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Last Updated 10/11/00

CHAPTER III

BITS OF FAMILY HISTORY

1749-1773

[When James Murray returned to America in 1749, accompanied by his wife, his young daughter Dorothy, and his sister Elizabeth, their ship, perhaps owing to stress of weather, put in at Boston. Elizabeth had provided herself with a stock of millinery and dry goods, and had, apparently, contemplated engaging in trade in North Carolina. It may be that her Scottish shrewdness recognized the superior advantages which Boston offered for her undertaking. Be this as it may, she remained in the New England town, and, aided by her brother’s advice and credit with the London merchants, launched forth upon a modest but successful business career. Boston thus became a second home for the Murrays in America.

Her business affairs, as a rule, ran smoothly. One exception she notes in 1755 as follows:—]

“I have got myself a little involved at present but am in hopes of getting Clear of it soon. There was one Edmund Quincy and sons, very considerable merchants and reckoned to be worth one hundred thousand pound, took it into their heads to draw bills, and sold a number of them to very cautious people in this town. Then they were bound for Fletcher to William Vassall for fifteen hundred pound sterling. Fletcher ran away, then Vassall demanded the money of them, so they shut up before the bills they had drawn came back. I had £110 came about three weeks ago, and I put it into a Lawyer’s hands directly, who tells me I am secure. I had another of £45 of them that is not come yet; so soon as it does I believe I shall have the money for both. I am determined for the future to buy no bills but from Col. Royall who promises to supply me.”

[Elizabeth’s first abode in Boston was on King Street, with Mrs. Barker, a motherly woman whose sisters and daughters became valued friends of the Murray family. Near by, also on King Street, were the Mackays, eventually to be near connections; and in time other acquaintances added themselves to these. So attractive, indeed, were Elizabeth’s surroundings that Mrs. Murray, who, after her husband’s departure for Cape Fear, remained for a while in what he called “that poor healthy place, New England,” was unwilling to depart for North Carolina even after the birth of her second child, the event which had originally detained her. Apparently she was really loath to go to the warmer climate, which was one day to cost her her life. When she did at last rejoin her husband, she gladly sent Dorothy back to Elizabeth, realizing well the advantages which the northern town could give.

[As with one exception the other children born to James Murray sickened and died in the south, there is reason to believe that Dorothy Murray owed her preservation to her aunt’s devotion and to New England air.

[In 1755 Elizabeth married Thomas Campbell, a Scotch merchant and trader, whose enterprises carried him back and forth between Boston and Cape Fear. James wrote concerning the event to Dr. John Murray, settled at Wells: —

“Dolly’s being with her Aunt at Boston will certainly be no News to you, nor Betzy’s Marriage to Thos Campbell,1 son of James Campbell, whom you may remember a housekeeper in Wilmington. Betzy askd my Approbation of this Match in due form, which I gave, not doubting of her having accepted of the best that offer’d & considering she had not much time to wait for further Choice.2 Beside my complaisance to her, to whom I have never had Occasion to refuse any thing, the young Man’s Sobriety, Industry & Integrity were Recommendations not always to be met with in this part of the world. He is coming hither in a Vessel he charters to load with tar. Having been bred to the Sea, he has had the command of several small vessels from this Port. For further particulars I must refer you to Time & the new Couple.”

[On the 14th of March, 1756, another daughter was born in Wilmington or at Point Repose. This was Elizabeth, the only child besides Dorothy who was destined to survive. Dorothy was by this time with Mrs. Campbell in Boston and already deep in the affections of her aunt, who never possessed a child of her own on whom to expend the wealth of her warm heart.]

ELIZABETH MURRAY TO JAMES MURRAY.

BOSTON, May 12, 1756.

...I am obliged to you for the honour you do me in naming your daughter Elizabeth. I take it wholly to myself, notwithstanding I do not imagine I shall like her half so well as my Doll, who is well and fond of writing and drawing, as little sewing as you please. I shall get a book according to your desire and mind her reading. She hopes you or my sister will write to her....

General Winslow set out yesterday with eight thousand men for Crown Point. He says he never will return unless he succeeds. His courage and good conduct induces every one to believe he will. I had a letter from Brother John about ten days ago. All friends are well. I neglected writing to them after the earthquake which I am sorry for as they seem to be uneasy about me.

