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The Early Murphys of Clarksburg, West Virginia

David Murphy | Dennis Murphy | John Murphy | William Murphy Sr.

The Murphy surname can be found in many early records of Monongalia, Harrison, Wood, Lewis, and Ritchie Counties, West Virginia. In the earliest years of its settlement, this territory was considered part of the District of West Augusta, which included parts of present day Pennsylvania. The District of West Augusta was separated into three major counties: Yohagania, Monongalia, and Ohio. Monongalia County, created in 1776, was a large tract of land that later became part of Greene and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania as well as Monongalia and Harrison Counties in (West) Virginia. Harrison County was formed from Monongalia in 1784; Wood County was carved from Harrison County in 1798; Lewis County was taken from Harrison County in 1816. Finally, Ritchie County was created in 1843 from sections of Harrison, Lewis, and Wood Counties.

From 1754 to 1764 a few adventurers and hunters began to settle on or near the Monongahela River in present day northern West Virginia. By 1770, emigrants began to reach the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers in considerable numbers. Many emigrated for the land, which could be obtained literally "for the taking." Building a cabin and raising a crop entitled anyone to a settler's right of 400 acres with a preemption claim to 1000 more, if secured by a land-office warrant. The preemption claim allowed the settler the first opportunity to purchase the tract of public land. In the mountains of West Virginia, the 400-acre plots were usually located in the center of the valleys, with the surrounding 1000 acres located on mountain sides. In some counties, settlers were quite diligent about recording title to their lands according to the law, however, many early pioneers along the Monongahela River did not patent their land until the formation of Harrison County in 1784.

In 1772 the first permanent settlements were made on Simpsons and Elk Creek. Tax, land, and marriage records show the Murphys to be among the earliest settlers of this area. The land settled by these first Murphys was primarily located on Elk Creek, Simpson Creek, and Murphy's Run, a small trickle of water which drained into Elk Creek. The present day hillside neighborhood of Despard, located a few miles from the center of Clarksburg, West Virginia, is located on lands originally owned by the Murphys.

David Murphy

David first appears in Harrison County records, May 17, 1785 when Benjamin Coplin was brought to court "for allowing card playing last evening and night by David Murphy, Josiah Davisson, Jr., Charles Harris, and John Webb." Charles Harris was also charged with drunkeness. Then in September, 1795, David was involved in a case against George Arnold, which was settled by agreement in November 1795.

Sometime prior to 1785, William Murphy assigned 400 acres on Simpson Creek to David Murphy. Since William Murphy's acquisition of the land was through a tomahawk claim, David had the land surveyed and entered into the plat books in 1785 in order to secure the land title. Two years later, David married Hannah Williams, the widow of Bazel Williams. Their marriage bond is dated 11 January 1787. Fourteen months later, on March 20, 1788, David and Hannah sold the 400 acres on Simpson Creek to David Hewes for 50 pounds. As was the law, Hannah was questioned privately about the sale, on April 24, 1788.

David appears on Harrison County Tax Records for 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788. After 1788, David and Hannah may have lived on land inherited by Hannah from her first husband. In August 1790, William Haymond, George Jackson, and Benjamin Coplin received a court order "to lay off the third of a tract of land formerly the property of Bazel Williams, now dec'd for David Murphy who married the widow of said Williams." Harrison County court records show that John and George Williams were also heirs of Basel Williams. [Basil Williams settled 400 acres on the Forks of Ten Mile Creek in 1774 and 100 acres along Elk Creek.]

In September 1803, John and George Williams of Mason County, Kentucky, sold 100 acres along Elk Creek to Nathaniel Davvison. David Murphy also moved to Mason County, Kentucky, where he is found on the 1790 census. After a few years he moved to Chillicothe, Ross County, Ohio, where his name appears on tax lists for 1807, 1808, 1809, 1810, 1816, 1817, and 1818. David was married three times. His second wife was Hannah Sumpter and his third wife, Mary Park. David died 2 August 1826 in Ross County. His birthdate is given as 5 November 1766.

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Dennis Murphy

Dennis settled 400 acres in 1772 on what became Finks Run. This land was later assigned to Daniel Fink. Dennis also owned 400 acres on Simpson's Creek and "the waters of Booth's Creek," which he settled in 1775 and later assigned to Thomas Berkeley. Dennis is listed on Captain Zachquill Morgan's roll of soldiers who were paid off at Ft. Pitt (Pittsburg) at the close of Dunmore's War in 1775. In 1777 a legislative petition was filed in Augusta County, requesting that a new county [Harrison County] be formed "west of the Allegania Mountains" and separate from Monongalia County. Dennis' name appears among the petitioners. His signature (Denes Murphy) is also included on a petition dated May 25, 1779, Augusta County, Virginia, in which the inhabitants on the west fork of the Monongahela asked for incorporation in Monongalia County. Dennis is listed on the 1782 census of Monongalia County with 5 tithes and his name appears on Harrison County tax records for 1785 and 1786. In 1788 he filed a lawsuit against Charles Harris and Peter Cornellison and a second suit against Adam O'Brien, Michael Bulger, and Peter McCune in Harrison County. The case was continued until March 18, 1789, at which time the defendants confessed. Dennis is not found in Harrison County records after 1789.

