April 1, 1806—March 31, 1906.
Born in a log cabin in Huntingdon County, Pa. Son of John Murray and wife, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Wellbaum. In his childhood the wolf, panther and bear menaced the family more or less. When six, the family traveling by wagon to Pittsburgh, and then down the Ohio in boat, made its way to a settlement about nine miles west of Dayton. Here forty acres of timber land were bought for $60, a log cabin erected, and the father went out to work at day’s labor to make a living. When Samuel was twelve the father died, leaving in great poverty the widowed mother with a large family of children. The older son leaving home to do for himself, the responsibility of helping mother care for the little ones fell upon Samuel. He remained faithful to his charge until twenty–one, when he started out for himself also. Taking up the trade of carpentry and mill-wright he hired the first year at $5 per month, the second at $10 and the third at $15, with the privilege of going to school three months of each year. Thus in six years he enjoyed eighteen months’ schooling.
On April 28, 1833, he married Phoebe Hart. In 1835 his wife died, leaving him with two little sons. In 1837 he married a Widow Myers, and by this union thirteen children were born. June 8, 1863, she passed away. In 1864 he married Catherine Studebaker, and a few years later, while Brother Murray was on a preaching tour in Minnesota, his wife died and he hastened home to her funeral. Later, he married Anna Heiny, and in five years she passed away. In 1881 he married Leah Eshelman, and she survived him about a year. He knew sorrows and losses as few are called upon to bear.
In 1833, soon after his first marriage, he and his wife united with the Brethren church. When 34 years old he was elected deacon; three years later minister, and in 1857 he was ordained elder. In 1851 he moved to Miami County, Ind., where he found some twenty members scattered and no organization. Pipe Creek congregation was soon organized and his labors were blessed until the membership reached 300. In 1871, having assumed the oversight of the Salamonie congregation of Indiana a few years before, he moved within its bounds and remained there until 1889. This congregation also prospered under his supervision, for during this time it increased from a membership of 80 to 300, and a second meetinghouse was built. After this he did not assume the care of any congregation, but lived for a period at Mt. Morris, Ill., Mexico, Ind., Elgin, Ill., and a few years before his death went to live with his son in Indianapolis, Ind.
He had strong physical powers, great endurance and did not spare himself for the sake of his Master. His labors were during pioneer times, when comforts were few, travel wearisome and dangerous, and exposure intense. Yet he always responded to the calls for the Word. His preaching was not learned, yet truth was presented with force and strong emotional effect. The second day service of a communion season Brother Murray, if present, would give the closing address and as he drew near the close he would move down the aisle towards the unconverted to make his earnest plea and the usual result was a number confessing Christ and being baptized that afternoon as a closing scene of the meeting. Perhaps no minister did more laying the foundation of the churches in middle Indiana than Brother Murray.
He had a strong desire to live to be one hundred years old and preach on that day; but his hearing failed him, his strong frame grew weak, and a few months before he passed away he was not able to appreciate the touching letters that had arrived and were to be read to him on his birthday. The Lord saw fit to call him to his long looked for reward just the day before he was one hundred years old. At the age of 96 he wrote, “For sixty–three years I have known Christ and lived in his service and have never yet tired or faltered. My faith grows brighter as I near the Eternal City.”
Extract from Brother Murray’s Autobiography.
“Long before I belonged to church I was a firm believer in family worship and as a carpenter and millwright I was thrown among all classes of people. I only worked for one brother who had family worship, that was Samuel Mohler, who died a few years ago near Covington, Ohio. I worked for one Presbyterian that had worship. Oh, how cold, how careless some church members, and even preachers and elders do live, and yet they all hope to go to heaven. O Lord, bring us up to duty. Evening and morning let all the family, and others that may be with it, gather in one room and worship with Scripture reading, song and prayer. I commenced my family worship soon after I was married the first time, before I belonged to church. And through the help of the Lord I have kept it up all these years.”
Daniel L. Miller & Galen B. Royer
Some Who Led – Or – Fathers in the Church of the Brethren Who Have Passed Over,
(Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Publishing
House, 1912), pp. 63-65.