Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dan Murphy: The Interesting Life of an Orlando Irishman and a Red Hot Republican

Dan or “Dannie” Murphy was a popular figure around Orlando in the late 1800s until his death on Thanksgiving Day in 1948 at the age of 72 years. Dan was born Andrew Daniel Murphy in 1876 in Braxton County to Daniel and Mary (Thornton) Murphy. Both of Dan’s parents were born in Ireland and had come to America in the 1850s. After living in northern Braxton County for a while, the elder Daniel Murphy, desiring to live closer to his fellow Irishmen who had thickly settled in the Collins Settlement District of Lewis County, bought a 108 acre tract on Three Lick Run of Oil Creek. This purchase, made in 1877, in a chancery proceeding, was for the same land which had originally been sold by George J. Arnold to Irish brothers James and Peter McAnde. The purchase price paid by the senior Dan Murphy for the former McAnde real estate was $605.00. Thus began a long association of the Murphy family to the Orlando area lasting to this time.

The Early Settlement of Collins Settlement
Located in the southwestern part of Lewis County, Collins Settlement District was mostly unsettled until the 1850s. The terrain of this section of Lewis County consists of narrow valleys wedged between steep, spiny hills and is marginally suited for farming. The land in this area was owned in large tracts by a few individuals. Among the owners of these large tracts were Gideon C. Camden, Richard P. Camden, Minter Bailey, William E. Arnold and George J. Arnold.
Above is Dan Murphy, about 1940.
Left, looking up Three Lick
Right, Collins Settlement marked on a map of Lewis County
According to Donal O’Donovan in his book, The Rock From Which You Were Hewn, much of this land had been bought by the owners for as little as ten cents an acre. Because there was so much land west of the Ohio River suitable for farming, there was little interest in the southwestern Lewis County lands. Historic events in Ireland, however, provided buyers for the Lewis County lands. Potato famines for several years in the 1840s and evictions of tenant farmers by landlords left many Irish families homeless. Nearly half the population of Ireland left the Emerald Isle, many of whom found their way to America. Several thousand Irish families made the hills of northwestern Virginia their future home. The original owners sold much of the hilly lands of southwestern Lewis County for $2.50 to $3.00 per acre to Irish families and allowed those buyers to pay for the land on time. It was cheap land in the Goosepen and Three Lick section of Lewis County, known as the “Murray Settlement,” that beckoned many Irish settlers.
Why They Came
Most all of the Irish settlers of Lewis County, such as Irishman Dan Murphy, were farmers. Some of the Irish immigrants were involved in the construction of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (now U. S. Route 33). Others found jobs as laborers or stonemasons in the construction of the insane asylum at Weston, as well as other minor construction projects. However, the laboring jobs were, for the most part, adjunct only to the operation of the cattle and sheep farms by the Irish settlers.
Right: a table that belonged to Dan's mother Mary (Thornton) Murphy.
A Short Time in Burnsville
After the B & O Railroad built its Oil Creek line through Orlando and on to Burnsville in 1891, it was but a short train ride from Orlando to Burnsville. Although a farmer at heart, the elder Dan Murphy and his wife Mary moved from the Three Lick farm to Burnsville to live the “city life.” Their son Dan or “Dannie,” a confirmed bachelor, also went to Burnsville and began work for the Gowing Veneer Company across from the mouth of Oil Creek on the Little Kanawha River. Dannie Murphy’s career as a veneer mill worker was as short as his index finger became after an accidental meeting with a sharp planer blade. Minus the end of his right index finger, Dannie Murphy returned to his family’s 108 acre farm on Three Lick and took up the life of a farmer.
The Murphy Farmstead
As was all the land on Three Lick, large stands of virgin timber stood in the narrow valley when Dannie Murphy’s father bought the 108 acre farm. The Murphy home was a two story hewn log house with cut stone chimney, approximately 30x24, which was enlarged and later clapboarded. The Murphy farm, like most farms in the Orlando area, consisted of a little bottom land, steep hillsides, flat areas on the side of the hill and the rolling, rocky top of the hill, known locally and historically as Ryan’s Hill. The Murphy farm is located about three miles from the mouth of Three Lick and lies on both sides of the Three Lick Road. The farm, still owned by the Murphy family, adjoins the interstate highway which was built on part of the Murphy farm at the top of Ryan’s Hill.
Above is the Murphy home on Three Lick, the original log house and addition clappboarded.
Below is a beam inside the Murphy homestead, part of the original log house.
Farm Life
Dan Murphy was a small man of only five feet two inches who wore a size five shoe. A confirmed bachelor for most of his life, Dannie was content to live alone and live the life of a farmer on the family farmstead. Dan’s granddaughter Joan Stiltner described Dan as a sheep farmer. The lay of Dan’s farm was more suitable for a grazing agriculture and less so for the raising of crops. Sheep were naturally suited to this type of land.

