Sentimental Sunday: Three Generations of McMurray Dads

Three generations of McMurray Dads: Dr. Edward A. McMurray, Sr. on left, his mother Lynette (Payne) McMurray holding his son Edward A. McMurray, Jr., and her husband and Dr. McMurray’s father, Will McMurray, on right. circa 1924-5.

McMurray Family (Click for Family Tree)

Today, Father’s Day, is a great day to get sentimental about the dads in our family- we wouldn’t be US without them!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Family treasure chest of photos.

 

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Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
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SaveSave




Military Monday: Memorial Day and Edward A. McMurray, Jr.

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in South Pacific or Australia, c1944.
Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in South Pacific or Australia, c1944.

 

McMurray Family (Click for Family Tree)

Memorial Day in the US is a day that we honor those who have served our country to preserve our freedoms. It was meant to remember our heroes that have fallen in war, and those who were lucky enough to come home, but are no longer with us.

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., is one of the latter. Despite the dangerous places he served, he was one of the lucky ones to come home, and he came home healthy.

We are all blessed to have known his quiet dignity, his honor, and his love of this country.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Family photo, hidden in a basement for many years.

 

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Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.



Sibling Saturday: Alfred Payne and Civil War Taxes

Alfred PAYNE on November 1864 Tax List in Fremont, Lake County, Illinois. (Click to enlarge.)

McMurray Family, Payne Family (Click for Family Tree)

Taxes seem to follow us everywhere, and they did for our ancestors as well. Whether called an ‘excise tax’ (which was really an ‘income tax’ in this instance) to pay for the Civil War, as in the case of this ancestor, taxes on beloved British tea that would ignite a Revolution, or even going as far back as tributes to the chief of our ancient ancestor’s tribe, it seems we seldom get to keep all our earnings.

Taxes provide a “treasure chest” for our counties, states, and country to take care of infrastructure, provide employees and offices for essential services, etc. The old tax lists are also a treasure chest for family historians.

The life of Alfred Payne (1815-1895) is of interest because he was the brother of Rev. Joseph Hitchcock “J. H.” Payne, the great-grandfather of Dr. Edward A. McMurray. The above tax list from 1864 places Alfred in Fremont, Lake County, Illinois, to which at least two Payne lines migrated. It also tells us a bit about how he made his living. We know from censuses that he was a farmer, but he apparently also manufactured a significant amount of sorghum syrup.

At that time, the government had instituted the first income tax, to help pay for the Civil War. The tax laws were such that if one made $600 or less per year with a particular product, and if the product was produced by the farmer or his family, it would be exempt from duty. Alfred’s sorghum syrup production was more than double that dollar limit, so he was required to pay a 5% tax on the product they manufactured.

Alfred was taxed on 2,200 gallons of sorghum syrup. (It is unknown as to what the time period was for that much production- it may have been his annual production for 1864.) The syrup was valued at $1,320- that would be about $19,000 in today’s money. Most of us today would gladly exchange our tax rates with his 5%, which worked out to $66 in 1864, equivalent to about $960 today. We don’t know Alfred’s specific views on slavery, but most people in the family were staunch abolitionists, as were many in the town of Fremont and the members of the Congregational Church where Alfred was a charter member. So Alfred may not have minded the tax too much, since it was helping to pay for the war to end the cruel institution of slavery.

Alfred Payne is found on the December 1865 tax list as well, this time listed as a manufacturer for 7 months. His tax bill was $5.83. Sadly there is no more detail available, but he could have still been making the sorghum syrup since he was listed as a manufacturer.

In May of 1866, Alfred was listed in Bowen as a “retail dealer” and his tax was $10. Again, that is the only information…

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So just what was Alfred manufacturing, and what was it used for?

Sorghum syrup is made from a plant called Sweet Sorghum— there is a grain sorghum, too, which is not as high in sugars— both originally from Africa. The plant itself looks much like corn, but it can be grown under much drier conditions than corn. In the US today, sorghum is mostly grown in the south, but back in the nineteenth century, it was a common crop in the midwest as well. (Some of today’s farmers in the midwest sow it as a cover crop and winter food for pheasants, so that the hunting—and meat— is good.)

Sorghum almost ready to be harvested in Uganda, via Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Today sorghum is used to produce biofuels, but as in the old days, it is also used for animal feed. The harvested plant is packed tight into silos with little air movement, for anaerobic fermentation. This silage keeps well over the winter when grass is scarce, and is fed to ruminants like cattle and sheep. When made into a syrup, sorghum is used as a sweetener– again, just as in Alfred Payne’s day.

“Grinding sorghum on the farm of J. W. Stooksberry, Anderson County, Tennessee. This land will be inundated by the waters of Norris Dam reservoir.” Image by Tennessee Valley Authority, 25 October 1933, public domain via Wikipedia/NARA. (Click to enlarge.)

