El Dorado Republican, Monday, Nov. 8, 1909, Pg. 2

Vol. XVII, No. 111





  In 1841 Thomas Benton Murdock was born in the mountains of Virginia.  He was one of five children, who lived to maturity, of Thomas Murdock and Katherine Pierrepont.  From the mother’s side came the pride of the Pierreponts; from the father’s the insurgent instincts of the Irish Murdocks who left Ireland after the Irish rebellion failed in 1798.  So, even though reared in the mountains among most simple people and most primitive surroundings, the Murdocks who have dominated Kansas for half a century have been proud soldiers of the militant democracy.  They have been fighters who led naturally, by instinct and training but never fighters for the old order.  They always were pioneers, always moving out into new territory of thought and action, looking forward.  Thomas and Katherine Murdock could not endure the iniquity of slavery so in 1849 they freed their slaves and left the slave country for Ohio.  They settled near Ironton but lost everything they had in the panic of 1855, and loaded their household goods on a boat, went down the Ohio to the Mississippi and journeyed as far west as Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.  There the family spent the winter and the father went to Kansas and found a location.  He brought his family to Topeka in the winter of ’56-’57.  They rented a little hotel and kept tavern, among others having for guests, Jim Lane and A. D. Stevens, famous as a border fighter under Montgomery and afterwards killed at Harper’s Ferry under old John Brown.  Going and coming in the little Kansas tavern of the Virginia abolitionist were the men who made Kansas free and famous in the great conflict that began at Lawrence and ended at Appomattox.

  In this atmosphere of strife and patriotism young Benton Murdock, a youth in his late teens, grew up.  In 1860 the family homesteaded at Forrest Hill, near Emporia, and the father and mother lived in Emporia the remainder of their lives; the father died in 1896 and the mother in 1887.

  When the civil war broke out Thomas Benton Murdock enlisted with his father and brother, Roland, in the Ninth Kansas Cavalry and served until the end of the war.  He served in the Rocky Mountains in ’63 and there met J. H. Betts, now of El Dorado.  When they met seven or eight years later in El Dorado John Betts kept eying Murdock and finally said:  “Say, aren’t you the chap that relieved me of that army overcoat out west?”  Murdock’s company was confiscating government property where ever he found it.  Murdock looked at Betts and replied:  “Well I guess I am.  But I’m here to start a newspaper.  What’s the chance?”

  “Bully,” returned Mr. Betts, willing to let bygones be bygones, and they have remained friends for forty years.

  Returning from the army where he had gone snow blind on the plains—a calamity that hung over him of his later days—young Murdock who had been a hod carrier and general work man as a youth around Topeka, learned the printing trade.  He worked in the office of Emporia News then owned by P. B. Plumb and Jacob Stotler who had married Leverah Murdock during the war.  His brother Marshall who had worked at the printers trade during the war was running the Burlingame Chronicle at the end of war.  Young Benton went back to Ironton, Ohio, married the sweetheart of his boyhood, Francis Crawford, and came to El Dorado, March 4, 1870, and founded the Walnut Valley Times with J. S. Danford.  His wife lived only a few years leaving at her death their daughter Mary Alice.

  From the first Mr. Murdock became a leader in politics in Kansas.  He stood for the Walnut Valley and the Kingdom of Butler.  In 1876 he was elected a member of the state senate.  He served with such men as E. N. Morrill, Charles Robinson, J. M. Hadley, father of the present governor of Missouri, Benjamin F. Simpson, J. R. Hallowell, D. W. Finney, W. A. Johnston, new chief justice of Kansas, all members of the senate, while in the house were Lyman U. Humphrey, John Gilmore, A. W. Smith, L. B. Kellogg, P. P. Elder.  His political career was fostered and guided by Mrs. Antoinette Culbreth-Murdock who for a generation has been wife, friend, comrade, guide and inspiration, who bore him five children of whom Ellina Culbreth only now is living.  Mrs. Murdock survives him with his two children.  In 1880 he ran for senate again but was unfairly defeated he thought.  He sold the Times and moved to Topeka and became connected with the Topeka Daily Commonwealth, then controlled by the Baker family.  But El Dorado held his heart and he returned in 1883 and founded the El Dorado Weekly Republican.  The Daily followed the Weekly in 1884 and the paper at once took a prominent place in the affairs of Kansas.