Dan raised mostly corn and oats, as well as a little wheat. Like most of the Irish farmers around Orlando, Dan usually kept about thirty to fifty head of sheep, anywhere from two to four hogs, a couple of cows and horses, the usual flock of chickens, a gaggle of geese and a few turkeys. Dan raised nearly everything his family ate.

An interesting feature of the Murphy farm was a small seam of coal, located near the top of the hill on both sides of the Three Lick Road. As the farm was gradually cleared of timber, wood fires were supplemented by coal from the coal bank. Dan would carry the dug coal, bucket by bucket from the top of the hill to the back of the house where it was stored until used.
Dan, the Confirmed Bachelor, Gets Married
Dannie Murphy had reached the ripe old age of forty nine years by 1928 and had been a bachelor without prospects for marriage. Dan was acquainted with Shepherd family who lived on Ben’s Run, west of Three Lick. The Shepherds, who were also Irish Catholic, were cousins of the Wanstreet family who were originally from the Santa Clara section of Doddridge County. Fate would change Dannie Murphy’s marital status thanks to his friends and his future wife’s cousins, the Shepherds.

Agnes (Wanstreet) Doyle was the widow of Floyd Edwin Doyle who had died in 1920. Agnes and her late husband had lived in Clarksburg. Agnes (Wanstreet) Doyle was visiting her Shepherd cousins on Ben’s Run in 1928 when Dannie Murphy happened to pay a visit to the Shepherd home. After formal introductions by the Shepherds, Dan, the confirmed bachelor and the long widowed Agnes, seemed to “hit if off,” and Dan’s bachelor days were numbered. The “I Do’s” were exchanged in August 1928 and Dan and Agnes took up housekeeping at the Murphy farm on Three Lick. Jean Lantz, Dan’s granddaughter, tells us that for the next twenty years of their marriage until Dan’s death in 1948, Agnes prepared Dan’s breakfast every morning at five o’clock a.m.
A New Beginning – Dan, the Family Man
Life on the Murphy farm continued for Dan and Agnes pretty much as it had before their marriage, except that Dan now had a helpmate. Agnes also brought with her two young daughters from her previous marriage, Virginia, aged eight and Ethel, aged ten. Agnes’ older daughter Mabel was married and living in Ohio. Dan became an instant father, as well as a husband, upon his marriage to Agnes.

Lynn Riffle, now aged 93 years and living in Jane Lew, recalls “Danny Murphy” with great affection. Lynn began his school teaching career at the one room Three Lick School in 1932 and taught there for five terms. Among his students were Dan’s step-daughters, Ethel and Virginia Doyle. Lynn recalls that “Danny Murphy took great interest in the success of the Three Lick School, attended PTA meetings and helped everyway he could.” Lynn continued and said that “Danny Murphy and Pid Henline made my job a lot easier with all the help they gave me.” Commenting on Dan Murphy, Lynn stated that “Danny was a very, very nice and upstanding man in the community, a well-liked Irishman.” Lynn, ever a political Democrat, did offer the caveat however that “Danny Murphy, you know, was a Republican.”

With a new wife and two step-daughters, Dan Murphy became a family man, in addition to a farmer. He took a active interest in the raising of his step-daughters and their education.

In a few years, Ethel married but later separated from her husband but not before adding twin daughters, Joan and Jean, to the Murphy household. Many in the community simply referred to Ethel’s daughters as the “Murphy twins.”
Left: Agnes (Wanstreet) Doyle, Dan Murphy's wife.
Below, right: Dan's banjo
Agnes was a good helpmate. In addition to being an excellent cook and a fastidious housekeeper, she was skillful with needle and thread and the making of cloth. Dan’s socks were made by his wife from the wool of his sheep. Agnes also kept her granddaughters, Jean and Joan, well adorned in dresses made from feed sacks. She traded feed sacks with her neighbors in order to make matching outfits for the twin girls. Agnes also was an excellent quilter and always seemed to have a quilt on the quilting frame which was made by her husband. Jean remembers that her grandmother made bread every day and that she made tasty cottage cheese.

