by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
William Patrick Murphy
Surnames are immortalized in prose, poetry and religion. Surnames can identify family origin, denote occupation, and depict character. Can a surname influence ones’ destiny?
William Murphy was born in Ireland in 1836. He came to America around 1850, where he met the Irish-born Miss Ellen Sheehan. William and Ellen married on August 8, 1861 and welcomed their first child, John, in 1964. John was joined by siblings Mary, in 1866; Jeremiah, in 1870; William II, in 1872; and Margaret, in 1877. William supported his flock by working in the Phoenix/Franklin Mine. That support ended on Thursday, March 2, 1876 when William was crushed by a heavy fall of coal. He was laid to rest in St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery in Westernport. His wife Ellen was left with five children, the oldest fourteen---the youngest just one. Fourteen year-old John entered the mines, and with his father’s pick in hand, became the family bread winner.
John’s brother, William II, was employed as a brakeman for the C&P Railroad. His co-workers described him as conscientious, upright, ready to help a fellowman, and able to condemn a cowardly act. By his kind manner and winning ways, he made many friends. On July 17, 1901, at the age of 29, he married Mary Catherine “Minnie” Murphy. After just six months of marriage, William was injured when his foot was crushed in the C&P yards in Westernport. He was sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Baltimore for treatment. The injured foot became gangrenous; all treatment failed. William Patrick Murphy II died on January 9, 1902 and was buried near his father in St. Peter’s Cemetery. His son, William Patrick Murphy III, was born seven months later on August 14, 1902. Minnie Murphy raised her only child alone.
William III married Carissima Sheridan and the couple lived in Cumberland on North Chase Street. They became parents of a daughter, Nancy, born in 1933. William III was a crane operator for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. On August 27, 1956, William III went to Flintstone for a business meeting. On his return home, about two miles east of Cumberland on Route 40, his car ran off the road, hit an embankment, and careened across the highway through a small stand of trees. The vehicle came to rest on its right side, with William’s neck caught between the edge of the flooring and the right front door. According to the coroner’s report, William Patrick Murphy III died of asphyxiation at the age of 54. He was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Cumberland.
Three men---grandfather, son, and grandson---were all killed in tragic accidents, leaving their wives to complete the job of raising the children. Did their name influence their destiny? After all, we’ve all heard of “Murphy’s Law.” One thing is for certain. The luck of the Irish did not waylay the sad fates of William, William II, and William III.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the crossroads of state Route 36 and the National Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor all of our Georges Creek miners and name those who perished while mining.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765
Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Contact Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucky Schriver at email@example.com to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for future “Miner Recollections.”