Aldrich History Project

Chapter LII

Thomas Holt Murray

Murray, Thomas Holt was born in Girard township, this county, on the 5th day of April, 1845. He was the second of nine children born to Alexander and Isabella (Holt) Murray. The early life of Thomas was passed with his parents on the farm, where his time was employed in the summer, and cutting and getting out lumber during the winter, except a short time spent in the schools of the township. 

     When about seventeen years of age he entered Dickinson Seminary, at Williamsport, intending to remain there one year, and lay the foundation for such an education as would not only enable him to transact ordinary business, but with a fixed determination to enter professional life. From January 8, 1862, until the time of the completion of the June examinations of that year, he remained at the seminary prosecuting his studies, but failing health then compelled his return home, where he lay sick the rest of the summer. The following fall and winter he found employment in teaching at the Union school in Covington township. In the spring and summer of the year 1863 he was engaged in getting out and rafting timber, mainly in Karthaus and Goshen townships. That winter he taught the Mulsonburg school, Covington township. The early part of the next year was spent in the woods and on the river, until the month of May, when he commenced and thereafter taught a four months term of school at Curwensville ; from this place he frequently walked, after school hours on Friday night, to the home of his parents in Girard township, twenty miles distant. 

     His health being restored, Mr. Murray, in September, 1864, returned to Dickinson Seminary, and resumed his course of study in that institution. During this time, however, and in the early part of the year 1865, he registered as a student at law with Gen. Robert Fleming, of Williamsport, devoting his leisure hours to the study of Blackstone and such other text works as would train his mind for the legal profession, which he had then fully determined to enter. Before fully completing his course at the seminary, and while thus engaged, he went to Blossburgh , Pa., and for a time engaged in the sale of books. This venture proved quite successful, and enabled him to acquire sufficient means to complete his course and leave him a moderate surplus upon his return home. Furthermore, during this same period he taught a three months term of school at Montoursville, in this State. In June, 1867, he was called back to the seminary to undergo the regular examinations preceding "commencement day." Having been entirely successful under this trying ordeal, Mr. Murray graduated from Dickinson Seminary on the 19th day of June, with the highest honors of his class. The following winter he taught school in Bradford township. 

     On the 29th of May, 1868 (having, however, duly registered nearly a year earlier), Mr. Murray entered the law office of H. Bucher Swoope, of Clearfield, in order that his course of legal study might be completed ; and nearly a year later, May 24, 1869, after a public examination in open court, he was admitted and sworn as an attorney of the courts ; and on the last day of June following, he opened an office in Clearfield for the general practice of the law. Five years later, at the city of Philadelphia, he was admitted to the Supreme Court of the State. 

     Digressing briefly from the narrative of the events of his life down to this time, some thoughts suggest themselves that faithfully and correctly portray the personal characteristics of Thomas H. Murray, and are fully evidenced by his subsequent life, and, fur­thermore, furnish an example worthy of emulation. These thoughts are more aptly expressed by words and phrases than by sentences—first, honest determination ; next, application; then, perseverance, and lastly, the result, the successful accomplishment of that which is undertaken. While any of these elements may be sufficient for the successful transaction of ordinary business, the whole are, in professional life, sine qua non

     For a period of more than five years Mr. Murray practiced without a partner, but in September, 1874, he formed a copartnership with Cyrus Gordon, a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, and also the Law Department of the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor . From that until the present time their relation as partners has been maintained, and it is a conceded fact that this firm is among the leaders of the Clearfield bar.

    The fact that Mr. Murray has been successful in the profession, goes without saying. In a major part of the leading cases tried at the bar of the county, he is, on one side or the other, represented. His practice is general ; but if there is any class of cases for which he has a preference, it is that usually termed " land cases." In the conduct of a case he is wholly devoted to the interests of his client ; ever on the alert for opportunities, but never taking an unfair advantage ; courageous, and at times aggressive, but never carrying personal feeling beyond the doors of the court-room ; possessed of a good understanding of the law, and not given to a misconstruction of doubtful cases ; strong and in favor with a jury, and scorning all that is mean, and narrow, and low ; but it is as an advocate before the court and jury that he is at his best. Lawyers who, perhaps, are his superiors in all the niceties of legal lore, and in the training and polish of the schools, are not infrequently amazed to find their firmest logic and finest rhetoric of no avail, as against his native power and ability to convince. His strong personality, combined with an intuitive perception of the hidden springs that impel men's conduct and thoughts, enable him to seize upon and express just the facts and illustrations which coincide with the half-formed ideas in the minds of the jury, and lead them in his favor; to this end the whole language and manner of the man are all powerful. All this is said of him by his fellow-men and associates at the bar, and more, that throughout the whole scale of human feelings he makes himself felt with a mastery, which, in its sweep and intensity, at times is nothing less than the inspiration of power. 

