Lawrence Murphy

Lawrence Murphy

Lawrence Murphy (1831 - October 20, 1878) was a businessman of the Old West, and a main instigator of the Lincoln County War.

Early life, Lincoln County War

Murphy was born in Ireland, and as an adult moved to the United States, soon after serving in US Army starting in 1851 through 1855, re-enlisting in 1856. Discharged in 1861, he ventured to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and enlisted in the Union Army, serving the duration of the Civil War. Seeing little to no combat during the war, he mustered out at Fort Stanton in 1866, soon after going into business with Emil Fritz. The partners immediately began receiving military contracts due to Murphy's connections, to supply beef, vegetables and other supplies to the Apache Reservation. They then became involved in land schemes of selling land they didn't actually own to aspiring farmers.

Murphy eventually moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico, and in 1869 he started "L. G. Murphy & Co.". By 1873 he had hired James Dolan, who by 1874 had become a business partner in a profitable mercantile and banking operation. The business saw success mainly to there being no competition. Murphy also became influential within law enforcement circles, controlling the local sheriff, William J. Brady.

What would become known as the Murphy-Dolan faction charged local farmers and ranchers high prices for their goods, making them hated among much of the local population. To counter them, rancher John Tunstall and former Murphy-Dolan employee Alexander McSween opened a rival business in 1876, called "J. H. Tunstall & Co". The Tunstall-McSween faction had the support of powerful rancher John Chisum, and the business enraged James Dolan. With Murphy's support, Dolan hired gunmen to try and goad Tunstall into a fight, employing the Seven Rivers Warriors, Jessie Evans Gang, and the John Kinney Gang.

The gangs began rustling Tunstall's herds, or dispersing them, prompting Tunstall to employ several gunmen of his own, to include Dick Brewer, Doc Scurlock, Billy the Kid, and Charlie Bowdre. On February 18, 1878, while Tunstall was alone, he was shot and killed by Jessie Evans, William Morton, Frank Baker and Tom Hill, likely under the orders of James Dolan. This event sparked the Lincoln County War, one of the best known range wars.

To counter Sheriff Brady's lack of action on the murder, Alex McSween organized the Lincoln County Regulators, having them legally deputized, and tasked with the apprehension of the murderers. On March 6 the Regulators captured Morton and Baker, and on March 9 the Regulators executed both men, in addition to fellow Regulator William McCloskey, a suspected traiter. On April 1, 1878, the Regulators killed Sheriff Brady and Deputy George W. Hindman, with several other killings following that committed by both the Regulators and the gunmen employed by Murphy-Dolan. The range war culminated in the Battle of Lincoln on July 15 through July 19, 1878.

By that time, however, Lawrence Murphy was in poor health, suffering from cancer. He was, by this time, having little to do with the day to day activities of his businesses or the gunmen under his employ. Although he would see the end of the range war, he died on October 20th, 1878.

External links

* [ Lawrence Murphy]
* [ Lawrence Murphy, Scoundrel Behind the Lincoln County War]
* [ Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid]
* [ Lincoln County War, "Competition Wasn't Welcome"]

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