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Anthony Murphy, More than a Machinist (Tombstone Tuesday)

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA
© 2013 S. Lincecum
Anthony Murphy's claim to fame is most likely his participation in the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. Yet he was alive for more than 29,200 days, and that was literally just one of them. From Memoirs of Georgia (Southern Historical Association, 1895):
Anthony Murphy, capitalist, Atlanta, Ga., son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Keyes) Murphy, was born in County Wicklow, Ireland, Nov. 6, 1829. [Tombstone says Nov. 29.] ...They emigrated to the United States in 1838, and settled first in Schuylkill county, Pa...Anthony was nine years of age when his parents emigrated to this country; he lived with them until he was eighteen years of age, and was educated at the public schools. At the age mentioned he went to Trenton, N.J., where he was apprenticed to the machinist's trade. After serving three years he went to Piermont, N.Y., worked there a year in the Erie railway shops, and then went to the Pittsburgh (Pa.) shops, where he worked at his trade another year. In 1854 he came to Atlanta, and after working four years as a machinist, he ran on the road as a locomotive engineer eighteen months. After this he was made foreman of the motive power and machine shops of the Western & Atlantic (state) railway, which position he held until 1861. That year he went into the employ of the Confederate states, but at the end of six months he went to Columbia, S.C., as master machinist of the Columbia & Charlotte railway. After a short stop in Columbia he returned to Atlanta, and soon afterward went to Montgomery, Ala., and took charge of the motive power of what is now the Louisville & Nashville railway, and remained there until driven out by Gen. Wilson's raiders. After the war he came back to Atlanta and engaged in the saw-milling and lumber business. In 1869 he built a saw-mill in Dodge county, Ga., with headquarters in Atlanta, which he continued until 1882. In this venture he was phenomenally prosperous, and at the date last named retired from active business and has since operated as a capitalist. It was during Mr. Murphy's connection with the Western & Atlantic railway (April 12, 1862) that the famous "engine chase" and capture of the locomotive "General" occurred. He was foreman of the machine and motive power, which was absolutely under his control. That morning he was called to examine an engine which supplied the power to cut wood and pump water for the locomotives at Alatoona. While at breakfast at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw) he heard a noise as of escaping steam, and at the same time noticed that the engine was moving, and remarked to the engineer and fireman, "Some one is moving your train." On reaching the door he saw the engine with three cars moving out of sight. Sending a man on horseback to Marietta to wire the superintendent, he started with the conductor and engineer on foot, knowing there was a squad of section hands with a hand, or pole-car, just ahead. Taking this the pursuit was continued until farther on they obtained an engine, with which, after overcoming all obstructions they overtook the engine just north of Ringgold, where the raiders had deserted and taken to the woods. But for his knowledge of the road and his control of the motive power which he utilized, the result might have been very different. Mr. William Pittinger, one of the Federal raiding party who escaped, in a book published by him, says: "The presence of Anthony Murphy that morning was purely accidental. As an officer of high authority on the road, commanding all engineers and firemen, knowing all the engines and everything about the road perfectly, his presence at that time was most unfortunate for us. He was a man of great coolness and good judgement. His first act was far-sighted. He sent a man on horseback to Marietta to notify the superintendent at Atlanta by wire." To Mr. Murphy, more than to any other man, is due the successful termination of that exciting "engine chase." In 1866 he was elected a member of the city council of Atlanta, and served by re-election nearly three years, and was again elected in 1870. This service was rendered during the most trying period of Atlanta's history and rendered efficiently. He originated the water works movement in 1866, was president of the water works board for some years, floated the bonds issued for their construction -- the work being completed in 1874. During this period he originated and superintended the construction of immense cisterns for saving water for fire extinguishment, was the principal mover in the matter adopting steam fire-engines and purchased the first steam fire-engine, and actively co-operated with Dr. O'Keefe in establishing the present magnificent public school system. Mr. Murphy's early training, together with his practical common sense and strictly business methods, made his services at this time of inestimable value to this city. Mr. Murphy was a jury commissioner for a number of years, and served two terms on the county board of roads and revenues, of which he was chairman of the committee on buildings, and built the present model alms-house. He advocated the building of the Georgia Air Line (now R. & D.) and represented the city's stock, was an important factor in saving what is now the Georgia Pacific railway, was one of the promoters of the building of the Atlanta cotton factory and as one of its board of directors was an earnest and watchful worker during its construction, was one of the committee of forty-nine who formulated the present city charter which saved the city from threatened bankruptcy, and was appointed by Gov. Gordon one of the commissioners to appraise for the state the value of the road, rolling stock and betterments of the Western & Atlantic railway. Quiet, reticent, undemonstrative, he is yet an almost invincible power when brought into action -- it is only then that his true value is developed. A more evenly balanced mind is rarely found. While his head is cool, a warmer heart throbs not in the breast of man. Blessed with a sound judgement, an unbending integrity and governed by the most scrupulous exactitude in all business transactions, it excites no wonder that he has been deservedly financially successfull and is held in the very highest esteem by all who know him. Mr. Murphy was married in 1858 to Miss Adelia McConnell, who, and her parents before her, are natives of Georgia...This union has been blessed with eight children, seven of whom are living: Annie E., wife of G. H. Tanner, clerk of Fulton county superior court; Kate F., wife of Charles E. Sciples, of Sciple Sons, Atlanta, Ga.; Robert E., John K., Adelia, Anthony, Jr., and Charles C. Mr. Murphy is not a member of any church (though he was raised a Roman Catholic), but is Catholic "in spirit and in truth," liberally contributing to the dissemination of Christianity irrespective of the agency. He keeps fully abreast with the progressiveness of the age, is fully alive to the highest interests of Atlanta and is an earnest and energetic worker in promoting those interests.
Whew! Believe it or not, there's more to come about Mr. Anthony Murphy.


Anthony Murphy is my great-grandfather. We love the "Great Train Chase" story, but I didn't know all the rest! (Truly, the part we talk about the most is who and how were the family fortunes lost, lol!!)
S. Lincecum said…
Heh, heh. I hear that! :-)
Like my sister said in her comment here, we do wish some of that family fortune was still around. But I love that the legacy our great-grandfather left that is till around today is his honesty, integrity and concern for the people of Atlanta. My father, Charles Cavanaugh Murphy was a man much like his grandfather.

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