McMurdo Obits and News

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Blrnd02.gif (70 bytes)   MIDNIGHT RIDE SAVED MARISSA, "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" (March 1902)

Ralph McMurdo a Modern Paul Revere

By a wild midnight ride through the streets of Marissa, Ralph McMurdo saved the town from destruction.

Shouting "fire" at every leap of his home, he aroused the people from their sleep to defend their homes against the flames.

The town was saved, but the wild ride, the nerve strain, and the exposure of helping to fight the fire the long night through, sent him to his bed, a sick man.

Tuesday night Ralph McMurdo called on Miss Lyons in the northern part of the town. If he hadn't done that, to start with, all of Marissa instead of two blocks, might now be in ashes. On his way home he met a couple of other young men who had been calling on other young ladies. As they were talking they were startled by a cry of "fire" from the Commercial Hotel, across the street.

That same instant the flames leaped up the rear of the hotel with a blinding _____ ______ other moment, the hotel was _______ ______ high in the air ________________________________________.

McMurdo knew that the fire had started in the most dangerous block in the city. Old brick and frame buildings were crowded close together and there was a livery stable and a lumber yard close at hand. The alarm must be given without delay or the town would be doomed. The mill whistle is the fire alarm in Marissa, but the mill was not running that night, and the whistle could not be blown.

By the time McMurdo had thought that far he had decided what he would do and that was running as fast as he could in the direction of his home. It was three blocks away. As he ran he shouted "fire".

At home he pounded on the door and shouted "fire", and ran on to the stable. He slipped a bridle on his horse and leaped on the bare back of the animal and went galloping wildly through the village streets.

The town was in its deepest slumber and there was no sound save the hoof beats of the galloping horse and the terrifying shouts of "Fire! fire!" as the young man was borne by the horse down one street and up another.

The town was illuminated as bright as day and the flames were being whipped into a race by the wind. There was every need for the wild ride. There was no trained and equipped fire department to fight the flames. Men were needed and needed quick. The old hand power engine must be got out, personal property must be carried out and perhaps lives must be saved.

Soon a score of men were dragging the engine, with its clanging bell, through the brightly lighted street to the fire. Behind it came the hose reel. Men who had been aroused by the cries of McMurdo came rushing from every part of the town.

McMurdo did not stop then. A mile away to the north was "old town". There was another hand power engine there and there were men there and men all along the road between who were needed to fight the fire. Down the road McMurdo galloped his horse, now panting and flecked with foam, shouting "Fire!" at every house.

By the time "old town" was reached the horse was done. It staggered and fell by the road side. McMurdo left the horse there and ran through the town crying his alarm.

"Old Town" was aroused. The men ran to the engine barn, willing hands seized the ropes and the machine went rumbling down the illuminated road toward the menaced "new town".

There were cheers for them as they came panting through Main street dragging their machine after them. Lusty volunteers soon had hold of the handles of both machines and two streams supplemented the efforts of the bucket brigade. No impress could be made on the main fire but the fringe was fought stubbornly and after three hours the fire was conquered and the town was saved.

The old town fire department arrived at a critical moment. The new town company the fire from taking the block of business had all it could to do with its stream to keep buildings and the mill across Main street. The wind was driving the flames into the residence district to the northwest. The old town company fought it in that direction and checked it.

James McLean, engineer, at the Marissa Mill, helped McMurdo give the alarm. He was aroused by McMurdo and hastened to the mill and for 15 minutes the whistle sent out its hoarse warning to the town and the country. Farmers living miles away heard it and drove to town to help fight the flames. S.S. Boyle sent a general alarm to all the farmers on the Farmers Mutual Telephone Line.

When McMurdo got back to the fire from old town, he helped fight the _______________________________________________________________.

_________________________ be seen when a Post-Dispatch man at the McMurdo home Wednesday at noon. But everyone in Marissa is sounding praises and giving him the credit for saving the town. The cause of the fire has not been ascertained.

