Friday, February 6, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 6

Since Missouri was initially settled by southerners coming up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, it entered the Union in 1821 as a slave state. However, by 1860 the state population had become much more diverse. German and Irish immigrants as well as transplants from northern states were staunchly opposed to slavery. With the Civil War looming, the state hoped to remain in the Union but stay neutral. The neutrality was tested early on in a skirmish at the federal arsenal in St. Louis in April of 1861. Missouri would ultimately see over 1,200 clashes within its borders. Only Virginia and Tennessee had more engagements in their states.

St. Louis Arsenal

St. Louis remained under Union control during the war, in no small part because of the military base at Jefferson Barracks. The largest percentage of volunteers served in the Union army. No major battles were fought in or near the city despite the fact that the Mississippi River was a vital highway during the war. The lack of military action does not mean that St. Louis wasn't impacted by the war, however. The cessation of river traffic from the south had a severe effect on local businesses as this interrupted the supply chain and also sales of goods to consumers in the south. Additionally the platting of new subdivisions came to a near halt, which in turn affected the construction trade.

The war was taking a financial toll on the federal government as well, and so it enacted the first Federal Income Tax to help pay for the Union war effort. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that imposed a 3% tax on incomes between $600 and $10,000, and a 5% tax on incomes above $10,000. The bill was amended in 1864, increasing the tax to 5% on incomes between $600 and $5,000, 7.5% on incomes between $5,000 and $10,000, and a 10% tax on incomes above $10,000. The tax would have placed an additional burden on citizens who had already had their livelihood impacted by the war. For Murdoch, it meant an additional $2,300 in taxes not counting what he already paid on his personal property.

What, exactly, was John Murdock doing during the war? Minding his business? Taking care of the farm? Fighting? And if so, for the Union or for the Confederates? Numerous sources claim that John Murdoch was a military general.

Here is the actual text from the City of Shrewsbury's website, which Wikipedia repeats on its Shrewsbury, Missouri page:

Shrewsbury, Missouri was officially platted in 1889. The land which became Shrewsbury originally belonged to Gregorie Sarpy and Charles Gratiot; by 1890, it was divided into farms and sold to families. The area now known as Shrewsbury was a 278 acre farm owned by General John Murdoch. The Murdoch farm was called Shrewsbury Park, named after a village in England.

The St. Louis Public Library's website has a St. Louis Street Index. This is the listing for Murdoch Avenue:

MURDOCH AVENUE (E-W). Named in honor of John J. Murdoch, a Civil War general who owned a large tract in the present Shrewsbury area after the war. Known as Murdoch's farm, it was subdivided in 1890.

The non-fiction book Shrewsbury of All Places by Helen G. McMahon, published in 1978, tells a similar story. Here is page 4 from the book:

That all sounds pretty compelling. Was auctioneer, merchant, farmer, and family man John Murdoch also serving as a general in the civil war?


J.M. Shepherd said...

I never knew about those taxes! I really like the way you let John Murdoch's civil war involvement (as well as his wealth) come to light by using actual articles.

Kim Wolterman said...

Thank you for your kind comments. I have so much information about him that I am happy some of the research can be shown in the stories.