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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders photograph of a dapper and alert-looking man in late middle age, with a receding hairline and a trim mustache; he wears a plain jacket and a loose scarf-like collar. He is Eugene P. Murphy, a West Point graduate whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

Captain Eugene P. Murphy.

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Fortieth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 10th, 1909.

 p61  Eugene P. Murphy
No. 2182. Class of 1867.
Died June 12, 1908, at San Francisco, Cal., aged 63.

Eugene P. Murphy was born in Albany, N. Y., January 28th, 1845. His early boyhood was spent on his father's farm and his education started at the village school. At the age of twelve he entered St. John's College, Fordham, now known as Fordham University, from which institution he was graduated with the degree of A. B., July 9th, 1862.

After his graduation he returned to his home in Albany and spent several months visiting his parents.

 p62  It was through the influence of his brother Daniel T. Murphy of the firm of Murphy, Grant & Co., that Eugene was appointed at large by President Lincoln to the United States Military Academy. He entered the Academy September 1st, 1863, and graduated June 17th, 1867, being promoted to Second Lieutenant, Second Artillery.

Upon his graduation, he obtained leave of absence for six months which were spent traveling in Europe.

On his return from this trip to the heart of civilization and gayest society, he was ordered to Fort Steilacom, Washington, then the wildest and roughest frontier.

In April, 1868, he was ordered to Fort Tongas, Alaska, which was then the very end of the earth. Here was work for officers and men as this was the first detachment of troops sent by the government to take possession of Alaska, which had just been purchased by the United States from Russia.

The first six months were spent in building quarters and storehouses of rough logs. During this work the only refuge from the elements were tents; many of these were wrecked the first night spent on the beach.

Fortunately the Indians proved to be very peaceful, their greatest fault being the habit of appropriating whatever they could lay their hands on. The two and a half years spent at Fort Tongas, after the post was established, were passed in exploring, hunting and fishing when official duties would allow. Many valuable specimens of minerals and natural history obtained on these trips were sent by Lieutenant Murphy to the Smithsonian Institute.

As the steamer called only twice a year, steamer day was a great event; it meant landing a six months' supply of stores for man and beast and the accumulated mail of orders, letters and papers for the previous six months. "General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant had been President six months before we knew he had been elected," Mr. Murphy once remarked to a friend, in speaking of his experiences in Alaska.

 p63  While at Fort Tongas, Lieutenant Murphy was A. A. Q. M. and A. C. S. and the manner in which he performed the duties of these two details won for him the following commendation in General Orders, (Extract from Capt. C. A. Whittier's report of inspection at Fort Tongas, Alaska,) "the appearance of his store houses, the care taken of public property, the condition of his papers, and of everything pertaining to both departments, deserves special commendation. It is rare, in places more in the world, and where everything necessary can be procured, to find matters in so excellent a condition as Lieutenant Murphy has placed them." * * * * * * *

"The Division Commander, judging from his report, and from his own observation during the recent visit to Fort Tongas, is of the opinion that Lieutenant Murphy merits the special commendation of his Department Commander for his faithful performance of his official duties.

(Signed) Robert N. Scott, Bt. Lt. Col. and A. A. A. G., March 26th, 1869."

In August, 1870, Lieutenant Murphy was ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas, remaining there till June, 1871. From Fort Riley he was ordered to the Presidio of San Francisco, California. While in garrison at the Presidio he received his promotion to First Lieutenant, Second Artillery. In September of the same year he was transferred to Alcatraz Island, San Francisco harbor, where he remained until receiving leave of absence in January, 1872.

Upon the expiration of his leave he resigned from the Army April 1, 1872.

During the five years following his resignation he was associated with his brother in the San Francisco branch of Murphy, Grant & Co. In October, 1877, Mr. Murphy was made a charter member of the San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange, the site of great excitement during the "Comstock Days." After about sixteen years as a broker on the Exchange he resigned to enter the real estate and insurance business in which business he remained up to the time of his death.

 p64  In September of 1879, Mr. Murphy married the daughter of a wealthy pioneer merchant of San Francisco and made an ideal husband and a loving and devoted father. Mr. Murphy was appointed vice-president of the San Francisco Gas Co. in 1883 and was made president of the company the following year. He was also president of the California Woman's Hospital for several years and it was during his presidency and through his efforts that the present hospital was built.

Being a great lover of art and on account of the deep interest taken in the founding of the San Francisco Art Association, he was made a life member of that Institute in November, 1877. He was one of the oldest members of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco.

Mr. Murphy was a member of the Geographical Society of the Pacific and acted as chairman of the committee to report on the shoaling of San Francisco Bay.

During the Golden Jubilee exercises of St. Ignatius College Mr. Murphy received the degree of LL. D., October, 1905.

In spite of the success of his active life as a civilian Mr. Murphy always held West Point in the greatest love and admiration. He felt more pride at having been a graduate of this noble institution, and of his subsequent Army career, than in any of his civic honors, or in any of his business successes that brought a competent fortune. He always retained in his business methods the high West Point standards of honor, and was an uncompromising foe of the corrupt methods of high finance that are too common at this time.

In 1898, on the outbreak of the Spanish-American War he tendered his services to the Secretary of War as an officer of volunteers and hoped to be sent to the Philippines. On account of his age his services were not accepted, and this was one of his greatest disappointments.

 p65  Mr. Murphy had the love and respect of the highest and humblest of the citizens of San Francisco. The United States Military Academy may well be proud of him, as he was proud of her. He lived a beautiful life, and died honored and mourned by thousands of his countrymen.

This son of West Point was a credit to her strictest standards, and he would desire the Association of Graduates to know his life-long love for his Alma Mater.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.H. T. Ferguson,​a

Captain Twenty-first Infantry.

Thayer's Note:

a The printed text has "H. I. Ferguson". There is no officer in the Army by that name listed in Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (1903), and it is unlikely that one should have become a Captain between then and 1909. The writer was Henry Thornburg Ferguson, Class of 1890.

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Page updated: 14 Jul 20