortgaan onmogelijk
was. Maar lang kon men niet
stilstaan, op zulk een scherpe
bodem, te midden van zulk een
hevige branding. Eindelijk was
de geheele bemanning gered en
het schip verspaanderd uit
elkander gedreven of gezonken.

Toen het licht begon te worden
en men in de verte een huisje zag,
kwam men tot de ontdekking, dat
men op Bonaire was gestrand. Al
spoedig kwam Pater B. Krijgers,
Pastoor van Rincón, ter plaatse om
te zien, of zijn hulp ook noodig
mocht wezen. Ook de districtmeester,
de heer de Cadières, was reeds
aangekomen, nam de namen op en
zorgde voor schoeisel en kleederen.

De geredde bemanning is vol lof
voor alle hulp en medelijden op Bonaire
ondervonden. De Bonairianen
wisten niet, wat zij doen moesten
om toch maar hun goed hart te toonen
en de bemanning wat op te beuren.
De matrozen rilden nog van angst
en waren als half versuft door
al de uitgestane ellende. De persoon,
met wien wij spraken, kon zich nog
niet volkomen alles herinneren, en
had nog den schrik onder de leden.

Woensdag tegen den middag tegen
elf uur spoelde het lijk van de
vrouw van den kapitein aan, met
een groot gat in het achterhoofd,
en’erg aan “de zijde gekneusd, waaruit
men afleidt, dat zij met den
kapitein door de vallende masten
getroffen werd. Van den kapitein
is nog geen spoor ontdekt, het lijk
van zijn vrouw werd op Bonaire
begraven, na het eerst van een ketting
met medaillon ontdaan te hebben
om ze naar New-York te sturen.

Tegen drie uren ging de bemanning
van Rincon naar de Oranjestad,
waar zij vol medelijden ontvangen
werden door den Gezaghebber H.
Statius Muller, die voor plaatsen
op de Christiansted, welke juist voor
anker lag, had gezorgd. Zoo stoomden
alle geredde matrozen Donderdag-
morgen onze haven binnen, waar
de Amerikanen een onderdak en
liefderijke verpleging vonden op
het politie-bureau.

De andere Curagaonaar, welke gered
is, heet Lucien Welhous en was
reeds 10 jaar kok op de
Lockhart. Federico de Lannoy is
pas een paar jaar op dezebrik
heet Lucien Welhous en was
reeds 10 jaar kok op de
Lockhart. Federico de Lannoy
is pas een paar jaar op
dezebrik. Het is voor de derde
maal, dat hij een schipbreuk medemaakt.

Wel toevallig, dat de Lockhart juist
verging gedurende zijn negentigste
reis, evenals de Curaçao, een brik
van dezelfde maatschappij, nu tien
jaar geleden.

De lading, waaronder 3000 kilo
dynamiet en carbiet, bestemd
voor onze mijnen, was verzekerd,
niet echter het lijfsgoed der bemanning,
waar natuurlijk niets van gered is.

Wij hopen, dat aan de bemanning
een kleine vergoeding voor deze
schade zal gegeven worden, terwijl
aan Federico de Lannoy wel een
bijzondere onderscheiding mag
worden uitgereikt.

De gevaarlijke lading, dynamiet
en carbiet, ligt natuurlijk in de zee
verspreid tusschen de overige lading
van meel, gezouten vleesch, kerozine
etc. Dat men nu toch niet de
onvoorzichtigheid hebbe, naar de
gestrande goederen te visschen, of
te duiken en zooals de Procureur-
Generaal waarschuwt, dat men
voorzichtig zij, wanneer hier of
daar kisten of blikken, mogelijk
van de Lockhart afkomstig, aanspoelen.
Men waarschuwe steeds de politie,
om nog meerder onheil te voorkomen.

Wanneer zal op dezen „doodenhoek”
van Bonaire eindelijk eens een
lichtbaken geplaatst worden?

“G.B. Lockhart”

The sad message of the perishing
of this brigantine schooner will have
reached our readers already.

The following are the details we
heard from one of the rescued sailors.

It was a high sea, running a swift
current, with strong gusts over the
waves chasing the ship. The brig was
not particularly heavily loaded, so
that steering the ship became very
difficult when such weather struck.
The night was extraordinary dark;
heavy, black clouds prevented us from
seeing the stars. Three men were
ordered onto the deck to watch and
watch well. The seven others were all
below deck. So that the brig would not
sail too fast, and therefore be more
likely to find itself far removed from
the coast and stranded, the main sails
were struck and only two small sails
were kept up.

