One of our most remarkable Pioneers
Patrick Murphy was born March 16, 1821, in Cork County, Ireland. He left Ireland in the middle of the afternoon April 21, 1864. It took fourteen days to cross the ocean in the ship named “The Kangaroo.” It was among the oldest steamers at that time, Mr. Murphy in a joking way said he came to America to see the finery and pretty girls. Evidently he was hard to please for he never married. He landed in New York, went from New York to Nashville, Tennessee, then on to St. Louis, Missouri. He walked up the Mississippi River then on to Ft. Lewis.
He could not be a member of the regular army during the Civil War because he was not an American citizen, but he could be a cook in the army. He was a cook at Ft. Bent, Colo. when the war ended. While he was cook, he and Joe Pettigrew became good friends. Joe was a member of the Union Army. He was also one of our early Monument area pioneers.
Mr. Murphy was a small, wiry man perhaps about 100 pounds. A great walker; when he left Ft. Bent he walked across country to the Divide. One night on this trip he was tired and weary so he took his blankets from his pack and went to sleep on a hillside. In the morning when he awoke and started again a great and sudden surprise came to him.
Just as he reached the top he saw Indians at the foot of the hill, on the other side. They were packed and painted ready for war. Mr. Murphy knew that if he turned back the Indians would find him. He boldly walked down the hill, through the camp, and kept on his way. The Indians did not do or say a thing. They simply looked astonished and muttered to one another.
When he reached the Divide he knew this was the place, as the grass was high and thick, and there were many buffalo herds. He homesteaded his place, which was about six miles east of Monument. In 1870 after he had his homestead, he walked back to Ft. Bent to tell Joe Pettigrew about the fine country and Joe came and homesteaded, his place is still known as the Pettigrew place on Highway 83. Mr. Murphy built a two-room cabin with a large fireplace at one end. Shortly after he built the cabin he walked to Fountain, Colo. and bought three cows for $360.00. Mr. Murphy’s first friend here was Bob Ireland, a fine-looking man. Mr. Murphy always said, “Good looks makes a fine neighbor.”
Mr. Murphy could neither read nor write, but had a sharp mind and quick wit. He worked with a couple of surveyors carrying the chain and stakes. He overheard the two surveyors talking one day that some land joining his place could be filed on. The two men planned to go to Denver in a couple of days to file a claim on it. That night Pat changed his clothes, took out walking to Denver and was coming out of the Court House with papers for the land when the other men were going up the steps. He often walked to Colorado Springs and Monument with a large basket of eggs to trade for groceries. If some neighbor came along with a team and asked him if he wanted a ride he would say, “No, thanks, I haven’t time. I’m in a hurry.” He could out-walk a team of horses.
When St. Francis Hospital was in a boxcar by the railroad tracks he had blood poisoning in his hand and was their first patient. When he passed away at age 105 he was the oldest member of the Knights of Columbus in the world, the oldest man in the State of Colorado, and the oldest rancher in the State of Colorado. He lived on his ranch until he was 101 years old.
When he was 100 years old he rented his farmland to Tom Long. Two men with two, six-foot binders were cutting the grain on his place and Mr. Murphy was shocking it, keeping up with the binders. He loved children and to have company; he always kept candy to give to all the children. Monument planned a big celebration for Pat on his 100-year birthday, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1921. But Monument had one of the worst spring blizzards it ever experienced so the party was postponed. At 100 years of age he was very sharp and alert, quick, and lively, walked as straight as any young man; all who knew him dearly loved him.
When he was 100 years of age he was standing on the steps of the Higby store looking towards Pike’s Peak and two young men were watching him, thought they would be smart and said to him, “Old man, do you see that Jack rabbit on the top of the Peak?” Mr. Murphy with his Irish wit replied “No, by Gawd, I don’t see him but I can sure hear him thumping his hind legs.”
At 101 he ran a race in the main street of Monument with a man many years his junior and won, and danced at a dinner given in his honor that night. At 102 Mr. Murphy climbed half-way to the summit of Pike’s Peak and was only dissuaded from completing the trip through the intercession of a younger man who was accompanying him who told Murphy he was giving out.
When he left his 1,100-acre ranch he made his home with Mr. and Mrs. James Pettigrew for a while, but later went to the St. Francis Hospital to live, where his Irish wit and jigs made him a favorite with the nurses.
He was a devout Catholic; he was a member of St. Peter’s Church at Monument. He died July 3rd, 1926 at 105 years, 4 months, and 13 days of age. He is buried in the Spring Valley Cemetery near his home.