train traveling from Dundas to the 1888 depot

Railroad Men of the Murphy Family

Now, as a matter of fact, there is not a person living in Northfield who can remember a time when there was not a Mr. Murphy in charge of baggage at the depot.”
Northfield News, May 2, 1930

Patrick Murphy was born in 1824 in Croom, County Limerick, Ireland, and came to America in 1850. He found his way to Galena, Illinois, where he took a job as a baggage and yardmaster on the Illinois Central Railroad.

Murphy arrived in Northfield with the first railroad and was the depot baggage master from 1865 to 1882. He was the father of 10 children, including four sons—Thomas, William, John, and James—who also went to work for the railroad. In 1882, son James succeeded him as the baggage master for the Northfield depot, a position he would hold for more than 50 years.

“The railroad business isn’t what it used to be,” Mr. Murphy declared. “Why, we used to have more baggage business in one day than we have now in three months. The automobiles and busses have done it. I think the government should do something about it. The railroads have built this country, and they are entitled to some consideration.”
James W. Murphy in the Northfield News, May 2, 1930

The grave of Patrick Murphy (b. 1824 d. 1902). Used with permission of R. Hardy, 2010

To illustrate the importance of the railroads to Northfield, James Murphy calculated that the annual payroll for the Northfield employees of all four railroads in the town totaled $40,000 in 1930—half a million dollars in current dollars.  

Patrick Murphy owned a large lot in the block opposite St. Dominic’s Church, now occupied by West First Street between Linden and Plum Streets. He is buried with his wife in the Catholic cemetery on Spring Creek Road.