JOHN GARDNER MURRAY

 

Bishop of Maryland

1903 - 1929

 


1st Elected Bishop
of the
Protestant
Episcopal Church
of the
United States

1926 - 1929

The following was written and contributed for use in the MDGenWeb Project
by the great granddaughter of John Gardner Murray.
Anne Riepe is the daughter of Jane Gardner Murray Riepe, eldest child of John Gardner Murray, Jr., M.D., eldest child of Bishop John Gardner Murray.

 

 

Lonaconing, Allegany County, Maryland

1856 -1878

In the summer of 1856, due to poor economic conditions in Scotland, a group of Scottish coal miners interested in the prospecting, appraising, and development of coal, iron, and lumber in America, emigrated to this country. The group was brought directly to Lonaconing, Allegany County, Maryland, to work in the mines of the George's Creek Coal and Iron Company. Among them were James Murray and Ann Kirkwood. Both natives of Scotland, James was born near Glasgow on May 14, 1830, and Ann was born in Hiltonhill, Lanark, Lanarkshire on August 27, 1830. Soon after their arrival, James and Ann were married in Lonaconing on August 15, 1856.

James Murray, father of John Gardner
Murray, Cumberland, MD, c. 1877
Ann Kirkwood Murray, mother of John
Gardner Murray, Cumberland , MD, c. 1877

The following year, on August 31, 1857, James and Ann’s first child, John Gardner Murray, was born on Scotch Hill in Lonaconing. John was named for John Gardner, a close family friend, and was baptized in November of that same year. He was the eldest of 7 children born to James and Ann – 4 boys; John, James, Archibald, and Robert, and 3 girls; Janet, Elizabeth, and Belle. James and Ann’s children all were born in Lonaconing, and except for Archibald, all lived to adulthood. Archibald died of unknown cause in Lonaconing on April 30, 1871, at age 9 years, 10 months, and 6 days. He is buried in the Old Coney Cemetery.

As a youth, John attended school in Lonaconing and spent much of his free time as any healthy boy would, exploring the countryside and fishing. Several accounts have been written of his numerous pranks and escapades, such as climbing over Dan’s Mountain at night, so that he could go fishing in the early morning in the Potomac River. He remained an avid fisherman, later in life catching many a fish in the waters off the summer home he owned in Chester, Nova Scotia. At age 11, John went to work as an apprentice in his father’s office at the coal company in Lonaconing, and a few years later, at age 14, he became a mule driver in the Jackson mine. This early work taught him valuable skills which would later serve him well in the business world.

John Gardner Murray,
Cumberland , MD, c. 1877

The Murrays were of Protestant faith, and though they never officially united with the Methodist church in Lonaconing, they remained a religious family. One day, when John was 14 years old, he and some schoolmates apparently talked in the vestibule of the school of having "found God". Sometime around 1875, when he was 18, John traveled to England and Scotland. Shortly after his return, he entered Wyoming Seminary, in Kingston, Pennsylvania in 1876.

 

Osage City, Osage County, Kansas

1878 - 1882

 

In March 1878, there was reportedly a disagreement between the mine owners and operators in Lonaconing. Most of the original group from Scotland moved to Osage City, Kansas, to work in similar mines where workers were desperately needed and jobs were plentiful. The Murray family was among those that chose to move. John, however, remained in school at Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania. A few months after his family moved south, John’s father, James, died unexpectedly in Osage City on July 7, 1878, at 48 years of age. The following year, John Gardner Murray left Wyoming Seminary, and in October 1879, he entered Drew Theological Seminary, a Methodist institution, in Madison, New Jersey. The same year, he also received his license as a local preacher in the Methodist Church, his ultimate goal being to become an ordained Methodist minister. Mr. Murray was due to graduate from Drew in 1882, but, in 1881, he was forced to leave Drew before graduating, thus interrupting his theological studies, to join his family in Kansas in order to support his widowed mother and siblings.

