Saturday, February 14, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 14

According to notices in the St. Louis Republican, John Murdoch's farm and property were being auctioned off on the City of St. Louis courthouse steps on November 3, 1874. What happened on that day remains a mystery. Did no one come out to bid? Was there a minimum bid that did not get met? Or perhaps Murdoch came up with some money to keep the creditors at bay? What is known is that John Murdoch continued to work as an auctioneer for O.J. Lewis & Co., the firm that took over the business of Murdoch & Dickson, and his residence was still listed as Laclede Station in the 1875-1879 Gould's St. Louis Directories.

1876 map of St. Louis

St. Louis was undergoing some trying times of its own. Prior to 1877, St. Louis County included the City of St. Louis plus all the other areas within the county boundaries. The county seat was located in the City of St. Louis. But St. Louis City taxpayers decided in 1876 that they did not want to continue to support the cost of ongoing expansion in the county, and they voted to separate from St. Louis County. Often dubbed "The Great Divorce", the separation froze the boundaries of the City and at the time made it the only city in the United States not associated with a county. The population of St. Louis City in 1876 was 310,000 while the county had only 27,000 residents. John Murdoch now was working for a business in the city, while his residence came under the jurisdiction of the new county government center.

In 1877, John Murdoch once again appeared in the local newspaper. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported on October 4, 1877 that there had been a fire at Murdoch's farm - the third such fire in as many years. The article states that the fires had each been of "mysterious origin." It further indicated that the barn was "partially insured."

Murdoch Farm fire

The fire in 1877 gave rise to a lawsuit in which more of the precarious financial situation of the Murdochs became revealed.