MURDOCK FAMILY HISTORY
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From:A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled
by William E. Connelly, secretary of the Kansas State Historical
Society of Topeka, in five volumes, published 1918 by Lewis
Publishing Co. of Chicago and New York
Denver Public Library call number G978.1 C762st
Vol. 3, pp. 1223-24
MARSHALL M. MURDOCK, a pioneer journalist of Kansas, the founder
of the Wichita Eagle and one of the marked men of the commonwealth,
was born in the Pierpont settlement of what is now West Virginia,
in 1837.He was of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and his father married
into the Governor Pierpont family.Soon after his marriage the
family moved to Ironton, Southern Ohio, and there Marshall Murdock
attended the public schools and commenced to learn the printer's
trade. Thomas Murdock, the father, was unsuccessful in his business
venture, and, as he had an abhorrence of slavery and Kansas was
then the most pronounced champion of abolitionism in the West, he
decided to try his fortune in that part of the country.The family
and the household goods were loaded into two covered wagons and a
start was made for Kansas; the father drove one team and Marshall,
the son, the other.After an overland journey of several weeks
they rearched their destination and Thomas Murdock settled on a
farm near Topeka.
When gold was discovered in the Pike's Peak region, Marshall
Murdock started for the excitement, and is said to have been the
first to have discovered silver on the site of Leadville.While
he was in the gold fields, the Civil war broke out, and his father
and two of his brothers enlisted, and he returned to Kansas to
care for the younger members of the family.He found employment
in the printing office at Lawrence, narrowly escaped the Quantrill
raiders and at the threatened invasion of Kansas by Price entered
the Union service as lieutenant-colonel of the Osage and Lyon
county militia.In 1863 Colonel Murdock located at Burlingame,
where he established the Chronicle and served as state senator.
With the projection of the Santa Fe line toward Wichita, in 1872,
he moved his printing office to that point, and founded the Eagle.
Soon afterward he was elected state senator and served as
postmaster of Wichita for many years, holding that position under
appointment of President McKinley, at the time of his death
January 2, 1908.A recent writer says of him:"As he was by far
a bigger man than the offices he held, his place in the world must
be measured in other ways.He reached his highest stature in his
profession.In brilliancy he had no superior, and in public
usefulness it is doubtful if he ever had an equal.He was the
greatest town boomer and town builder the Middle West has ever
known.And he was honest in both.He saw, as through a vision,
the future glory of the hamlet with which he had cast his fortune.
He believed sincerely that it was destined to become the commercial
center of the plains, and advocated every public enterprise that
could contribute in any way to make it such.He mad the Eagle the
oracle of the people, and to those inquiring for the land of
promise it was never dumb."
The two sons of the deceased, Victor and Marcellus, have been a
credit to their father's ability -- the former as a radical member
of Congress and the latter as editor and proprietor of the Eagle.
Vol. 5, pp. 2449-51
MARY ALICE MURDOCK probably deserves to rank first among Kansas
women in the field of journalism.As editor and manager of the El
Dorado Republican, she is continuing a publication and an influence
which were dignified and ennobled by her honored father, the late
Thomas Benton Murdock.
She was born at Emporia, Kansas, February 28, 1870, and four
days after her birth her parents removed to El Dorado, where she
grew up and was educated in the public schools.She worked nearly
through the senior year in high school, and finished her education
in Mount Washington Seminary at Baltimore, Maryland.She grew up
in the atmosphere of journalism and fitted herself into practically
every detail of her father's paper.Thus she was a thorough
newspaper woman at the time of her father's death on November 4,
1909, and on December 1 following she took an active part in the
management of the Republican and largely directed it until April 1,
1910.Then, under appointment from President Taft, she filled for
four years the office of postmaster of El Dorado.On May 1, 1914,
Miss Murdock took active charge of the El Dorado Republican, and
has since been its editor.The El Dorado Republican has a large
circulation over Butler and surrounding counties, and its influence
is practically state wide.It is now and has been for the past two
years the official county and city paper.The plant and offices
are on East Central Avenue, and Miss Murdock owns the building in
which it is published.Miss Murdock is the director of the
Carnegie Library, a member of the Avon Club and of the Episcopal
Through her career as a newspaper woman Miss Murdock has felt
that the greatest ideals she could set before her was the example
and character of her father.In a period when Kansas and Kansas
men gave so much to the world, Thomas Benton Murdock was typical
of many of the best virtues and at the same time was distinctively
individual.As a boy he knew Kansas when the territory was torn in
the factional struggle over freedom and slavery.He lived here
more than half a century, and to the last was a vigorous fighter
for the ideals to which he dedicated his life.He fairly earned
a place among the great men of Kansas, and it is singularly
appropriate to include in these pages the following biography and
In 1841 Thomas Benton Murdock was born in the mountains of
Virginia.He was one of the five children who lived to maturity of
Thomas Murdock and Katherine Pierrepont.On the mother's side came
the pride of the Pierrepont; from the father's the insurgent
instincts of the Irish Murdocks who left Ireland after the Irish
rebellion failed in 1798.Though reared in the mountains among
the most simple people and most primitive surroundings, the
Murdocks who have been known in Kansas for half a century have
proved soldiers of the militant democracy.They have been fighters
who led naturally, by instinct and training, but never fighters for
the old order.They always were pioneers, always moving out into
new territory of thought an action, looking forward.Thomas and
Katherine Murdock could not endure the iniquity of slavery, so in
1849 they freed their slaves and left the slave country for Ohio.
