One hot, muggy, August visit to Newton, Iowa, included the moment I found my passion for genealogy. It was in the late 1960s, and my grandmother drove me and my tag-along younger sister all over the county in her old, immaculate black Dodge to visit family and learn our family history. Distant cousins and elderly aunts pulled out shoeboxes, family bibles, etc., for us to see the obituaries, letters, and other treasures that had been passed down from generation to generation. The family we visited knew so much family history, but as a young teen, I knew so little of how to record it well. I had read one very old genealogy how-to book found at our local library, but did not know about citing sources or provenance. However, I did see these items with my own young eyes, and my sister and I copied many pieces by hand, using notebook paper and a purple Flair pen- the latest cool writing instrument and one of the first felt-tip pens, I believe. I was enraptured with the stories the family told- I loved the “Little House on the Prairie” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so this was heaven, to know my own family traveled in wagon trains across the prairie and ploughed the fertile soils of Iowa, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. There were no copies or scanners in Newton, Iowa at that time, so it was laborious to copy all, but I am so glad that I have these items, as some, like the following, might be gone forever, if we had not copied them.
Part of a letter from Aunt Ibe Raugh to Aunt Mary McMurray:
“… I am also enclosing in same package two old silver spoons and a breast pin that Huldah wanted us to have as there are four of us. Now I have seen them, I am sending them to you three girls.
They were brought from England by Mary Proctor when she came to the states with her father, General Proctor, at the close of the war. This was father’s mother. The pin had been a clasp to a neck chain but was fitted with a pin and had been used as such for about one hundred years. When Mary died she gave the pin to her daughter Sarah, Huldah’s mother, who took care of her during her last sickness.
The spoons were also handed down at the same time.
Huldah also states that James McMurray, father of William McMurray, father of Henderson McMurray, came to America in 1779.
Well girls, I have had these things for some time but I thought perhaps some of you would come out and I could give them to you all. Huldah did not know how old they really are but we know they were keepsakes one hundred years before the close of the War of England.”
We met a lot of relatives but at the time I couldn’t place them all into a family tree until I learned more about that. I am not sure which war was “the War of England” nor what the spoons or pin looked like; I believe all I saw was the letter or a copy of it.
I wish I had taken notes as our relatives spoke of their parents and grandparents- what wonderful stories they were! I was busy copying as they spoke, as many were very elderly and would be too tired if we stayed too long.
‘Aunt Ibe’ (sometimes called “Iba”) is Hepzibah Jeanetta McMurray (1865-1954) who married Samuel S. Raugh (b. 1860) and they lived in Orange, California in 1906 and also in Exeter California. ‘Aunt Mary’ is Mary McMurray (1856 – 1956) who never married and lived in Newton, Jasper Co., Iowa in 1906 and probably most of her adult life; she lived to be over 100 years old. They are just two of the thirteen children of Henderson McMurray and Mary Ann Horn.
‘Huldah’ is a cousin to the McMurray girls, as she was the daughter of Sarah McMurray _____, (married name unknown) who was Henderson McMurray’s sister. (Both were children of James McMurray & Mary Proctor.) There was another sister, who became “Mrs. C.C. Meyers of Waverly, Iowa” who is mentioned in Henderson McMurray’s 1906 obit- this is probably Minnie, born about 1820, as there is a “FC” and “Minnie Meyers” listed in the 1905 Iowa State Census in Waverly. The letter was probably written after 1940 and before 1954, as one of the 5 sisters who lived to adulthood died in 1940, and Ibe died in 1954, so there were just the “four of us” still living during that time span.
What mysteries do I hope to solve about this letter? I would like to know who Sarah McMurray married, and thus what Huldah’s maiden name was, plus who Huldah married. I only have one census- 1850- for William McMurray and his wife Mary Proctor McMurray. I have been unable to find any information about “General Proctor” or James McMurray- there are SO many McMurrays in Pennsylvania during that time period and it is challenging to separate them to know which is our ancestor.
I would also love to know what the pin and spoons look like- I do hope that someone in the family still has them and knows the story that goes along with them. They are a wonderful legacy.
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) Hand copied section of letter owned by author.
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