THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF THE JAMES AND MARY MURRAY MURDOCH FAMILY ORGANIZATION Remarks by Dallas E. Murdoch at Wee Granny Memorial Service Scottsbluff, Nebraska - June 24, 2001

In 1969 I attended a Murdoch reunion at Bear Gulch, just east of Ashton, Idaho, desiring to know more about my Murdoch family. At that time, I met Phil Rassmussen, had a wonderful time, and obtained from Phil a small booklet with histories of our early Murdoch ancestors. At that time, I was appointed to be in charge of the next Murdoch reunion in Idaho in 1972. It was held at Warm River and again, we all enjoyed being together. I was appointed to be in charge of the next reunion to be held in Idaho in 1975.

At the reunion held in Heber City in 1974, Phil Rassmussen was sustained as President, with John M. Nicol as first vice-president and myself as second vice-president. The Idaho reunion of 1975 was held at the local high school and featured a readers theater presentation written by Ruth Schulz. Family members portrayed incidents in the lives of their ancestors. Many a tear was shed.

At a meeting of family officers held on March 12, 1977, under the direction of Phil Rasmussen, Mark Cram was asked to develop a computerized mailing list and Ruth Schulz was asked to be the editor of a quarterly newsletter, "The Murdoch Messenger". Each newsletter would contain biographies of James and Mary Murray Murdoch's children or grandchildren.

During the reunion held in Heber Valley on Aug. 12-13, 1977, I was sustained as president. At that time, it was determined to continue printing the Murdoch Messenger until all of the biographies of the children and grandchildren of Wee Granny had been published and then compile them into a book. Later, Oscar Hunter was assigned the task of maintaining the mailing list, replacing Mark Cram. By 1980, the task of compiling the biographies of Wee Granny's grandchildren and sending them out in the Murdoch Messenger was nearing completion. At a meeting of family officers held on April 19, 1980, it was approved to compile the biographies into a book and publish 2500 copies. It was to be named, "The James and Mary Murray Murdoch Family History". Publishers Press in Orem was selected to do the publishing.

Jack Lyon and his wife, Cecilia Ann, volunteered to place all of the accumulated material into a book form, a monumental task. In 1981, Bill Mair was sustained as president of the family organization and under his direction, it was published and distributed to family members in 1982, beginning at the annual reunion that was held that year in Heber Valley. It has enjoyed a wide circulation among Murdoch family members since then and presently very few of the books are available for sale.

Reunions were held for several years after the publishing of the book, and then they were discontinued, with no organized meetings of Murdoch's taking place. Some 10 or more years later, Phil Rasmussen, concerned about the lack of activity taking place among family members, called some of us who were involved in publishing the book to a meeting at his home and challenged the group and me in particular to develop a plan of action to get the family back on track. We agreed that something needed to be done but were not sure at that time what it was.

After a year or more of considering his challenge, I called Phil and reported that I had not received any spiritual promptings concerning his request. I am sure he was disappointed in my report. Some time later, while in the Logan Temple, I was considering the question in my mind, "Is there something I should be doing in the Murdoch Family?" Almost immediately, the thought came, "Call your Aunt Tressa and volunteer to help her with the book she is trying to publish". I called Tressa and of course she needed some help. We organized a family effort and out of this came the publication, "The Brigham and Thomas Todd Murdoch Family Histories", a 744 page book containing the histories of their ancestors and the biographies of all of their descendants.

In the book we included a chapter about James and Elizabeth Wylie Steel. He was the brother of Ann Steele, and he and Elizabeth were the first missionaries to our Murdoch family. He and his family accompanied Wee Granny as they trekked to Zion as part of the Martin Handcart Company. He died after Wee Granny, on Nov. 10, 1856, but his family made it to Zion. We put two paintings by Clark Kelly Price in our book, one showing angels pushing the handcarts, and the other showing the burial of James Steel, Brother Price's great, great grandfather. In conversations with him about using his paintings, he made the comment that he would like to do a painting about Wee Granny some day.

Two members of our family that helped a great deal in the printing of our book were Bob and Gwen Lee. They had a son going to dental school in eastern Nebraska and on one of their trips to visit him, they stopped at a cemetery near Chimney Rock and felt impressed that a stone monument honoring Wee Granny should be placed there. Over a period of time, they acquired title to a lot and contacted a monument company in Scottsbluff to do the work. At a family council meeting, they explained their proposal to us and it was accepted. Realizing that others in our immediate family might want to assist in the cost of the monument, we determined to send a newsletter to everyone on our mailing list, inviting them to do so.

Someone suggested placing a time capsule that included the names and amount of all who donated to the defray the cost of the monument. I remembered Clark Kelly Prices' interest in doing a painting about Wee Granny and everyone felt we should approach him. Someone else suggested taking buses. It was agreed to ask for an annual dues payment of $10.00 to pay for the expenses for the program. Soon, with guidance from the spirit, we realized that this was an event that all of the descendants of Wee Granny would want to participate in and we determined that where possible, we would invite as many of them as we could. I had a copy of Oscar Hunter's mailing list that was used to send mailings for the Murdoch Messenger some 20 years before. This was very helpful. Family members sent me updated mailing lists of their branches of the family and this was helpful.