They settled near Ironton, along the Ohio River, but lost
everything they had in the panic of 1855.Loading their household
goods upon a boat, they went down the Ohio to the Mississippi and
journeyed as far west as Mount Pleasant, Iowa.There the family
spent the winter, and the father went to Kansas and found a
location. He brought his family to Topeka in the winter of 1856-57.
They rented a little hotel and kept tavern, among others having
for guests Jim Lane and A. D. Stevens, famous as a border fighter
under Montgomery and afterward killed at Harper's Ferry under old
John Brown.Going and coming in the little Kansas town of the
Virginia abolitionist were the men who made Kansas famous in the
great conflict that began at Lawrence and ended at Appomattox.
In this atmosphere of strife and patriotism young Benton
Murdock, a youth in his late 'teens grew up.In 1860 the family
homesteaded at Forest Hill near Emporia, and the father and mother
spent the remainder of their years there.The former died in 1896
and the latter 1887.
When the Civil war broke out, Thomas Benton Murdock enlisted
with his father and brother Roland in the Ninth Kansas Cavalry and
served until the end of the war.He served in the Rocky Mountains
in 1863, and there met J. H. Betts, afterward an honored citizen of
El Dorado.Seven or eight years later these two men again met in
El Dorado.John Betts kept looking at Murdock and finally said:
"Say, aren't you the chap that relieved me of that army overcoat
out west?"Murdock's company was engaged in confiscating
Government property wherever found."Well, I guess I am.But I'm
here to start a newspaper.What's the chance?""Bully," returned
Mr. Betts, willing to let bygones be bygones, and they remained
friends for forty years.
Returning from the army where he had gone "snow blind" on the
plains--a calamity that hung over him all his later days--young
Murdock, who had been a hod carrier and general workman as a youth
around Topeka, learned the printing trade.He worked in the
office of the Emporia News, then owned by P. B. Plumb and Jacob
Stotler.Mr. Stotler had married Leverah Murdock during the war.
His brother Marshall, who had worked at the printer's trade during
the war, was running the Burlingame Chronicle at the end of the
struggle.Young Benton went back to Ironton, Ohio, married the
sweetheart of his boyhood, Frances Crawford, and came to El Dorado
March 4, 1870.
Here he founded the Walnut Valley Times, with J. S. Danford.
His wife lived only a few years, leaving at her death a daughter,
Mary Alice, now editor of the El Dorado Republican.
From the first Mr. Murdock became a leader of politics in
Kansas.He stood for the Walnut Valley and the kingdom of Butler.
In 1876 he was elected a member of the State Senate.He served
with such men as E. N. Morrill, Charles Robinson, J. M. Hadley,
father of the former governor of Missouri, Benjamin F. Simpson,
J. R. Hallowell, D. W. Finney, W. A. Johnston, chief justice of
Kansas, all members of the Senate; while in the house were
Lyman U. Humphrey, John Gilmore, A. W. Smith, L. B. Kellogg, and
P. P. Elder.
His political career was fostered and guided by Mrs. Antoinette
Culbreth-Murdock, who for a generation was wife, friend, comrade,
guide and inspiration, and bore him five children, of whom Ellina
Murdock is the only one now living.Mrs. Murdock survives him
with his two children.
In 1880 he ran for the Senate again, but was defeated, unfairly
he thought.He sold the Times and moved to Topeka and became
connected with the Topeka Daily Commonwealth, then controlled by
the Baker family.But his heart was in El Dorado, and he returned
in 1883 and founded the El Dorado Weekly Republican.A daily
followed the weekly in 1884, and the paper at once took a prominent
place in the affairs of Kansas.
