John R. Murdock (Mormon)

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John R. Murdock
Bust photo of John R. Murdock
Murdock ca. 1909
Member of the Council of Fifty
April 10, 1880 (1880-04-10) – November 12, 1913 (1913-11-12)
Personal details
Born John Riggs Murdock
(1826-09-13)September 13, 1826
Orange, Ohio, United States
Died November 12, 1913(1913-11-12) (aged 87)
Milford, Utah, United States
Resting place Mountain View Cemetery
38°16′52″N 112°37′50″W / 38.2811°N 112.6306°W / 38.2811; -112.6306 (Mountain View Cemetery)
Organization Members of the Council of Fifty
Spouse(s) Almira Henrietta Lott
Mary Ellen Wolfenden
May Bain
Parents John Murdock
Julia Clapp

John Riggs Murdock (September 13, 1826 – November 12, 1913)[1] was the leader of the most Mormon pioneer down-and-back companies in Latter-day Saint history, leading ox-drawn wagon trains that carried both merchandise and passengers "down and back" from Missouri to Utah.[2]

The son of John Murdock, he not only led several down-and-back companies but also served several missions in the eastern United States. He was also a prominent leader of the church in Beaver, Utah.


Murdock was born in Orange, Ohio to John Murdock and Julia Clapp Murdock. When he was five years old, his mother died and he was then raised in the home of Morris Phelps. The Phelps moved from Jackson County, Missouri to Far West, Missouri to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Murdock was reunited with his father.[1] In Nauvoo, Murdock worked on the farm of Joseph Smith. During the exodus from Nauvoo to the west, Murdock lived with the Cornelius Lott family in Nauvoo; Murdock fell in love with and later married Lott's daughter Almira Henrietta Lott.[3] The marriage of Murdock and Lott happened after the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.[4]

Murdock later also married Mary Ellen Wolfenden and May Bain as plural wives.[5]

In 1846, Murdock joined the Mormon Battalion and arrived in Salt Lake City in 1847. After marrying, he settled in Lehi, Utah Territory, in 1851.[1] From 1861 to 1863, served as Mayor of Lehi.[6] In 1856, Murdock was one of the rescuers of the Mormon pioneer handcart companies. In 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864 and 1864, Murdock lead down-and-back companies across the plains.

For a time Murdock served as the regional presiding bishop in Beaver County, Utah.[7] Murdock was called to this position in 1864 and it was then that he first went to Beaver.

Murdock served a total of eight terms in the Utah Territorial Legislature. He was a member of the Utah Constitutional Convention. He also served one term as a member of the Utah State House of Representatives.[4]

Murdock was the first president of the Beaver Stake when it was organized in 1869. He served in this position until 1891.[8] He was later ordained a patriarch.[1] As stake president, Murdock essentially ran the government operations in Beaver County while the Mormon-backed People's Party was in control. For example, in the 1870s, John Hunt was appointed as a sheriff of Beaver County largely because he was a People's Party supporter.[9]

Murdock was a member of the apportionment and boundaries committee of the 1895 Utah State Constitutional Convention.[10]

Murdock was closely involved with the movement to start a secondary school in Southern Utah, which is why when it was finally begun at Beaver it was named the Murdock Academy.[11] This institution functioned as a branch of Brigham Young Academy, the predecessor of Brigham Young University.[12]

Murdock died in Beaver. His is the largest grave marker in Mountain View Cemetery in Beaver. Immediately adjacent are markers for Mary Ellen Wolfenden Murdock and May Bain Murdock, two of his plural wives. At the behest of second wife Wolfenden, the location is some distance away from the grave of Almira Henrietta Lott Murdock (d. 1878), her bitter rival who preceded her in death.


  1. ^ a b c d "1861 (and more), Murdock, John Riggs, Captain (Biographical Sketch)". Heritage Gateways: Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies. Utah Education Network, Utah State Office of Education. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  3. ^ Whitney, Orson F. (1892–1904). History of Utah. Salt Lake City: G.Q. Cannon. p. 190. OCLC 4995807. 
  4. ^ a b Andrew Jenson. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. vol. 1, p. 304.
  5. ^ Tanner, J. M. (1909) [1909]. Biographical Sketch of John Riggs Murdock, A. Salt Lake City: Deseret News. ]
  6. ^ Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedia History, p. 424
  7. ^ Pace, D. Gene (Spring 1983). "Changing Patterns of Mormon Financial Administration: Traveling Bishops, Regional Bishops, and Bishop's Agents, 1851–88". BYU Studies. 23 (2): 194. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  8. ^ Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1941) p. 53.
  9. ^ Maria S. Ellesworth, ed., Mormon Odyssey: The Story of Ida Hunt Udall, Plural Wife (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1992) p. 9.
  10. ^ "Fifth Day". State of Utah Constitutional Convention. Utah State Legislature. March 8, 1895. 
  11. ^ Southern Utah's First High School
  12. ^ Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1941) p. 555.