     While Mr. Murray stands pre-eminent in his chosen profession, yet the scope of his abilities and attainments is by no means encompassed by his knowledge of law alone ; his achievements in the field of literature, both as an essayist and as a lecturer, are no less prominent and no less worthy, and are only abridged by the arduous duties of professional life. His first appearance upon the rostrum was made during the year 1871, at the re-union of the Belle-lettres Union Society, of Dickinson Seminary, of which he was a member. The subject of that dissertation was "Little Things." Since that time he has prepared other lectures, prominent among which were " The Heroism of St. Paul," and " How to Grow." These have been delivered in several prominent places throughout the State, and were invariably received with the greatest favor by those competent to judge, and the press as well. In 1883 he became connected with the Pennsylvania Lyceum Bureau, and devotes such time to his literary work as can well be taken from regular duties.

In the political affairs of the county Mr. Murray has been a no less powerful factor as the advocate of Republican principles and the champion of Republican rights. His entry into politics dates as far back as the year 1861, at which time his first political speech was made. In 1869 his power as a leader was acknowledged, and he was placed at the head of his party organization in the county, which, during the succeeding eight years was under his management. During this period, by his advice, the party made a departure from regular methods, and succeeded, not only in forcing the opposition into the nomination of proper candidates, but eventually in capturing to the Republicans some of the most desirable county offices, and this in the face of a standing majority of something like two thousand votes. Upon two occasions, by his counsel and advice, the party made no county nominations, but joined with the conservative and indepen­dent Democrats, as against the " machine " candidates, and administered to them a most severe chastisement, and thus was overthrown what was at the time known as the " Court-house ring." He has frequently been a delegate to the State conventions of his

party, and, in 1876, was elected by the State Convention as delegate to the National Convention at Cincinnati, where he was an active supporter of Blaine for president. 

     In October, 1880, Mr. Murray was placed in nomination by the Republican district convention as a candidate for Congress, from the twentieth congressional district of Pennsylvania, against Ex-Governor Andrew G. Curtin, the candidate of the Democracy. Although defeated at the polls, he succeeded in reducing the standing majority of the district by more than one thousand votes. 

     Notwithstanding the active and earnest work performed by him in the arena of politics, Mr. Murray never so engaged willingly, but with the greatest reluctance, as all such participation ran directly counter to his inclination and taste. But the party lacked organization and leadership, duty called him there, and there could he be found until of late the press of professional business has compelled less active work in that field of labor. 

     In the cause of temperance Mr. Murray has been an active worker. He has never consented to act as attorney for an applicant for license, but when connected with such cases has invariably opposed the application. Brought up under the teachings of the Methodist Church, while at Williamsport, in 1865, he united with that church. On returning to Clearfield he became an active and influential member there, and is at this time President of the Board of Trustees of that society. In June, 1884, he was made one of the board of directors of Dickinson Seminary. 

     On the 9th of July, 1872, Thomas H. Murray married Miss Jennie Reighard, of Williamsport, of which marriage four children have been born.  It is at the fireside, as well as in the office, in the unrestricted flow of familiar conversation, when unburdened of overcare and overwork, that his most pleasing traits are exhibited. His devotion to home and family, his genial character, his well-trained mind, his literary taste, and his wonderful memory combine to make him one of the most interesting of companions.   

Source: Pages 706-709, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed August 2009 by Charlotte Gaines for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
Published 2009 by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project

Return to Biographical Record Index

Return to Aldrich Project Index

Return to Clearfield County Genealogy Project

© Clearfield County Genealogy Project