The above photo was in with McMurray family pictures that I have seen all my life. My family thought that the youngster was Edward A. McMurray, Jr., but he was not sure who the woman was with him. He always said, “I can’t remember that far back.”
In the last decade of his life, we went through the photos another time. He looked at this one intently, again puzzled as to who the woman was. For years I had been intrigued with his great-grandmother, Hannah Melissa Benjamin- I had never seen a picture of her, but had been born 100 years and two months after her, and just loved her name. Knowing the year that the picture was probably taken due to Ed’s age, I combed through the possibilities of who it could be; Hannah Melissa (Benjamin) McMurray was the best possibility. I asked, “Do you think it could be your great-grandmother, Hannah Melissa (Benjamin) McMurray?” He looked up, surprised, and replied that it was indeed her, and he remembered that she was very, very stern. Melissa, as she was known, died when he was just eight, so that was the only thing he could remember about her.
Hannah Melissa Benjamin was born to Sylvanus Rufus Benjamin and Sarah Ann Palmer on 03 Aug 1854 in Burlington, Licking County, Ohio. Licking County was a big transportation center at that time, especially after the Ohio Canal had been completed.
In 1865 or 1866 the family moved to Jasper County, Iowa. They lived on a farm about four miles northeast of Newton. In 1870, her father owned a large amount of land- he had the highest real estate value of any other household listed on the census page.
Melissa married Frederick Asbury “F. A.” McMurray in Jasper County, Iowa, on 18 September 1873. FA was an auctioneer who cried sales throughout the area. They had five children: William E. (1874-1957, marr Lynette Payne, had 3 children); Harry James (1876-1962, marr. Emma Tripp, no children); Addie Belle (1879-1958, marr. Forest Gillespie, no children); Roy (1884-1973, marr. Emma Hotger, no children); and Ray (1886-1979, marr. Elizabeth “Bessie” Catherine Blackwell, no children), all born in Jasper County.
F. A. McMurray died on 12 Dec 1929, leaving Melissa alone for almost three years. Melissa may be found in the 1930 US Federal Census, age 76, and living at 310 E. 4th St. N in Newton. She had a housekeeper and two lodgers living with her, and her home was worth $8,000.
Melissa (Benjamin) McMurray died on 09 Nov 1932 in Newton. She is buried in Newton Union Cemetery, along with her husband and many other Benjamins.
[NOTE: Post edited 3/21/14 to add death dates for William, Roy, and Ray McMurray.]
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) 1870 US Federal Census for Sylvanus R. Benjamin, head of household: Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Newton, Jasper, Iowa; Roll: M593_398; Page: 370A; Image: 380; Family History Library Film: 545897.
2) John Benjamin Obituary: The Newton Record, Thursday, May 24, 1900 Page 1, Column 2.
3) My Find A Grave Memorial #28154269 for Hannah Melissa (Benjamin) McMurray: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=28154269
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