John Gardner Murray,
St. Louis, MO, c. 1882

Major Thomas J. Peter, an old Maryland friend and business associate of James Murray, had earlier relocated to Osage City and was one of the early builders of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Sometime after 1872, Major Peter retired from railroad work and began to open and develop some of the first coal mines in Kansas. When young Mr. Murray moved south, Major Peter asked him to join his young and rising company, The Osage Carbon, Coal and Mining Company. Thus, Mr. Murray returned to the secular world, in the business he knew best, coal mining. By day, he worked as a bookkeeper at the coal company, quickly advancing to the position of Accountant. At night, Mr. Murray preached in the Methodist Church.

On October 13, 1881, Mr. Murray was married to Harriet ("Hattie") May Sprague in Osage City, Kansas, by the Rev. W.W. Curtis. Hattie was the daughter of Alonzo S. Sprague and Emeline Eaton, and was born in New York state on July 28, 1860. Her family later moved to Michigan, and then to Osage City.

 

Brierfield, Bibb County, Alabama

1882 -1884

 

Major Peter had recently moved from Kansas to Brierfield, a small coal mining town in Bibb County, Alabama, where great coal fields were opened up and development of the New South had begun. The entrepreneurial Peter again opened mines and started new companies, among them the Alabama Iron and Steel Company and the Brierfield Coal and Mining Company of Central Alabama. As before, Mr. Murray was invited join Major Peter in his new enterprises, this time as Secretary and Treasurer. Not long after their after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Murray left Kansas and took up residence in Brierfield. Again, Mr. Murray’s business talents were recognized, and he quickly rose to become Vice-President of Major Peter’s company.

On February 27, 1884, John and Hattie became the proud parents of Emeline Kirkwood Murray. Emeline was named for her grandmothers, Hattie’s mother, Emeline Eaton Sprague, and John’s mother, Ann Kirkwood Murray. Unfortunately, tragedy was to strike the family only six months later.

During the summer of 1884, Hattie and baby Emeline journeyed back to Osage City, Kansas to visit Hattie’s older sister, Fannie Sprague Morton and her family. Hattie’s niece, Fannie’s oldest child, Frances Elizabeth Morton, was to return to Alabama with Hattie and Emeline for a reciprocal family visit. The two women and Emeline were to travel together by train from Osage City, Kansas to St. Louis, Missouri where Mr. Murray was to meet them at the station. However, he was unable to meet them as planned, thus, changing the course of the trip. He asked his brother-in-law, Lathrop S. Sprague (Hattie and Fannie’s brother) to accompany them on the first leg of their journey, from Osage City to St. Louis, where they would spend the night, and travel on alone the following day to Nashville, Tennessee. There, Mr. Murray would await their arrival. Lathrop agreed, boarding the train in Osage City with Hattie, baby Emeline, and Franc, and traveled across Missouri with them to St. Louis, where they stayed the night with friends.

The following day, August 29, 1884, the women resumed their journey alone to Alabama, taking the Evansville, Henderson, and Nashville Railroad on to Evansville, in the lower southwest of Indiana. There, the train was loaded onto barges, which were then towed across the Ohio River by the steamer Belmont to Henderson, Kentucky, approximately 12 miles from Evansville, while the train passengers were ferried across on the steamer itself. In Henderson, the train would then be unloaded and continue on to Nashville, Tennessee, where Mr. Murray would now meet them. After the train was loaded on the barges, Mrs. Murray, Emeline, and Franc went upon the steamer Belmont for breakfast. About three miles outside of Henderson, a storm suddenly struck with great force, capsizing the Belmont in 14 feet of water. Only a few of the passengers survived. Hattie, Emeline, and Franc were among those that drowned. Hattie’s age was 24 years, 1 month, 1 day; Emeline, 6 months, 2 days; and Franc, 21 years, 1 month, 1 day. The bodies were recovered and the three are buried together in the Osage City Cemetery in Osage City, Kansas near a large pine tree. Their graves are marked by a 20 ft. monument of stone with a metal statue of a woman, her right hand resting on her breast, and her left hand on the hilt of an anchor near her hip, with the anchor shaft extending to the her feet.