(Note #1: This fire occurred Tuesday, March 18, 1902.) (Note #2:  Due to problems with the copy quality, portions of this article were unreadable)


Blrnd02.gif (70 bytes)    Mrs. Millard McMurdo Died Early Friday Morning, "The Marissa Messenger"  (Nov. 30, 1917)

Mrs. Millard McMurdo, wife of Attorney Millard McMurdo, died this morning at her home here, after suffering from a paralytic stroke for nine weeks.

Funeral services will be conducted by her pastor, Dr. E.E. Douglass, at the United Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m. Sabbath, Dec. 2nd. Interment will be in the Marissa Cemetery.

Marissa has sustained a direct loss in the death of Mrs. McMurdo. She was a gracious and charming woman, whose useful life and noble character has left its impression upon many in our town. Marissa will not soon forget her kindly, helpful presence, her consistent Christian character, and her sweet and gentle womanliness. Such lives of helpful beauty are like a benediction.

A full obituary will be published next week.

Blrnd02.gif (70 bytes)     Death Summoned Aged Mother, "The Marissa Messenger" (Apr. 27, 1917)

Mrs. Harriet McMurdo Lived in Marissa Over 30 Years -

Expires at the Home of her Daughter, Mrs. W.H. Marshall

On Wednesday Morning - Funeral Services Today and Burial

At Hill Prairie Cemetery

Marissa people learned with keen regret Wednesday morning of the death of Mrs. Harriet McMurdo, who for more than thirty years has been a resident of Marissa, with the exception of the winter months, which she has spent for the past few years at the home of her daughter, Mrs. W.H. Marshall, who lives in St. Louis. It was at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall, she was attacked more than a week ago with a severe stroke of paralysis from which she did not gain consciousness, gradually sinking until the end came Wednesday morning.

The funeral services will be held in the U.P. Church of this place today (Friday) at 1:30 o'clock. The services will be conducted by Dr. E.E. Douglass, pastor, and interment will be in Hill Prairie Cemetery.

In the death of Mrs. McMurdo, Marissa loses another of it's pioneer residents. Mrs. McMurdo was kind, congenial, and generous, and hundreds of friends and relatives will keenly feel her loss. Her kind disposition and thoughtfulness of others was so marked as to give her a distinct place in the community and among those with whom she mingled. A full obituary will be published next week.

Blrnd02.gif (70 bytes)     Obituary of Mrs. Martha A. McMurdo,"The Marissa Messenger" (Dec. 7, 1917)

Mrs. Martha A. McMurdo, wife of Millard McMurdo, died at her home in Marissa, Illinois on November 30th, 1917, after an illness of nine weeks.

Mrs. McMurdo was a daughter of James Finley and Nancy Finley, and was born January 5th 1854, at the James Finley homestead in Randolph county, Illinois, about five miles south of Marissa.

She was united in marriage to Millard McMurdo on Sept. 26th 1876. To this union were born five children, one daughter and four sons. One son died in infancy on March 26, 1885 aged 6 days. One son, the late Dr. William Wilford McMurdo, died Aug. 6th 1914, aged 34 years, 9 months, and 23 days. The daughter, Mrs. W.B. McDill, of Marissa, and one son, Attorney J. Ralph McMurdo, of East St. Louis, Ill., and one son, Attorney W. Frenton McMurdo, of Marissa, survive their mother.

Mrs. McMurdo, in her girlhood made a public profession of her faith in Christ, and united with the Old Bethel Congregation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Old School) and remained a member of this congregation until after her marriage, when she transferred her membership to the United Presbyterian Church at Sparta, Ill. She continued a member of the Sparta Congregation until the summer of 1885, when she, her husband and family, moved to Marissa and transferred her membership to the United Presbyterian Church, where she remained a member until her death.

The funeral services were held at the Marissa United Presbyterian Church, at 2 o'clock, on Sabbath afternoon, Dec. 2nd, 1917. A large number of relatives and friends assembled at the residence, on South Main Street and accompanied the remains to the Church, where her Pastor, the Rev. E.E. Douglass conducted the funeral services. Seldom, if ever, in Marissa has so great a number of people been seen in attendance at a funeral service.

The auditorium and Sabbath-school room of the Church building were not large enough to seat the people present and who came to show their love and respect to the memory of their relative and friend.