[The business which Elizabeth Campbell had built up for herself was not abandoned upon her marriage. Aided now by the experience of her husband, she still continued to receive goods from London and to sell them at her Boston store. This, as it proved, was a prudent course, for Mr. Campbell’s life was short. In a very few years he died, leaving her not, indeed, without means of support, but glad of the additional income furnished by her own exertions. She had, however, health, comparative youth, and friends. Moreover, her large heart and sunny temper gave her a winning personality. She was, as her brother said, “vastly beloved for her frankness and continual endeavors to do good offices.”

[A comfortable prosperous figure in Boston at that time was Mr. James Smith, sugar baker, whose refinery had been in working since 1729 or before, —Elizabeth Murray’s whole lifetime, practically, —and who had amassed wealth as well as years. His house on Queen Street, — Court Street now, — was central in position, surrounded by other residences of its kind, yet conveniently near the sugar house, which stood on Brattle Street, between the old church and what was known as Wing’s Lane. At the same time it was not far from King’s Chapel. As one of the churchwardens of King’s Chapel and a generous contributor to its needs, Mr. Smith stood high in the esteem of his fellow-townsmen, and the few allusions to him in the records and traditions of his day indicate that he was no less a genial friend than an open-handed citizen.

[It was he who imported the old Dutch elms once so prized in Boston. The story goes that Mr. Smith, being in London, was struck by the beauty of the elms in Brompton Park, and procuring some young trees of the same kind had them planted in his nursery on his beautiful farm, Brush Hill, in Milton. The fame of these trees spreading, one of his friends, Mr. Gilbert Deblois, asked for some, saying that he would in return name his new-born son for Mr. Smith. The bargain was struck, and James Smith Deblois, baptized May 16, 1769, bore witness to its fulfillment. A second friend, Judge Auchmuty, made Mr. Smith a similar offer, and received a supply of the trees. The Dutch elms standing in front of the Unitarian meeting-house at Milton, planted there at a later date by Mr. Murray’s son-in-law, Edward Hutchinson Robbins, were of the Brush Hill stock, and so were many others now vanished; but those received by Mr. Gilbert Deblois became the most celebrated. These were set out in front of the Granary, just opposite Mr. Deblois’s house in Tremont street.3 As Addino Paddock’s shop window looked out upon them, Mr. Deblois enjoined Mr. Paddock to have an eye to their safety; and as Mr. Paddock twice had occasion to offer rewards for the discovery of offenders who had injured the trees his name came to be associated with them, and they to be known as the Paddock Elms. Boston made a sturdy fight for them before they fell a prey to advancing travel and traffic.

[What preliminary acquaintance Mr. Smith had with Mrs. Campbell the letters do not say, but in 1760 they were married, and for the rest of his life they lived happily together. “I can assure you,” James Murray wrote to John in 1761, “they both enjoy a happiness which is rarely met with in a match of such disparity.” Her brother rejoiced in this marriage, which he declared placed her “in the best circumstances of any of her sex in the town.” Prosperity for one member of the family meant help for all. Both James and Elizabeth had a thorough regard for money, but they always wanted it that they might use it for others.]

JAMES MURRAY TO JOHN MURRAY OF PHILIPHAUGH.

BOSTON, Aug. 6, 1760.

...I left [Cape Fear] the end of June to visit my Daughter and new married Sister here. This last was married in March to Mr. James Smith, Sugar baker in this town, an agreeable good natured Gentleman of Seventy, a £.30,000 man, ten thousand Ster. of which he has settled on Bettzy, beside her own Fortune and the Life Rent of a valuable farm. This sets her above the Cares of the World and, what is vastly preferable, gives her those opportunities of doing good in which Philiphaugh and many of his Relations delight.

At Mr. Smith’s and her Request I am to entreat the favor of you to provide him with a Sober young Man for a Gardner who can perform also the Business of a Coachman and groom. He will have a negro man under him, whom he must instruct in those Articles. He must be under Indenture or Contract for three years. You may draw for his passage on Messrs Bridgen and Wailer, Merchants in London, and may agree that there shall be paid to him in gold or silver fifteen pounds Sterling for the first year and twenty pounds Sterling for the two succeeding years and further that he shall be free to return if he chuses at the expiration of one year and his passage home shall be paid by Mr. Smith, but he shall not be at liberty to leave his Master or Mistress to go any where else in America. He shall be provided in sufficient Diet, Lodging, and washing, and shall have a compleat Suit of Livery to himself for occasions. He ought to be here before March, Mr. Smith’s Gardner being then to leave him. I would not have presumed to give you the trouble of this Commission were I not persuaded that it is giving you the Opportunity of obliging some deserving Young Man with a very good place in a healthy, plentiful Country under an Indulgent Master and Mistress.