Dan was a sensitive and kindhearted man. He formed a strong attachment to his two stepdaughters and his twin step-grandchildren who became as if his own children. The younger of the two step-children, Virginia, was musically talented and Dan bought a Gibson guitar for her which is still in the family today. Dan played the banjo and often joined Virginia on the guitar to entertain the family. Emptying the living room of furniture, they also played for neighborhood square dances held in the Murphy home. When his stepdaughter Virginia died at the young age of 22, Dan was much bereaved. Granddaughter Joan remembers her grandfather sobbing, his head on the fireplace mantel, when Virginia passed away.
Cropping the Murphy Farm
Dan raised his chewing tobacco on the farm. He always planted potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, rain or snow, not withstanding. Lambs were sold during the spring, sheep were sheared in the summer, vegetables were peddled from the back of the car in Weston and stock was sold in Weston on Tuesdays. Hog butchering on the Murphy farm continued on Thanksgiving Day as before. Joan Stiltner remembers that every part of the butchered hog was used. Fried brains, pig’s feet and pig’s skins were part of the Murphy diet. The lard rendered from the hog was used for cooking, year round. The pig’s bladder was retrieved and filled with water as a play toy for the Dan’s twin granddaughters, Joan and Jean. Dan was a conscientious gardener and spent many hours keeping his garden free of weeds, according to granddaughter Joan. Dan enlisted the help of his granddaughters to “flip the bugs off” Dan’s cherished tobacco plants, which was a “fun chore” for the twin girls.
Above left: stepdaughter Virginia Doyle
Right: the twins Joan and Jean
Below left: Dan Murphy's slop jar, wash basin and shaving mug. The pitcher and the lid for the jar are missing.
This is Country Life
Granddaughter Joan recalls that during her grandfather’s lifetime there was no electricity in the Murphy home. As were many homes in the Orlando area, the Murphy home was illuminated with gas lights. There was no running water, no indoor bathroom, and the Sears, Roebuck catalog served as the family toilet paper. Joan recalls that the Murphy home did have a telephone and that the number was Walkersville 8F5. The signaling ring for the Murphy home was five long rings and everybody up and down Three Lick had eager ears to listen in on the telephone calls to the Murphy home. The eavesdroppers, of course, annoyed Dan to no end.
The Importance of Faith
As the son of Irish immigrants, Dan’s faith, as well as his wife’s, was Roman Catholicism. Dan, according to granddaughter Joan, was not a devout church-goer, and took communion only at Easter but did attend confession. Dan would, however, kneel in prayer each night before retiring to bed. Joan recalls that her grandfather could “cuss a blue streak,” which was perhaps the reason for Dan’s frequent trips to the confession booth. The family attended church on alternating Sundays at St. Bridget’s at Goosepen and St. Michael’s in Orlando.
A Copperhead Strikes
Granddaughter Joan recalls one morning that Dan went out to pick berries but soon came running off the hill from behind the barn, shouting for his wife Agnes to come quickly. A copperhead had bitten Dan. Agnes quickly took Dan’s pocket knife and lanced the wound, allowing the incision to bleed freely. Agnes then took a bottle of black ink and poured it into the wound. The quick first aid was successful. Dan recovered and no doctor bills were incurred.
A Little Nip Won’t Hurt You
But You Might Lose the Turtle
As many folks can attest, most good Irishmen liked to take a drink and Dannie Murphy was no exception. Although “hard” liquor sometimes graced Dan’s lips, his passion was the wine he made in his “still” located under the washhouse. Granddaughter Joan recalls one day when she and her sister were five years old and the family of a young cousin was visiting, the three children, while playing, came upon Dan’s wine stash. Sister Jean adventurously imbibed in the ‘squeezings’ of Dan’s grapes. The effects were not positive. For dinner that evening a special treat for the visitors had been planned. Dan loved turtle and that day had caught a large one which his wife had prepared for dinner. The twin girls also loved the meat of the turtle. Much to Jean’s chagrin and the wine-induced afternoon sleep, Jean missed her meal of turtle. To this day, because of this memory, Jean will not touch a glass of wine.
Above: Two stoneware jugs that belonged to Dan.
Below: Dan and Spot.
Christian Charity
Dan Murphy was known throughout the Orlando area as a kind and generous man. Granddaughter Joan recalls that on the day of her grandfather’s death in 1948 there was a late night knock on the Murphy front door. Agnes found a young, disheveled, hungry young man at the front door who asked for Dan. Agnes informed the young man that Dan had passed away that day. The young man told Agnes his name and that his father had told him if he was ever in need and near the Dan Murphy farm that Dan Murphy would give him food. Agnes took the young man into the kitchen and gave him a hot meal in the Dan Murphy tradition.

