James Boyles Murray

James Boyles Murray (November 6, 1789 – February 14, 1866) was a businessman and leading member of New York society in the early-to-mid-19th century.[1]

James Boyles Murray
BornNovember 6, 1789
DiedFebruary 14, 1866(1866-02-14) (aged 76)
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Maria Bronson
(m. 1814)
Parent(s)John Boyles Murray
Martha McClenahan
RelativesSir James Murray (grandfather)
Isaac Bronson (father-in-law)

Early lifeEdit

Murray was born to a wealthy immigrant family in Alexandria, Virginia on November 6, 1789.[2] He was the son of Martha (née McClenahan) Murray and Dr. John Boyles Murray, who moved to Virginia in 1760.[3]

His paternal grandfather was Sir James Murray, Lord Philiphaugh.[4] His Presbyterian lineage was descended from the royal Stewarts through the ubiquitous clan of Murray.[5] His mother's family, that of Martha McClenahan, had been associated with the history of the Siege of Derry. Rev. McClenahan had been one of the Apprentice Boys supporters, when they marched out to meet King James army.[6]

In 1800, when only a boy, Murray went to Norfolk, England, and caught a glimpse of the hero Admiral Nelson touring through his home city of Norwich. When only a small boy he had been warned of his Scots ancestry. He toured Philiphaugh, Scotland. He never forgot the supremacy of the seas of the Royal Navy, and vowed to help the President build a strong US Navy.


James was an early entrant in the New York Militia, replacing his gun-shy uncle in the War of 1812. Murray's service was distinguished and intelligent. Through his impressive revolutionary connections he rose quickly to become a Colonel.[6]

He was very business-minded and commercially astute. He joined in partnership with the big financier Isaac Bronson, one of the founders of sound credit in public finance. As a result of the reflective determination of this close group to expand bank facility to construction of the American Empire, he borrowed heavily to finance the greatest canal construction project in history. The Erie Canal was an immense feat of ingenuity partly funded by the Bronson family bankers.

In politics, Murray was a friend of the Democratic-Republicans of the Albany Regency. Their leading character, De Witt Clinton, had been involved in scandal. But the successor, Martin Van Buren, proved both clever and honest. In 1816 Murray joined the staff of Vice-President candidate Daniel Tompkins, the Governor. Murray's role was to act as bodyguard and protector of the V-P. Then one day on the Chesapeake half of President Tyler's cabinet was blown sky high. Murray's political ambitions ended there and then.

Murray resolved to become a good business investor in land speculations and construction projects. He continued to do business with the Bronson sons. He became involved in rather dubious Rutherford Land Grab of 1834 in the Carolinas, but was not convicted. He was also in a partnership that invested extensively in the 'Ohio Country' as far west as Chicago and Kalamazoo.

In later life Murray made extensive business trips to France and England. He was particularly pleased with Paris where his daughter married the American Impressionist painter, William Dana. Murray went on tour to Scotland and visited the high society circles of London. His public appearances attracted fees. Murray deplored the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the duration of which he spent in New York City.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1814, he married Maria Bronson (1793–1851), the eldest surviving daughter of Isaac Bronson (1760–1838), founder of New York Assurance Company and Bridgeport Bank at Park Place in New York City, and sister of Oliver Bronson.[7] In 1828, Bronson was the richest man in New York. Murray was at the height of polite New York society and purchased a house at the fashionable Manhattan address of Washington Square Park.[8] Together, they were the parents of eight children, including:[2]

  • Maria Murray (1815–1884), who married at Greenfield Hill, Connecticut, in 1846.[2]
  • Bronson Murray (1816–1911), who married Ann Eliza Peyton (b. 1821) in 1848.[9]
  • John Boyles Murray (1818–1889), who married Sarah Elizabeth Craft (1823–1869) in 1843.[10] After her death, he married Felicia May Leiss, the daughter of Dr. Frederic Leiss.[10]
  • Caroline Murray (1820–1889), who died unmarried.[2]
  • Agnes Augusta Murray (1827–1878)
  • Washington Murray (1828–1867), a Yale and Harvard Law School graduate who married Eliza Bradlee Winchester Dana (b. 1835), sister of William Dana in 1856.[2][11]
  • Anna Bronson Murray (1831–1915), who married William Parsons Winchester Dana (1833–1927) in 1855.[2]

Murray died in 1866 at 4 Washington Place, New York City.[6][12] His family was later related to William Cutting (of Gangs of New York fame). Some of Murray's correspondence is held by the New-York Historical Society.[13]


  1. ^ Harris, Luther S. (2003). Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village. JHU Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 9780801873416. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bannerman, F.S.A., W. Bruce (1908). Miscellanea Genealogica Et Heraldica | Vol. II | Fourth Series. London: Hamilton, Adams, and Company. pp. 167–170, 172, 364. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  3. ^ Derby, George; White, James Terry (1953). The National Cyclopædia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time. J. T. White. p. 449. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  4. ^ Haeger, John D. (1981). The Investment Frontier: New York Businessmen and the Economic Development of the Old Northwest. SUNY Press. ISBN 9780873955317. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  5. ^ "MURRAY, John (d.1753), of Philiphaugh, Selkirk". www.historyofparliamentonline.org. History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Potter, Hamilton. "Col. James B. Murray". murrayhistory.com. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  7. ^ Van Rensselaer, Mrs. John King (1897). New Yorkers of the XIX Century. New York: F. Tennyson Neely. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  8. ^ Folpe, Emily Kies (2002). It Happened on Washington Square. JHU Press. p. 70. ISBN 9780801870880. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  9. ^ The Peytons of Virginia II. Gateway Press. 2004. p. 440. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b Crafts, William Francis (1893). The Crafts Family: A Genealogical and Biographical History of the Descendants of Griffin and Alice Craft, of Roxbury, Mass. 1630-1890. Gazette Printing Company. p. 371. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  11. ^ Hotchkiss, Fanny Winchester (1912). Winchester Notes. New Haven, Connecticut: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company. pp. 97, 101–102, 104–16, 353. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  12. ^ Greider, Katharine (2011). The Archaeology of Home: An Epic Set on a Thousand Square Feet of the Lower East Side. PublicAffairs. p. 263. ISBN 9781586489908. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  13. ^ New-York Historical Society (1951). Annual Report. p. 62. Retrieved 25 April 2018.

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