The sorghum would be cut down at the end of summer, in September or October, and often juiced right in the field. Alfred Payne likely had some sort of a press for the sorghum on his farm, draft animals to turn the press/juicer, and a large cooker to reduce the sorghum juice down to a thick syrup.

As the stalks of the plant are crushed between the rollers of the press, a bright green juice is extracted. It would be cooked as soon as possible, so stacks of firewood would have been made ready for tending through the day and probably even the night. Boiling for hours would kill most of the bacteria that could spoil the liquid, and the heat would turn the juice into a golden amber colored, thick liquid. It would take about 10 gallons of the fresh juice to make just one gallon of syrup. Alfred and his family and any workers would have harvested quite a number of acres in order to produce 2,200 finished gallons of sorghum syrup. And they would have celebrated the harvest as the syrup cooked, eating and maybe dancing away the long hours of the night.

“Grinding sorghum on the farm of J. W. Stooksberry, Anderson County, Tennessee.” Image by Tennessee Valley Authority, 25 October 1933, public domain via Wikipedia/NARA. (Click to enlarge.)

Sorghum provides minerals that cane sugar and high fructose corn syrups do not, especially if it is minimally processed. Our ancestors used sorghum as a ‘tonic’, and would have used sorghum syrup in pies and cakes, drizzled on their biscuits or rolls, etc. Sorghum has a rich, earthy flavor similar to molasses, though a bit different. If you want to try some, make sure you get 100% sorghum- sometimes they mix it with other products. It is very good over pancakes or biscuits, and really makes excellent cookies, too!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. For more information about sorghum syrup and how to use it, see:
    http://www.farmflavor.com/at-home/shopping/what-is-sorghum/ and http://nssppa.org/Sweet_Sorghum_FAQs.html
  2. Inflation calculator– http://www.in2013dollars.com/1864-dollars-in-2016?amount=66
  3. Alfred PAYNE on November 1864 Tax List in Fremont, Lake County, Illinois from U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918, Ancestry.com.

 

 

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Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
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National Doctor’s Day- Is there a Doctor in the House- er, Tree?

Dr. Edward A. McMurray, probably about 1925 after finishing college.
Dr. Edward A. McMurray, probably about 1925 after finishing college.  (Click to enlarge.)

 

McMurray Family, Helbling Family (Click for Family Tree)

Our Congress really does get important things done… and they really can work together if they try.  Think back to 1990 when, with overwhelming approval, both Congress and the House passed S.J. #366 to declare ‘National Doctor’s Day.’ The bill had just been introduced that year, and Pres. George H.W. Bush signed it in October- less than 10 months from start to finish! Public Law 101-473 thus took effect on March 30, 1991, proclaiming March 30 as a national day to celebrate the contributions of physicians throughout our history.

We do have at least two ancestors who were physicians, and one uncle.

Dr. Edward A. McMurray and his wife Elna Mae Kenner McMurray in the 1939 Newton, Iowa City Directory.
Dr. Edward A. McMurray and his wife Elna Mae Kenner McMurray in the 1939 Newton, Iowa City Directory. His office was in the bank building at that time, and his home was on S 8th Ave. W. (Click to enlarge.)

Dr. Edward A. McMurray

Both of the sons born to William Elmer McMurray and Lynette (Payne) McMurray, Edward A. McMurray (1900-1992) and his brother Herbert C. McMurray (1911-1989), became doctors.

Herbert McMurray, Newton (Iowa) High School Yearbook, 1929.
Herbert McMurray, Newton (Iowa) High School Yearbook, 1929. Herbert was one of only six young men at Newton High to be inducted into the National Athletic Honorary Society. The Society required high academic achievement as well as outstanding athletic work. (Click to enlarge.)

Within the family, Edward was lovingly called, “The Doctor.” He specialized in Ear, Eye, Nose, and Throat problems, after a residency in New York City around 1940. (His son Edward A. McMurray, Jr., remembered going to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City with him one summer during that residency.) Back then, ‘The Doctor’s’ specialty was known as “EENT.” Now that specialty has split- we have opthamologists- doctors who specialize in eyes only, and other doctors called ‘otorhinolaryngologists’ or ENTs, who cover the ear, nose, and throat areas. But Dr. McMurray could do it all, and his out-of-state grandchildren got their annual eye (and ENT) check when visiting him in Iowa!

I have already written a detailed post about the medical career of Dr. E. A. McMurray (1900-1992) in Newton, Iowa- see “Workday Wednesday- Dr. Edward A. McMurray.” His brother Herbert C. McMurray (1911-1989) practiced in the Ballwin, Missouri area.