[Her aunt’s increased ease was shared by Dorothy. Indeed, her father could not quite approve of the “softness” of his daughter’s education. He wrote in August, 1760, to Anne and Jean Bennet—] “Dolly, now as tall as her Aunt here, is employed to copy this to show you her progress in writing. The other Branches of her Education have not been neglected, but you would not be pleased to see the indolent way in which she and the young Ladies of this place generally live. They do not get up even in this fine Season till 8 or 9 o’clock. Breakfast is over at ten, a little reading or work until 12, dress for dinner till 2, after noon in making or receiving Visits or going about the Shops. Tea, Supper, and chat closes the Day and their Eyes about 11. I believe I do them great Justice in allowing that they employ to some good purpose two hours of the twenty four. If it is otherwise let your Niece set you right, for she tells me that she is to write by this Vessel.”4

[His opinion of New England was changed.] “You cannot well imagine,” he said, in this same letter, “what a Land of health, plenty and contentment this is among all ranks, vastly improved within these ten years. The war on this Continent has been equally a blessing to the English Subjects and a Calamity to the French, especially in the Northern Colonies, for we have got nothing by it in Carolina. I am almost tempted to wish that instead of broiling and squabling about public affairs in Carolina I had been set down quietly here, but as it has been otherwise determined by the Supreme over-ruler of all Events, I am satisfied. My Motto may be now little Comfort little Care. I formerly enjoyed more of the pleasureable part of life, but never more tranquility. The greatest anxiety I have had of late was to leave my Estate among those to whom it belongs clear of any Incumbrances.”

[Of his younger daughter he gives her aunts a good account:—]

“Your niece Bettzy continues to be a very thriving hopeful child, growing more and more like her Mamma every day. If I find fortune and Resolution enough, I propose to send her in two or three years hence under your care. I think it but a piece of Justice to commit to you that lively Remembrance of your Dear Sister, and have nothing to dread but for you, the care and anxiety she will give.”

[Betsy was not, however, sent to Scotland. Mrs. Smith had for some time wished to take her namesake under her own care, and in 1761 the child came to her house, to be thenceforth a close and dear companion. At the same time Mrs. Clark’s children, particularly John and Annie, were anxiously considered.] “As to our nephew Jacky Clark,” Mr. Murray wrote from Boston in July, 1761, to his brother John, “...there is the more reason to be careful of his education as the other two boys have been much neglected by bad Masters. Tommy, however, is like to prove a good planter and has from Nature the advantage of all his father’s agreeable modest behavior.... Anny, who is come hither with my little daughter and me, is the best English reader of the three, is very sensible, good tempered, and agreeable.... I arrived here....with Intention to spend the hot months in this place of health, plenty, and good Company. I intend to carry Dolly with me to the Southward in Septr, and to leave Anny Clark and Bettzy with their Aunt till our Return next Summer.”

[Mrs. Mackay, previously spoken of as living on King Street, had two daughters, Mrs. Gordon and Mrs. Thompson, the latter the wife of Dr. Thompson of Charleston, S. C., who was one of Mr. Murray’s friends. Dr. Thompson died, and Mr. Murray, who had done many kind offices for them both, finally, at Mrs. Mackay’s home in Boston, on the 30th of November, 1761, married Mrs. Thompson, a step which proved to be a fortunate one for Mr. Murray’s daughters as well as for the two most concerned.

[To Dorothy, who, meanwhile, had been visiting friends in New York, her father sent a few affectionate lines after the ceremony.]

JAMES MURRAY TO DOROTHY MURRAY.

BOSTON, November 30th, 1761.

DEAR DOLLY, — Your Aunt has received your letter of the 22d from York, and with me heartily congratulates you on your new Relation, which we hope will in a great measure make up for the late loss you have sustained.

