William C. Murphy: is it two or three wives?

I have written about my paternal grandfather a few times. But this one has my mind boggled. So let’s walk through a bit of a timeline to see what I have.  I know I have to do the SO WHAT thing of analyzing and questioning the information that gets presented to me. My goal is to determine how many times William Columbus Murphy was married.  Its seems like everytime I receive new information more conflicts and issues come with it.



First, his father is William Michael Murphy and the information came from William Columbus’s social security application:

William C. Murphy SSA

The SSA document is the first I saw what my great grandfather’s name was; William Michael Murphy.  Now this is interesting because William C’s first born son is William Jr, his first son is also William and second son is Michael. Okay I can go with that pattern. Mom told me years ago there were five Williams in the line. The application for a social security number is dated May 27, 1937 (this seems to be correct, but I also located recently a city directory for them still living in Ft. Wayne in 1942, and he is in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Is there two William’s and 2 Viola’s?  If you will note where he says he is born, well I am not sure where that comes from because there is no such place as Halifax, Iowa. I searched the state and county where William Columbus was with his mother, Nellie (McCorkle), and her second husband Henry Giles.  I even contacted the state regarding ghost towns named Halifax. No such place they tell me.  Now Nellie (great grandmother) was born in Greene County, Tennessee to Rose (Henry) and John McCorkle.  Nellie’s second marriage occurred in 1896 (to Giles) in Bell County, Kentucky.  I was able to track Nellie, Henry and her son William C.,  along with William C’s  half siblings to Fulton County, Illinois.  Henry Giles was the husband of second marriage and my grandfather, who is age 14 in the 1900 census were both listed as coal miners.  So this is after they married in Bell Co. Kentucky, had Johnny in 1896 and Ethel Irene in 1899, both born in Bell Co.  William C. always claimed on various records that he was born in Canton, Illinois.  It’s on his military documents, etc. So where Halifax Iowa came from I do not know. But he did live in Des Moines. I have not been able to validate where he was in between 1910-1920,  and then he shows up in Indiana.  Just because he said he was born in Iowa or Illinois, does not make it true.  He has Illinois on his military registrations. I have not been able to track Nellie and William Michael anywhere in the USA as a couple to be my great grandparents.  Sometimes I wonder if he was a real person and really alive to father a son named William C.  One thing to note when Nellie married Henry Giles, she married as Nellie Murphy! (geez). Listed below is his WW1 draft registration, he was living in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and single in 1917. So he is arriving around the same time the Cureton’s from Loudon Co. Tennessee.

william murphy ww1 registration

Now William Columbus and Viola (Cureton) married on 19 June 1920, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  The application for marriage is where he tells that he was married before and his first wife died in 1911 on the marriage record to Viola B. Cureton. He also says his father was William Michael and he was born in Indian Territory. Darn, in Indian Territory, Murphy is a common name like Smith and Johnson there.

william and viola marriage license 2018-01-25 at 5.35.50 PM

Now the information on the application connects to what my mother Verna shared via oral history.  She says “Granddad” was married before and his wife died in 1911.  She said one evening when they lived next door to my grandparents (William C & Viola) on Henry Street, she and my dad, Calvin were going out to an American Legion activity.  This was in Grand Rapids, Michigan and dad was the Commander of the American Legion.   Granddad fussed at my dad saying, “Boy get something on that girl, my first wife died like that”.  This indicated to me and Mom that the first wife might have died from pneumonia or something.  Mom recalls having a sleeveless dress on that night.  The research continues to locate the name of the first wife and where she died.  My mother also mentioned in another chat that she remembers Granddad saying he lived in Chicago and ran with a gang.  (now he did this before become a Baptist preacher in Indiana) Well, I am shocked about this, but you never know about the Murphy’s.  They didn’t talk much about their family, the children did not know their mother’s middle name and they didn’t know their father was married before. I never heard my father speak of a Murphy grandfather.  I have been researching over 30 years now and still have not found my great grandfather William Michael.

I ordered Granddad’s Certification of Military Service years ago:

william c murphy certification army

This certification provides lots of information especially his military number. A few months ago Angela Walton-Raji and I were talking about our grandfathers being in the same units,  but different companies.  We saw that it was the  809th. Here is her blog about her great grandfather:

(http://myancestorsname.blogspot.com/2010/04/ ) William Columbus served in World War 1 and they both went to France.

Angela located a Passenger Ship list and shared it with me.  As you can see William C. Murphy is listed on line #8 and with his military number, which matches his number on the Certification of Service. We did not make the writing on this document.

william c murphy Fold3_Page_680

If you read across the row towards the right where Murphy, William C. is listed it shows his rank as a Sargent and that he served in the 809th Pioneer Infantry (he probably made Sargent quick due to his time in the Illinois militia for three years. I have yet to research the militia time.  I continued to read and saw that it names a “Mary Murphy” as his wife living on Wells Street in Dayton Ohio.  Well– who the hell is this?  We have a wife who died in 1911, and we have no name.  Now we have a Mary Murphy and is his wife – could she be number two living in Ohio.  Now what Murphy’s do we connect to that lived in Ohio?  I did not see this coming and the Passenger Ship List from France was completed in July 1919.  And we have William Columbus marrying Viola Cureton in June 1920, which would be wife number three. Geez!

Now I have to begin with drafting a timeline on William C with what I know and what I question. I also have to deal with the conflicts that are raising their heads. As usual I begin with the things I know and can document. Then I will proceed with a list of what I don’t know, what I am questioning and who or what might have the information. If there are any conflicts I have to figure out how to resolve them. Sometimes when I am stressing a bit about a line, I resort to doing a board, here is the one while searching for William Michael:

william m. murphy challenge map copy

Every time I walk by this board, I write done something to research. If you have any questions or information to help resolve this, please share it. My email is shelleyviola@gmail.com

2 responses to “William C. Murphy: is it two or three wives?”

  1. Whoa! Talk about confusing. I hope that you will find that second wife. And the father. No pension file for Michael where he has listed all his wives?

    1. no, nothing for his father, it is confusing, but these wives….whoa…

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