Day 16 – James Murray Mystery Solved!!

Oh, what a glorious day this was! We started off the day venturing into the Rush County Courthouse – County Health Records – to see if we could find anything on James Murray (G3 – great great grandfather) — how he died so young (36) at the height of the Civil War (1863). “No death records dating back that far,” we were told, only death records starting in February 1882.

So, on the Courthouse clerks’ recommendation, we headed over to the Rushville Library. The absolutely clueless librarian led us downstairs to a small genealogy room, unlocked it and said, “Have at it.” OMG, what a mess. Minimal microfilm of newspapers, and nothing dating to the 1800s. File cabinets full of what looked like 5th grade school reports on various aspects of Rushville history but nothing that appeared to be of any value — so different from our experience visiting the genealogy sites in Findlay, OH. If there’s anything in that little room, it would take months to find.

Back to the Courthouse. Mattie Ferree Murray (Civil War Arnold’s wife) coincidentally did die in February of 1882 – when Rush County started to collect death records. So, we asked if we could see her death record. Sure enough, there it was! We had a letter from a family member that said Mattie had died of “spotted fever” which we understood to have been typhus but according to the death record, she actually died of spinal meningitis. That was a real find, and our records now more accurately reflect the true story.

Then we decided to venture up to County Records where we were told they might have some older newspapers. Nothing to lose – after finding zero in the library. Wow, were we stunned! There in horizontal stacks were a set of original newspapers bound into books – and we had free access to these originals.

Slowly, carefully pouring over the newspapers for 1863, at first we found nothing in the weekly newspaper covering April 9, 1863. We decided to look again, this time slowly, carefully reading through the whole paper. Then, there it was! James Murray died of typhoid fever . . . (see the photo). What a find!!!! So exciting for us.

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We don’t think anything will really top the excitement of the morning, finding Mattie Ferree Murray’s record and then reading an article about the “highly respectable and well known” James Murray. But our enthusiasm continued with our visit to East Hill Cemetery where we found the grave markers of:

  • James Murray and his wife Evaline Elstun Murray
  • Son Arnold Murray (b.1847) and his wife, Mattie Ferree Murray
  • Arnold’s brother, Eli Murray and wife, Sarah
  • Arnold’s sisters Viola Murray Powers and Florence Murray Powers as well as grave markers for
  • Ada Murray (Arnold and Mattie’s 6-year old daughter who died at the same time as her mother, Mattie), and
  • Arnold’s baby brother, Jasper Murray.

We followed East Hill with a visit to Little Flat Rock Cemetery where we saw the grave markers of James’ father, Arnold Murray (b. 1780) and his wife, Sarah Tibbets Murray.

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And to add more to our exciting day, we visited the James Murray house. This is being renovated by a private family who made it clear they didn’t want visitors. So, we stayed on the road and took photos.

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Wow. All we can say is wow. So excited. A great day.

5 Comments


  1. I believe you both have done a great job of adding to concrete information for the family tree. I thank you. It is sad that the new owners of the James Murray house were not interested in heritage.


    1. We don’t know that they weren’t interested. They had a sign on their door not to knock but to call first. They may be getting more visitors than they want. Could be that James Murray is famous and creating too much buzz.


  2. What a great trip you are having. It’s wonderful that you were able to find out so much information regarding the Murray’s. The picture of the house looks somewhat forbidding!


    1. It was indeed a serendipitous moment. Didn’t expect to find anything, but seeing it and holding the newspaper from 1863 was very exciting.

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