We are to sleep this night at Brush-hill, and from thence along to-morrow as fast as we can. The Ceremony has been over about an hour very privately, and we eat our St. Andrews dinner with Mrs. Mackay. Remember me to Mr. Rutherford, the Ladies, and Mr. Barker if he is still with you. Your Aunt and Anny are so hurried they have no time to write. In this instance and in every one of my life I hope to prove, Dear Dolly,

Your truly affectionate Father.               

[By April, 1762, schemes for Mr. Murray’s removal to Boston had taken deep hold on Mrs. Smith’s mind. Mr. Smith was withdrawing from the sugar business; she wished Mr. Murray to take it up. Mr. Murray, however, while willingly assenting to her plans, was in no haste to be off from his plantation, which he really loved. He was, moreover, soon afterward “reinstated.” “I hope it will not prevent his coming here,” wrote Mrs. Smith to Dorothy. “If it does, it will be grief to one whose heart is bound up in him and his.” But at last the break was made. In 1765 Mr. and Mrs. Murray removed to Boston, to cast in their lot with their sister.

[Mr. Murray already had warm friends in Boston and felt himself in congenial surroundings. He occupied Mr. Smith’s house on the corner of Queen Street, the Smiths reserving for themselves a certain portion of it, though they resided at Brush Hill. One of his friends was the Rev. John Hooper, rector of Trinity Church. Mr. Hooper’s son, William, had studied law in Boston, under James Otis, and had begun the practice of his profession in Wilmington before Mr. Murray left North Carolina. The young lawyer, as time went on, paid his addresses to Annie Clark, who, it will be remembered, was growing up under Mrs. Smith’s care. For some time his suit did not prosper. The Murrays, conservatively loyal to government, were made cautious by the patriotic tendencies of James Otis’s pupil. Mr. Murray did not fail to give him candid advice.]

JAMES MURRAY TO WILLIAM HOOPER.

BOSTON, July 6th, 1765.

Dear Sir, — I am now embracing the first opportunity of acknowledging the Rect of yours of the 7th May, a very agreeable Letter so far as you insinuate that some of the good folks of our Province have been pleased to think favorably of my Intentions, which are all or almost all I deserve any Credit for. After a Service of near thirty years I cannot say I have been able to do them any Essential Service, owing in a great measure to my trusting too much to the Rectitude of my Intentions without the Vehicle of address necessary to bring them into Action in a Government such as ours. Agreeable is your letter likewise, as it informs me of your Close Application to Study and Business, in which I was in great hopes of your Proficiency and success until I saw the Stamp Act, which in the Execution will cast such a damp upon the litigious Spirits of your province by draining their pockets as will greatly abridge the practice of Law there and indeed throughout America, especially in the poorer provinces, and leave bread only for a few of the profession. Whether you will be of the number is doubted, as some conjecture you will be scared by sickness or impelled by passion to come off, and leave your Harvest in the Field. As to your love affair which you hint at I refer you to your father, who has read me part of his letter to you on the subject in a manner perfectly agreeable to my own sentiments.

I must own I regret your having had, through my means, fuel for your flame so near you on your own account, but much more for the other — for the parties in that affair treat on very unequal terms. The longer he waits the fitter he may be in every respect for matrimony — not so with the other, and to make it up directly would be certain ruin to both....

I must refer you to other Letters for particulars of your Friends here. I shall only hint a few. Miller at Marleborough dying by inches and looking death in the face with the Serenity of a Socrates. Mr. Smith has had an ill turn lately, but recruits fast; he is come to town to frolic. Your Brother John is sick, George a Lad of great hopes, Tommy idle because he was too high spirited to do some servile Jobs at Amorys. The People in high dudgeon here upon account of the late Acts, but not so outrageous as some of the Southern Colonies. Potash become a very valuable export. This province, they say will ship a thousand tons this year, value £30 Sterling a ton and more.

My Wife, Daughter and Niece present their compliments to you and will rejoice to hear of your health and success as well as,

Dear Sir, Your affectionate Humble Servant.                        


FOOTNOTES

1In another letter Mr. Murray describes him as “nephew to one of the Professors at St. Andrews.”

2Mr. Murray had not the gift of second sight to foresee his sister's matrimonial future.

3Mr. Deblois lived on the site of Horticultural Hall.

4See appendix.



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