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George Murphy

The political history of Alaska and the municipal history of Nome, would not be complete without mentioning George Murphy, as he has been identified with all matters pertaining to the welfare of the community, and twice visited Washington to obtain redress and secure necessary legislation from Congress.

Mr. Murphy participated in the Klondike stampede in '97, and he, with several of his company, was the first to prospect and produce results from the celebrated French Hill, on Eldorado Creek. He returned to his old home in Montana, intending to return to Dawson in the spring, but after arriving in Seattle, concluded to embark for St. Michael, with the intention of investigating the reported strike on Anvil Creek.

The outlook at Anvil City, upon his arrival there, was certainly not propitious, as the rainy season had begun, and there was but little in sight to encourage the new arrivals. There was but one claim on Anvil Creek, No. 8, belonging to Mr. Price, that was producing any results. As but few of the new comers had found sufficient courage to leave camp, they were very skeptical about future developments.

The season being very wet and disagreeable, the tundra was almost impassable for man or beast, and the indications for business were not of the best. But Mr. Murphy concluded to remain during the summer; and the latter part of July pay was struck on die beach, and Mr. Murphy found himself involved in business matters to such an extent that before the last boat departed for the outside he had concluded to cast his fortunes with the new camp.

The political situation at Nome for the coming winter was not of the brightest. Citizens and miners had held an election in the fall for a municipal form of government, but as Congress had not provided for such a procedure, the so-called Consent City Government had no legal standing. The closing of the mining season left a great many idle people in the camp, and enforced idleness soon brought its usual result -- discontent, and criticism of those who had political positions. A great many complaints, some valid and some other- wise, were made. Matters at last assumed a critical shape, and Lieut. Cragie was presented with a petition, though not generally signed by the best citizens, to declare the existing municipal organization without authority to enforce its ordinances.

Mr. Murphy was one of the business men chosen by Lieut. Cragie to listen to the grievances, and he labored industriously to uphold and support the existing municipal admin- istration. But not even the persistent and conscientious efforts of the leading business men were sufficient to sustain the fast falling government, and realizing that some form of authority should be organized, a committee consisting of Mr. Murphy, Maj. Strong, Judge Rawson, Capt. Siem and Authur Pope, met and organized a chamber of commerce, that was so necessary and entered so prominently into the life of the community.

The chamber of commerce assumed as near as possible charge of all public utilities, care of the streets, sanitary conditions, hospitals, police and fire departments, and its ad- ministration was conducted with credit to its members. The health of the city was good, the law was respected, and there was no loss of any consequence by fire.

Mr. Murphy entered actively and zealously in all duties emanating from this body, and by his example encouraged a full attendance at its meetings, and insisted that members should serve on appointed committees, and as chairman of the executive committee was instrumental in directing the different departments.

Alaska, like all frontier parts of the United States, had long been neglected by Congress, and the matter of sending a delegate to Washington, to ask for some legislation in conformity with the needs of our fast-growing little city and territory, had been discussed. The duties of a delegate naturally aroused a great deal of discussion, and just what he should advocate, and just what was needed, constituted the principle theme of discussion for a long time previous to election.

The friendship of ihe prospective delegate was eagerly sought by different factions, those factions consisting principally of the adherents of the federal court on one side, and those who believed that the decisions of the court were not such as were consistent with law and justice; each side hoping to select a representative who would favor its interest in Washington.

Mr. Murphy's successful handling of public affairs, and high personal integrity, made him a logical candidate for a representative, but he insisted that it would be impossible for him to take any part in the controversy at Nome, and should he be sent to Washington, he would not advocate any measures that did not pertain to the public welfare of the territory at large.

The chamber of commerce, by a unanimous vote, elected Mr. Murphy, and instructed him to advocate such measures at Washington as he thought necessary and that might arise during his sojourn there, and his selection justified the judgment of his friends. Although a stranger in Washington, he secured one-half of all the revenues and licenses collected within municipalities in Alaska for school and municipal expenditures, a measure of in- calculable benefit, as thereby a quarter of a million dollars has been retained in the territory for public needs.

His mission being successful, he was again induced the following year, this time by the city council, to return to Washington the next season, and attempt to secure the remaining half of all revenues and licenses, and while not securing immediate passage of all this very necessary and appropriate measure, it was framed and introduced under his direction, and passed at the next session of Congress.

Mr. Murphy, while in Washington City, labored earnestly and zealously for all measures that in his; opinion would be of benefit to the great Northwest, and that while his friends felt that his mission had been far more successful than the most sanguine had reason to predict, he has felt that there is a great deal yet to be done.

Mr. Murphy has not always confined himself to civic duties. He has been active in his support of all public enterprises, hospitals, libraries, and all matters that would tend to improve the intellectual standard of the community; and particularly has he been active in the support of religious institutions, encouraging churches of different denominations, believing that a friendly rivalry between churches brings forth the best material in all.

Mr. Murphy, while not an active partisan, believes that the citizen can best serve his country by belonging to one of the great political parties, and he has always been identified with the Democratic party; has never occupied a public office, but accepted the chairmanship of the Democratic Central Committee of Helena, Montana, in 1897, was a delegate from Nome to the National Democratic Convention at St. Louis in 1904, and was selected as chairman of the Alaska delegation.

Mr. Murphy was born in Carrolton, Illinois, July 22, 1862. He was reared on a farm and educated in the public schools of his native town. When twenty years of age he went west, and after a long and arduous trip, located in Montana, where he followed various business enterprises until the Klondike excitement in 1897. Soon after receiving news of the Klondike strike he started for the new gold fields via Skagway and Dyea Pass. Like the other pioneer prospectors who went to Dawson, he built a boat on Lake Lindeman. He arrived in Dawson October 3, after a trip of fifty-eight days, and engaged in mining and merchandising until the following fall, when he went out for the winter, visiting his old home in Helena, Montana, intending to return the following spring. Upon arriving at Skagway in the spring of 1 899, he learned that the ice in the lakes had not broken, and he returned to Seattle to purchase merchandise to take to Dawson. When he arrived in Seattle the Nome excitement was at its height, and he changed his plans and secured passage on the steamer Roanoke, bound for Nome and St. Michael. He has since been identified with the commercial interests of Nome, and is the owner of both city and mining property in the town and district.

Mr. Murphy is an earnest, sincere and just man. He has always taken a deep interest in politics, and has been foremost in the advocacy of measures for the public good. What he has accomplished for Alaska, and for Nome in particular, entitles him to an honorable place in the annals of this country.

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by E. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.




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