Rev. Douglass spoke of the beautiful Christian character of Mrs. McMurdo and praised her diligence in the performance of her Christian duties, especially her regularity in attendance at the Church service and at the Wednesday night prayer meetings. He made strong appeal for someone to take her place at the prayer meetings.

Her remains were laid to rest in the Marissa Cemetery beside the grave of her son, the late Dr. William Wilford McMurdo, upon whom, while she lived, she bestowed the fullest measure of a devoted mother's love.

Mrs. McMurdo possessed many beautiful and lovable characteristics, and next to her loyalty to her Savior and His Church must be placed her love for and devotion to her home and family, for she was truly a home-loving woman. It was ever a great pleasure to her to be able to minister to the necessities of her family and to bestow her love, in unstinted measure, upon her husband's children. She was a loving and faithful wife and mother, and a true friend. She was loyal to her country, her home, and her God, and of such, we believe, the Savior spoke, when he said, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye many be also."

Blrnd02.gif (70 bytes)    Millard McMurdo, Prominent Lawyer, Dies Saturday, "The Marissa Messenger" (Nov. 10, 1944)

Oldest Practicing Lawyer in County Forced to Retire

in July Because of Ill Health; Buried Monday

Millard McMurdo, 88 year old dean of St. Clair County lawyers died at his home at 8:30 Saturday morning after an illness of four months from a complication of diseases. He was bedfast for the past nine weeks.

Mr. McMurdo was the oldest practicing attorney in this section, having continued his law practice for 60 years, up until he was forced to retire because of ill health last July.

Marissans held Mr. "Mac", as he was familiarly called, in the highest esteem and as one citizen so aptly expressed the sentiment of the townspeople, when he remarked that "Mr. 'Mac' was as fine a man as I ever knew".

His vigorous and forceful character, genuine integrity and friendliness and pleasing personality made a place in the community that can never be replaced. He possessed a brilliant mind which continued to function until his death.

His warm and friendly handshake with which he met his friends was known to all.

Mr. McMurdo enjoyed a wide practice throughout southern Illinois and in recent years had specialized in settlement of estates. He was considered one of the best authorities on this kind of work in the state. He was a hard working attorney and could be seen back in his office after supper on numerous occasions.

Mr. McMurdo had been one of the outstanding builders of the city during his lifetime and had served the town in many capacities. Many years ago he was financially interested in the Marissa Messenger and for a time became the editor.

Attorney McMurdo began practicing law January 1, 1884 in Sparta, Ill., and after 18 months moved to Marissa where he was active until July, a span of more than 60 years.

He was born in Randolph county, near Houston, Sept. 27, 1856, and was a son of the late William and Harriet McMurdo, nee Steele. His mother was born in Steeleville, and his father was a native of Chester, England.

On Sept. 26, 1876, he married Miss Martha Finley, near Houston. She died Nov. 30, 1917. He then married Luella Borders Oct. 19, 1920. She died Dec. 17, 1936.

He is survived by a son, Attorney J.R. McMurdo, East St. Louis, and a daughter, Alberta, wife of W.B. McDill, Marissa. Two sons, W. Frenton McMurdo and Dr. Wilford McMurdo, preceded him in death. He also leaves a grandson, Ward McMurdo, in government service and stationed at Miami, Oklahoma; two granddaughters, Mrs. Phyllis Sorensen, East St. Louis, and Mrs. Eleanor Walker, St. Elmo, daughters of Attorney J.R. McMurdo, and three great-grandchildren.

Mr. McMurdo was a prominent member of the United Presbyterian Church and the Sabbath School in which he was teacher of a large men's class for years. He was an Elder in the church, serving in that capacity for 58 years.

Pallbearers were Blanchard Fox, Thomas and James H. Finley, Robert and Joe White, and Ralph Lyons, all Associate Elders.

Funeral services were held Monday afternoon at 2:30 from the Finger and Son Funeral Home. Interment was made at the Marissa Cemetery.