Suddenly at about four o’clock in
the morning, one of the sailors, a
Curaçaoan, Federico de Lannoy, saw
something black very close to the ship.
Before he could decide whether it was
land or a large wave, the brig had
already hit the rock. At the same time,
the captain flew upwards with his four-
year-old child in his arms and threw
him into the sea while Federico had
already jumped overboard, an example
which was immediately followed by the
other sailors. Federico had to find the
small one by listening for his screams,
since he could not see the child’s hands;
he was so happy to finally grab the child,
and wrapped the child in his arms and
struggled with a man’s courage against
the waves that pushed over the sharp,
pointed rocks—almost impossible. His
bare feet were torn up on every side. All
the little scratches from those pointed,
hard-as-iron stones cut his feet open.
Thank God, Federico reached the beach
with his precious cargo. Here he took
off his clothes, threw them over the
child and jumped back into the water,
where he heard his name called from all
sides begging for help and rescue. The
fear with which he rejoined those raging
waves is indescribable, because when he
was barely on deck with the child, he
heard he a terrible cracking and one mast
after another broke and collapsed on the
deck and plopped into the water. The ship
was completely turned over and soon the
stern was broken away from the ship and
the whole brig turned to splinters.

Some of the sailors were not over-
whelmed by fear, and did what they had
to do, while the high waves around them
and the sharp, stinging rocks like bay-
onets among them, making almost every
movement impossible. Federico found one
of the sailors stuck so much that it was
impossible to do anything further, and
begged of him a moment’s rest, as it was
impossible for him to continue as he had.
But one could not stand still long on the
sharp ground, in the midst of such a
violent storm beating down. Finally the
whole crew was rescued and the ship was
broken apart or sunk.

When morning light began to break and
they saw a little house in the distance,
they came to the realization that they
had been stranded on Bonaire. Very soon
Father B. Krijgers, pastor of the town
of Rincón, came to the spot to see if his
help might also be needed. The mayor,
Mr. de Cadières, had also already arrived,
and took the names of the survivors and
provided them with footwear and clothing.

The rescued crew is full of praise for
all the help and compassion they encoun-
tered on Bonaire. The Bonairians didn’t
know what they could do, but they did
what they could to show their good
heart and brighten up the crew. The
sailors still shivered from fear and
were half-dazed by all the misery. The
person with whom we spoke could still
not completely remember everything, and
was still frightened along with the
other crewmembers.

At eleven o’clock on Wednesday morning
the body of the captain’s wife was found,
with a big hole in the back of her head,
and bruises on her side, from which one
deduces that she and the captain were hit
by the falling masts. While no trace of
the captain has yet been discovered, the
body of his wife was buried on Bonaire,
after which a necklace and medallion were
sent to New York.

The crew went at three o’clock from
Rincon to Oranjestad, where they were
received full of pity by Lieutenant H.
Statius Muller, who took care to find room
for them on the Christiansted, which is
anchored there. So all rescued sailors
will steam Thursday—tomorrow—for our
port, where the Americans will find shelter
and a loving nursing staff at the police
station.

The other Curaçaoan who was saved is
Lucien Welhous, who has been a cook on
the Lockhart for 10 years. Federico de
Lannoy had only been on the ship for a
couple of years. This was the third
time that he was involved in a
shipwreck.

It happens to be that the Lockhart,
which was his ninetieth journey, had
similarities with the Curaçao, a brig
from the same company, that was lost ten
years ago now.

Its load, which included 3000 kilos (6,600
pounds) of dynamite and carbite for our
mines, was insured; however, the life of
the crew was not, and of course nothing
was saved from that wreck.

We hope that a small fee for this
damage will be given to the crew while
Federico de Lannoy deserves a special
award of distinction.

The dangerous cargo, dynamite and
carbite, of course lies in the sea spread
between the other cargo of flour, salted
meat, kerosene, etc. That one is not care-
less with the stranded goods found when
fishing or diving, the Attorney General
warns that one should be cautious when
one finds crates or cans washed up that
may be from the Lockhart. Always warn
the police to prevent more misfortune.

