Hon. Joel D. Murphree helped shape turn-of-the-century life in Pike County

Published 7:42 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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In 1902, the Messenger did a historical sketch column on several people who helped shape the county.

Among the new men who have been foremost to contribute to the development of Pike County, none has been more prominent than Hon. Joel D. Murphree.

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

Born on the 5th of November, 1827 in Smith County Tenn., Hon. Joel D. Murphree came to Pike County Alabama in 1845 with his parents James S. and Matilda Dyer Murphree.  Mr. James S. Murphree engaged to merchandising at Troy and was successful in business, dying in 1856 sixty years old.  His wife Matilda Murphree died in 1875 at the age of seventy-two.

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Hon. Joel D. Murphree is essentially a self-made man, having received in his youth but a rudimentary education at the private schools of his neighborhood, and at an early age of eleven he became a salesman for his father, and it might be said, that then his education commenced.

Mr. Murphree is a gentleman of wide reading, and as he possesses the capacity of mental assimilation to an unusual degree, he has become an educated man in every sense of the word.

After remaining in the business of his father for ten years,  Mr. Murphree engaged in merchandising in partnership with his brother-in-law U. L. Jones and they continued together in business until the outbreak of the civil war.

Sometime after the outbreak of the war, he volunteered in the 57th Alabama Regiment, never missing a day of services after the date of enlistment until the end of it in 1865.

On January 18, 1855, he was married to Miss Ursula A. Mullins, an excellent lady of great worth of character, and their union has been blessed with the fruit of five children.  Every one of them is married and occupies a prominent place in society and in business.

His oldest daughter was married to C. B. Goldthwaite, who is a son of Hon. J. R. Goldthwaite; his second daughter is the wife of J. S. Carroll, Pres. Of the First National Bank of Troy, and a man of prominence in Southeast Alabama; and his youngest daughter has been married to Hon. J. Wilkerson of Elba, Alabama.

His son Eugene Murphree is a retired merchant of means, now engaged in extensive farming; and his youngest son J. D. Murphree, Jr., is cashier of the First National Bank at Troy.  Mr. Murphree has always taken a live interest in matters tending to the benefit of Pike County, either materially, politically or socially, and the county has honored him with great frequency by electing him to offices of trust, which he has without exception discharged with zeal and marked ability.

As early as 1857 he represented Pike County in the legislature, and again in the trying times of 1872 when he stood firmly and uncompromisingly for the interest of the people and against the corruption of the carpet bag rule.  He was a member of the constitutional convention of 1875 and 1901, and in 1884 he was a delegate to the national convention that nominated Cleveland for the Presidency.

In his allegiance to the democratic party, Mr. Murphree has always been zealous and unswerving and for fifteen years he has served in Pike County as chairman of the democratic county executive committee, from which he retired when the populist party became victorious in the county.

In business Mr. Murphree has been a very successful man, his great steadiness of habits and of purpose combined with sagacity and industry have been fruitful in placing him among the wealthiest men in Southeast Alabama.  Yet his business qualifications are finely tempered by his kindness and his generosity, and the many acts of charity that flow from him, he loves to keep concealed from the eye of the public.

Mr. Murphree is one of the oldest masons in the county, having joined Troy Lodge No. 56 on May 18, 1850 and having remained a member of the same lodge ever since.  To the principles of the order he is sincerely devoted and in 1900 the Troy lodge celebrated his fiftieth anniversary as a mason, by tendering him a banquet.

Mr. Murphree is a consistent member of the Missionary Baptist Church and has bene clerk of the same for years.  Greed to him is no mere empty confession and in all his dwellings he live up to the true sense of the word “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In manners Mr. Murphree is exceedingly pleasant and courteous, in truth a gentleman of the old school.  He bears his years with ease and is today as sprightly as a person in his youth.

Mr. Murphree addresses, not infrequently assemblies on Masonic, religious, educational or temperance topics, and as a speaker he is trenchant, lucid and to the point, and his addresses are always well attended and of value.

The career of Mr. Murphree has been one of the unusual usefulness to the county.  It is free of all blemishes, and to him in his long activity the interest of his people, whom he loves, has been paramount about all the other interests including hat of his own.  He has been to the fore when the services of men were needed, and in every public act, every private act he has been guided by the sense of duty, which has won for him the universal esteem and respect of all the people in Pike County.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.