Another example of Dannie Murphy’s generosity was the gift of an acre of ground to Martin Posey who was in need of someplace to build a much needed home. Posey was without the wherewithal to buy land. Dan felt that a good man in need deserved a helping hand. Such acts of kindness were responsible for the reputation of Dan Murphy in Orlando was a “good man.”

Pid Henline
Pid Henline was a close neighbor and good friend of Dannie Murphy. Pid had bought the former McGuire farm just below the Murphy farm. The two farmers often helped the other with farm related chores, ranging from butchering to the transporting of wagon loads of corn to Orlando to be milled. When Pid and Dan took their wagons of corn to be milled, the two friends, while waiting for their corn to be milled, would go to the Henline home place in Orlando and socialize with Pid’s brother Heaterhuck and sister Clora. Dannie Murphy was always a welcome guest at the Henline home. Dan’s granddaughter Jean recalls that she often heard Pid Henline shouting Dan’s name from the adjoining farm and that Pid was a frequent guest in the Murphy home and always addressed her grandfather by the name of “Dan.” Jean and her twin sister, taking the cue from Pid, also addressed their grandfather as “Dan.”
Dan Was a Red-Hot Republican
In politics, Dan Murphy was a red-hot Republican according to his step-daughter Ethel Doyle. Ethel since the age of ten had always lived in the Murphy household and considered Dan as her father. Ethel recalls that all his life Dan lived and breathed politics and considered that Republicanism was the only true route to a successful life in America for a man willing to work. The Democrat party, according to Dan, was a party of cronyism and had become addicted to public welfare. Dan avidly promoted his party of choice. Ethel Doyle recalls that he worked the polls for his Republican party at the Dolan Hotel polling place in Orlando. Even though Dan was a Republican and his wife was a Democrat, he always insisted that his wife cast her ballot even though it would have the effect of “canceling out” his vote. Dan, who had long given up driving his automobile after gracefully depositing the car into Three Lick one day while trying to turn around, enlisted his wife’s expertise in the handling of his 1937 Chevrolet. On Election Day, Dan would give his wife a list of Republican voters who needed transportation to the polling place at Dolan’s Hotel. Dutifully, Democrat Agnes brought Dan’s Republican friends to cast their votes. Ethel Doyle recalls that during elections she often observed half-pints of whiskey being exchanged for votes. The practice of vote buying in West Virginia had long been an election practice. The standard price of a vote, long practiced by the Democrat Party, was a two dollar bill or a half-pint of whiskey. To counter the Democrat vote buying machine, Republicans also engaged in the Election Day “tit for tat.” Granddaughters Joan and Jean often observed whiskey change hands in the democratic process on Election Day.
Above: Agnes with the '37 Chevy.
Below: St. Michael's last wedding: Jean and Edwin Queen in 1959.