Mr. Murdock was a staunch friend and ally of P. B. Plumb
throughout the latter's career.In 1888 Mr. Murdock was again
elected to the State Senate.He served until 1892, and was on the
committee that tried Theodosius Botkin and went over the old county
seat troubles of Kansas.He was defeated for re-election by the
populist wave, and until appointed game warden by Governor Stubbs
held no other public office.However he was a public man all the
time.His influence on the state has been more rather than less
because of the fact that he was not in office.In every republican
state convention for forty years Mr. Murdock was a power of the
first class.Yet he sacrificed that power and worked for the
primaries which put convention politicians out of power.He was
never selfish, never little, never mean, and so it happened he was
large enough to retain his influence in the state and multiply it
through the primary.
Gradually he grew in strength with the people of Kansas, and
after 1902--his last alignment with the old political machine--he
was easily the leader of the forward movement in Kansas
republicanism.Others have had the honor; but he made them.He
has expressed as no other man has been able to express it, the
sentiment of popular protest against the wrongs of government by
ring rule.He was the voice of the people--an indignant people
clamoring for a larger part in their state government.
He fought with arms for freedom in his youth; he offered his
body then; he gave his life to freedom in this latest struggle,
and fought with his spirit--a brave, successful fight.As an
editor he was equipped as few men are equipped--with an individual
style.He expressed something more than an idea.He reflected an
ideal plus a strong unique personality.He therefore in a way
dramatized whatever he wrote--made it the spoken word of a
combatant in the conflict, the defiance of a partisan in the
contest.So thousands of people knew him as a voice who did not
know him as a man.
Here in his home town was his real life, his real friends, his
real success.For before he was a Kansan he was a Butler County
man, an El Dorado man.He always stood by the home folks.Of
course he took part in local matters, and having taken part had
to take sides.He was never neutral in any important contest here
at home.But he always fought in the open and he always fought
fair.He never abused a man, he attacked causes, movements,
orders, administrations, organizations and principles of his
opponents--but the personal character of the men he opposed--
there was the limit.He never returned abuse for abuse.He had
no newspaper fights.He never made his personal enemies objects
for newspaper ridicule.He had no office blacklist.Every man
or woman in Butler County received exactly the same treatment from
the Republican under Mr. Murdock that every other man or woman
received, no matter whether he or she was friend or enemy.He
strove to be fair.Many is the politician in this county in the
old days who fought Mr. Murdock knowing he could always depend on
Mr. Murdock to be fair, to keep to the issue, to be silent on old
scores, to leave personal matters out of the question.Men have
risen to power in this community opposing Mr. Murdock who have
capitalized on his innate decency and have risen more by reason of
his charity and humanity than by their own ability.
He was a gentleman of the old school, was Thomas Benton
Murdock, and that fact gave more power to those who opposed him
often than their own works should have given to them.As his
best qualities grew intenser, as people grew nearer to him,
as they who knew him best here in his home community thought
more of him than those who knew him in the state, so even better
than they knew and loved him in the town did they know and love
him in his home.Mr. Murdock was a home man clear to the core.
He was best known there and best beloved, for he showed always
his best side.He kept the finest part of his heart and mind and
soul for those who met him in his home.There he was in his
kindest, his gentlest, his most human aspect.Home was his Heaven.
There he brought all his joys.There he left the world behind.
When blindness threatened him, as it did for a quarter of a
century, off and on, it was in his home that he found his only
solace.When enemies pursued him, when cares overcame him, when
troubles encompassed him about, he turned always up the hill--
always homeward.There he drank the elixir of life and returned
full armed, new and strong to the contest.
His old home, now occupied by his widow, is at 1000 Walnut Hill
and has been the family homestead for the past twenty-eight years.
Mr. Murdock died in a hospital at Kansas City November 4, 1909,
but was buried in the West Cemetery at El Dorado.
The Murdock memorial fountain in the courthouse grounds was
erected to his memory by friends from Maine to California, a
committee of El Dorado men fostering it.The contributions made
up in small amounts of $1 or more.
When his soul went out into the greater soul that gave it, how
lovingly he must have followed that last ride of his shattered
clay tenement as it journeyed through the Kansas that he loved,
down the west branch into the Walnut Valley that loved him, up
the hill and through the gloaming into the home that was his
first Heaven.For it was a journey with a climax in love, and
when those whom he knew best and loved best gathered about his
wasted body of death, his soul triumphant in the new life must
have glowed even through the dark veil the warmth of an affection
too deep for words or fear.
So his last wish was granted.And after "taps" had sounded,
we left all that was mortal, only a withered hut of the exalted
and risen soul of Thomas Benton Murdock, under the prairie grass
out in the sunshine.Sunshine and prairie grass--and the end.