Blrnd02.gif (70 bytes)    J.R. McMurdo, 70, Dies in Hospital, "East St. Louis Journal" (Feb. 6, 1953)

Attorney James R. McMurdo, 70, died at 9:15 a.m. today in St. Mary's Hospital where he had been a patient one day. He had a heart ailment and had been ill five weeks.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Monday in Kurrus Chapel. The Rev. Edwin Grant, Pastor of St. Paul's Methodist Church, will officiate. Burial will be in the Marissa cemetery. The body may be viewed after 3 p.m., Saturday. Friends are asked to omit flowers.

Born in Sparta, Mr. McMurdo was educated in Marissa public schools and graduated from Marissa Academy. He then entered the law office of his father, Millard McMurdo at Marissa. In January of 1908 he came to East St. Louis to take over the practice of an uncle, Joseph McMurdo. Mr. McMurdo, whose office is in the First National Bank building, practiced law here 44 years.

He was admitted to the State Bar in 1906. In 1925 he was appointed an assistant attorney general under Attorney General Oscar Carlston. His duties brought an assignment to the Illinois Conservation Department with headquarters in East St. Louis. His appointment came because of his reputation as a sportsman and conservationist. He was noted as a fisherman and a hunter.

In January of 1927, McMurdo resigned his state position to practice law and in 1929 entered the law firm of Whitnel and Browning. He left this firm in 1933 and in 1934 he and Arthur R. Felson formed the law firm of Felsen and McMurdo. At one time the late City Judge, Ralph Cook was associated with McMurdo. The Felson-McMurdo partnership was dissolved two years ago when Felsen moved to Florida.

In 1934, Mr. McMurdo, a Democrat was appointed district counsel for the Home Owners Law Corporation, with seventeen counties under his office.

In 1940, he was appointed general attorney for the East Side Levee and Sanitary District and retained that position. Mr. McMurdo was president of the East St. Louis Bar Association in 1941.

In 1944, Mr. McMurdo's father died and the younger McMurdo took over legal work for the Marissa Building and Loan Association, the Marissa First National Bank and the James F. White Lumber Co., all at Marissa.

Mr. McMurdo was appointed United States Commissioner for the Eastern District of Illinois on Oct. 25, 1948. His partner, Felsen, had held a similar position.

Mr. McMurdo for years was attorney for the St. Clair County Hospital Association that operates Christian Welfare Hospital. For 15 years he was O'Fallon City Attorney.

Mr. McMurdo lived at 1805 N. 38th St. He was married to Margaret May Lyons of Marissa in 1910. He is survived by his widow, two daughters, Mrs. George (Eleanor) Walker of St. Elmo, Ill., and Mrs. Earl (Phyllis) Sorensen of Fennville, Michigan, and six grandchildren.

Mr. McMurdo was a member of St. Paul's Methodist Church.

Blrnd02.gif (70 bytes)    May L. McMurdo, Dies at Age of 85, "Belleville News-Democrat"  (Feb. 20, 1969)

Mrs. May L. McMurdo, 85, of 3600 W. Main St., died at 5 a.m. Wednesday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Eleanor Walker, St. Elmo, Ill. following an extended illness. Mrs. Walker is a school teacher in St. Elmo.

A daughter of the late W.M. and Sarah Jane Lyons, nee Patton, Mrs. McMurdo was born at Marissa on May 18, 1883. She married James R. McMurdo on July 7, 1910 in Chicago. Mr. McMurdo, an attorney for East St. Louis for 45 years, died Feb. 6, 1953.

Mrs. McMurdo is survived by another daughter, Phyllis, wife of Earl Sorensen, Ganges, Michigan; six grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. The grandchildren include Mrs. Marcia Mobley, wife of Ed Mobley, an agriculture teacher at Freeburg Community High School. Mrs. McMurdo was preceded in death by three brothers.

She was a member of Epworth Methodist Church, Belleville, and the Thursday Literary Club in East St. Louis.

The funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. from the George Renner and Sons Funeral Home, Belleville, to Marissa City Cemetery. The Rev. Charles Tindle, pastor of the United Methodist Church of Freeburg, will officiate. Burial will be in Marissa City Cemetery. Friends may call at the funeral after 2 p.m. Friday.


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