  Mr. Murdock was, during the late senator’s life time, a friend and ally of P. B. Plumb.  He and Plumb were young men together in Emporia, thought alike and had much in common in training and in aspirations.  And so after Plumb died the courage and independence and progressive Kansas spirit that made Plumb an insurgent who voted against the adoption of the McKinley bill, lived on Kansas through Mr. Murdock.  He was politically always with the scouts, with the pioneers, ever with the skirmish line.  It was the spirit of ’60 in his soul the rebellion of the ancestral Murdocks in his blood.

  In 1888 he was again elected to the state senate.  He served until 1892 and was on the committee that tried Theodosius Botkin and went over the old county seat troubles of western Kansas.  He was defeated for re-election by the Populist wave, and until appointed fish and game warden by Governor Stubbs never held public office of any kind again.

  But he was a public man all the time.  His influence on the state has been more rather than less because of the fact that he was not in office.  In every Republican state convention for forty years Mr. Murdock has been a power of the first class.  Yet he sacrificed that power and worked for the primaries which put convention politicians out of power.  He was never selfish, never little, never mean and so it happened that he was large enough to retain his influence in the state and multiply it through the primary.  Gradually he has grown in strength with the people of Kansas, and since 1902—his last alignment with the old political machine—he has been easily the leader of the forward movement in Kansas Republicanism.  Others have had the honor; but he has made them.  He has expressed as no other man has been able to express it, the sentiment of popular protest against the wrongs of government by ring rule.  He has been the voice of the people—an indignant people clamoring for a larger part in their state government.

  He fought with arms for freedom in his youth; he offered his body then; he gave his life to freedom in this latest struggle, and fought with his spirit—a brave, successful fight.

  As an editor he was equipped as few men are equipped—with an individual style.  He expressed something more than an idea.  He reflected an idea plus a strong, unique personality.  He therefore in a way dramatized whatever he wrote—made it the spoken word of a combatant in the conflict, the defiance of a partisan in the contest.  So thousands of people knew him as a voice, who did not know him as a man as we of his home have known him for forty years.

  Here was his real life, his real friends, his real success.  For before he was a Kansan he was a Butler county man, an El Dorado man.  He always stood by the home folks.  Of course he took part in local matters, and having taken part had to take sides.  He was never neutral in any important contest here at home.  But he always fought in the open, and he always fought fair.  He never abused a man.  He attacked causes, movements, orders, administrations, organizations and principles of his opponents—but the personal character of the men he opposed—there was the limit.  He never returned abuse for abuse.  He had no newspaper fights.  He never made his personal enemies objects of newspaper ridicule.  He had no office black list.  Every man or woman in Butler county received exactly the same treatment from the Republican under Mr. Murdock that every other man or woman received, no matter whether he or she was friend or enemy.  He strove always to be fair.  Many is the politician in this county in the old days who has fought Mr. Murdock knowing he could always depend on Mr. Murdock to be fair, to keep to the issue, to be silent on old scores, to leave personal matters out of the question.  Men have risen to power in this community opposing Mr. Murdock who have capitalized his innate decency, and have risen more by reason of his charity and humanity than by their own ability.  He was a gentleman of the old school, was Thomas Benton Murdock, and that fact has given more power to those who opposed him often than their own worth should have given to them.

  As his best qualities grew intenser, as people grew nearer to him, as they who knew him best here in his home community thought more of him than those who knew him in the state, so even better than they knew and loved him in the town, did they him in his home.  Mr. Murdock was a home man clear to the core.  Some men are least known at home.  He was best known there, and best beloved.  For there he showed always his best side.  He kept the finest part of his heart and mind and soul for those who met him in his home.  There he was in his kindest, his gentlest, his most human aspect.  Home was his heaven.  There he brought all his joy.  There he left the world behind.  When blindness threatened him, as it did for a quarter of a century off and on, it was in his home that he found his only solace.  When enemies pursued him, when cares overcame him, when troubles compassed him about, he turned always up the hill—always homeward.  There he drank the elixir of life, and returned full armed, anew and strong to the contest.

