St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Murphy Family of Atlas WI and Alabama

An acquaintance of our died yesterday, July 3, 2012, age 98.   I include his obituary and a 6 year old newspaper column about him.

The Murphy Family of Alabama  by Russ Hanson
               We have been looking at the ghost town of Alabama Corners in North East Laketown Township--just west and south of Atlas.  This week we see if we can track the Murphy Family.  Justus L. Murphy joined the Bells, Addingtons, Lakes, Freemans, Martins, McKees and Enloes coming from Wedowee, Randolph County, Alabama who migrated north to Wisconsin in 1869 to get away from the aftermath of the Civil War.  Some members of these families were Union sympathizers during the War (1861-1865) and found the post war South still dominated by the same southerners who fought to preserve slavery.

               Margo and I have a winter tradition of going south for a week or two in February to escape the cold.  This year we decided to go to Wedowee (wah dow' ah) and see what the settlers left who came to Wisconsin left behind.  The settlers came from two areas:  Cleburne County and 30 miles south in Randolph County.   The nearby large city of Anniston, about 100 miles west of Atlanta GA., has a very good local history room with all sorts of records and books from the area.  We were able to locate the farms the families had by looking at the government land records. 

               We decided to first look at the farms they left, then the local cemeteries and then see if we could find any traces of the families still in the area.  The Lakes, Addingtons and Murphy's all owned land adjacent to each other in Randolph County, about 3 miles SE of Wedowee in a valley on the edge of the Talladega national forest--the SW edge of the Appalacian  mountains.  The area was mostly forested with pines grown by lumber companies for paper pulp and lumber.  We parked our popup camper high in the mountains at Cheaha State Park, 20 miles from Wedowee.         It was sunny and 70 degrees when we headed out for Wedowee.  The Daffodils were blooming in the yards and here and there in the woods and ditches.  We found Hwy 15 that took us down through the Wildcat Creek Valley and located what we thought were the lands of the three families.  We had a county map that showed cemeteries and all of the roads.  The area was mixed woods and cow pastures with some nice houses and others more rustic.  There were no very old buildings--so we guessed they were all gone.  We found several cemteries but not Wild Cat Cemtery.  To get directions, we stopped where an older gentleman was picking up his mail. 

               We told him we were looking for Wildcat Cemtery.  "Next dirt trail to the right ahead.  Follow the road to the end."  I explained what we were doing and asked him if he knew of any families named Addington, Lake or Murphy in the area.   "Well,  my name is JL (John) Murphy.  I am 92 years old and my Daddy and Grandaddy lived here all of their lives."  "Back in 1938, a man named Adams and his son stopped to visit Daddy and said they were down here to see where their relatives lived before they went to MN.  The man was 85 years old then and said he had gone north with 6 families to MN when he was a kid.  He wasn't a Murphy but lived right next to our farm and his house was across the road. " 

               After checking some of family records I had brought along, we agreed that his grandfather John was a brother to Justus Murphy who had gone to Wisconsin.  We wondered if the visitor in 1938 might have been Addington rather than Adams.  It was over 65 years ago, but John's memory was excellent--so it might have been Adams

               We visited  two different times with JL as he is called.  We walked around the old cemeteries and he told us stories of the early days.   His Granddaddy and Daddy were small farmers and raised small crops on the bottomland in small fields where the soil was better.  They ran a store and post office and had a dam on Wild Cat Creek where they ground corn and wheat.  They raised a little cotton, corn, sorghum and cane, and a large garden.  He remembers riding out to the cotton field with the crew of blacks who picked the cotton.  His dad moved up from the bottoms to the higher ground to get electricity in the late 1930s.   He built a new mill there and had a huge one cylinder gas engine to power it instead of the waterwheel.  He has the millstones in his yard for decorations.

               I asked about the Civil War.  He told a story of his grandmother having  a brother in the South's army visiting the house while at the same time her son was hiding in the cotton pile while at home from the Union army recuperating from a wound.  Randolph County was opposed to the war as was most of Northern Alabama.  They had very few slaves and believed the war was a "rich man's war and a poor man's fight" who had nothing to gain   and everything to lose.  

John Larkin 'J.L.' Murphy

Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 2:37 pm
(WEDOWEE) Funeral services for John Larkin "J.L." Murphy, 98, of Wedowee will be at 2 p.m., Friday, July 6, 2012, at Quattlebaum Funeral Chapel with Revs. Cloise Johnson and Jimmy Yates officiating. Burial will follow in Cedarwood Cemetery, Roanoke.
Mr. Murphy died, July 2, at Lineville Nursing Home.

Mr. Murphy was born Dec. 8, 1913, the son of James Larkin and Lena Thornton Murphy. He was a member of Midway United Methodist Church, had worked as an aircraft mechanic for the U.S. Department of Defense, and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Mr. Murphy is survived by one sister-in-law, Lura Sudduth Browning of Wedowee; a nephew, Roy Murphy; and several other nieces and nephews. Mr. Murphy was preceded in death by his wife, Maggie Sudduth Murphy, and his parents.

Pallbearers will be Walter Sudduth, Donovan Murphy, Robert Stubbs, Patrick Murphy, Rayford Edmondson and Jerry Pollard.

The family will receive friends from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 6, at the funeral home. Condolences may be expressed at
Quattlebaum Funeral Home, Roanoke.