Dan’s oldest step-daughter, Mabel McVaney, who lived near Parkersburg at Vienna , was, her self, a red-hot Democrat, as was her husband. Ethel Doyle recalls that during World War II when Franklin Roosevelt was campaigning for re-election as President, a stop was scheduled by Roosevelt in Clarksburg. Mabel and her husband were visiting with her sister, mother and step father that day at the Murphy home. Mabel was insistent that the family make the journey from Three Lick to Clarksburg to listen to the speech Roosevelt was to make at the train station. Dan, however, was not so keen on making a pilgrimage to Clarksburg to watch the electioneering would-be demigod Roosevelt seek an unprecedented fourth term in the White House. The family was all dressed and ready to go to Clarksburg but Dan kept procrastinating with one excuse after another. Finally, Dan was ready to leave but he had skillfully timed his departure just right. After negotiating the long trip to Clarksburg, the Murphy family finally arrived at the Clarksburg train station long after the Presidential train had left for points farther west. The red-hot Republican Dan Murphy undoubtedly enjoyed the return trip to his Three Lick farm.
Dan Takes Sick
A couple of days before Thanksgiving in 1948, Dannie Murphy and his friend, Pid Henline, traveled to Weston on the Blue Goose bus line. While in Weston, Dan bought a can of sardines for his lunch. The sardines, however, was the source of food poisoning and Dan became deathly ill. After arriving home very sick Dan refused the entreaties of his wife to call a doctor. Sam Wanstreet, who had come to the Murphy home to visit his sister, finally prevailed upon Dan to go to the hospital. Mike Moran, the Orlando undertaker, was called and with the help of Jack Riffle, Mike Moran placed Dan on a cot and loaded him into the ambulance. Dan however was fatally ill and died before the ambulance could depart. Dan’s granddaughter Joan recalls that the night before her grandfather died, Dan’s trusty collie dog “Teddy” howled the night long and would not cease. Joan was reminded of the “old wife’s tale” of the impending death of the master on such an event and believes to this day that Teddy’s inconsolable howling foretold the death of Dannie Murphy, a good man and red-hot Republican.

Dan Misses the Last Wedding
In 1959, Dan Murphy’s granddaughter Jean married Edwin Queen in St. Michael’s Church in Orlando . This wedding, conducted by Father O’Reilly, was the last Catholic wedding to take place in St. Michael’s Church before it was closed by St. Patrick’s Parish. Dan Murphy undoubtedly would have loved to live to see his granddaughter exchange vows of marriage in the church of his faith.
Comment 1 Shirley (Davis) Duckworth now living in Kingston, New York
During the 1940s my family lived on Ryan’s Hill, above and adjoining to the Dan Murphy farm on Three Lick. Dan had a dog by the name of “Shep” which had a reputation for biting people. My experience with Shep however was just the opposite. Shep would come to my family’s home and would spend hours playing with me. I do not understand why anyone would think that Shep was an unfriendly dog.
Comment 2 Bob Pumphrey now living in Magnolia, Texas
Danny Murphy used to come down the Three Lick road to our home to visit my father Bill Pumphrey nearly every evening. When I was a boy I helped my father dig Danny Murphy’s grave at the St. Bridget’s Cemetery at Goosepen.
Comment 3 Tom Pumphrey of Murphreesboro , Tennessee
When I was a boy I knew Danny Murphy of Three Lick. My family lived at Goosepen. My father was a blacksmith and shod horses. I remember when I was young Danny’s step daughters, Ethel Doyle and Virginia Doyle, used to ride Danny’s horses to Goosepen to have them shod. Ethel and Virginia were teenagers and I was a few years younger.

I also would see Danny Murphy at poker games on Sunday afternoons which were held at the large log barn owned by Johnny Kaden of Goosepen. Danny would walk over Ryan’s Hill with his large dog. Other people I remember at the poker games were Pat Faley and Joe Riffle of Orlando . There were several other people who attended who I have forgotten. Sometimes there would be two tables.

Danny was a nice guy and I liked him. He talked fast and snappy and was just a little fellow.
A poem about the horror of Ireland's Potato Famine

A Famine in Ireland

Give me three grains of corn, mother,
Only three grains of corn,
It will keep this little life of mine
Till the comiug of the morn.

I dreamed of bread in my sleep, mother,
The sight was cheering to me;
I awoke with an eager parched lip;
But you had no bread for me.

O how could I look to you mother
How could I look to you,
For bread to give to your starving boy
When you are starving too.

The men of England care not mother
Whether we live or die.
The bread they give to their dogs tonight
Would give life to you and I.

The famine is seen on your cheeks, mother
And in your eyes so wild;
I felt it in your bony hand
When you laid it on your child.

Come nearer to my side, mother
Come nearer to my side;
Embrace me fondly as you did
My father when he died.

Come quick, I cannot see you, mother
My sight is almost gone;
Mother, dear,’ere I die
Give me three grains of corn.

. . . . . . . . . ~ Author Unknown

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