 

Selma, Dallas County, Alabama

1884 - 1896

 

The untimely death of his wife and infant daughter changed Mr. Murray’s life. In the latter part of 1884, he left Brierfield and moved to Selma, Alabama, where Major Peter was then living. He stayed for a time with a friend, the Rev. Robert W. Barwell, who later became the Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, and also with Major Peter, whose wife was an ardent Episcopalian. While in Selma, Mr. Murray became very interested in the Episcopal Church, and was eventually confirmed into it on July 3, 1886, back in Brierfield, by the Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, Richard. H. Wilmer. The same day, Mr. Murray also became licensed as a Lay Reader in the Episcopal Church.

That same year, 1886, Mr. Murray associated in business with a Mr. Ernest Lamar, and soon after, entered the business of brick and tile manufacturing. Eventually, Mr. Murray retired from the coal business, to found his own banking and brokerage enterprise, working in the in the wholesale grocery and real estate businesses.

On July 9, 1888, Mr. Murray’s mother, Ann, died, and was buried in Osage City. The following year, Mr. Murray returned briefly to Osage City, this time for some well deserved joy. On December 4, 1889, he married an old friend of Hattie’s, Clara Alice Hunsicker. Clara was born on September 8, 1864, in Forreston, Illinois, and was the daughter of Isaac Kulp Hunsicker and Barbara Groff. At the time of their marriage, Mr. Murray was 31 years of age, and Clara was 24.

Clara Alice Hunsicker, wife of John Gardner
Murray, Osage City, KS, April 1889

Mr. Murray and Clara settled back in Selma, where he continued to work in business by day and preach in the Episcopal Church at night. On August 21, 1890, John Gardner Murray, Jr. was born to John and Clara. Obviously named for his father, John eventually attended the Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland, and became a well-known and respected physician in that city. He married, had three children, and a successful medical practice as an obstetrician. John and Clara Murray’s marriage eventually produced 5 more children, all girls, one of whom died in infancy. Their second child, Clara Hunsicker Murray, was born on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1891.

During his eleven years (1881-1892) as a business man, Mr. Murray engaged in the businesses of coal, iron, and steel mining, development of timber resources, wholesale grocery, and banking, in Kansas, Alabama, Colorado, and New Mexico. However, he always remained a deeply religious man, and continued to remain active in the church and other religious work throughout his business career. In 1892, Mr. Murray became a Lay Reader for St. Mary's Church, Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama, and he routinely conducted religious services for his employees. This, he said, "gave me much more pleasure than my business."

Throughout his business career, Mr. Murray’s intention was always to resume a life in the Church, as soon as circumstances permitted. By 1893, Mr. Murray had amassed a substantial fortune through his numerous business endeavors, and was, at last, financially secure enough to leave the secular and business world to pursue his life long desire to serve the Church. At age 36 years, in January 1893, he began full time active work in the Protestant Episcopal Church. Three months later, on March 25, 1893, he was ordained as deacon in St. Paul's Church, Selma, Alabama, by the Rt. Rev. Henry M. Jackson, Bishop Coadjutor of Alabama.

After his ordination as deacon, Mr. Murray was assigned to the Alabama River Mission, near Selma, between Montgomery and Mobile. A year later, on April 16, 1894, Mr. Murray advanced to the priesthood within the Episcopal Church, being ordained as a priest at St. Paul’s Church in Selma by the Rt. Rev. Richard H. Wilmer, Bishop of Alabama. For four years, from 1893-1896, Rev. Murray was responsible for ministering eight churches in the Mission, five of which he organized, traveling on horseback to faithfully serve them.

During Rev. Murray’s years with the Alabama River Mission, two more daughters were born to him and Clara: Barbara Furniss Murray, was born on January 1, 1894. This is the child that died in infancy, on May 21, 1895, of dysentery, at age 1 year, 4 months. Just three months after the death of Barbara, Ann Kirkwood Murray, arrived on August 8, 1895.

 

Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama

1896 - 1903

In November 1896, the Murrays moved to Birmingham, Alabama, in order for Rev. Murray to become rector of the Church of the Advent, where he would remain for the next seven years. During the family’s time in Birmingham, another child was born to them, Ruth Murray, on January 24, 1898. In 1903, Rev. Murray was asked to become the rector of the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Baltimore, Maryland. Having been born and raised in the state, Rev. Murray was elated at the chance to serve his beloved Maryland and graciously accepted the position. On March 16, 1903, he resigned from the Church of the Advent in Birmingham, and the family moved to Baltimore.