Dr. John H. O’Brien

If you are a descendant of Gerard William/William Gerard “G. W.” Helbling (1882-1971), then you are also descended from Dr. John H. O’Brien (1808-1887), who was G.W.’s maternal (mother’s) grandfather. Dr. O’Brien was born in Ireland and attended the University of Dublin. A letter to the University has not provided any specific information about him as a student, although there was a Dr. John O’Brien working there as the Librarian of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in 1841. This cannot be the same Dr. John O’Brien, as our known ancestor had immigrated to America in 1831. (Perhaps it was his father or an uncle? O’Brien is a common name in Ireland though so the Librarian may not have been related at all.)

Dr. O’Brien immigrated in 1831, and was in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania by 1832. It was a tough time to be a doctor in western Pennsylvania- a cholera epidemic, spread by contaminated water, was taking place on the frontier.

The inscription on his headstone was very appropriate for a physician:

Blessed is he that understandeth concerning

the needy and the poor, the Lord will deliver

him in the evil day.       -XL Psalm 

Dr. John H. O’Brien- headstone detail (Click to enlarge.)

Dr. O’Brien and his wife Jane (Neel) O’Brien were early settlers of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suburbs, and he was a successful doctor in the Pittsburgh area. (He is often listed as “J. H. O’Brien” in directories.) A previous post tells a bit more about Dr. O’Brien and his family: “Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien.” We will tell more of the family story in upcoming posts.

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All of these doctors would be amazed at today’s healthcare. Dr. E. A. McMurray, who died in 1992 but had been retired for a number of years, saw the beginnings of this incredible age of medicine.  Dr. O’Brien, however, may have been paid in farm products, especially in his early years in America and while on the frontier, where hard cash was hard to come by. (If memory serves, Dr. McMurray was sometimes paid with goods as well, especially in his early years as a general practitioner in a small town with surrounding rural areas.) The ‘germ theory of disease’ was not fully understood or accepted until at least the 1850s, and really into the 1880s. John Snow wrote his theory of the transmission of cholera in 1849, and mapped cholera epidemics in London in the early 1850s. Not fully accepted even when he stopped the epidemic, it was too late for our Dr. O’Brien to use this information to help stem the disease in Western Pennsylvania. Viruses were discovered in the 1890s, after Dr. O’Brien’s death and just 10 years before Dr. E. A. McMurray was born. Some arsenic-based synthetic antibacterials had been used after 1907 for some diseases, but Dr. McMurray was already through medical school when penicillin was described in 1928; antibiotics were not widely available, however, until after World War II.

From using genetics to determine treatment, to the incredibly complex machines we have available for diagnosis and treatment, to how medical care is paid for (and how insurance companies think they know more about appropriate patient care than a personal doctor), today’s medicine would be astounding to all these learned doctors!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland for the Year of Our Lord 1841,” p. 151, Ancestry.com.
  2. Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien” may be found at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/14/tombstone-tuesday-dr-john-h-obrien/
  3. More mentions of these men can be found on our blog by searching for the names “McMurray” or “O’Brien.”
  4. For our younger readers, a brief explanation of our title is probably warranted. In earlier times, if someone got sick in a theater or hotel, the cry, “Is there a doctor in the house??” would go through the audience and hallways in order to get fast medical assistance to the victim. (It became a great comedy routine, too.) There were no cell phones, and even no phones at all, of course, depending on how far back one goes. In fact, calling 9-1-1 for emergency assistance was not instituted in the United States until 1968, and many communities did not have this resource available for its citizens even into the 1980s. (Probably before you were born.)

 

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Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
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1) For a blast from the past, watch Schoolhouse Rock: America “I’m Just a Bill.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFroMQlKiag




Tuesday’s Tip: Context- The 1888 Presidential Election

Leominster, Massachusetts Politics during the 1888 Presidential Election. Fitchburg Sentinel, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 18 October 1888, page 2, column 3.
Leominster, Massachusetts Politics during the 1888 Presidential Election. “Fitchburg Sentinel,” Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 18 October 1888, page 2, column 3.

McMurray Family, Payne Family, Springsteen Family (Click for Family Trees)

Tuesday’s Tip:

Look for the context of your ancestor’s life-

from politics to clothing,

from community happenings to the style of their house.

Thankfully most family historians have moved away from being collectors of names and dates, and now want to tell the stories of their ancestors lives. Without detailed daily diaries or bundles of old letters, how do we learn about their lives? Newspapers are a great way to learn what was happening in a community, and an ancestor might be mentioned in a story or obituary. Also, browsing the pages around where one finds an ancestor article can help us to fill in the blanks about the little things in their lives- or even the big things.

Politics can be messy, as we all have experienced these last two years of this what seems to be a never-ending election. (In Great Britain, they only have a certain number of WEEKS they are allowed to campaign- that seems much more sensible.) Elections in our country’s history have been just as bad, maybe even worse than this one, but learning about them will help us to understand our ancestors a bit more.

