Mrs. Murphy Takes a Powder

Whenever I’m looking at old newspaper articles – whether on microfilm or online – my attention is drawn to the unusual, the tragic, the peculiar. I often stop to read articles that have nothing to do with my family; if there is a connection, I ponder the story for a long time.

A few months ago I saw a short article posted with an Ancestry family tree. The story originally appeared in the Farmington (MN) Tribune and was reprinted in the Hastings Gazette on 22 May 1886.  The subject of the article, Bridget Murphy, was a sister of my husband’s great-grandmother.  Titled “Murphy Family Bliss,” here’s the announcement:

D. Murphy, of Greenvale, was in town last Thursday, and reported that while he was absent from home, in Northfield, some little time ago, his wife had taken nearly all his household furniture, all the dishes, much bedding, etc., and left, going to Minneapolis, he supposes. She also took with her four children (girls) leaving three boys at home.

Bridget Rowan was born in County Mayo in August 1836. Her age was listed as 11 on the New York passenger list when she arrived with her family in February, 1847. Five years later she married Dennis Murphy in Illinois.

Bridget Murphy and daughter Rose

Bridget Murphy and daughter Rose

Based on my research, Bridget Murphy bore at least 15 children (no twins) over the next 25 years. Some records indicate her last baby (#16), born in 1881 when Bridget was 45 years old, lived only a year.

By 1886 one can imagine “the honeymoon was over” for Dennis and Bridget Murphy. There were seven children left at home: three boys (ages 12-20) and four girls (ages 8-15).  Bridget was undoubtedly ready for a change of scenery, and perhaps she took her daughters to live near one of her older, married children.

However, I was puzzled when I found the 1900 census showing Dennis and Bridget in the same St Paul household, living with unmarried son Frank and unmarried daughter Rose. All the census entries supported that this was the correct family.

Dennis died in October 1907. His obituary, published in the Dakota County Tribune on 11 October 1907, states:

Dennis Murphy 1822-1907.  On Saturday last, at the home of his son, William Murphy, in Foley, Minnesota, occurred the death of Dennis Murphy. The remains were brought from there for interment in the Catholic Cemetery at Hazelwood, arriving in Farmington last Monday evening. From there they were taken to the home of his son Michael Murphy, one and one half miles south of Lakeville, from where he was taken to his last resting place. The funeral services were conducted on Tuesday by Father Kenney. Mr. Murphy leaves five sons, two daughters and a wife.

Dennis is buried at Anunciation Cemetery (Hazelwood) in Rice County. (Memorial# 55641668; information courtesy of Julie Sparrow) tells more of their story:

Dennis Murphy was born 19 April 1822 in Poss Cloone, Limerick County, Ireland, the son of Edward and Mary Murphy. Came to America and settled in Galena, Illinois. There he married Bridget Rowan, a native of County Mayo, Ireland, on February 22, 1852. They came to Greenvale Township, Rice County circa 1856 and settled on a farm there. Sixteen children were born to them. Bridget tried to divorce Dennis in 1888 but the Judge agreed with Dennis that Bridget failed to prove claims against Dennis. The Judge sent her home with her husband. Later, Bridget left home with a daughter and the hired man the daughter married. Bridget died in Chicago in 1922 and her body was shipped to St. Paul. Family legend states that she is buried with Dennis at Hazelwood.

Bridget’s 1922 Illinois death certificate lists the informant as Rose Mann. Rose Murphy and George Mann (the hired man?) were married in St Paul 24 February 1903 and later resided in Chicago.

Mrs. Murphy had quite a life.

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