 

Baltimore, Maryland

1903 - 1925

 

On March 22, 1903, the 4th Sunday in Lent, Rev. Murray officially became rector of the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Baltimore. At some point during that year, he was elected Bishop of Mississippi, a position which he declined. The following year, 1904, he was elected as Bishop of Kentucky, which he also declined.

On April 6, 1906, Rev. and Mrs. Murray’s last child was born, Esther Murray. Three years later, on May 26, 1909, Rev. Murray was elected Bishop Coadjutor to William Paret, Bishop of Maryland. On the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels Day, September 29, 1909, he was consecrated in an elaborate and impressive ceremony in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels. His son, John Gardner Murray, Jr. was the crucifer. Upon the death of Bishop Paret in 1911, Rev. Murray automatically succeeded him as Bishop of Maryland, becoming head of the Diocese of Maryland on January 18th of that year. He was the seventh Bishop of Maryland.

Bishop Murray continued to lead the Episcopal Church of Maryland for the next 14 years. On October 14, 1925, he was unexpectedly, yet unanimously, elected Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States at the General Convention of the Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. This was a particularly unique and memorable event in the history of the Church, as it had been customary for the senior most Bishop to assume this position. This was the first time the Presiding Bishop had been elected. Thus, John Gardner Murray, the coal miner’s son from Lonaconing, became the first elected Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country. He was elected to serve a six-year term of office from 1926 to 1931. That same day, Bishop Murray was also elected President of the National Council.

 

New York City,
New York

1926 -1929

On January 1, 1926, Bishop Murray officially assumed the office as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and he and Mrs. Murray moved to 52 Gramercy Park, New York City, New York. In addition to his duties, he remained the Bishop of Maryland. Since Maryland always remained dear to the Bishop’s heart, he continued to maintain a residence in Baltimore.

Bishop and Mrs. Murray, NY, 1928

In early October 1929, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United Sates held its national convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. On the morning of Thursday, October 3, 1929, Bishop Murray was presiding over the House of Bishops in St. James Church in Atlantic City. Approximately 20 minutes before the close of the morning session, Bishop Murray, showing evidence of being in severe pain, stiffened in his seat in the chancel of the church and died of a stroke. "Several Bishops rushed to his aid, and not realizing that the stroke had been fatal, began praying, kneeling beside the body, some weeping openly.". He was pronounced dead by a local physician summoned to the church. Bishop Murray was to have officiated at his youngest child, Esther’s, wedding just nine days later on October 12. Bishop Murray was 72 years old when he died.

Funeral services were held for the much revered Bishop in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Baltimore on October 7, 1929. His body was interred in the family plot in Druid Ridge Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland. On January 21, 1930, a special memorial service for Bishop Murray was held by the Diocese of Maryland in St. Paul's Church in Baltimore.

On August 23, 1937, Mrs. Clara Alice Hunsicker Murray, died in Baltimore, just two weeks shy of her 73rd birthday. She was interred next to her husband in the family plot in Druid Ridge Cemetery.

 

Tidbits

 

Around 1960, a gift was made by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland for a parish hall, in memory of Bishop Murray, to the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lonaconing. Work on the building began in June 1961, and on July 16, 1961 a Cornerstone laying ceremony of the Bishop Murray Memorial Parish House was held at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

As of March 2000, Bishop Murray has:

17 grandchildren (4 deceased)

42 great grandchildren (5 deceased)

47 great-great grandchildren


Sometime after the Murray family’s return to Maryland in 1903, they purchased a lovely summer home, Stonehurst, in Emmitsburg, Frederick County, Maryland. This property was later sold, and a similar summer home purchased in Chester, Nova Scotia. Stonehurst is now Stonehurst Inn, Bed and Breakfast, owned and run by Don and Marie Sanderson. Oh yes, they have a presence on the web!


