Sorting Saturday: Wiley Anderson Murrell and Genealogy Emails

Richmond Enquirer, 12 March 1840, County Committees, Vol. 36, No. 102, Page 4, Col. 1, via (Click to enlarge.)


Roberts Family, Murrell Family (Click for Family Tree)

After decades of research, a printed mention of the elusive Wiley Anderson Murrell (1806-1885) has finally been found!!

It was a serendipitous find, as I was sorting through emails.

We have a marriage bond plus censuses in Botetourt County, VA, Roseville IL, and Prairie City IA for Wiley A. Murrell, but never a mention in a newspaper or other document found online- until now. We do not know the names of his parents nor siblings. We know nothing about his life before he married at age 28, except that he was born 3 February 1805 per the family bible. And we have not found an obituary. So it has been very frustrating. (Genealogists understand.) Until now.

Sometimes I think I get too many genealogy emails, so have been sorting through to determine which ones duplicate information and can be unsubscribed from, and which have been productive enough to want to keep reading. I decided to go ahead and click on some of the links in the newsletter- I have found some information from their site previously, and it is a genealogy/newspaper search engine so more specific than Google. I am so glad I decided to take the time. They had the Virginia Newspaper Project (VNP) featured, so searching for one of my most elusive ancestors seemed the thing to do late in the evening. (Genealogists understand.) It took a bit of clicking on the website- not super easy to use overall, but I got 30 hits using “Murrell” as my search term and setting the date filter to 1787 (their earliest paper) to 1850, when I knew he was already in Illinois.

Skimming down the page, the fourth hit included “Wiley A. Murrell”!! Oh my- I was so excited I could hardly breathe, afraid the words on the screen would go away. (Genealogists understand.) Could this be “our” Wiley? There actually are more Murrells than I ever thought there would be, especially in Virginia, and ‘Wiley’ was apparently a common name- probably short for ‘William.’ So I was hoping against hope that it would be the right man, especially since it was a Richmond, Virginia paper, and we know that after 1832, when he married, he lived about 170 miles away, in Botetourt County.

But there it was:

“Wiley A. Murrell.”

The 12 March 1840 Richmond Enquirer included a list of County Committees appointed at the Democratic State Convention on Feb. 22 1840. There was a Botetourt Central Committee with 12 men listed, and then a “Committee of Vigilance” with ~143 members. Down that list was “Wiley A. Murrell.” That had to be him! Right name, right county, right time period.

Richmond Enquirer, 12 March 1840, Botetourt County, Vol. 36, No. 102, Page 4, Col. 2, via (Click to enlarge.)

Trying to be calm and analytical was hard as I was inspired to do the Genealogy Happy Dance. (Genealogists understand.) I won’t, however, describe that here as one could never ‘unsee’ how pathetic that would be with my 3 left feet.

I knew I needed to be looking at the other names on the committee for familiar names- Elizabeth Shown Mills’ FAN (Friends, Associates, Neighbors) Club, to help me make sure I had the right Wiley. Sure enough, there was a name that clicked- Andrew Obenchain/Obernshain. The name sounded familiar, but at first I could not find it in my tree. Looking at the Honts family information compiled by the late George E. Honts, III, however, I realized that Wiley’s wife, Mary Magdalen (Honts) Murrell, was Andrew’s sister-in-law, as he had married Mary’s sister, Elizabeth B. Honts (1809-1881). So maybe we need to add a “C” to the FAN Club- for “Collateral kin.” (Includes in-laws, cousins, etc. who are not a direct ancestor but related. Not as catchy an acronym though.) There are Coffmans listed on this Botetourt committee too- the mother of Mary and Elizabeth was Catharine (Coffman/Kauffman) Honts (1784-1867).

There is also a “Jas. A. Murrell” listed- perhaps a brother, father, uncle, cousin?

So it is very highly likely that this is the correct Wiley A. Murrell.

Wow. Oh wow. (Genealogists understand.)

So sort your data, emails, papers, etc. on a regular basis, and stay up to date with what is newly available online and in archives. You never know what you will find.