When will this “corner of death” of
Bonaire finally have a light beacon placed
upon it?

George would have been 7 years old at the time of the wreck, but the story talks about his father Rupert throwing a 4-year-old child into the sea, so I’m guessing that at 7 years old, George was better able to fend for himself, and the 4-year-old thrown into the sea was George’s younger brother Douglas.

Let’s look a bit more at George’s biological parents. 

George’s father Rupert

While in his late teens and early twenties, George’s father Rupert trained to become a ship’s captain. He was awarded his Certificate of Competency as a First Mate on July 9, 1870, in Liverpool, England, where he was living at the time:

A year later, Rupert was awarded his Certificate of Competancy as Master, issued on April 5, 1871, in Liverpool, England, where he was living at the time:

A deeper look into Rupert’s family and history will have to wait for a future post, given how much else I’m covering in this post.

George’s mother Chrissie

Christina (“Chrissie”) Harlan Sears was born in September 1867, in New York City, probably in Brooklyn) to Thomas A Sears and Freelove Ada (Douglas) Sears. While she would later contend that she was born a few years later (ca. 1870), the 1875 New York census clearly shows her as an 8-year-old girl with a 14-year-old sister, Kate D. Sears (page 64, lines 33–36):

Her father was a clothing merchant, and he owned land (presumably the brick house they lived in at 292 134th Street in Brooklyn).

By the time of the 1880 census, taken on June 5, 1880, Chrissie’s family was no longer living in their brick house, but were instead living in a boarding house at 55 Concord Street in Brooklyn. Chrissie’s father was still working as a clothing merchant, and a third daughter, Grace Sears, had now joined the family:

Chrissie married Francis “Frank” Emery Jordan on March 1, 1887, when she 19 years old. By the time of the 1900 census (shown below), enumerated on June 15th, Frank and Chrissie had been married 13 years and have two children—10-year-old daughter Ada S. Sears, and 7-year-old son Frank Atwood Sears. Frank’s occupation was recorded as “Sea Captain,” and Frank and Chrissie were now living in her parents’ house along with her unmarried 38-year-old sister Kate. Both Chrissie and Kate were now stating that they were born 3–4 years later than they actually were.

At some point between the June 15, 1900, and December 3, 1901, Chrissie and Frank got divorced. At this point, I don’t know what became of their two children—11-year-old Ada and 8-year-old Frank—immediately after the divorce of their parents. By 1910, however, a 20-year-old Ada had moved to Barnstable, Massachusetts, married a man named Eugene Adams, and had a daughter with him around 1910 that they named “Chrissie.” By 1910, a 17-year-old Frank was living with his maternal aunt, Kate Sears, and his grandfather, Thomas Sears.

According to their marriage record in the Netherlands Civil Marriage Index, a divorced Chrissie married a widowed Rupert on December 4, 1901, in Curaçao.

At the time of the 1905 New York State census, we find Rupert and Christina Faulkner married and living in Brooklyn at 172 St. James Place. They now have two sons—6-year-old George Faulkner and 3-year-old Daniel Douglas Faulkner (the latter just called “son” on this census):

Still left unresolved

  • The Relationship of George Talbot Faulkner to Grace Aitken

    • I haven’t so far been able to find any relationship between the families of Grace Aitken and either Rupert Faulkner or Chrissie Sears, but it seems most likely that the it’s the Sears and Aitken families that will cross paths, as Rupert’s time was largely spent in England and Nova Scotia.
  • More details on the life and family of Rupert de George Faulkner

    • I know from his marriage record to Chrissie that his parents were David Weir Faulkner and Hannah Beekwith. From Rupert’s time and training in Liverpool, and from George’s statement that he had British citizenship on account of his paternal grandmother being British, I believe that Hannah Beekwith was British, perhaps from Liverpool.
  • The murder of George Faulkner McMurry in 1945

    • So far I haven’t found any evidence concerning his death or its cause, but I’ve had so many other topics to look into that I haven’t tried terribly hard, either.

Well, thank you for surviving another post. If you have anything to contribute about the story of George Faulkner McMurry, his background, his adoption, or the relationship between the Faulkners/Sears family and the Aitkens/McMurry family, please let me know in the comments section below.

Hopefully with two McMurry cousins on the case, we can get to the bottom of George’s fascinating story. Crystal—tag, you’re it!

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