  When his soul went out into the Greater soul that gave it, how lovingly he must have followed the last ride of his shattered clay tenement as it journeyed through the Kansas that he loved, down the West Branch into the Walnut Valley that loved him, up the hill through the gloaming into the home that was his first heaven.  For it was a journey with a climax in love.  And when those whom he knew best and loved best gathered about his wasted body of death, his soul triumphant in the new life must have felt glowing even through the dark veil the warmth of an affection too deep for words and tears.

  So his last wish was granted.  And after “taps” had sounded we left all that was mortal, only a withered husk of the exalted and risen soul of Thomas Benton Murdock under the prairie grass out in the sunshine.  Sunshine and prairie grass—and the end.


  T. B. Murdock in writing of the death of his brother, Marsh, January 3, 1908, said:

  “There is no death.  There are no dead.  No waiting for the resurrection, in that it releases the spirit from the body.  If there was a Christ, and there was, and if he said something while on earth, and he did, he said it to Martha at the grave of Lazarus:  ‘Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.’  The immortal spirit of husband and father has passed through the shadow of the borderland of the shoreless river, ‘and his voice is drowned in the rushing tide.’

  “He has Crost the Bar.  His dying eyes had read a mystic meaning which only the rapt and passing soul may know.  Let us believe that in the silence of the receding world he heard the great waves breaking on a farther shore, and felt already upon his wasted brow the breath of the eternal morning.”


Funeral Service


  Funeral services over the late T. B. Murdock were held from the family home on Walnut Hill, Sunday afternoon, November 7, 1909.  Reverend Dean Kay of Trinity Episcopal church, Topeka, conducted the service and very beautifully expressed, sincere and true were his thoughts on immortal life, his tribute on the personality of Mr. Murdock.  He was assisted by Reverend I. Newton Roberts of the El Dorado Trinity Episcopal church.

  The rooms were banked with exquisite flowers, tributes from friends in this city and from over the entire state.  The house and lawns were filled with people.

  Brief interment were held in the west cemetery and “in the shadow of the evening,” were closed with “the soul stirring simple sound—the trumpeting of “taps.”

  The relatives of the family who were here to attend the funeral were:  Mr. and Mrs. Paul Eaton, Victoria Eaton, Mrs. R. P. Murdock, Marcellus Murdock, E. T. Allen, Victor Murdock, of Wichita; Mrs. Jacob Stotler,; Miss Leverah Stotler, Mr. and Mrs. A. Pemberton, Irene Pemberton, Murdock Pemberton, Emporia, Mrs. Emma Brady, Chicago.

  Those from out of town attending were:

  George Plumb, J. S. Watson, P. B. McCabe, W. Thornton and J. S. Gibson of Emporia, comrades of Mr. Murdock in the Ninth Kansas Cavalry.  J. S. Watson was Mr. Murdock’s “bunkie.”

  Other distinguished attendants:  Governor W. R. Stubbs, Senator J. L. Bristow of Salina; Frank MacLenan, editor of Topeka State Journal; John Dawson, attorney for State Board of Railroad Commissioners; Henry Allen, editor of the Wichita Beacon; Mayor Davison, Postmaster W. C. Edwards, Tom Biodget, editor Kansas Magazine, E. B. Jewett, J. R. Meade, Lock Davidson and John McGinis, of Wichita; William Allen White and wife of Emporia; J. W. Moore of Marion; Victor Hodgin, superintendent of the fish hatchery at Pratt; Dan McGowan, of Emporia; E. C. Newby of the Cottonwood Falls Leader, his wife and daughter, Pauline El Dorado; W. W. Bugbee, of New York and Augusta Kuster of Los Angeles, California.