Marshall M. Murdock, founder of the "Wichita Eagle" and for nearly forty years intimately identified with the history and progress of Sedgwick county, was a native of the Old Dominion, having been born in the Pierpont settlement in Virginia (now West Virginia), in 1837, the year Victoria ascended the throne of England. His earlier ancestors were Scotch, but his more immediate ancestors lived in the north of Ireland, where his grandfather engaged in rebellion against the British government about the time of the Revolutionary war in America and was compelled to flee to this country to save his life. He was a metal worker and after settling in Virginia engaged in the iron molding business. His son, Thomas, a man of quick conscience, grew up in a settlement of slaveholders and developed a strong abhorrence for the institution of slavery. He married Catherine Pierpont, a relative of Governor Pierpont, and the subject of this sketch was their first born. Soon after his marriage Thomas Murdock removed with his family to Ohio, and for a time was engaged in business at Ironton. While living there Marshall Murdock attended the public schools and began his apprenticeship at the printer's trade.
About this time the fight for a "free Kansas" was on and the entire nation was interested in the outcome of the struggle. Thomas Murdock's business venture in Ironton had not been a successful one, and with his intense dislike for slavery he determined to join the free-state forces in Kansas. Putting his worldly goods and his family in two covered wagons he started for Kansas. He drove one of the teams and Marshall, or "Marsh," as he was generally called, drove the other. After an overland journey of several weeks they reached Topeka, near which town Thomas Murdock "took up" a farm. Over that farm John Brown often passed with slaves taken from their masters in Missouri and other Southern States.
When gold was discovered in the Pike's Peak region Marshall Murdock caught the "fever" and set out for "hills of golden promise." There is little doubt that he was the first to discover silver where the city of Leadville now stands, but in those days gold was the attraction and his discovery was not turned to account until some years later. While he was in the gold fields the Civil war broke out, his father and two of his brothers enlisted, and Marshall returned to Kansas to take care of his mother and the younger members of the family. He found employment in a printing office at Lawrence, and was thus engaged when Quantrill made his raid on that city, in August, 1863. Young Murdock saved his life by concealing himself in a well while the guerrillas were plundering the town. A few bullets were fired into the well, but he escaped unhurt. When the Confederate General Price threatened to invade Kansas, in 1864, Marshall Murdock entered the service as lieutenant-colonel of the Osage and Lyon county militia, which aided in repelling the invaders.
In 1863 Colonel Murdock married Miss Victoria Mayberry of Douglas county, and soon after his marriage located at Burlingame, where he established the "Chronicle." He served as state senator for Osage and Lyon counties. In 1872, when it became evident that the Santa Fe railroad was to be extended through Wichita, Colonel Murdock removed his printing office to that city and founded the "Eagle." Soon after locating there he was elected state senator for all that part of the state lying between Butler county and the Colorado line, defeating David L. Payne, who subsequently started the agitation that resulted in the opening of Oklahoma to settlement. Colonel Murdock served as postmaster of Wichita for a number of years prior to the inauguration of President Cleveland, in 1885. He was again appointed postmaster by President McKinley and held the office until the time of his death. A recent writer says of him: "As he was by far a bigger man than the offices he held, his place in the world must be measured in other ways. He reached his highest stature in his profession. He was by all odds the best all-around editor in the state. In brilliancy he had no superior, and in public usefulness it is doubtful if he ever had an equal. He was the greatest town boomer and town builder the middle West has ever known. And he was honest in both. He saw as through a vision the future glory of the hamlet with which he had cast his fortune. He believed sincerely that it was destined to become the commercial center of the plains. He advocated every public enterprise that could contribute in any way to make it such. He made the 'Eagle' the oracle of the people, and to those inquiring for the land of promise it was never dumb."
Colonel Murdock's style of writing was peculiarly his own. His extensive vocabulary enabled him to make the English language subservient to his every wish. And his language was never equivocal. If he denounced an unworthy project it was in terms calculated to crush and destroy; if he expressed sympathy for the suffering it was in a prose poem that brought peace to the troubled heart. Yet he never indulged in personalities, nor never allowed the members of his staff to assail the reputation of an individual.
Colonel Murdock died on Jan. 2, 1908, and is buried on the hill overlooking the city which he helped to build, and which stands as a monument to his patriotism as a citizen, his courage and optimism as a journalist, and to his great influence in the public life of his day. He is survived by a widow and three children. One son, Victor, represents the Eighth Kansas district in the lower house of Congress, and another son, Marcellus, is now conducting the "Eagle" along the lines established by his illustrious father.Pages 1477-1479 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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