Other researchers believe Dennis was the brother of David Murphy and moved to Mason County, Kentucky after 1789. His name is found on various deed and court records in that county until his death about 1802-4.

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John Murphy

John Murphy settled 1000 acres in Monongalia County, "on the waters of Scotts Mill Run" beginning in 1773. This land was later conveyed to William Robinson. John's name next appears on a 1774 payroll list of Captain William Lowther, Harrison County (West) Virginia, Lord Dumore's War. He served for 132 days.

John also settled 400 acres on Andrew Davisson Run and 400 acres on the south side of Hughes River, in 1775. The property at Davisson Run was later conveyed to Isaac Edwards, and the settlement on the Hughes River was assigned to Charles Martin.

John's name appears among the petitioners on a 1777 a legislative petition, filed in Augusta County, requesting the formation of a new county [Harrison County] "west of the Allegania Mountains" and separate from Monongalia County. The following year, in March of 1778, John joined other settlers who were assembled at Harbert's blockhouse on Jones Run, a branch of Ten Mile Creek (near the present town of Lumberport, Harrison County) for protection from attacking Indians. The Monongalia Story records that John Murphy was wounded in the attack.

John Murphy is also listed among the signers of the May 25, 1779, petition for incorporation within Monongalia County. His name appears later on the Monongalia County tax list for 1782, with 3 whites.

In May 1786, John was appointed surveyor of the highway from Elk Creek to Ezekiel Thomas' and all tithables from Elk Creek to Simpson's Creek to keep the road in good repair. The same court record shows that John Murphy was also ordered to open Bridge Road from Anglin's Road to the "17 mile tree". In June, he and John McCalley were ordered to "summons their hands to open the road from Clarksburg to John Wolfe's," In September 1786, Daniel Fink was appointed surveyor of the highway in room of [in place of] John Murphy.

After the formation of Harrison County, John appears on tax lists for 1785, 1786, 1787 and 1788.

The next mention of John Murphy in Harrison County records is in November 1793, when he and Richard Lennix were examined regarding the escape of Elizabeth Vanmeter, a prisoner who was in custody of the sheriff for committing a felony. John, along with William Murphy, was a juror in Harrison County during the March and November terms, 1794. This John may not be the same man who appeared on earlier records for Harrison County.

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William Murphy, Sr.

In 1781 a land certificate was issued to William Murphy for 400 acres in Monongalia County on the waters of Simpson's Creek, to include improvements made in 1775. William assigned this land to David Murphy sometime before 1785.

William also acquired 400 acres of land on Murphy's Run in Harrison County from Christopher Baker. The land entry was made in 1785, many years after his settlement in 1776. By that time, William was listed as William Murphy Sr. and Murphy's Run already been named for the Murphy family. William and John Murphy settled adjoining land on Murphy's Run.

In 1777, a legislative petition was filed in Augusta County requesting that a new county [Harrison County] be formed "west of the Allegania Mountains" and separate from Monongalia County. William's name appears among the petitioners. William Murphy Sr. and William Murphy Jr. were signers on the 1779 petition for incorporation in Monongalia County.

A few years later, William and his wife Joice (Josie), began to sell their land on Murphy's Run. Daniel Fink purchased the first 194.5 acres for 130 pounds in July 1789. In September 1792, they sold another 108 acres on Murphy's Run to William White for 60 pounds. The final parcel of land, 99.5 acres, was sold to Benjamin Robinson in May 1795 for 90 pounds. John Jackson, Sylvester Lyon, and Charles Harris made oath, June 15, 1795, that "they saw William Murphy sign, seal and acknowledge a deed for 99 1/2 acres of land to Benjamin Robinson." Joice Murphy, wife of William, "came into court and acknowledged said deed to said Robinson in due form."

William Murphy can also be found in various court records for Harrison County. Most of these court cases took place about the time that William and Joice sold their land. The nature of the cases is not currently known. A suit filed by James Cohran was settled in May 1785; judgment was for the plaintiff and it appears that William was required to pay interest and costs. On March 20, 1788, judgment was for the plaintiff in the case of William Murphy vs. Michael Bulger. (Dennis Murphy also had a case against Michael Bulger in 1788.) In November 1788, William brought a case against Samuel Shaw and Joseph Friend. Judgment was for the plaintiff in August 1789. Then in June 1789, William filed a case against Joseph Wolf, which was settled by agreement in July. William also took William White and David Hughes to court in 1790. Again judgment was for the plaintiff. The case against White and Hughes may have been related to previous property sales. Monongalia County court records show a performance bond in 1791 for Selvester Lyons and William Murphy, of Harrison County to deliver John Hall of Harrison County to court to answer a complaint of debt. A grand jury presentment in November 1791 was made against William Robinson and William Murphy for travelling on the Sabbath. William was acquitted of a case in 1792 brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia. He served as a juror in March 1793, May 1793, March 1794 and November 1794.

