Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 17

Having lost his house and farm on a loan default, John Murdoch was faced with the task of moving his family out of the only home they had ever known. John was 65 and Julia was 44 when they relocated to 201 S. 16th Street in the City of St. Louis. Their children were all still living with them at the time, and were the following ages: John-20, Mary-18, Emma-16, George-14, William-11, and Joseph-9. This new residence would have been a few blocks from the Union Depot building and approximately one and a half miles from his employment at O.J. Lewis & Co.

1880 map

Murdoch became ill in the spring of 1880. Following a bronchial infection lasting thirteen weeks, at 3:10 a.m. on June 17th, John Murdoch died at home. He was 65 years, 10 months and 7 days old at the time of his death. The June 18th issue of the Globe Democrat reported that "the funeral would take place Sunday, June 20, at 2 p.m., from his late residence, 201 S. Sixteenth St., to St. John's Church, Sixteenth and Chestnut, from thence to Calvary Cemetery. Friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend."

An obituary in the June 19th Globe Democrat told quite a story about John Murdoch, and the "Death of an Old and Honored Business Man."

    Another old and highly esteemed citizen has been called from his sphere of usefulness. John J. Murdoch died on Wednesday last, in the sixty sixth year of his age. He was one of the few remaining links that united the present generation with the past, and his loss will leave a blank that can not be filled.
    Mr. Murdoch was a native of New Jersey, and was born near the city of Philadelphia. In 1838, when an active and thorough going young man, he came to St. Louis, then little more than a village, and opened an auction house in connection with the late Charles K. Dickson, which for thirty years was one of the leading houses of the Mississippi Valley. The firm was dissolved by the death of Mr. Dickson, and was succeeded by that of O. J. Lewis & Co., which still exists, and with which the deceased was connected as chief auctioneer up to the time of his last illness. The firm of Murdoch & Dickson was one of the pioneers in the auction business in the West, but did not confine its operations to that single branch, engaging in numerous other enterprises for the development of the resources for the city and State. They were foremost in all movements of a public nature, taking a prominent part in the establishment of three or four insurance companies; in the management of the old State Bank and its successor Third National; the Wrecking Company, with Eads and Nelson as active coadjutors; the laying out of new additions to the city; the construction of the first railroad in which St. Louis was directly interested (the O. and M.), the North Missouri and the Pacific, and, finally, the great bridge across the Mississippi, of which their associate, James B. Eads, was the chief engineer. In these and many other important enterprises the firm of Murdoch & Dickson took a leading part, and made successful by their intelligence, forethought and energy.
    Mr. Murdoch was a quiet and unobtrusive man, but full of generous impulses, and charitable to a fault. His generosity extended to all classes of people, and his house was the seat of unbounded hospitality. One incident may be related as showing the unselfish character of the man. When the war broke out he was living on a large farm at Laclede Station, five or six miles west of the city, and was the owner of a considerable number of slaves. Foreseeing that slavery was doomed, although the President's emancipation proclamation had not as yet been issued, he brought all his negroes to the city, and, conducting them to the crossroads at Sixteenth and Market streets, he told them they were free to take whichever of the four roads they might choose, as he had no further claim upon them. All the negroes but one burst into tears, and begged to be taken back home, and the one who accepted the offer of freedom returned to the farm in less than a week. He then gave them lands and the means of cultivating them, and instructed them on how to take care of themselves.
    Mr. Murdoch was one of the most benevolent of men, and took a silent pleasure in doing good to his fellow men. Unostentatious, but firm of character, he was a friend and counselor of which any one might be glad to receive assistance and instruction.
                    His life was gentle, and the elements
                    so mixed in him that nature might stand up
                    and say to all the world, This was a man.
    As the father of a family he was ever kind and indulgent, and all who knew him intimately will never cease to regret his loss. He died as he had often expressed a wish to die - in the bosom of his family, surrounded by a few intimate friends. He died calmly and peacefully, and surely, if the spirits of the just meet the reward of good deeds done in the flesh, the soul of John J. Murdoch is now among the blessed.
    The funeral will take place this (Sunday) afternoon at 2 o'clock from St. John's Church, corner of Sixteenth and Chestnut streets.

St. John's Church, circa 1876

That was quite a send-off for John Murdoch.

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