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Murray Journal

Small space, big memorial

Oct 31, 2016 12:31PM ● By Alisha Soeken

Longview Elementary second grade class visits the Murray City Museum. (Alisha Soeken/City Journals)

By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]

Murray, Utah - Nature proves in a tiny seed that potential cannot be determined by size. The Murray City Museum reminds one of this.

Situated on State Street sits a small, unassuming room home to the Murray City Museum organized in 2003 for the city’s centennial. 

“The museum tells a great story. It’s the story of how Murray came to be, starting with its agricultural and smelter dynamic and how the conflict between those two created the desire to incorporate,” MaryAnn Kirk said.

Kirk has been an administrator for the city of Murray for almost 25 years and has worked in the museum since its opening. 

Kirk believes the museum’s artifacts are its greatest asset.

“Many families gave the museum their prize possessions just so that others could see them. We have a great stewardship.”

Among the artifacts of dishes, art, clothes and farm equipment are the boxing gloves of Ernest “Cyclone” Wright, Wielder-Weight champion in 1910 and a member of Murray’s first volunteer fire department. Also on display are one of the first official city ballots, the cane and top hat of Murray’s first mayor C.L Miller and the key to Murray’s first jail.

“For a lot of people in our community this museum and these artifacts are their story. It’s the story of their parents and grandparents. We have a great resource for them to discover their family roots.  We have family files and oral histories where we’ve actually caught on tape their ancestors telling their life story,” Kirk said.

One can find stories from people like early settlers James Thomas Snarr, Janet McMillan and Murray’s first town marshal, Michael Mauss. The story of farmer Jonas Erekson’s wife Mary Jane Powell — who was a midwife and later developed a remedy for diphtheria — can also be found.

The museum tells stories and showcases events that brought growth and diversity to Murray City.

Because of its central location Murray became an ideal place to build smelters to process ore from the booming mining industry. Between 1870 and 1910 there were eight smelters operating in Murray. Because of this Murray’s ethnic diversity changed dramatically. Smelter, mining and railway companies began importing laborers from eastern and southern Europe. People came to Murray from Greece, Italy, the Slavic regions and Japan. 

The faces of those immigrants hang on the museum walls. People like Tom Peters who traveled to Cuba to meet his pre-arranged bride Angeline from Greece or Joe Sharich who came from Yugoslavia with his brothers, or Stephan Vicchirilli who left Italy twice to work in the smelters and was finally able to pay for his wife Maria and son to come to Murray.

The stories of these people and of their city are what attracts visitors from all over the United States to Murray’s Museum. And Kirk extends a welcome to all. 

“If you’ve never been to the Murray Museum, come. You are really missing out on an opportunity to learn the story of your community,” Kirk said.