Biography of Marshall M. Murdock

Marshall M. Murdock, a pioneer journalist of Kansas, the founder of the Wichita Eagle and one of the marked men of the commonwealth, was born in the Pierpont settlement of what is now West Virginia, in 1837. He was of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and his father married into the Governor Pierpont family. Soon after his marriage the family moved to Ironton, Southern Ohio, and there Marshall Murdock attended the public schools and commenced to learn the printer’s trade. Thomas Murdock, the father, was unsuccessful in his business venture, and, as he had an abhorrence of slavery and Kansas was then the most pronounced champion of abolitionism in the West, he decided to try his fortune in that part of the country. The family and the household goods were therefore loaded into two covered wagons and a start was made for Topeka; the father drove one team and Marshall, the son, the other. After an overland journey of several weeks they reached their destination and Thomas Murdock settled on a farm near Topeka.

When gold was discovered in the Pike’s Peak region, Marshall Murdock started for the excitement, and is said to have been the first to discover silver on the site of Leadville. While he was in the gold fields, the Civil war broke out, his father and two of his brothers enlisted, and he returned to Kansas to care for the younger members of the famliy. He found employment in the printing office at Lawrence, narrowly escaped the Quantrill raiders and at the threatened invasion of Kansas by Price entered the Union service as lieutenant-colonel of the Osage and Lyon county militia. In 1863 Colonel Murdock located at Burlingame, where he established the Chronicle and served as state senator. With the projection of the Santa Fe line toward Wichita, in 1872, he moved his printing office to that point, and founded the Eagle. Soon afterward he was elected state senator and served as postmaster of Wichita for many years, holding that position, under appointment of President McKinley, at the time of his death January 2, 1908. A recent writer says of him: “As he was by far a bigger man than the offices he held, his place in the world must be measured in other ways. He reached his highest stature in his profession. He was, by all odds, the best all-around editor in the State. In brilliancy he had no superior, and in public usefulness it is doubtful if he ever had an equal. He was the greatest town boomer and town builder the Middle West has ever known. And he was honest in both. He saw, as through a vision, the future glory of the hamlet with which he had cast his fortune. He believed sincerely that it was destined to become the commercial center of the plains, and advocated every public enterprise that could contribute in any way to make it such. He made the Eagle the oracle of the people, and to those inquiring for the land of promise it was never dumb.”

The two sons of the deceased, Victor and Marcellus, have been a credit to their father’s ability–the former as a radical member of Congress and the latter as editor and proprietor of the Eagle.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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