Youngest Son to Youngest Son

Check out the hat.  Some looks just don’t last, do they?

Leslie Ethel RusselThere was no date on the back, nor were there names.  But I happen to know that Susan Ethel Parrish Murphy is on the left, my dad, Elmer Russel Murphy is on the right, and the little guy in the middle is Leslie Murphy, son of Herman, dad’s older brother.  I can’t be sure of the date, but it’s somewhere in the 30’s.

I am in possession of the old Murphy family Bible.  Births page 678The copyright is 1804.  I am told it was carried throughout the Kentucky and Tennessee wilderness by The Murphy Boys, both circuit riding Baptist ministers of the hardshell order.  That phrase indicates a strict adherance to scripture to a decimal point.  The shalt nots were the order of the day.  Yet, in those days many settlers pledged their commitment in front of the other settlers as witnesses and had children before the circuit preacher could get to the settlement and make it official.  I like to open it and breathe in the smell of “old, old book” and imagine it new, smooth leather. The flyleaf records their mission to the wilderness of the day. Maybe if I close my eyes and concentrate I’ll hear the snap of twigs, the sound of laughter, robust singing, catch the faint scent of woods, perfectly pure air, wildflowers, or just plain horseflesh.

When Dad finally gave it to me, I carefully turned the pages and found a drawing of a child’s hand, a handwritten paper that showed lineage back to merry old England, two knights in the 1500’s and back even further, a name of a sheriff in 1100-something who had no last name, and more to be treasured, records of births and deaths of those who shaped my heritage before the Declaration of Independence was even thought of.

…… ” so let the youngest son have the preference.  Isaac T. Murphy, Kewanee, Illinois, March 17th 1895.”

Isaac T was my father’s grandfather.  He was the 16th and final child, born last of 5 children of the second wife (we can only guess the first wife wore out) of the Rev. John Murphy, Jr., son of John Murphy, a veteran of Valley Forge, and Rachel Cooke who married and moved with him from Virginia to Tennessee prior to the Revolution.

Like the properly folded flag that is carefully laid in the arms a family member after a veteran’s funeral, so this Bible came to me.  I can almost feel the history in my fingertips and hear the faint whispers of the past.  It’s more than a relic, it’s a treasure.

The youngest son to the youngest son.  Because Dad had 3 girls and Mom was 41 when the 3rd girl came along, that would be me, Leslie was the only male child to carry the name Murphy in the line, unlike the days of old when people had enough children to have at least 3 sons among them.  Being the 16th, Isaac T. would have been shocked to see the population control of our day.

Leslie joined the armed services, I can’t remember which branch, and was dispatched to Korea in the early 50’s.  His wife remained at home near Monmouth in the trailer park.  I forget her name.  When he came home, we were so happy.  Man, he was cute!  I was 6 years old and, like my sisters, was totally charmed by this uniformed cousin with curly blonde hair.   In a few weeks, he was dead.

Suicide, the sheriff said.  Gunshot wound to the head.  Leslie was left handed.  The gun was on the floor under his right hand.  He was not wearing gloves.  There were no prints on the gun.  A somewhat smallish figure in a big overcoat was seen leaving the trailer shortly after the shot was heard.  Suicide was the irrevocable call.  Don’t anyone forget the circumstances surrounding my good cousin’s death.

I am simply the youngest of the youngest.  After it is inconvenient for me to keep the Bible, it will be handed down to one of my two children, neither of whom is surnamed Murphy.  They can take turns caring for it if they so wish.  Surnames can’t matter now and shouldn’t be an issue.  All I ask is that the keeper(s) of it know the history, and treasure it with the Bible itself, that they pass that history to the next keeper and the next, until such time as Jesus returns to earth.  The finest diamonds will pale in comparison to Him and the Peace He will establish;  the Murphy Bible will be unimportant.

But, until then, it’s 201 years and counting.

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