Mystery: Luke R. or Arthur W. McMurry—solved! (part 2)

From Katy McMurry" "Luke R. McMurry in rocking chair."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.

Inconsistency #1: One photo of Arthur was taken later than I thought

My father pointed out to me that I had identified one of the photos of Arthur W. McMurry as dating to 1874:

Photo of Arthur Webster McMurry, circa 1874

Photo of Arthur McMurry that I estimated had been taken around 1874, when he was about 20 years old.

Note the artist’s name and location: McMurry, Port Townsend, W.T.—this photo was taken by Arthur’s brother James, who does not appear to have migrated to the Washington Territory until 1882 or 1883. The Washington Territory existed from 1853 to 1889, so this photo dates to sometime between 1882 and 1889, not 1874 as I had previously estimated.

I don’t think James McMurry arrived in Port Townsend until at least 1883, so Arthur is at least 29 years old in the above photo. Katy McMurry states that the following photo of Arthur is dated to 1885, and I believe that it was taken within a year or two of the above photo. If this is the case, then the above photo dates to about 1883–1887 and he’d be 29–33 years old.

Photo of Arthur Webster McMurry, taken in 1885

Taken in 1885, when he was about 31 years old. Identified by Katy McMurry as being Arthur Webster McMurry (from inscription on reverse in Frank Ross McMurry’s hand).

Inconsistency #2: One photo of the mystery man was taken earlier than I thought

The following image of the mystery man was taken years earlier than I had at first thought (based solely on age seriation of photos, and on the assumption that this was a photo of Arthur W. McMurry).

The mystery McMurry man—identified by Art McMurry as Arthur W. McMurry (his grandfather), but said by Katy McMurry to be identified by Frank R. McMurry as Luke McMurry (his grandfather).

Once again, note the artist’s name and location: McMurry Photo, Port Townsend, W.T. The photographer, James McMurry, didn’t arrive in the Washington Territory until 1882-1883, and probably didn’t make it up to Port Townsend until about 1883. And since the Washington Territory only existed from 1853 to 1889, this photo dates to sometime between 1883 and 1889, not 1874 as I had previously estimated.

Given the revised dates of the photos, the following two photos were taken 0–6 years apart. I can’t see how one man can age like this in six or fewer years:

1885- Arthur W. McMurry >> 1904?- McMurry, A. Webster, ~50 yrs

I’m now feeling quite confident that the person in these two photos is actually my third-great-grandfather, Luke Robinson McMurry, and not his son Arthur W. McMurry.

1904?- McMurry, A. Webster, ~50 yrs - Version 3From Katy McMurry" "Luke R. McMurry in rocking chair."It’s interesting to see how the move from being a white-collar businessman in Illinois to being a farmer in the Washington Territory affected his physique and appearance. Compare the above photos from the mid-1880s to the following photo, which is probably his wedding photo from 1851:

1851- Luke R. McMurry in case

Revised identifications

The revised table below shows the known photos of Arthur Webster McMurry (top row) and Luke Robinson McMurry (bottom row).

Arthur Webster McMurry in 1860

ca. 1860

Arthur Webster McMurry in 1872

ca. 1872

Arthur Webster McMurry


1885- Arthur W. McMurry


Luke R. McMurry in 1851


Luke McMurry in 1883-1889


Luke R. McMurry in rocking chair.


A plea to family members—please let me know if you have any old McMurry photos in your possession. I’d love to see them, and if you’re willing, to come see them in person and take high-resolution images of them. Even if the photos are not currently identified, they could be of great value as I compare them to the photos in my growing database of old family photos to see who they might be. Please let me know if you have any such old family photos by leaving a comment in the comments section below.

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