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From Irish Famine to Oklahoma Fame: The Story of Frank Murry

Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.

Young Frank was only twenty-five years old when he came to the United States. It was 1850. The Great Hunger spread across Northern Ireland like a plague. It would be two more years before the Irish Potato Famine ended. Frank Murray should have been immune. His family was well off, being part of the landed gentry in Londonderry, but since he was a younger son, his future was limited. He was not entitled to inherit land, and with the famine raging across the country, his prospects were slim.

During the mid-1800s, a great wealth of Irish immigrants made their way into the United States. As more arrived, stories made their way back to Ireland of great wealth to be had in the United States. Hearing this, Frank decided to leave his home country behind and make his own way over-seas.

One fateful day, his father sent him on a business trip to Scotland in order to purchase Cattle. Frank purchased the cattle but held back enough money to pay his passage to the states. Using that money, he arrived a few weeks later either in Philadelphia or New Orleans. He lived in both towns, as well as places in Texas, barely making enough to get by. Still, he believed that he could make a much better future for himself in America than in Ireland.

The Frank Murry Home as it appears today.

The Frank Murry Home as it appears today.

Sadly, for young Frank, his dreams for a better future were dashed when the tensions between the North and the South flared up. He had left behind famine to find Civil War. Sympathetic to the Northern cause, during the American Civil War, he began carrying mail between Fort Washita and Fort Arbuckle. Living on next to nothing, Frank found himself in Fort Gibson when the Civil War ended in 1861.

Franks luck was about to change. Miles to the east, the siege of Vicksburg was devastating. Through the fighting, hundreds of lives were lost, and once the fighting was over, starvation wrecked the countryside. John McCaughey was one of those who perished in the battle. Sophia, John’s wife, along with their four children fled Vicksburg to the safety of the Indian Territory.

Alzira, Sophia’s daughter, was soon to become Franks saving grace. In 1868, she married Captain William Powell at the young age of twenty. By twenty-one, she was a widow. Alzira was now faced with caring for a young daughter and trying to support herself.

Frank met Alzira a short time later. After getting together, the three took off to Pauls Valley. While in Pauls Valley, Frank met up with Smith Paul, whom Frank most likely was acquainted with while he lived in Northern Ireland. Frank worked for Smith for a short time, and may have acquired a small fortune during his time in Pauls Valley. They only stayed there for a year before deciding to seek land on their own. The two were married in 1871.

Because Alzira was Chickasaw, Frank became an intermarried citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. This enabled him to be able to “purchase” and own land in the nation.

The original rock mansion before the 1902 addition.

The original rock mansion before the 1902 addition.

In 1872, Frank and Alzira began building a home that would eventually become one of the largest in the Chickasaw Nation. They left Pauls Valley and found a picturesque plot of land overlooking the Washita River. Not wasting time, the family build a modest four room log cabin along a stage route that ran through there. Once the home was built, Frank named the place Erin Springs, after his homeland in Ireland.

With the cabin built, Frank built up a huge ranching and corn farming plantation. Always seeking opportunity, he worked out a contract to where he would sell his cattle and crops to the U.S. Army. At this time, much of what surrounded Indian Territory was still known as the frontier. Forts established along the frontier benefitted greatly from Frank’s endeavors. Frank benefitted more. What started off as a modest operation soon grew to a plantation in excess of 20,000 acres. In 1888, it is noted that Franks owned more than 26,000 head of cattle and his cornfields ran three miles wide and five miles long.

As Franks wealth grew, so did his small town. Erin Springs, as it was then known, started with Frank and his family as the first settlers. Shortly after his business took off, he began hiring more people to help. As more people came in, the town began to take off. The first store in Erin was established in 1875 by Miller and Green. A short time later, a post office was established. By the 1890s, Erin Springs had twelves homes, two general mercantile stores, a drug store, a blacksmith, and a community building that housed the school, church, and Masonic hall.

By 1879, Frank had achieved his dream of success. Having escaped the Great Irish Famine and suffered through the American Civil War, he now had one of the largest operations in Indian Territory. That year, work began on a much larger home at Erin Springs. Now known as the Murray-Lindsay Mansion, the home still stands majestically, overlooking the Washita River below.

In keeping to his roots, Frank brought in an Irish stone mason in 1872 to begin building this famed residence. The mason lived at the home for several years while working on the homes core and foundations. He used locally quarried rock to build up the foundation, interior, and exterior walls. Once the walls were completed, the home was finished out in handcrafted woodwork and imported tile. Frank hired a carpenter out of Gainesville, Texas, who also stayed at the property. The lumber was also purchased there and shipped in by cargo wagon. By the end of construction, the home consisted of fifteen rooms, two baths, and four fireplaces.

One of the rooms inside the mansion.

One of the rooms inside the mansion.

For the next few years, the home was host to a wide variety of well-known figures, ranging from territorial governors to Native American Chiefs. Because of its location on the trade route, it also served as a focal point for travelers and officers from the U.S. Army.

Frank did not have long to enjoy the home. Nearly 20 years later, at the young age of 67, Frank Murray passed away in 1892.

After Franks death, the business empire slowly started to crumble. Alzira soon found herself in debt, but despite this, she was able to salvage enough of the business to once again reach prosperity.

In 1902, Alzira had amassed enough wealth to add on to the family home. She hired contractors to build a third story to the home. This would provide ample room for her family of nine children. She also covered the original sandstone with stucco, as well as adding in the columns and porch that dominate the front of the home today. Alzira passed in 1924, but between her and Frank, they left a lasting legacy that speaks volumes to Irish ingenuity and Chickasaw pride.

To visit the home, travel to Erin Springs and look for the largest home in the area. Across the street, visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the 1908 Pikes Peak two room schoolhouse adjacent to the Frank Murray Home.

Finding the Murray Home

Comments

Eric Standridge (author) from Oklahoma on February 26, 2021:

I certainly would! We used to keep files with names and dates for genealogy. It was interesting, but it never really told who those people were. We started going back and adding small stories that we could find about them and it's made a huge difference. I've noticed more people getting interested in getting to know them that way. Good luck with it!!

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on February 25, 2021:

This story inspires me to rework some of my family history into story form. That might make it grab the next generation more than just the dates and names.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on February 25, 2021:

What a wonderful story! Very fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 24, 2021:

This is a fascinating biographical article. Perseverance triumphed over adversity.

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