Henry Wilson Murphy

(1802 - September 1865)

Newark Shoemaker & Undertaker


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From Tom Murphy:

In 1802 a son was born to James and Susannah Murphy of London, England. On November 14, 1802, shortly after his birth, he was Christened Henry Wilson Murphy in the Church of St. Mary Lambeth, but the pastor misspelled the middle name as Willson.

Henry probably had an average childhood for someone of his social class. We do know that he learned to read and write, and by adulthood had learned a trade he was a shoemaker.

By 1822, he was living in the section of London known as Cripplegate, just outside the old city wall near the entrance once known as the Griddle Gate for the iron portcullis, or grill, but for centuries called the Cripple Gate.

On June 17, 1822, at the age of 20, he married Jane Emery, also 20, in the Church of St. Giles Without Cripplegate. The minister was the Rev. Henry Clissold, and the witnesses were Elizabeth Emery (probably Jane's sister) and James Barlow.

A year later, the couple had moved to another section of London called St George's Fields. It was here that there first son was born on June 28,1823. He was Christened Henry Richard Murphy on July 13, 1823 in the Church of St. George the Martyr, Southwark.

I don't know why the young family decided to emigrate to America in the late '20s or early '30s, but the decision to settle in Newark, New Jersey was probably based on it's fame as the home of quality shoes. That fame would later prove to be a two-edged sword for Henry's fortunes.

Henry's name never appeared in the back of the City Directory among the ads for shoemakers, so he probably worked in someone else's shop. He was ambitious, and so was most likely saving up for his own shop. It was at this time that Jane presented him with five more bundles of joy. William was born in 1835; Mary Jane in 1837; Lucy Ann in 1839; Caroline in 1841; and Emmaline in 1843, just about 20 years after her older brother.

The Family lived at 36 Rankin St. (about three blocks up Springfield Ave. from High St.) and were members of the Presbyterian Church on High St.

Young Henry married about 1844 and was making his living as a cabinet maker. William was apprenticed to a local Lastmaker named Lindsley. The girls were making friends with the sons of the prominent families in the church.

In the mid '50s a Connecticut Yankee came to Newark with plans and ambitions of his own. Henry was in for more than his share of setbacks.

William Harris Murphy came from Connecticut to build a factory -- a shoe factory. When it started doing well, it undercut the industry and put a lot of small shoemakers out of business. One of them was Henry.

For almost ten years, Henry eked out a living on what the church could afford to pay him as the Sexton, or church handyman. Apparently, one of his duties was to help bury the poor of the parish, because in 1860 he started a new career as an undertaker. He was 58.

At some point Henry sold or signed over the deed to the house on Rankin St. to his son-in-law Archibald Wright (Mary Jane's husband). It may have been during the lean years, or for the start-up money for his undertaker business, or it may have been to avoid inheritance taxes. If it was for the last reason, it didn't work. Archie died only three years after Henry did and left the house to Henry's widow, Jane.

On Saturday February 1, 1862, Henry Wilson Murphy died at the age of 60. His funeral was on Tuesday February 4. Jane Emery Murphy died in September of 1865.