Maude Thomas Murray

Born: Carthage, SD – 21 Jul 1892

Died: Pipestone, MN – 8 May 1985

Father: William Clinton Thomas

Mother: Anna Mary Johnson Thomas

Spouse: Charles Henry Murray

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Grandmother Maude Isabelle Thomas Murray

Maude Isabelle Thomas was born on 21 July 1892 in or near Carthage, Miner County, South Dakota. Maude was the 2nd girl and the 3rd of 8 children born to William Clinton Thomas and Anna Mary Johnson Thomas.

By the 1900 Census Maude was 8 years old and her parents were farming in Walworth Township, Walworth County, South Dakota. Her siblings were Mable A 12, Charles M 11, Francis S 6, Roy Dewey 2, and Hazel A 2 months old.

I remember Grandma Murray telling me that as a young girl she had traveled by covered wagon with her family to visit relatives. She could remember riding in the covered wagon with her family and it was raining heavily. The wagon leaked and she said her baby sister had started to cry. When she went over to her to see what was wrong, she saw that the baby was in a big puddle of water and was being dripped on from the leaky canvas. This incident seemed to lighten the spirits of the family on that rainy day.

William Clinton Thomas and wife Anna Mary took their 6 kids in a covered wagon (probably from their home near Miller, SD - about 100 miles) to Bowdel, SD arriving in May 1900 to visit William's sister Mattie. There are 5 kids from the Dewey family and 5 kids from the Thomas family. My future grandmother Maude Thomas is the girl on the chair in the front right.

The above photo has this written on the back.

“This picture was taken in 1900 when we arrived by covered wagon in Bowdel, SD at Mattie's home. Mattie's 5 children are in picture. Hazel was only 4 weeks old and not on photo.”

Hazel was born April 3, 1900 and was the baby that was being rained on in the covered wagon. 

When Grandma Murray was 86 years old she consented to an interview by her great granddaughter Diane. The following comes from that interview.

“In 1901 the family bought a church. They moved the building onto a lot and this became their home. For entertainment, they had a music box. William Thomas wanted to be sure his children were familiar with music. It was the wind up type. Later, they got a phonograph and the records were made of wax and were round like a tube. The record slid over another round piece and a needle arm was placed on it. It worked on the same idea of today's records only they weren't a flat circle.

Maude also went to 10-cent movies at the theater. They were the silent type with words printed on the bottom. Charlie Chaplin was a biggie of the time.

Another main form of entertainment was inviting people over to the house. They used to make fudge, play parlor games like musical chairs etc. The adults would talk, etc.”

A few years later according to the 1910 Federal Census, the Thomas family had relocated to Huron, South Dakota. Her father, William, was a teamster and the family was living at 1150 Simmons Ave, Huron, Beadle County, SD. William 57, Anna 41, Mable 22, Charles 20, Maud 17, Frank 15, Roy D 11, Hazel 9, Howard 3, and Edith 1.

More from the interview of Maude by her great granddaughter Diane:

“Henry Murray and Maude met at the poor house. This is not as bad as it sounds. Maude was doing housecleaning and cooking or whatever needed doing. The poor house was a place where people who were very poor came to live when they couldn't survive on their own anymore. A lot were older people, but there was one family that lived there. Maude was about 16 or 17 at the time and she earned $5.00 per week. She met Henry here. He was doing odd jobs like cutting blocks of ice from the river and storing them in the icehouse.”

Considering that Maude said she was 16 or 17 at the time would make the year 1908 or 1909.

The photo below is the Beadle County Poor Farm where Maude worked and where she met her future husband, Henry Murray. The next photo is Henry Murray sitting in his horse-drawn buggy in front of the building.

The next photo is of Henry and Maude in a buggy in front of the same building. The photo was titled "Henry Murray courtin Maude Thomas”.

I asked my sister, Betty, about the poor farm and she wrote:  “Yes, I always remember Gma talking about them at the poor farm, and one time I had to ask because I thought they themselves were living there. Anyway, they worked there.

As a young girl I also remember Gma Murray feeding men on the back step at their Slayton farm just down from our place. She would fill a plate, and take it out to whoever was there. She always kept me in the house at that time, I cannot remember being around them but that would have been Gma, — to keep me away from them.”

The remainder of the interview by Diane follows as it tells a lot about the early life of Maude Thomas Murray.

“Henry and Maude were married in Huron at the Baptist parsonage there. It was a very small wedding, only her two sisters, the minister and the minister’s wife. Maude's daughter, Lois, was married in this same church.

The house they lived in was cold. She said there would be about 1 ½ inch gap on top of the door and the wind would blast right in. But she said she raised two small children under these conditions so it must not have been that bad.

