Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 4

1850 Census
Despite the cholera epidemic and devastating fire in 1849, a resilient St. Louis continued to grow in 1850, becoming the largest city west of Pittsburgh. It also was the second largest port in the United States, with commercial tonnage exceeded only by New York. The economy was boosted by the sheer number of Forty-Niners, those heading to California for the gold rush, who came to the area. In addition to outfitting the would-be gold seekers passing through St. Louis, local merchants also shipped supplies to Independence and St. Joseph, Missouri, the jumping-off points for the trail west.

John Murdoch was living in the 3rd Ward with five other non-related people, according to the 1850 census. That same year, on January 19th, his firm established the John J Murdoch and Charles K Dickson Addition. The ten block area ran between Randolph and Market Streets, with Adolph Street as the eastern property line.

In 1851, construction began on the Pacific Railroad (known as the Missouri
Pacific Railway by 1872). The Pacific Railroad was chartered by the State of Missouri in 1849 to extend from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. St. Louis City and St. Louis County contributed $5,000 each, and the County also issued $875,000 in bonds. Murdoch and Dickson both participated in the financing of the railroad. Ground was broken on July 4, 1851, and on December 9, 1852 the first passenger train west of the Mississippi River ran on the initial section of track from Fourteen Street to Sulphur Springs - a distance of five miles. Sulphur Springs was located in St. Louis County, and was later renamed Cheltenham. By 1853, the line had extended through Webster Groves and Kirkwood, and out to Franklin (later called Pacific).

On September 9, 1851 the seventy-two block Stoddard's Addition, established by Henry Stoddard and including purchases by John Murdoch and Charles Dickson, was dedicated by Stoddard and Murdoch. Bounded by Jefferson, Laclede, Leffingwell Avenue and Dayton Street, its lots were sold in the first great auction of real estate in St. Louis. The elevated location of Stoddard's Addition made it a desirable place for the city's wealthier residents to build fashionable mansions. Stoddard was later sued by the heirs of the original owner of the property, Amos Stoddard, with the litigation lasting for many years. There is no indication that either Murdoch or Dickson were parties to the lawsuit, though they were mentioned in the proceedings.

Old Cathedral
At the age of 41, Murdoch married Julia Hull on January 31, 1855 at the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, more commonly known as the Old Cathedral. Julia was the twenty-year-old niece of Charles Dickson, his sister Susan Dickson Hull's daughter. Marcia Smith, first bridesmaid, described the wedding festivities to her sister in a letter written April 7, 1855.

"They were married in the Catholic Cathedral at half past six in the evening-afterwhich we all went to Mrs. Dickson's and had a most magnificent wedding [reception]. The bride's dress was a white silk, with a thule dress over, made with three skirts, each embroidered with chenille, and a large thule veil embroidered in the same manner with the skirt. She looked sweetly, but her dress was very plain indeed, (at least so considered there, for everyone was so elegantly). She selected this dress because it was plain; she desired something different from what bridal dresses had been this winter: her veil was fastened on with three or four white Japonicas, and [she] held in her hand a very beautiful bouquet of flowers and a silver holder. I being the first bridesmaid, wore a white silk made with low neck and short sleeves, and a double skirt of thule, each skirt with a wide hem and looped up on one side with a bunch of artificial flowers."

Miss Smith goes on to describe in great detail the dresses of the other bridesmaids, the decorations, the music that was played, and the interior of the rooms in the Dickson house where the dining and dancing occurred. She ends by stating, "Mr. Dickson's house is an immense one and so well adapted to giving a large party. There were about 476 invitations out."

Things were going quite well for Murdoch & Dickson.

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