Roundup: March 9, 2022

March 2022 Roundup Flyer



Roundup Synopsis

Taken From Branding Iron 306 Spring 2022. 

In March, the Corral was treated to a talk by Nick Curry. Assuming the style of a fireside chat, Mr. Curry expounded on his research about a historic Angeleno of much importance, if little current recognition, Dan Murphy. Murphy was an early investor in the local economy and, along with men like Edward L. Doheny, helped shape the area into what it is today. In fact, Dan Murphy picked up with oil drilling in the area where Doheny left off, and became fabulously wealthy as a result. The foundation that resulted from the dissemination of his wealth has done much for education and the preservation of local history in Los Angeles.

Dan Murphy was born in 1858 in Pennsylvania, and came to Los Angeles by way of a family homestead in Kansas, which he shared with his parents and seven siblings. Murphy eventually moved out West and immediately formed an affinity for the railroad, working on a spur line that ran down to San Diego. Before long, he met Frank Monaghan, and the two had plans to bridge the Colorado River. Doing just that, they drew the attention of Charlie Crawford who tasked them with building a general store near the new bridge. In so doing, they founded the town of Needles in 1883.

The two men were known for their honesty, a rare commodity in the railroad business, and successfully ran the store until 1911. During their time in Needles, they founded a bank. This led them to invest in a number of mining and oil drilling operations throughout the region. Key to Dan Murphy’s future success was his purchase, sight-unseen, of land which would become the Brea Canyon Oil Company. The well, which continues to produce today, eventually left Murphy in possession of a fantastic mansion and a fortune of $200 million by the time of his death in 1939.

Having no children, Murphy entrusted his fortune to his niece Bernardine. Enter the Catholic church and the Los Angeles diocese. The Murphy family had been closely connected to the church for decades, so much so that Dan had once donated $1 million to the Pope in one lump sum. During her time in Rome, Bernardine, now the executor of the Murphy fortune, was wooed by an Italian prince. Los Angeles churchmen grew concerned that if Bernardine were to marry this man, then she, along with her fortune, would move to Rome and leave the Los Angeles diocese in the lurch. So, the church hatched a plan. A dissatisfied priest was found, released from his vows, and wed to Bernardine. Thus the Murphy fortune remained in Los Angeles. Now known as the Dan Murphy Foundation, it provides more money to Catholic causes today than even the Doheny Foundation.

The Dan Murphy Foundation was crucial to the formation of the archives put together by Westerners Living Legend Msgr. Francis Weber. That archive was, in turn, essential in gathering the information used for the most recent book about Dan Murphy entitled Ice and Oil, by Joseph Francis Ryan, reviewed in Branding Iron 303.
— Alan Griffin


Photos from the Roundup