Coming up: more about Wiley A. Murrell and the Committee of Vigilance.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Richmond Enquirer, March 12, 1840, Volume 36, Number 102, Page 4, Column 2 @ Virginia Newspaper Project, Virginia Chronicle,–1787—1850–en-20–1–txt-txIN-Murrell——#
  2. Murrell Family Bible- see our series beginning at Wiley’s birth record is shown in Part 2.
  3. The Descendants of Jacob Hons/John by George E. Honts III, Fincastle, Virginia, 1999. Available only from the Botetourt (VA) Historical Society,


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“A Maine Law Wanted”- Murrell Family Bible, Part 6

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Murrell Family Bible

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 1
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,     Page 1 [Click to enlarge.]
This pamphlet printed on very thin paper was tucked into the family bible of Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary Magdalen Honts Murrell. (See previous posts in this series.)

The latest date of statistics cited is October, 1852, so it must have been printed some time after that.

Liquor flowed freely in early America, whether to keep one safe from water-borne illness, to help warm up on cold winter days and nights, or to free one for a short while from the dreariness of the hard, constant drudgery of being a working-class man.

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 2
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,     Page 2 [Click to enlarge.]
In 1851 the Temperance Movement in the United States was growing. A law  was passed in Maine that year that only allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages for “medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes.” Twelve other states passed similar laws by 1855, although a number of those laws were overturned by State Supreme Courts- there were even riots over the laws in some states. Iowa lawmakers passed a “Maine Law” in 1855 and it was quickly ratified by Iowa voters that year. This pamphlet may have been provided by the Temperance Movement and churches to encourage Iowa voters to support a “Maine Law” in their state.

Temperance was very unpopular, especially among working class men. Many churches and women worked for the temperance movement, as they knew that women and children suffered the most (economically, psychologically, and physically) when alcoholism affected the breadwinner of the family. Mary Honts Murrell came from a broken family, and had a father who was often unreasonable and had a temper- could that be why this pamphlet was in her bible? Had her father, Henry Honts, been an alcoholic? That is a story that we probably will never know.

Women worked to get the vote during this time period as well, but with little success. ‘Big liquor’ and powerful politicians who bought votes with free liquor right before elections knew that women would tend to vote for any attempt to limit alcohol sales, and thus they banded together to keep the right of suffrage from women until 1922.

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 3 [click to enlarge]
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,      Page 3
[Click to enlarge.]
 Interestingly, page 3 of “A Maine Law Wanted” states, “Four-fifths of those swept away in Buffalo, by the cholera, have been in the habit of using ardent spirits as a beverage.” (Italics in pamphlet.) Actually, in the 1850s, drinking “ardent spirits” instead of local water from a river or stream would have protected drinkers since the alcohol kills bacteria. Of course, at that time the germ theory of disease was not widely accepted, and it was not understood that fecal contamination of water was the cause of cholera. There have been numerous pandemics of cholera, including one in the United States and Europe from 1827-1835, which killed 150,000 Americans. Within a year or so of the (estimated) publishing date of this pamphlet, in 1854, John Snow of England recognized a clustering of cholera disease around contaminated water, thus beginning the science of epidemiology and successful steps to eradicate this lethal disease.

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 4 [click to enlarge]
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,     Page 4
[Click to enlarge.]
Note the publication information on the last page: “Hoover & Co., 118 Nassau street, New York, office of the New York People’s Organ, a weekly Temperance and Family Companion, at one dollar a year.” Sadly I could not find specific information for this group online, but hopefully some scholars will find this post and add this pamphlet to other historical documents of the era.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Murrell Family Bible, c1845?

