Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Death of a Mother

Roy & Catherine Kubler
Today I attended a memorial service celebrating the life of my friend's mom. Every funeral is hard for me as I have lost both my parents, but those involving moms hit particularly close to home. I had never met Linda Austin's mom, but I felt like I knew her through the book Linda co-authored with her entitled Cherry Blossoms in Twilight. The book is a memoir of the time period in Yaeko's life when she was a young woman in Japan during WWII. The memorial service was probably one of the most touching I have ever attended, mostly because of the pastor who presided over the memorial. It was obvious that he personally knew Yaeko, and that he had spent time talking to Linda about her mom. So often when I go to a funeral the service seems so generic - you could just plug any one's name into the readings. That was not the case today. Yaeko was definitely part of the ceremony.

As the service wrapped up, the pastor presented a basket of dried or nearly dried flowers and leaves (Linda's mom often collected these when she was younger and pressed them into books, magazines and even her bible). He asked that we look in the basket on our way out and select an item which spoke to us. As I exited the chapel there in the basket I saw a small red rosebud. Red roses were my mom's favorite flower, so this one definitely spoke to me. It was like a sign from my mother, letting me know that she is okay. Perhaps she is even now collecting flowers with Yaeko. You just never know...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

John J. Murdock Update

Civil War reenactment
As mentioned in the previous post, my neighbor volunteered to look up John Murdock on the Fold 3 website. After a careful search by her, she located an Amnesty Oath for John Murdock in the state of Mississippi dated 6 September 1865. I know from city directories that my John Murdock (and he is mine now) was in St. Louis at that time period, so that is not him. She also found a John T. Murdock in the county of Platt (sic), Missouri on a document which states that he was 61 years old when it was signed in 1864. That means he was born in 1803, and my John wasn't born until 1814. A third and final paper was found on a D.H. Murdock who was a First Lieutenant in Charleston, South Carolina so he is not the correct Murdock either.

Armed with this new information, I am confident that my John Murdock did not serve in the Civil War. At this point I can cross military research off my list and focus on other resources to learn about the man and the land that formed Shrewsbury, Missouri.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

House History and Murdock Farm

SWT Design, Shrewsbury, MO
Thursday I met with a man from the Shrewsbury Historical Society to talk about house research in Shrewsbury, and to see what he might know about John J. Murdock and Murdock Farm. The Society is just getting up and running again following a few years of dormancy. The impetus is the fact that Shrewsbury will be celebrating its Centennial in 2013. As it turns out the Society doesn't have any information about Murdock Farm (which is the land upon which Shrewsbury was originally platted in 1889), and they are focusing their current efforts on history from 1913 to the present.

I shared what I have found about John Murdock - including the fact that I believe he was NOT a general in the Civil War - as well as the various maps I have been collecting of the area. I guess I am on somewhat of a Myth Busters mission at this point. The City of Shrewsbury website states that Murdock was a general in the Civil War, as do all the other resources I have come across including Wikipedia (though I realize Wiki is not a reliable source). A book that was written about the town also states that he was a general. If so, where is the proof? A neighbor lady down the street is a subscriber to Fold 3, an online database consisting mostly of military records. She is going to look Murdock up for me, as that website is working in conjunction with the National Archives. She says that if the record is not in Fold 3, then he wasn't in the Civil War. I don't think she will find any surprises.

I may not win any friends in going forward with this. After all, it sounds pretty cool to say that your city was established on land once owned by a Civil War general. But John J. Murdock was a very interesting man in his own right, and he has quite a story to tell. I may just become the vehicle to make that happen. He certainly has me hooked!

With the centennial celebration, I mentioned that I would be happy to give a presentation on researching house history if that fits into what they are doing. Since we own a business in the area that was once a home, it would be a fun talk for me to give. In the meantime, I'll continue to dig into the Murdock Mystery.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cemetery Digging

Fall colors at Calvary Cemetery
Since it was such a beautiful day I headed up to Calvary Cemetery to do a little digging - figuratively speaking. Since I have been continuing my research on the building we own at 7722 Big Bend I have become a little obsessed with John J. Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch was a very successful auctioneer in partnership with Charles K. Dickson from around 1854 until Dickson died in 1871. They owned a LOT of property in the city of St. Louis as partners, and Murdock owned quite a bit of land west of the city in the area which was to later become Shrewsbury. He farmed the property and I can place him there from around 1857 through 1879. When he died in 1880 he was back in the city. Later census records and directories do not show any of his family members living in the county, so I believe the property was disposed of before 1880.

When Dickson died there apparently were more liabilities than assets in Murdock & Dickson, and as the sole remaining partner all the debt fell to Murdock. He began to sell off the property in the city to pay down the debt. Then Dickson's family filed lawsuits against him, and I can see that at least until 1903 the suits were still active. One document indicated that Murdock was insolvent when he died, having assigned all of his individual estate for the benefit of his creditors. That may mean that Murdock Farm fell victim to the liquidation.

But back to why I made the trip to Calvary. Articles and books about Shrewsbury state that the city was formed on land that was once Murdock Farm, owned by John Murdock who was a general in the civil war. I have been trying to figure out where they came up with him being a general. He was not even in the Civil War as far as I have been able to find out. First of all, he was born in 1814 so that would have made him 47 when the war began. Second, generals in the Civil War were pretty well documented and I find no record of him at all. Third, I can place him in St. Louis through census records and city directories during the time period of the war. Heck, he got married here in 1855. Fourth, his obituary makes no mention of him being a general.

So I thought perhaps his tombstone might have a marker indicating his service. He and 7 of his family members are buried on the same plot as 9 members of the Charles K. Dickson family, which I think is interesting in light of the lawsuit. Imagine my surprise when I got to the plot and found this tombstone.

