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.

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