Until last week, I thought I knew what my great-great-grandfather Arthur Webster McMurry (1854–1917) looked like throughout his life. But then Katy McMurry showed me a photo that I could have sworn was of Arthur W. McMurry later in his life, relaxing in a rocking chair.
There was one problem, however—Katy said that this person wasn’t identified as Arthur W. McMurry, but rather was his father. According to Katy, my great-grandfather Frank Ross McMurry (Arthur W. McMurry’s son) identified the photo as being of his grandfather Luke Robinson McMurry (1825–1913), not of his father Arthur. Well, dang.
Below are the photos I have that are almost certainly of Arthur W. McMurry. I don’t have access to any of these at the moment, so I can’t inspect the backsides of the images for additional detail. The first three are scans of color photocopies I made in the early 1990s from originals held by Arthur Edgar McMurry (1915–2001), and the fourth is a scan recently sent to me by Katy McMurry.
The next three images are scans of three prints of two different photos that I thought were of Arthur W. McMurry later in life:
If the inscription on the back of this photo says “Luke McMurry,” and if it’s in Frank Ross McMurry’s hand, I’ll accept it as a definitive identification. Frank was 27 years old when Luke died. Art McMurry, who earlier identified the man in the photo as Arthur Webster McMurry (his grandfather) was just 2 years old when his grandfather died. Art McMurry, who earlier identified the man in the photo above as Arthur Webster McMurry (his grandfather), was just 2 years old when his grandfather died. His identification of the subject of the photo might, therefore, have been based on someone else’s (mis)identification of the individual in the photo.The photo above was handed down from the collection of Frank Ross McMurry. I haven’t personally seen the inscription on the back of this photo, but if says “Luke McMurry,” and if it’s in Frank Ross McMurry’s hand, I’ll accept this as a definitive identification. Frank was 27 years old when Luke (his grandfather) died. He would have known Luke well and it’s hard to imagine he misidentified the grandfather he knew well into adulthood.
Below is the single image I think have of Luke McMurry, although identified only by a non-contemporaneous inscription on the mat inside the daguerreotype case. This seems likely to truly be Luke McMurry, as it’s one of a pair of him and a woman I believe to be Elizabeth Miller McMurry, that I think represent their wedding portraits from 1851, a date consistent with the use of the daguerreotype process (1840s–1850s).
What do you think?
I’ve made a table of the faces of all of the identified photos I have of Arthur Webster McMurry as a boy and a young man and of Luke Robinson McMurry as a young man, as well as the faces of the two uncertain individuals. The four photos in the top row are Arthur McMurry. The photo in the bottom row is Luke McMurry. The two photos in the middle row are variously said to be either Arthur or Luke.
On the basis of the noses of the men below (unknown is similar to Luke and dissimilar to Arthur) and the ears (unknown is not as similar to Arthur’s as I’d expect if these were the same man), I tend to think Katy is right—the unknown older gentle man may well be Luke McMurry.
What do you think—does the face of the older man in the middle row look more like an aged version of Arthur or an aged version of Luke? Please let me know in the comments section below.
I hope to one day be able to meet Katy and Glenn McMurry and see the photos in their collection, and to compare the handwriting of the inscriptions to a known sample of Frank Ross McMurry’s that I have on a piece of his letterhead.
I’d also like to take another look at the photos that Art McMurry once showed me, but the current location(s) of these photos is still uncertain. I hope to have the chance to one day see and work with this important collection of family photos once again.
NOTE: Be sure to read part 2 of this post, in which I figure out which McMurry this mystery man is!
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 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 in the comments section below.
Just a question. Was James McMurry in Port Townsend as early as 1874?
I don’t think so. He and his father Luke don’t appear to have settled in Washington until the early 1880s (1882 or 1883, I think). It’s possible they came out a year or two earlier to scout the area, but I have no evidence of that so far. The earliest association I have of him and Washington is when a 57-year-old Luke (listed as a farmer) and his 26-year-old unmarried son James (with no listed profession) were enumerated on the 1883 census of the Washington Territory (Thurston County, I believe).
In 1874, a 20-year-old James was probably back in Effingham County, Illinois, with his family (although it’s possible that they had already moved on to Lonoke, Arkansas, where we find them in 1876 when his mother Elizabeth died).
Why do you ask?
I asked because one of the photos you posted as probably 1874 was by James!
Great catch—right after I posted this article, I saw another key detail I overlooked (to be discussed in part 2, to come out tonight or tomorrow). I think I mistakenly based that date on some age seriation work I did back when I thought the mystery man was an older Arthur (I’m now pretty certain it’s Luke, as you’ll see in part 2).
Clearly the photo you refer to was taken in or after 1883, so Arthur would have been 29 or more years old, and clearly looking younger than he really was. Thanks for pointing that inconsistency out!
I really love reading this fabulous history of my family. Especially since my father, Glenn Amos McMurry (son to Frank Ross McMurry of Santa Barbara, Ca and husband to Katy McMurry) just passed away this week.
Tisha (McMurry) Carney
So sorry for the delay in responding; I’m just getting back into writing the blog and I didn’t see your comment until just now. Your mom wrote me about your dad’s passing and I was so sad to hear the news. I hope you’re all doing as well as can be expected. All the best from your northern California cousin,