James B. McMurry, land baron?

I wanted to see if any other members of the McMurry family made the move from Kentucky to Indiana in 1830–1831, but what I discovered is that James Benton McMurry was quite the land baron. I’m still looking, but so far I’ve found 17 parcels of land that he purchased, for a total of 2,153.67 acres (3.4 square miles). That may not seem like a big number, but he owned more land than two countries (4.3 times as much as Monaco and 19.6 times as much as Vatican City)—crickey! And I don’t think I’ve found all of his land yet—watch out Nauru!

Here’s the list of his land purchases that I’ve found so far (note that I’ve only examined the records for the purchase of land from the federal government; there could be many, many more purchases to be found once I comb through the indexes to private sales):

James McMurry3 Jan 1831Putnam16-N3-W4191.6711,57511575 Putnam
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Putnam16-N3-W3382.3311,57611576 Putnam
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Montgomery17-N3-W338011,58111581 Montgomery
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Montgomery17-N3-W3316011,58211582 Montgomery
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Hendricks16-N2-W498.0811,58311583 Hendricks
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Hendricks16-N2-W598.6711,58411584 Hendricks
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Hendricks16-N2-W58011,58511585 Hendricks
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Putnam16-N4-W193.0311,87611876 Putnam
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Montgomery17-N3-W2216012,02512025 Montgomery
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Montgomery17-N3-W228012,02612026 Montgomery
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Putnam16-N4-W1416012,02712027 Putnam
James McMurry3 Jan 1831Putnam16-N4-W14801202812028 Putnam
James McMurry18 Mar 1837Hendricks17-N2-W31169.8923,12423124 Hendricks
James McMurry18 Mar 1837Hendricks17-N2-W318023,12523125 Hendricks
James McMurry18 Mar 1837Hendricks17-N2-W188023,12623126 Hendricks
James McMurry18 Mar 1837Hendricks17-N2-W1716023,12723127 Hendricks

The above parcels are just those that James purchased himself. His half-brother Hisner McMurry also purchased two parcels very close to James’ land:

Hisner McMurry3 Jan 1831Montgomery17-N3-W348011,57711577 Montgomery
Hisner McMurry3 Jan 1831Montgomery17-N3-W3416011,57811578 Montgomery

Together, James and Hisner owned 2,313.67 acres of land in the area around where Montgomery, Putnam, and Hendricks counties abut.

When mapped, the distribution of McMurry land in central Indiana (well, at least the parcels I’ve found so far) looks like this:

Overview of McMurry Indiana land

  • Red parcels: land that James McMurry bought in 1831
  • Purple parcels: land that James McMurry bought in 1837
  • Blue parcels: land that Hisner McMurry bought in 1831

I’m intending to examine the aerial photos of each of these properties at the maximum possible scale to see if I can find evidence of the mill and brick house that James McMurry built near Roachdale (and that was still standing as of 1935), as well as the McMurry family cemetery that was enclosed on their property.

Who else may have come with James and Hisner and their families from Kentucky to Indiana in the early 1830s? So far, I’ve found these promising leads:

  • James’ sister Catherine and brother-in-law Severn Jones and their children also appear to have moved to Hendricks County, Indiana, around the same time (although I’ve found no record of federal land purchases by them).
  • His wife’s brother, John Goodnight, and family appear to have also come to Indiana at that same time, settling perhaps near Bloomington for a while before moving on to Illinois.
  • His wife’s second cousin, Catharine Goodnight, and her husband Jacob Dunham and family moved to Indiana, perhaps Tipton County, but at some point after 1836.
  • His wife’s aunt, Rachel Goodnight, and her husband Jacob Young and perhaps some of their grown children came to Jackson County, Indiana, before 1836.

I expect there’s an interesting story to be discovered about the migration of this group of people to Indiana in the early 1830s, and I hope I’ll be able to find it and share it with you.

4 thoughts on “James B. McMurry, land baron?

  1. wed your posts about the McMurrys with interest. i have no information that we are related to that family, but it struck my curiosity since

    1. One of the 1700s ancestors you mentioned was Robert McMurry, which is my name and my father’s, and the spelling of our name is not the common one. I know we are Irish (I have the DNA report) and that there are 15 people,mostly in Ireland and England, with the exact same gene sequence.

    2. What little I know of the family is that they migrated to either Kentucky or Tennessee back in the 1700’s, from where I do not know. (Since Kentucky was part of VA. at that time perhaps it was there). They then moved to Indiana,, like your family, and then in the 1900’s to Illinois. i do not have an ancestry list since my father’s father, whose name was Lewis, was rarely home, apparently because he was usually in jail (he had a fondness for other people’s livestock), and died young, as did my father’s mother, so he grew up as what we now call a homeless person but was then called a “wild kid”, bouncing from place to place until they discovered he was the best athlete in town and he found a home.

    3. The common names in our family are Robert, James, John, and William, which are similar to some of yours (although those are very common names in general)..

    If you ever come across anything that would give me any hint of further family information, please let me know. I wish someone had followed our family with the enthusiasm you have followed yours!

    • Hi Robert,

      A tantalizing mystery, indeed! It’s too bad that Ancestry recently stopped offering the paternal lineage (Y-46) DNA test. With that, you could compare your results to one of the direct male McMurry descendants on my side of the family to see how the results line up.

      Another way of looking at the problem (he said, thinking aloud) would be to see if I have any McMurrys that disappeared from my records around the time and place your ancestor traces back to. You said your father’s father’s name was Lewis, and that his son (your father), Robert, was the wild child/star athlete? If I’ve messed that up, please correct me. If I’ve got that right, can you give me approximate birthdates (or years) of Robert and Lewis? I have a few Lewises in my McMurry line, so that’s another hopeful sign.

  2. I have traced the family to William Henry McMurry, born 1830’s (I have a resplendent picture of him in his Civil War uniform) in Kentucky. There is some indication he had a father named Robert, and every generation of the family has had a son named Robert (also Willliam and James) and family stories say we “go back to the Revolutionary War.” Of course stories are common in every family, but a father named Robert born in Kentucky (actually it would have been Virginia then) could get nearly back to that time frame.

    So it would be Robert then William Henry born in the 1830s then Lewis D (and brothers Robert and James) in the 1880s and then Lewis had another Robert and James in the 1920s, and one of Lewis’s brothers (Webster) had a Robert and James and another William Henry (who just died at 95), and my father had another Robert, me in 1947. So if you can make anything of that I’d be grateful I never knew my grandfather or grandmother and I miss that. People say my father was the best athlete the town had ever seen – except for my mother’s brother (different high school), who still held state records when I graduated. (Mom had some problems when she led the cheer leaders and my father played her brother; I rescued everyone when i came along not even being able to jump rope. So much for genes)

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the details. Do you know the name of William Henry McMurry’s wife? And do you know where he died or where his children later lived or died?



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