Alexander Murray

(1832—1870)



 BORN 1 October 1832 as Alexander Thurtell-Murray, London, England.
 DIED 16 May 1870 at San Miguel, California, USA.
 BURIED San Luis Cemetery, San Luis Obispo, California, USA.
 
 FATHER James Thurtell-Murray (1790-1867)
 MOTHER Sarah Holt (1794-1889)
 
 MARRIED Andrea Baratie (1838-1920) in October 1858


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After leaving home at the age of 16, Alexander joined his brother in Sonora in the spring of 1850 and assisted in editing the Sonora Herald. He then joined his brother in San Luis Obispo, California, in November 1854.

Alexander married Chilean-born Andrea Baratie (maiden name probably Foster, though some sources say Laing—see story below) in October 1858. Alexander Murray is listed in the 1860 U.S. Census on Page 38 in San Luis Obispo County, California. This shows he was living in the Town of San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo County, California, and lists him as Alexander Murray, a male age 25 whose occupation is shown as a barkeeper, whose real estate is worth $100 and personal property is worth $500. With him is Andrea Murray, age 22, whose occupation is shown as housekeeper and whose place of birth is shown as Chili. Also in the same family unit is William Church, a male whose age is illegible but looks like 100 and whose occupation is shown as gardener and who was born in England and has personal property worth $150.

Alexander kept a general (drygoods and groceries) store in San Luis Obispo, but had diverse interests: inter alia , he was Postmaster (1855-70), and for six or seven years had the agency for the Wells, Fargo stagecoach. He also sold a brand of sewing machines. From 1862 to 1866, Alexander was County Superintendent of Public Schools and for several years was Deputy Collector of US Internal Revenue. Like his elder brother, Alexander dabbled in mining enterprises. Having no children of his own, he frequently sent money to family members back in England (see correspondence).

Website cagenweb.com reports about SLO: In those days gambling was as legitimate a business as raising cattle or wheat. Alexander Murray had a gambling-house in town, and he struck a bargain with the big American, who was afraid of nothing on earth and could play bagatelle as well as he could do other things — shoot, if it came to a show-down, and never miss. So Murray agreed to pay Slack $20 a night. He was to play for the house: if he won a big stake, he only got $20; if he lost, he got $20. (Context suggests c1862).

According to his brother, he spoke Spanish and was a good businessman. (His estate seems to have been worth $16,000.)

He died of consumption after resolutely refusing medical attention over an extended period. The last three weeks of his life were spent in San Miguel, nearly 40 miles north of SLO, because of the better climate. There he died; his brother brought his body back to SLO for burial. Like his brother, he was active in the Freemasons, and was buried by them.

Alexander’s wife Andrea was born on 9 February 1837 of an English father (George Foster, b. Newcastle upon Tyne) and a Chilean mother (Francesca Joffre, b. Valparaiso) in the town of Talcahuano on the Bahía de Concepción about 500 km south of Santiago. Her mother tongue was Spanish, but according to various censuses, she spoke and wrote English (Alexander told his sister she invariably read in English); after all, she had been in the U.S. from the age of 13, arriving in 1850—the year California officially became the 31st State in the Union. Perhaps her family had been drawn by the gold rush.

At the time she met Alexander, Andrea was the widow of the Frenchman Bartolo Baratie, who had been murdered for his money by brigands on 12 May 1858. According to this story, which was written up by Walter Murray within weeks of the events, Baratie and his companion M. Jose Borel, two Frenchmen from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, had come down from Oakland to settle on the Rancho San Juan Capistrano, 45 miles from SLO.

Ten days after their arrival, the two Frenchmen were attacked and killed by a band of eight bandidos, who stole their savings ($2,700 plus watches and jewellery). Andrea was effectively kidnapped and had to ride north through the countryside for a week accompanied by one of the gang, Luciano the Mesteño (Mustang), but was released by him in a house near San Juan (San Juan Bautista, a mission town about 100 miles south of Oakland and San Francisco.) She took the stagecoach to Oakland but later returned by steamer to San Luis Obispo to give evidence against some of the culprits, who had been apprehended by Walter Murray’s Vigilance Committee of 1858. At that time, Andrea would have been 21 years old, and had lived for the previous five years in Oakland. Walter does not name her, except as Madam Baratie, but refers to her as a respectable and educated lady of mixed Spanish and English blood.

The lynching by the vigilantes of a number of the gang members, including Luciano El Mesteño Tapia who had released Mme Baratie, and the evident animosity between the Californians, Spanish-speakers who had been present before the 1847 treaty with Mexico (the majority), and the newly-arrived Americans and foreigners (the minority who, like Walter Murray, were certain of their moral superiority) give an idea of the difficult times the new state was experiencing. San Luis Obispo, being in an isolated location, was a wilder part of the west than many others. From Monterey to Los Angeles was the lonely coast road, with occasional ranchos and the villages of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara widely separated, with many mountains in which were dark canyons … offering concealment and seclusion, and to this region gathered the worst bandits of California.

It seems that during the trial, Andrea stayed with Walter and his wife (who was extremely kind-hearted and hospitable) and 6 weeks later she married Walter’s brother. It seems to have worked out well; Alexander repeatedly wrote indicating his happiness with the marriage. They had one son who, in March 1863, was either stillborn or died soon after birth (see letter from James Murray of 10 May 1863).


Alexander Murray & Andrea, about 1860.


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