Monday, February 9, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 9

The portion of the Pitzman's 1868 map of St. Louis pictured below shows some of the property in St. Louis County that was owned by John Murdoch, as well as a piece of land held by Murdoch & Dickson.

Murdoch Farm 1868

Murdoch's Farm was described in John Thomas Scharf's book, History of St. Louis City and County as containing orchards in addition to farmland, and Murdoch himself was mentioned in the section of the book discussing Richard J. Lockwood, who lived near Murdoch.

John Murdoch

Despite his apparent skills in business and farming, in 1869 Murdoch had his land surveyed and platted his farm. On April 28, 1869 an ad appeared in the real estate section of the Missouri Democrat offering the 350 acres of Murdoch Farm, divided into about five acres each, for sale at auction on May 10th. The ad read, in part, "This property is that high and beautiful ground south of Laclede Station by the property of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart....Is all under fence and mostly in cultivation and is the well known farm of John J Murdock. The mansion and the fifty acres of ground will be reserved and the balance sold to the highest bidder."

While some of the acreage sold, the vast majority of it did not, at least in 1869. The 1870 census indicated that John Murdoch, at age 55, was still living in St. Louis County with his 34-year-old wife, Julia. They had the following children: John age 11, Mary age 8, Emma age 6, George age 4, William age 2, and Joseph age 3 months. There are also four female servants listed, but no laborers. Murdoch's profession was listed as merchant, with real estate valued at $125,000 and $4,060 in his personal estate.

The firm of Murdoch and Dickson was still listed in the 1870 Edwards St. Louis Directory as being located at 204 & 206 N Main, and Murdoch was shown residing at Laclede Station Road P.R.R., reinforcing that he was still living on the farm.

On May 20, 26 & 30, 1870 postings appeared in the Missouri Republican advertising the sale of lots at Murdoch Farm. The number of available acres listed is 260, down from the originally advertised 350.

May 20th ad

May 20th ad continued

May 26th ad
May 30th ad

It is interesting to note that in the May 30th ad, the real estate auctioneers were serving lunch to anyone who came to look at the property. By September, lots were still be sold as indicated in this listing of Real Estate Transfers in September 26, 1870 Missouri Republican.

September 26, 1870
These two lots contain over 7 acres, and sold for $928. This transfer did not fall within the confines of the advertisements, which indicated that lots would be sold in 5 acre increments. These lots were located just south of what appears to be the actual farm land on the 1869 plat, so perhaps that is the explanation for the variance of acres sold.

Little by little, the life's work of John Murdoch was being whittled away. In 1871 he would lose something much more important to him and his family than the land they were living on.

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