William is found on Harrison County tax records in 1785, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, and 1796. His name is missing in 1797 and 1798. The name of William Murphy reappears in 1799, however, this may be his son.

William died before 1803. He left no will and there is no probate record. His widow, Joice, gave permission in January 1803 for her daughter, Elizabeth Murphy, to marry John Drake in Harrison County. The permission slip was witnessed and signed by John and Prisilla Murphy.

Joice Murphy is found on the 1810 census for Harrison County, 1 male under 5, 1 female 10-16, 1 female 26-45, and 1 female 45 and over. She probably died before the 1820 census.

Since William and Joice remained in the area longer than any other Murphy family, they are most likely the parents of the next Murphy generation.

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Chronology

1772

Dennis Murphy settled 400 acres on a drain of Buchannon, later called Finks Run.

1773

Robert Murphy settled 400 acres of land on the west fork of Monongahela River, below the mouth of Simpsons Creek.

John Murphy has right to 1000 acres of land on the waters of Scott's Mill Run adjoining his improvements made there in 1773.

1775

William Murphy was entitled to 400 acres of land on the waters of Simpson's Creek in the right of residence; includes improvements made in 1775.

John Murphy entitled to 400 acres on Andrew Davisson Run and 400 acres on the South Side of Hughes River; to include his settlement made there in 1775.

Dennis Murphy settled 400 acres of land on Simpson's Creek and on the waters of Booths Creek; settlement made in 1775.

1776

William Murphy Senr settles 400 acres of land on Murphy's Run adjoining to lands claimed by Andrew Davisson Senr; settlement made there in 1776.

1777

The Virginia Archives, in Richmond, Virginia has on record a written copy of a petition for a new county, circulated in 1777. This petition was signed by 216 men, including John Murphey, Denis Murphey, and William Murphey. John and Dennis' signatures appear next to each other indicating their close proximity. William's signature appears later in the list.

John Murphy is wounded by Indians in an attack at Harbert's blockhouse on Jones Run.

1782

Monongalia County tax record shows Denis Murphy with five whites in his household and John Murphy with three.

1784

Harrison County was formed from Monongalia County, placing Elk Creek, Simpson Creek, and Murphys Run in Harrison County.

1785

Dennis, John, David, and William Murphy appeared on George Jackson's list of tithables, 18 July 1785, on the waters of Elk Creek.

David Murphy had 400 acres surveyed on the right hand fork of Simpson's Creek in Harrison County. David was an assignee of William Murphy.

John, Dennis, and David Murphy signed a petition in Harrison County protesting the opening of Wickwire Road.

1786

Dinnes, John, and David Murphy are all listed on tax records for Harrison County.

1787

David Murphy married Hannah Williams in Harrison County, 11 January 1787.

Nicholas Carpenter's tax record for Harrison County, shows William Murphy with one tithe for himself, four horses, mules, or mares, and one cow. John Murphy paid one tithe for himself, and had three horses, mules, or mares, and eleven cattle. David Murphy shows with one tithe for himself, six horses, and six cattle.

1788

David, John, and William Murphy are again listed on Nicholas Carpenter's tax record for Harrison County, Virginia.

March 20, 1788, David and Hannah Murphy of Harrison County sold 400 acres on the right hand fork of Simpson's Creek for 50 pounds to David Hewes.

1789

William Murphy is listed on John McCally's tax record for Harrison County with 2 tithes.

Joseph and Nancy Swearingen of Fayette County, PA, sold 200 acres for 100 pounds to Hezekiah Davisson on the left hand fork of Ten Mile Creek, mouth of Coburns Run. William Murphy was witness to the land sale.

William and Joyce Murphy of Harrison County sold 194.5 acres on Murphy's Run to Daniel Fink on July 15, for 130 pounds. The land adjoined Benjamin Coplin, Andrew Davisson, and John Murphy. Signed William (X) and Joyce (X) Murphy. Recorded July 1789.

1790

William Murphy is listed on Nicholas Carpenter's tax list for Harrison County, with 2 tithables.

1791

James Murphy acquired 200 acres of land in Monongalia County.

Monongalia County court records show a performance bond for Selvester Lyons and William Murphy, of Harrison County to James Johnston, of Monongalia County, for 300 pounds money of Virginia to deliver John Hall of Harrison County to next court to answer Johnston's complaint of debt, March 16, 1791.