My son Jim agreed to do a web page on the internet for our family. We finalized on the name, This became another tool in letting family members know what was going on. Soon, interested family members were sending in their contributions for the monument, a family dues payment, and orders for the picture to be painted by Clark Kelly Price. Later, other family council meetings were held to finalize the program. Someone suggested the name of David Barkley as a bagpiper. He was contacted and agreed to come to our service and bless us with his talent.

I had come into my mind the need of having a song presented at the memorial service in honor of Wee Granny. I wondered, who could write it? Then, the name of Joanne Doxey came into my mind. I knew Joanne and I knew that her husband, David Doxey, was a counselor in the Salt Lake Temple Presidency. Excited, I came home and looked into the hymnbook to see if she had written other songs. No credits were there but when I looked in the Primary Childrens Songbook, I found two songs to her credit, including "Where Love Is".

I called and asked her to write a song and she accepted very graciously. Her comment was, "I don't write music, I just translate it". Later, she called and reported that she had not one song but two, one written by her thirteen year old granddaughter, Betsy Stevens. Betsy, upon hearing of the assignment given her grandmother, spent a restless night thinking of a possible song and the next morning she was able to put it into words. Joan's song was titled, "Wee Granny, Our Granny". Betsy's song was titled, "Face Toward Zion". Joanne Doxey composed the music for both songs and Vanja Y. Watkins helped in the arranging. These are wonderful songs that need to be sang repeatedly by Wee Granny's posterity.

In preparing for this service, we realized the importance of having our facts correct concerning some aspects of Wee Granny's life. Some have surmised she died because of the cold and early snows. The traditional date for Wee Granny's death has been Oct. 3, 1856, but we could find no verification. Finally, after much searching, I came upon the journal of David Lennox Murdoch, written after his return from a mission to Scotland in 1905-1907. In his journal, found on page 732 of our "James and Mary Murray Murdoch Family History", he mentions the great effort he had made to determine her death date, but that he was unable to find a journal that had it recorded. On page 726, he suggests that Wee Granny died at or near Chimney Rock on Oct. 3, 1856, since "This is the date that Martin's Handcart Company is said to have passed that historic spot". We have surmised that entry in David Lennox's journal was why Oct. 3, 1856 was recorded in family and church records as her death date.

One of our family members came across the journal of John Jacques, also a member of the Martin Handcart Company. It has the title, "Life History and Writings of John Jacques". On page 306 of his journal, he makes the following entry. "Oct. 2 - Mary Murdock, age 72, Scotland, died of diarrhea at 4 p.m., buried 10 miles east of Chimney Rock". On page 140 of this same journal, he makes the following entry, "Thurs. 2: Hot day. Fri. 3: Hot day. Left camp about 7 a.m. ..... Baited opposite Chimney Rock, east of a low bluff, close to the river. Traveled about 17 miles". From these journal entries we determined conclusively that Wee Granny died at 4:00 p.m., the afternoon of Oct. 2, 1856, and the weather was hot and dry.

Some months before we printed "The Brigham and Thomas Todd Murdoch Family Histories", I bore my testimony in a fast meeting and felt impressed to tell about our families work on this book and mentioned the names of James Steele and his wife Elizabeth Wylie Steele as the first missionaries to the Murdoch Family. After the meeting, a member of our ward, Allyne Crossly, came up to me and mentioned that she had Wylies in her family tree. Later she called and said that she had an ancestor, Ruth Wylie, a sister of Elizabeth, who had crossed the plains in 1855. She had married a man named Guy Messiah Keysor. Sister Crossly had a copy of his original journal and in it she found the following entry. "Sept or Oct. 1856 paid $125.00 to Perpetual Emigration Fund to bring my mother-in-law (meaning Ruth's mother) and another saint from England." His mother-in-law was Mary Ann George Wylie, age 66, a widow, and a member of the Martin Handcart Company. Unbeknown to the family all these years, Wee Granny had a traveling companion as she came across the plains, James Steele's mother-in-law, Mary Ann George Wylie.

Since the money that has been collected for this memorial service has come from all branches of Wee Granny's family, the Brigham and Thomas Todd Murdoch Families has determined that any left over after all expenses are paid should remain in a fund to be used as seed money for any worthy project by any of her descendants. This would include monuments to replace existing ones, genealogical research, printing additional books, etc.

Perhaps the next project should be a memorial service to honor John Murray Murdoch and his two wives, Ann Steele and Isabella Crawford, a new monument to replace the existing one in the Heber City Cemetery, and a painting, following the pattern of this service. I can envision a painting showing the time that John Murray Murdoch went to claim his oxen, holding out each arm for them to come. Since he came into the Salt Lake Valley on Sept. 3, 1852, Sept. 3 or thereabouts during the year 2002 may be a logical time to hold this memorial service, since it will be 150 years since his first entry into the valley.

After having served in many areas of responsibility with the Murdoch Family, I have a great testimony to the importance of holding family council meetings. The wisdom of the group is far greater than that of any individual member. Those of our family on the other side of the veil are aware of what we do and they hold their own family council meetings as well. Through the guidance of the holy ghost they are able to guide us in accomplishing tasks that are of importance to them. They are grateful to us for the effort we have made here today to honor them. May I close by referring to the 2nd Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

"Behold, I will reveal unto you the priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the Prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming".

Our coming together to honor Wee Granny on this sacred occasion is in small part our fulfilling the promises we have made. May we ever honor her and all those who have contributed so much in our behalf I pray in the worthy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


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