Edward B.Payne (1847-1923) and his wife, Nanie M. (Burnell) Payne (1847-1898), lived in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1888, the year of this article. Their only child, Lynette Payne (who later married William Elmer McMurray), was about to turn nine years old just eight days after this article was published. Rev. Payne was the pastor of the First Congregational Unitarian Church in Leominster. Further down this newspaper column about Leominster happenings was a report of the Porter-Davis wedding at which he officiated, but a few moments of browsing the paper turned up this nugget of context.

In 1888, the Democratic incumbent President, Grover Cleveland, desired a second term. The Republican nominee was Benjamin Harrison, and US tariffs were the biggest issue of the campaign. Tariffs are a tax on imported goods, paid by the importer, and until the Federal Income Tax began in 1913, tariffs were the main source of federal income- up to 95% of the total at times.

1888 Presidential Election- Tariff Reform poster for Grover Cleveland, via Wikipedia; public domain.
1888 Presidential Election- Tariff Reform poster for Grover Cleveland, via Wikipedia; public domain.

Since high tariffs, paid by foreign manufacturers and importers, provided income to our federal government, they reduced the need for taxes to be paid by our citizens. Sounds good- make the other country pay, right? Well, the bad part  is that U.S. tariffs make the cost of imported goods higher to the consumer in this country- the cost just gets passed through to the buyer, of course.

Tariffs that are high make domestic products more affordable than imports, and thus more desirable. Therefore those in U.S. industries, including factory workers, preferred high tariffs so that their own production had a lower comparative cost, and they could sell more. Our own citizens would be in high demand as workers, too.

Since the country was prospering and there were no wars going on in 1888, tariffs became THE issue. Grover Cleveland was adamant that high U.S. tariffs were hurting the consumer.  He knew that our citizens felt it every time that they bought an imported item, and it hurt their pocketbook. Cleveland thus proposed a large tariff reduction to Congress.

(But then would personal taxes go up? The money has to come from somewhere…)

Harrison, however, felt that high tariffs protected our workers and manufacturers.

Grover Cleveland-Benjamin Harrison presidential (1888) campaign poster about the trade policy of the two candidates. The map supports the work of the Harrison campaign.
Grover Cleveland-Benjamin Harrison presidential (1888) campaign poster about the trade policy of the two candidates. The map supports the work of the Harrison campaign. via Wikipedia, public domain.

Benjamin Harrison was a Republican from Indiana, and he gave speeches from his front porch in Indianapolis- our Springsteen ancestors, such as Jefferson Springsteen and his son Abram Furman Springsteen, may have been a part of those crowds. The Springsteens were Democrats, so may have been part of the hecklers, although they may have had divided loyalties. Their party’s man, President Cleveland, was against military pensions. Since Jeff had at least 2 sons who had served in the Civil War, one of which was Abram, the Springsteens may not have been so happy with Cleveland, either.

Back in Leominster, Massachusetts, where Edward B.Payne and family were living, the factory workers, as expected, were supporting Harrison with his views of keeping tariffs high. It is interesting that the shirt factory ladies were going to “unfurl one of the finest flags in town, bearing the names of Harrison and Morton.” (Morton was the V.P. nominee.) Since women in most states could not legally vote in a Presidential election until 32 years later, it was one small way they could voice their political opinions and help influence the outcome.

Rev. Payne was a Christian Socialist in his later years, and surely, with his devotion to the poor, he exemplified that philosophy even earlier in life. He most likely would have favored a candidate who had the middle and lower classes in mind. (Later in California, he registered as a Socialist; we have found no other documentation of his political leanings.) He worked quite a lot with factory workers though, so he too may have had a difficult time deciding between candidates when he was ready to cast his ballot in the Cleveland-Harrison contest. Although just 41 years old in 1888, he also was a Civil War veteran, thus probably liked the idea of a military pension in his future- after all, preachers really do not make very much income.

In 1888, America still was one of the biggest manufacturers in the world, and the costs for our products were among the lowest in the world. So the tariff issue may not have been of such importance after all, but it was the loudest of the campaign.

Harrison carried Indiana as well as Massachusetts, and received the majority of  electoral votes. Cleveland, however, received the majority of the popular votes. It was a close election, but as one of only four elections when the popular vote did not match the Electoral College vote, the Republican Benjamin Harrison became the next President of the United States.

The context of our ancestor’s lives in 1888 included tariffs; today, ours include trade agreements, which can affect prices and demand in similar ways.

Our ancestors needed to educate themselves well before they voted, just as we need to do today.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1. Image sources per captions.

2. “United States Presidential Election, 1888,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1888

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2016 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.