William Murphy is listed on Nicholas Carpenter's tax list for Harrison County, with 3 tithes.

1792

William Murphy is listed on Benjamin Coplin's tax list for Harrison County, with 3 tithes and two horses.

September 17, William and Joyce Murphy sold 108 acres on both sides of Murphy's Run adjoining John Murphy, to William White for 60 pounds.

Hezekiah and Ann Davisson of Harrison County, sold 200 acres on Murphy's Run and Simpson's Creek, corner to David Murphy.

1793

William Murphy is listed on Benjamin Coplin's tax record for Harrison County, with 3 tithables. County totals for Harrison County show 190 tithables, 370 horses, 10 blacks, and 4 stud horses.

1794

William Murphy is again listed on Benjamin Coplin's tax record for Harrison County, with 3 tithables.

1795

William Murphy is listed on Joseph Davisson's tax record for Harrison County, with 3 tithables.

May 21, William and Joyce Murphy of Harrison County, sold 99.5 acres on Murphy's Run, a branch of Elk Creek, to Benjamin Robinson for 90 pounds.

1796

William Murphy listed on tax records for Harrison County with 2 tithables and one horse.


Over the years, the older generation passed away or moved on. By 1797 we find a new, younger generation of Murphys. Named for their forefathers, these men initially bought land near their parents' settlement. However, as civilization moved closer to the frontier, the Murphys sold their lands near Clarksburg, and pushed deeper into the wilderness of Virginia. About 1804, William, John, Samuel, and Amaziah Murphy began the "Murphy Settlement" on the south fork of the Hughes River, in present day Ritchie County, West Virginia.

1797

John Murphy appears on 1797 tax records in Harrison County with one tithe and one horse. After an eight-year absence this must be a different man from the one who appeared on earlier tax records.

December 28, 1797, John and William Murphy bought 100 acres on Murphy's Run from Benjamin and Deborah Coplin for 100 pounds.

1798

John Murphy appears on Joseph Davisson's tax record for Harrison County with 3 tithables.

August 29, 1798, John and William Murphy sold 100 acres on Murphy's Run to Richard Holliday, of Frederick County, VA, for $700. George Arnold witness.

George Arnold, who was an assignee of John Murphy and William Murphy Jr. was in debt for 200 pounds and $1000 damage, September 9, 1798.

Mary Murphy was witness to a land transaction in Harrison County for Amaziah and Margaret Davisson.

1799

John and William Murphy appear on Joseph Davisson's tax record for Harrison County. John was charged with one tithe and William had 2 tithables and one horse.

1800

July 1, 1800, William Murphy bought 70 acres on Booths Creek from John and Dorcas Prunty for $233.33.

Joseph Davisson's tax records for Harrison County, shows John, William, and Samuel Murphy each paid one tithe. William paid a 12 cent tax for one horse, as did John. Samuel paid 36 cents tax for 3 horses.

The following marriage bonds were recorded in Harrison County in 1800: William Murphy to Elizabeth Owen, August 10; John Murphy to Prissilla Stout, 14 August; James Murphy to Margaret Nutt, November 22; William Murphy to Hannah Cunningham, December 22.

1801

January 19, William and Hannah Murphy of Harrison County, sold 70 acres on Booths Creek to Ebenezer Cheney for 51 pounds. Signed William Murphy and Hannah (X) Murphy. This appears to be the same land purchased by William in 1800.

February 17, John and Anna Black of Harrison County, bought 108 acres from Alison Clark on both sides of Murphys Run... adjoining John Murphy and Benjamin Robinson. This may be the same land William and Joice Murphy sold to William White in 1792.

Joseph Davisson's tax records for Harrison County list John Murphy, John Murphy Sr., Samuel Murphy, and William Murphy. John Murphy and John Murphy Sr. each had 1 horse.

1802

Samuel, William, John, and John Murphy Sr. are listed on tax lists for Harrison County. Samuel and William paid one tithe each, John paid one tithe and a 12 cent tax for one horse, John Murphy Sr. paid two tithes and a 12 cent tax for one horse.

1803

Elizabeth Murphy married John Drake, in Harrison County. Joice Murphy gave permission for the marriage. John and Prissilla Murphy signed the permission slip as witnesses.

Joseph Davisson's tax record for Harrison County lists Samuel Murphy and William Murphy, each with one tithe and one horse. John Murphy paid one tithe. This is the last year that the Murphy surname appears on Elk Creek tax records for Harrison County.

1804

John and Presilla Murphy, of Harrison County, sold 100 acres on Simpsons Creek patented by Precilla and Margaret Stout, to Charles Catherwood for $300. Signed John Murphy and Precilla Murphy. Recorded 3 September 1804.

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