John Gardner Murray Major Events Timeline

 

1857

August 31 Lonaconing, MD John Gardner Murray

"

November Lonaconing, MD Baptism

c. 1868

  Lonaconing, MD Worked as apprentice in father’s office

c. 1871

  Lonaconing, MD Became a mule driver in the Jackson mine

c. 1875

  England & Scotland Trip to England and Scotland

1876

Fall MD Kingston, PA Entered Wyoming Seminary, Kingston, PA

1878

Spring MD

Osage City, KS

Murray family moved to Osage City, Kansas

"

July 7 Osage City, KS Father, James Murray, died

1879

Spring Kingston, PA Left Wyoming Seminary

"

October Madison, NJ Entered Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, NJ and received license as local preacher in the Methodist Church

1881

  NJ

Osage City, KS

Left Drew and moved to Kansas to support his mother & siblings

"

  Osage City, KS Took position as bookkeeper in The Osage Carbon, Coal, and Mining Company, owned by Major Tomas J. Peter

"

October 13 Osage City, KS Married Harriet ("Hattie") May Sprague

late 1881 - early 1882

  KS

Brierfield, AL

Moved with Hattie to Brierfield to work for Major Peter’s new company

1884

February 27 Brierfield, AL Daughter, Emeline Kirkwood Murray born

"

August 29 Ohio River, between Evansville, IN and Henderson, KY Hattie, Emeline, and Franc drowned when steamer Belmont capsized in a storm

"

Fall Brierfield, AL

Selma, AL

Moved to Selma, AL

1886

July 3 Brierfield, AL Confirmed into Episcopal Church by the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, Richard H. Wilmer. Became licensed as Lay Reader in the Episcopal Church.

"

July 9 Osage City, KS Mother, Ann Murray, died

"

  Selma, AL Associated in business with Mr. Ernest Lamar; entered brick and tile manufacturing

1888

December 4 Osage City, KS Returned briefly to KS to marry Clara Alice Hunsicker

1890

August 21 Selma, AL Son, John Gardner Murray, Jr. born

1891

December 24 Selma, AL Daughter, Clara Hunsicker Murray born

1892

  Camden, AL Became a Lay Reader for St. Mary’s Church, Camden, Alabama

1893

January Selma, AL Left business world to pursue religious work full time in the Protestant Episcopal Church

"

March 25 Selma, AL Ordained deacon in St. Paul’s Church, by the Rt. Rev. Henry M. Jackson, Bishop Coadjutor of Alabama

"

  Selma, AL Assigned to 8 churches in the Alabama River Mission

1894

January 1 Selma, AL Daughter, Barbara Furniss Murray born

"

April 16 Selma, AL Ordained priest in St. Paul’s Church, by the Rt. Rev. Richard H. Wilmer, Bishop of Alabama

1895

May 21 Selma, AL Daughter, Barbara Furniss Murray died of dysentery

"

August 8 Selma, AL Daughter, Ann Kirkwood Murray born

1896

November Selma, AL

Birmingham, AL

Murray family moved to Birmingham, AL, for Rev. Murray to became rector of the Church of the Advent

1898

January 24 Birmingham, AL Daughter, Ruth Murray born

1903

March 16 Birmingham, AL Resigned from the Church of the Advent

"

early 1903 Birmingham, AL

Baltimore, MD

Murray family moved to Baltimore, MD, for Rev. Murray to become rector of the Church of St. Michael’s and All Angels

"

March 22 Baltimore, MD Officially became rector of the Church of St. Michael’s and All Angels

1905 or 1906

April 6 or April 10 Baltimore, MD Daughter, Esther Murray born

1909

May 26 Baltimore, MD Elected Bishop Coadjutor to William Paret, Bishop of Maryland

"

September 29 Baltimore, MD Consecrated in the Church of St. Michael’s and All Angels

1911

January 18 Baltimore, MD Became the 7th Bishop of Maryland upon the death of Bishop Paret

1925

October 14 New Orleans, LA Elected Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States

1926

January 1 Baltimore, MD

New York, NY

Bishop and Mrs. Murray moved to New York, NY; officially assumed office as Presiding Bishop

1929

October 3 Atlantic City, NJ Died of a stroke in St. James Church

"

October 7 Baltimore, MD Funeral held in Church of St. Michael’s and All Angels; interment in Druid Ridge Cemetery

"

October 8 Baltimore, MD Letter from Frank Gibson Porter, boyhood friend, to the editor of the Baltimore Sun.

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