Dickson-Murdock family plot
Dickson tombstone
You can see all the open space on the plot, but the only headstone is for Dickson. And even they only list 5 of the people who are buried on this plot. So strange... And even if the Murdocks were destitute at the time of John's death, you would think that somewhere along the line a family member would have erected headstones, wouldn't you?

So I will not have a tombstone to help me answer the veteran question. At any rate the man in the office at Calvary said it was up to the family whether the stone stated anything about military service. It is possible it would not have been listed anyway. I will continue to look for clues, but unless I have the wrong John J. Murdock I think someone made up a good story for how Shrewsbury got its start.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted but I Didn't Get a Sticker

Because my schedule is flexible, I try to vote when it is less likely that those who punch a clock will need to be at the polls. I attended my weekly small group training class at 9:00, fervently wishing that my recreation center was my polling place so that I could vote after class was finished. After all, I had already scored a parking spot and had a picture ID with me. But alas, that is not where I can vote, so I dodged the political volunteers feverishly thrusting their papers filled with, I mean information...into the hands of the "undecided" and went inside to get buff with Becky. A man was coming out the door carrying his daughter and she exclaimed, "I voted for mommy!" So cute! Too bad mommy really wasn't on the ballot.

I arrived at my polling place a little after 10:00, parking on the side street behind the school and entering through the playground. It was brilliant because all the paper pushers were on the street in front of the school, so I didn't have to lip off that I had certainly made up my mind by now and their papers weren't going to sway me. I didn't see a line coming out of the building, which I took as a good sign. Upon entering the gym, I found about 40 or so people waiting in front of me. Not too bad... A quick glance told me that this was not a well organized polling center. The way the line was positioned, you not only could read each vote of the person using the end electronic booth, the line blocked the box where those who used the paper ballot had to come to drop off their completed ballots. Shaking my head, I booted up my iPad and settled in to read a bit while I waited. Finally a Little Man volunteer started pushing those behind me in line out the gym door away from those trying to vote, and then he reorganized those of us closer to the beginning of the line to suit his fancy. It was then that he told me I was not allowed to use my iPad. He said there were signs posted outside that you are not allowed to use cell phones in the voting area. I told him that I did not have a phone on me. He said well there are no rules for these kind of devices, but I don't want you to use it in here. "Even to read a book?", I inquired. "I want you to turn if off." After he left, the men around me shook their heads. "Give a person a little power..", one said. (Or give a little person power, I thought to myself.) What is ironic is that Little Man later pulled out his cell phone and was using it in the gym. Really?

I decided to go with the paper ballot as they had 4 stations for doing that versus 3 for electronic voting, and the electronic line was twice as long. Once I got over to the paper ballot area, they offered the option of sitting at the table to fill the ballot out, and there were four seats at the table. I took a seat there because one opened up before a traditional stand did. I will say that there was little privacy to be had. I held my ballot up at an angle to protect my vote. I still want to know why we have regressed to filling in ovals with a pen as opposed to punching the cards. Did the hanging chad fiasco in Florida ruin that for everyone? Some people completed theirs so quickly that I was wondering how they filled their ovals in so rapidly. And what is the margin for error there?

At any rate, when I was done as luck would have it Little Man was collecting the paper ballots. He placed mine in the box, made sure the number counter recorded it, and told me I was done. He did not, however, give me a sticker. IPad bad, I guess. By the time I left, the line was out the door so I was grateful I came when I did. But I still want my sticker!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Frankenstorm Cuts Short our Mini-vacation

Southwest Airlines
With the continuous reports about the severity of Hurricane Sandy, AKA Frankenstorm, I was getting a little nervous about our Monday noon flight. Surprisingly my husband was pretty lackadaisical about it. He wanted to just wait and see what happened. But Andy and I were pretty convinced that if we did not get a flight out on Sunday, we probably would not be leaving before Wednesday at the earliest. When I checked with the Southwest Airlines website, they were strongly suggesting that if you had a flight out of the East coast on Monday or later you try to schedule an earlier flight.  And they were offering to change flights for free. That was the clincher for me - the airlines don't give you anything for free any more. We were scheduled to fly out of Reagan National Airport, but a quick review showed that the only two flights to St. Louis on Sunday were already full. Same with the Dulles International Airport. It appeared the flights out of Baltimore were still available, so at that point we called Southwest to make sure that they would allow us to change to a flight from a different city. Surprisingly we were able to get through to an agent. The only direct flight that still had two open seats was the one leaving Baltimore at 6:50 a.m. The agent said that flight was still pretty open. Since beggars could not afford to be choosers, we booked that flight.

Andy woke us up at 4:00 in the morning (3:00 St. Louis time) and drove us to Baltimore. At that time of day it only took 45 minutes. We arrived with plenty of time to check our bags and grab some oatmeal for breakfast. Keeping a close eye on where the families and all their children sat on the plane, we settled in seats located in the middle of the plane. Apparently many others ended up taking the storm seriously, as it was 100% full. We left Baltimore a little late because the plane had too much fuel on it (and how does that happen?) and they had to unload some. But we arrived in St. Louis just a bit behind schedule, and at any rate that was no big deal for us.

Andy and Megan ended up losing power in their apartment on Monday, and the airports did indeed close that day. I doubt that we would have gotten out of the DC area until late in the week. So while I am sad that we did not get to spend the last full day with Megan and Andy, I am vastly relieved that we heeded the suggestions and got out on Sunday. I am pretty sure that the kids are glad as well. There is a reason for the adage that fish and guests smell after three days.