2) Wikipedia article for “Maine Law,” accessed 2-8-14 at

3) Wikipedia article for “Cholera,” accessed 2-8-14 at


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Sentimental Sunday: Murrell Family Bible, Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Murrell Family Bible

MURRELL Family Bible-Births
MURRELL Family Bible-Births        [click to enlarge]
Edith Roberts (see Murrell Family Bible, Part 1would not have known her great-grandparents Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary Magdalen Hons Murrell as they died about 15 years before she was born. I do not remember hearing any stories about them, but she told- and thankfully wrote- much about the family she did know. She did lovingly keep the Murrell family bible though, and now it is time for another generation to share for other related family to see. (Grandma would be so astounded at how we can share today!) It is now up to us to find the actual stories of the Murrells, and pass them on to our children.

[I did procrastinate and have gotten so involved with the live streaming of RootsTech that I did not get the Murrell Bible posts up, but will publish all in the next few days- really.]

The Murrell Family Bible does not have a title page or publication date- the first pages are missing. Many, but not all, of the entries were written in the same hand. The births look as if they were all written at the same time- maybe after all the children were born, after 1845? The marriage record and the first recorded death appear as if the same pen and ink were used as is on the births page. This makes me wonder if the bible was purchased around November 1846, when their daughter Mary Catharine died at the young age of 7 years. We start to see the possible stories of this family as we analyze just these three pages of Bible records. One can almost feel the grief of a mother, setting the family’s history into their Holy Book, to pass to subsequent generations.

The ephemera within the bible, which I will also post this week, gave clues that it was owned by the Roberts family in the 1930s, and we know it was passed to Edith Roberts Luck in later years. The bible was transcribed in 1966 with a purple Flair pen (the newest and coolest thing then), with Grandma Edie by my side to explain who each person was and how they were related. I have added notes of more information found in subsequent years, and corrected some of the things I did not know about transcribing when I was a new to genealogical research.

Transcription of the above Bible page:


Wiley A. Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

Feb the 3 day 1805



Mary Honts was

Born in the year

of our Lord Sep 9th




Elizabeth Ann Murrell

Daughter of Wilee Murrell

was Born in the year of our Lord Feb the [1? Or 4?]




John Henry Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

July the 2 Day 1837



Mary Catherine

Murrell was Born

in the year of our

Lord Sep the 18




William Anderson

Murrell was Born

In the year of our

Lord May the 25




[next column]



James Edward

Murrell was Born

in the year of our

Lord Nove the 15




Ann Elisy Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

December the 21




Notes, Sources, and References:

1) is streaming video of wonderful speakers from the 2014 RootsTech conference, and they will be available on the website for a short time after. The theme of many of the speakers is, “Tell your stories!” which is exactly why we started this blog. If  opportunity presents, watch the Keynote from Saturday, 2/7/14 with Stephanie Nielson- it is a powerful story and was very moving. For some reason the videos are not available yet as I write this (and it’s a genealogy and tech conference??? Oh, the irony…) but it is all free online so am very grateful for that.

2) Wiley A. Murrell- born in Virginia; parents John (?) Murrell and ?; mother or grandparent possibly ___ Anderson since Anderson is used as his and son’s middle name?

3) Mary Honts- Parents were Henry Honts and Catherine Coffman; name Mary Magdalene Huntz/Hunts/Honce/Hance.

4) Elizabeth Murrell- Note: Feb 1 is date in other documents; middle name was Ann. Elizabeth Ann m. John Roberts in Roseville, Illinois, 08 Mar 1857 and d. 02 Feb 1917 in Prairie City, Jasper, Iowa.

5) John Henry Murrell- b. Botetourt Co., VA; m. Lydia Raburn by 21 Dec 1862 and d. 23 or 25 Mar 1880.

6) Mary Catherine Murrell- died young- see deaths

7) William Anderson Murrell- “of Roseville, IL” per obit of his sister Eliz. in 1917. Married Cordelia Talley 1 Oct 1867 in Warren Co., IL, and d. 1 Aug 1922 in Roseville, Warren, IL.

8) James Edward Murrell-  m. Mary E. Robinson 17 Nov 1867; “of Leavenworth, KS” per sister Eliz’s obit in 1917.

9) Ann Elisy Murrell- m. Aaron Brown; she d. 02 May 1892.

10) Murrell Family Bible, possibly c1845.


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Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, 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.