Biography of John W. Murphy

JOHN W. MURPHY. To the active, enterprising and intelligent citizen, esteemed pioneer, and stanch representative of our free institutions, whose name initiates this paragraph, we accord a space in these abiding chronicles of Union county, with pleasure, because he has been a prominent figure in the development of the county’s interests and the advancement of its welfare, since the very first days of its settlement and ahs always stood for the cause of substantial improvement and the exemplification of sound principles in both personal endeavor and in the manipulation of public affairs.

Mr. Murphy was born in Franklin, Ohio, on December 9, 1831, being the son of Isaac and Rhoda (Stone) Murphy, farmers, who moved to Illinois in 1849, and there dwelt until the time of their demise. The grandfather of our subject, on his mother’s side, Mr. Stone, was a soldier in the Revolutionary struggle and also in the war of 1812. Our subject never had the opportunity to attend the schools in his youth but has instead pursued the muse of knowledge with such successful advances in his own private endeavors that he has gained a good education besides a rich store of general information that well repays the efforts to gain. Early he learned the millwright trade in Jefferson county, Iowa, and in 1852, in company with his employer went to California, using horse teams. First they visited Hangtown, whence they went to Carson Valley, Nevada, and there built the first sawmill in the valley. After this he engaged in mining in gold canyon, where Virginia City is now located, and for three years he made rapid financial strides by selecting out the gold from the soil and dumping the silver with the tailings, not then knowing what it was. The diggins were rich and the three years were well spent. After his venture, he made up a pack train and started for Oregon, landing in Lagrande. Almost his entire party had the small pox, twenty-six of them, and at this time they buried the first child that sleeps in the Lagrande cemetery. He went to Auburn from here and took up mining, which he followed for two years. Then he came back to Lagrande in 1865 and engaged in the carpenter trade. It was in 1871 that he purchased land from the state, two miles northeast from Cove, two hundred acres, and commenced improving the same. He at once turned his attention to raising fruit and he has now about twenty acres planted to the various kinds, which occupies his entire attention. He handles mostly cherries, strawberries, and winter apples. In addition he raises sufficient hay for the stock which is pastured on the balance of the land, having also one hundred acres of woodland. Mr. Murphy is one of the most progressive and up-to-date orchardists of the county, and has had excellent success in his work, producing an abundance of fine fruit.

In 1867, he was married to Miss Julia Isabel, daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth Duncan, pioneers of 1864, to Union county. They have become the parents of two children, one, William W. Murphy, married to Florence Comstock, a member of one of the pioneer families of the county. They have one child, Inez. Mr. Murphy is one of the prominent men of the county, but he has never paid much attention to politics, except to always vote for the men whom he believes to be of sound principles and capable to attend to the affairs of government. His constituency have for a number of years kept him in the office of school director and he has done much for the advancement of the cause of education. Among his neighbors and with his fellows, Mr. Murphy is highly respected and he is esteemed by all, having ever manifested integrity and faithfulness.

It is fitting in this connection to mention something of Mr. Murphy’s struggles with the Indians. He fought them in many battles and in skirmishes too numerous to mention, both in Nevada and in California. On one occasion, he was pierced by the bullet from an Indian rifle and lay eight hours in the burning sun of a California hot day. But he survived and the red skins learned to respect him.



An Illustrated history of Union and Wallowa Counties: with a brief outline of the early history of the state of Oregon. Western Historical Pub. Co., 1902.

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