Biography of Charles A. Murdock
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





CHARLES ALBERT MURDOCK. - Though he has lived in San Francisco for the last fifty years, Charles Albert Murdock has grateful memories of the period of his youth spent in Humboldt county, and the county recalls with pride that this man who has been permitted to lead a life of uncommon usefulness is the son of one of her earliest representatives in the California legislature, the late Albert Hamilton Murdock.

Albert Hamilton Murdock and his wife, Charlotte Dorothy Hills, were both natives of Leominster, Mass., and descended from early settled families of that commonwealth. His earliest ancestor in America was Robert Murdock, of Roxbury, Mass., a Scotch emigrant of the Plymouth colony, whose descendants were mostly manufacturers and traders of New England. Joseph Hills, from whom Mrs. Murdock traced her descent, was an early English emigrant of 1638, who did the state good service. Some of his posterity settled in Leominster and began the manufacture of combs, for many years the principal industry of that town. John Buss, another of Mrs. Murdock's ancestors, served in the Continental army during the Revolution.

Albert Hamilton Murdock was born in 1815, and came to California in 1849. After experiencing three fires in San Francisco he joined others in March, 1850, in an expedition on the schooner Paragon to Humboldt bay, into which the Trinity river was supposed to flow. The little craft was wrecked at Point Saint George, but many of the company, persisting in their purpose, reached the bay, and were among the early settlers of Uniontown, now known as Arcata, Humboldt county. Major Murdock, as he was generally called, was one of these, and he engaged in merchandising until 1854, when he relinquished that business to take up his duties as assemblyman, having been elected to represent the district in the state legislature. In 1860 he became interested in mining in Grass Valley. In 1864 he sold out his interests in Humboldt and became a stock broker in San Francisco, remaining there until his death, in 1877. His wife, who had joined him in California in 1855, bringing their three children, died in San Francisco in 1894.

Charles Albert Murdock, the eldest child of his parents, was born January 26, 1841, in Leominster, Mass., where he attended the common schools up to the age of fourteen years, at which time he was in the high school. Arriving in Uniontown in 1855, as there were no public school advantages he taught his younger brother and sister and a few other small children for a short time, and when Robert Desty established a school he and his pupils joined it. In less than six months his school days ended. For the next six years he did whatever he could to help his father, who was postmaster and general trader, and owned some land. He worked in the garden and on the farm, and had charge of Murdock Hall, where all entertainments and dances were heldi At one time he conducted a tin shop and was the only tinsmith in Humboldt county. He was the first librarian of Uniontown, and often acted as secretary at public meetings. In 1863 Mr. Murdock was appointed, by Abraham Lincoln, as register of the land office at Humboldt, and removed to Eureka. He sold many acres of the best timber land on Mad river for a dollar and a quarter an acre in greenbacks, which cost seventy five cents in gold. Miller Preston was about the only man who appreciated the opportunity. The position, though responsible, was not remunerative, and in the following year he resigned and became clerk to the quartermaster at Fort Humboldt.

In June, 1864, Mr. Murdock accepted an appointment as clerk to the superintendent of Indian affairs, Mr. Austin Wiley, and removed to San Francisco, where he has since continuously resided. At the conclusion of Mr. Wiley's term he was for a time bookkeeper, doing some work as a newspaper reporter in the evenings. Then he was for a year or so in business as a money broker. In 1867 he entered the employ of M. D. Carr & Co., book and job printers, and soon afterward acquired a small interest. Subsequently the firm became C. A. Murdock & Co., so continuing until 1909, when it became the Blair Murdock Company.

In 1883 Mr. Murdock served a term as assemblyman from San Francisco. He was a member of the board of education from 1894 to 1897, and filled an unexpired term as civil service commissioner in 1902-03. These positions were all unsought, most of them coming to him by appointment. In 1907, when Edward Robeson Taylor was intrusted with the selection of a board of supervisors to succeed the notorious Schmitz Ruef board, Mr. Murdock was one of the eighteen, and has held the position ever since, his present term expiring in January, 1916.

With all his business and official duties Mr. Murdock has led a life of broad, unselfish service to his fellow men, accepting his opportunities as a privilege and discharging the responsibilities they have brought as a solemn trust. In 1875 he was an organizer of the Boys' and Girls' Aid Society of San Francisco, and is now vice president. He is a member of the board of directors of the California School of Mechanical Arts, of the Associated Charities, of the Babies' Aid, and representative of the Protestant Charities on the Central Council of the Native Sons and Native Daughters for the Care of Homeless Children. He is secretary of three endowment funds, aggregating over eighty thousand dollars, for beneficence and charity in connection with the First Unitarian Church. For fifty years he has been an attendant of the Unitarian Church, superintendent of the Sunday school for about forty years, and vice president of the National Conference. For twenty two years he has edited the Pacific Unitarian.

Since 1877 Mr. Murdock has been a member of the Chit Chat club, devoted to discussion of literary and economic questions. He also holds memberships in the Unitarian, Commonwealth and Sierra clubs. He has never joined any secret societies.

By his first marriage, to Miss Alice J. Meeker, daughter of David Meeker, which took place in San Francisco in April, 1871, Mr. Murdock had no children. She died in 1884, and in February, 1891, he married for his second wife Winifred W. White, daughter of Ammi White. Her death occurred in 1903. Three children were born of this union: Osgood, now a junior in the University of California; Margaret Elliot, a graduate of the San Francisco normal school, engaged in teaching; and Edith King, a high school pupil in San Francisco.

Mr. Murdock is thankful for good health, good friends and abundant opportunity for service and general helpfulness. He feels that he was favored in spending nine years in his formative period in Humboldt county, with its bounty and beauty, and settled by so fine a group of enterprising and high minded citizens.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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