Thursday, August 15, 2013

Murdock and Murder

The unexpected stuff you can find while innocently scooting around the Internet, minding your genealogical business...

File this one under "Things I Had No Clue I'd Find."

Just to get my bearings again, as well as help bring you down this rabbit trail I've stumbled upon, let's recap those Kruse and Murdock connections. First, I had to figure out how my husband's ancestor, John Kelly Stevens, could be uncle to someone named Raphael Kruse. As we finally figured out, Raphael was son of Henry Kruse of Lafayette, Indiana, and his wife, the former Nellie Clark. Nellie, as it turned out, was daughter of someone who later became John Kelly Stevens' step-mother, Eliza Murdock Clark Stevens.

Got that? Good. It took me way longer than that to find the document trail that led me to that conclusion.

So, I'm wanting to know a little bit more about Nellie's mom, Eliza, see? And I work my way back through the federal census records. I started with the 1900 census, as we saw yesterday, where I posted information on Nellie's family: the five children she and her husband Henry were raising. I mentioned that their firstborn, Samuel, was likely named after Nellie's uncle, as I had vaguely remembered finally finding Nellie and her widowed mom Eliza in that uncle's household in the 1860 census.

But let's take this one step at a time, right? So I go first to the 1880 census to make sure I'm properly tracing this line back in time. Sure enough, there is the household of Henry Kruse—still employing the sign making skills he was profiting from in the later 1900 census—including his and Nellie's infant son, Samuel.

Incidentally—though this is not the rabbit trail I want to discuss in this post—this 1880 census entry for the Kruse household includes a seventeen-year-old Mary Stephens, listed as Henry's sister-in-law. As we already know from John Kelly Stevens' family tree, that would be his half-sister Mary, who, curiously enough, was also entered as a member of her parents' household for that year, as well. Score two for Mary, this go-round, despite the poorly-handled spelling in the documentation.

The 1870 census apparently goes dark for Nellie, as far as I can tell. Since she wasn't married until 1879, her listing should have been under her maiden name, Clark—or, as it was spelled for her marriage license, Clarke. But there is no applicable listing I can find, though there were others with that name in the state of Indiana.

No matter. What I'm really after is to revisit that census record showing her with her mother in the household of her uncle in the 1860 census. Sure enough, there it is: the household of Samuel Murdock, apparently a single man and farmer, listed as head of the household including his widowed mother (listed there as Sally), along with his three brothers, James, John and Thomas. And, of course, their sister Eliza and her daughter, showing there as Ellen.

Apparently, the 1860 census was the last census in which Eliza's brother Samuel was named. I wouldn't have known this, of course, if I was minding my own business and only constructing family trees of my own direct descendants. But I never stop just there. A long-past experience I had when first beginning my own genealogical research taught me to configure my work to show descendants as well as ancestors. I know, nobody does that anymore. Except me.

So, what do I find when I wander onto this traditional-for-me research path? Wanting to fill in the blanks for Eliza's own family tree, despite her position in my tree as mere step-mother to our Stevens line, I take that 1860 census as the start of my marching orders for the Murdock tree, and work from the top.

The "top," in this case, was Eliza's older brother Samuel. And my first step was to add him to my records on my Stevens tree at

Wouldn't you know it, as I work along, those ever-present "hints" started showing up with their little shaky leaves.

There was one for Find A Grave. I clicked on over to take a look.

Whoever the volunteer was that set up the page for Samuel Murdock went above and beyond the call of duty. Included with the usual headstone photographs was a photocopy of an old newspaper report.
Samuel Murdock, who we mentioned last week as having been stabbed in the neck, died this (Thursday) morning, from the effects of the wound. Mr. Murdock was an industrious and sober young man and none can but regret his sudden death.
"Who we mentioned last week"???

A statement like that could make a soul wish to travel cross country once again.

Though the newspaper clipping shown at the Find A Grave site for Samuel's burial didn't source the entry, it most likely was from the Lafayette newspaper. Of course, that just happens to be one of those newspapers not generally available in any of the usual subscription-based historic newspaper collections available online.

Of course you know I'm wishing I could get my hands on the preceding week's news. A stab in the neck? What on earth for? That hardly sounds like something that would happen to "an industrious and sober young man."

Oh, how I want to know the rest of the story!

Perhaps there will be some kind soul who will come to my rescue. After all, I only get back to Indiana once a year. And I'm not sure I could bear to wait that long.


  1. has an interesting biography of a later Samuel Murdock - (it's about 1/20 of the way down) Seems like the family was very progressive!

    1861? Was this a Civil War battle wound?

    1. Great find, Iggy! The Samuel you found was most likely son of James, also mentioned in your link. James was Eliza's brother, and the owner of the dry goods store where Nellie's older boys also worked. This article provides quite a bit of usable info on the extended family, despite its rosy, flattering style.

    2. ...not to mention, for your hint about the original Samuel, that Civil War idea could be a useful lead.


    One of the most conspicuous figures ever connected with the business interests of Tippecanoe and other counties of northern Indiana was the late James Murdock, of Lafayette, who for a number of years was a leader in enterprises which tended greatly to the material progress of his city, county
    and state. He was long an influential factor in promoting large and important undertakings and such was the success with which his various efforts were crowned that his name is still suggestive of enterprises which bespeak the clear brain, mature judgment and master mind of the natural leader who moved among his fellows as one born to command. James Murdock was an American by adoption, but none the less a loyal citizen of the country which he elected to be his home, and an ardent admirer and earnest supporter of free institutions under which he reaped success such as few attain, and attained to positions of honor and trust which none but men of a high order of intellect are capable of filling. Born in the county of Sligo, Ireland, in the year 1837, he inherited from his sturdy ancestors the sterling qualities of head and
    heart for which his nationality has ever been distinguished, and while still young gave evidence of those powers of mind which result in well-rounded character and a natural aptitude for something above the ordinary in the choice of a profession or calling. His father, John Murdock, was a Scotchman by birth, and his mother, who bore the maiden name of Sabina Kelly, was born and reared on the Emerald Isle. These parents lived on a farm
    in Ireland until 1848, when they emigrated to Canada, thence in 1830 removed to New York, and still later changed their abode to Ohio, where they resided for a limited period, or until moving to Wayne countv, Indiana, where John..."


    1. Yes! Thanks so much for posting that! Right on target!

  3. Well if that's not an exciting discovery I don't know what is! I love old newspapers, they provide the most interesting information that today would be deemed inconsequential.

    1. Especially the small town papers! Can't quite say the same for researching my NYC roots, but I've sure benefitted from papers in those Midwest towns I'm researching!

  4. I am certain you will discover the rest of the story! :)

  5. Jacqi, Email me your address and I will mail you some note cards:)

    1. Aw...thanks so much! Been a little slow here lately, but I will try and email you this weekend.


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