Maude described these days as hard but happy. There was a lot of work to be done since most things were homemade. Hogs were butchered and cured since there weren't iceboxes; they made their own bread, butter, clothing etc. At times, 18 to 22 thrashers would show up for a meal if it rained and the men couldn't get home. The farm was 2 ½ miles from town. The main foods were potatoes and meat. Maude raised a small garden each year; the size depended a lot on the amount of rain.

Their first car was a Buick. The roads were very bad, usually full of deep ruts. If you could stay on the tops of the ruts you were lucky. If you fell off, chances are you would get stuck.

The first car Maude saw was pretty exciting. She ran out when she heard it, but it was going so fast (or it seemed fast for the time), that she hardly got a glance at it. When she was 14 or 15, a Buick dealer gave Maude her first ride in a car. He took her home.

Trains were popular then. She had gone to Oregon. The seats on the train would flop over, so that a family could sit together. The main activities were reading and talking. There was a dining car on the train, but Maude didn't go there. In the first place, it was expensive. In the second, she was traveling alone and didn't feel like going there without someone. She used the lunch wagon, which sold sandwiches etc., and also brought her own food, which she just rationed a bit.

When I asked what Maude thought of school, she thought a few moments and then said, “It was a nightmare.” She went to a town school that had separate grades. She enjoyed all of her teachers except one: her third grade teacher. This teacher had “pets” or favorites that she was nice to. She was strict with the others. Unfortunately, Maude wasn't one of her favorites. One day she was kept after school with another girl (a pet) for whispering. The teacher kept them for a while, then let the other girl go, but kept Maude longer. Grandma told me that she hadn't whispered but that this other girl had talked to her. This didn't help the student-teacher relation any.

Maude really liked her 8th grade teacher, (a man). He was very nice she told me. There were after school activities, but grandma didn't participate in any. She mentioned something about being poor, because her family was so large. There were just too many to cloth properly etc. I think this bothered her a lot at school. I also believe that this is why she hated school. It seemed to be a touchy subject for her and she didn't seem too anxious to pursue it any further.”

Charles Henry Murray and Maude Isabelle Thomas were married on November 22, 1913 in Huron, South Dakota. Henry was 29 years old and Maude was 21 years old. The photo (below) was taken by Maude on their wedding day. Notice the cord in her left hand used to take the photo.

Their 160-acre farm in the northeast ¼ of Section 9 was where they lived and raised two children. Lois Lucille Murray was born on Oct 18, 1914 and her brother Thomas LeRoy Murray was on born April 12, 1916.

Maude and Henry lived on the same farm in Custer Township until about 1937 when they harvested their last crop and moved to Slayton, MN.

The photo below labeled 2 of 7 is from late 1937 and entitled ‘our last harvest’.

Maude and Henry bought a small farm on the south edge of Slayton later moving to a farm near Worthington and sometime in the early 1950’s Henry and Maude moved to a home at on Ironwood Ave in Slayton, Minnesota where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Grandpa Henry fell from an elevator or ladder and was fatally injured while helping on his son LeRoy’s farm near Balaton MN and died August 22, 1958. 

Grandma Murray lived alone in her home for the next 27 years. She was very independent and drove her Rambler when she needed to run errands, entertained family and friends, loved crossword puzzles and cryptoquips. She made countless quilts and Afghans. And when anyone stayed with her they would have silver dollar sized pancakes, lots of them. She must have made thousands of them in her lifetime.

This from Granddaughter Betty:

“I have to add just a couple of things I remember about when I was young. I remember Gma's icebox, and how she would have someone deliver a slab of ice to keep it cool. Also when Gma ironed, with two flat irons----one would be on the cob stove while she ironed with the other, etc. Also, I thought it was so special to be there pumping up a lantern at night, as there wasn't electricity yet. Her feather bed was great, Bev and I slept in that one many nights. I wasn't too old when I'd walk down to Gma's while she milked cows by hand---I'd be on a milk stool, moving it along as she moved down the line of cows—we'd visit the whole time. Imagine she tired of my chatter, but she always listened. Betty”  

Grandma Murray used to say, “If you don’t have time to do things right in the first place, when are you going to have time to fix it?” I think of her when I have that thought as it often causes me to spend a little more effort to do things right - in the first place. Grandma Murray talked of going from riding in a covered wagon to seeing a man on the moon. She fell down the basement stairs and suffered a broken hip in the spring of 1985 and died in a nursing home in Pipestone Minnesota on May 8, 1985. She was 92 years, 9 months, and 17 days old.

She is buried alongside her husband, Henry Murray, in the Slayton Cemetery just north of Slayton, MN.

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© Alan 2017