Wednesday, July 20, 2016

John Bernard Murray: San Francisco Tailor

My second great-grandfather, John Bernard Murray

I recently wrote about the life of my great-grandmother, Genevieve Murray Smith.  To continue the story of the Murray family, I am turning my attention to Genevieve's parents, John Bernard Murray and Catherine Daly.

John Bernard Murray was born in November 1838 in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland.  His parents were Patrick Murray and Ellen McCusker.  John was the second of his parents' eight children.

Banbridge, County Down

Banbridge is located in what is now Northern Ireland.
The town grew up around the site where the main road from Belfast to Dublin crossed the River Bann over an Old Bridge which was situated where the present bridge now stands. The town owes its success to flax and the linen industry, becoming the principal linen producing district in Ireland by 1772 with a total of 26 bleachgreens along the Bann. By 1820 the town was the centre of the 'Linen Homelands' and its prominence grew when it became a staging post on the mail coach route between Dublin and Belfast. [Wikipedia]
When John was growing up in County Down, it had not yet been severed from the south of Ireland. The Murray family were Catholics in a part of Ireland that had seen much English and Scottish immigration, and Catholics were newly outnumbered by a Protestant ruling class.  While we cannot know the exact reasons that the Murray emigrated to America, it was likely the same as most Irish Catholics fleeing their country: poverty, lack of opportunity, and political oppression.

In 1844, when John was 11 years old, his entire family emigrated to America.  This was very fortunate timing.  In 1845, just one year later, the Irish potato crops failed, ushering in a seven year famine that caused the starvation of over a million people.  As Catholics, the Murrays would have been particularly at risk, and it's good timing that they emigrated when they did.

The Murrays settled in Boston, Massachusetts, and set to work making a living and assimilating into a new culture. They lived in the Charlestown neighborhood, just north of the city, which was a heavily Irish immigrant neighborhood, and being among people like them may have made their transition to American life a little more smooth.  In 1854, at the age of 20, John Bernard Murray married 18-year old Mary Ann Lyons.  She was almost certainly the daughter of Irish immigrants, and was born in Charlestown in 1836. After the birth of their first child, John and Mary headed west and settled in San Francisco.  Together, they had eight children.

Catherine "Kate" Murray (b. 1857)
Mary Murray (b. 1859)
Thomas F. Murray (b. 1862)
John Jervis Murray (b. 1864)
Hannah Murray (b. 1865)
Margaret Murray (b. 1868)
Theresa Murray (b. 1869)
Henry Patrick Murray (b. 1871)

John worked as a tailor.  As a child in Banbridge, a town at the forefront of the Irish linen industry, he would certainly have learned to sew and been familiar with tailoring.  In San Francisco, he established his own business and worked hard to support his large family.

In about 1871, Mary Lyons Murray died while giving birth to her eighth child, Henry. She was thirty-five. This left John a widower with many children, several of whom were still young.  Certainly, the older girls, Kate and Mary, would have then raised their younger siblings so that John could continue to run his business, but it must have been a difficult time for the Murray family.

John Bernard Murray as an older man

In 1878, John married his second wife, Catherine "Kate" Daly.   Kate was 28 at the time of their marriage, 17 years younger than 45-year old John. This was Kate's first marriage, and she was taking on a lot, marrying a widower with eight children.  They soon added to the brood, and would have nine children together over the course of their marriage.

John Aloysius Murray (b. 1878)
William Murray (b. 1879)
Julia A. Murray (b. 1881)
Frederick C. Murray (b. 1882)
Gertrude Agnes Murray (b. 1884)
Frances Mary Murray (b. 1885)
Frank Joseph Murray (b. 1886)
Genevieve Frances Murray (b. 1888)
Ambrose Murray (b. 1891)

Their youngest child, Ambrose, born when John was 57 and Kate was 40, died at just a year of age, stricken by typhoid fever.  This tragedy was followed in short order by several more.  In 1904, their daughter Julia died of consumption at age 23.  Julia was a beautiful and lively young woman, much beloved by her parents and siblings.  Her death was devastating to the Murray family.  In 1906, Kate died at the age of 55, just a month and a half after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed the city.

Sometime between 1878 and 1884, the Murray family had moved from San Francisco to Oakland, where John had established a new tailor shop.  This move spared them from the fire that followed the earthquake in San Francisco, but they would have experienced the quake and seen the great plumes of smoke rising above the city across the bay.

The great San Francisco fire, started by the 1906 earthquake

John died in Oakland on June 20, 1916, at the age of 82.  On his death certificate, the cause is listed as "congestion of lungs."  With seventeen children, most of whom survived to adulthood, John left behind many descendants.  He is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland, near his wife and three of his children.  His death notice, published in the Oakland newspaper, reads as follows:

MURRAY-- In this city, June 20, John B. Murray, a native of County Down, Ireland, Member of Division No. 2, A.O.H. and Tailor's Union, No. 200.
Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral tomorrow (Thursday), at 9 o'clock a.m. from the parlors of Freeman & Co., Eighth and Brush streets, thence to St. Augustine's Church, Dana and Alcatraz, where a requiem high mass will be celebrated for the repose of his soul, commencing at 9:30 o'clock, a.m.  Interment private at St. Mary's Cemetery.
Officers and members Division No. 2, A.O.H., are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of our late brother John. B. Murray, from the parlors of Freeman & Cox, Eighth and Brush streets, tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 9 o'clock.
By order
J. C. Walch, President
D. M. Murphy, Rec. Secretary

1 comment:

  1. He had quite a life and lived through so much. You have some wonderful photos of him.