Joseph Stacy Murdock
I’ve always thought he looks mean and, well, rough. All the pictures we have of him are rather scary looking. But, looks can be deceiving. Joseph Stacy Murdock was a great man. He was a pioneer, colonizer, and peacemaker.
Born on June 26th, 1822 in Hamilton, Madison County, New York, Joseph was descended from hearty New England stock. Both of his grandfathers, patriots during the Revolutionary War, fought with General George Washington.
Joseph lived with his grandparents until he was ten years old. His mother was sickly and his father crippled from an accident with a falling log. At age ten he moved back with his parents to help run the family farm. Because his father was so crippled Joseph took over the operation of the farm, overseeing workers hired to harvest crops and taking care of all the livestock.
In 1836, when Joseph was 14 years old, a Mormon missionary by the name of Jonathan Dunham came to the Murdock home. The following incident took place as told in Joseph’s own words:
“He went to Father’s side and Father asked him if he really believed in the new religion. Elder Dunham replied that he did, with all his heart and soul, that it was the true religion restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the same gospel that was held and practiced by Jesus Christ, and that the fullness of the gospel would be restored in our time.
“My father said to Elder Dunham, ‘Either you have the true gospel as taught by Jesus Christ, or you are the greatest imposter in the work of the Lord.’ Then he said, ‘Now if you have the truth and are of the Lord, I want you to pray for me, and lay your hands upon me, and if you are of the Lord I will be healed, and if you are an imposter I will not be healed.’ Elder Dunham knelt down and prayed for Father, and got up and laid his hands on his head, and blessed him and asked the Lord to heal him of his long sickness and suffering.”
Joseph wrote that his father fell into a deep, sound sleep. In the morning he awoke rested and refreshed and called for his clothes saying, “I am a well man, give me my clothes.” He dressed, ate breakfast, and was strong enough to work in the fields.
The whole Murdock family was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later that year. The Murdock family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1842. Joseph was inspired by many of the experiences he had there and wrote a poem that he sent to his aunt. The poem later became one of the hymns we sing now, “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice.”
Many, many stories could be told of Joseph Stacy Murdock but that would be too long for my purposes here. He and his wife, Eunice Sweet, migrated to the Utah Territory in Daniel Spencer’s 1847 Mormon pioneer company. He was called by Brigham Young to help colonize several areas including American Fork, Utah; Heber City, Utah; and Carson City, Nevada. Joseph did practice polygamy and eventually had 6 wives and 34 children. Mr. Ferrero Rocher is a descendant through Joseph Stacy Murdock and his second wife Eliza Clark.
He was a good friend to and trusted by the Indians. Where ever he traveled, whether it was to Southern Utah or west to California, he was known by the Native Americans and allowed to pass through their lands. He even adopted two Indian children. The children were with a captured Indian Chief who had taken the children from another tribe and was going to sell them as slaves. Their feet had been tied together and they were hung head down across the Chief’s horse. They had been terribly abused, both were naked and covered in dried blood, and they had been starved for days. Their arms and legs had been slashed with knives and their hair was matted with dry blood and full of burrs, thorns, and dirt. They were adopted and raised by Eunice (Joseph’s first wife) as she was never able to have children of her own.
On August 20, 1867, Joseph negotiated a peace treaty with Chief Tabby, the local Ute Indian chief, to end hostilities between the Ute Indians and the local settlers in Heber City. This was one of the turning points which lead to the end of the Utah Black Hawk War. A monument now stands in Heber to commemorate that event. Chief Tabby’s son, Tom, is even buried among the graves of the Murdock family in the Heber City Cemetery as per Chief Tabby’s request.
After helping to establish settlements throughout the west, Joseph Stacy Murdock lived the remainder of his days in Heber City as a farmer. He died on February 14, 1899, at the age of 76 from pneumonia.