Members of the Murray Clan met for their annual reunion at New Prospect Cumberland Presbyterian Church on May 14. Family came in from over Tennessee and from from several other states for the historic occasion.
The earliest record of the Murray reunion is 1901, when more than 50 gathered on the front porch of an old homeplace. In 1997, more than 100 were present for the reunion photograph. And in 2010, more than 70 attended the annual event. It seems the tradition waned somewhat through the years before the middle 1900s until (the late) Raymond L. Murray began his search for ancestors.
Members of the Murray Clan came to America for Scotland through Ireland. The Murray Family has long been linked with the cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Some of the family settled in Knox County becoming members of the Beaver Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Others who moved to Bradley County share in the history of New Prospect Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Services were held in a shed from 1859 until 1892 when a building was constructed mainly by Samuel, Francis Murray, John Murray and Joe Murray.
The church met there until 1957 when the first unite of the present facility was blt. The continuing faith, work and legacy of the New Prospect Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Murray Family are inseparable.
—From the May 16, 1999 (the 20th Sunday of the centennial year), bulletin of New Prospect Cumberland Presbyterian Church celebrating the Murray Family Reunion.
Murray said family stories had always fascinated him since he was a child. He recalled stories from his grandfather, Sam Murray, who told him about his grandfather, Robert Murray, a boat builder, who, with his wife, Margaret, and their infant son, William, came to America from a small fishing village in Ireland in the late 1700s
While crossing the Atlantic, Sam Murray said, a severe storm came up and frightened the young couple. Margaret asked the captain if they would make it. He told her to go below deck and check on the off-duty sailors. “If they’re praying or reading the Bible,” the captain said, “we’re in danger.” But, “if they were laying cards and drinking rum,” they would be safe.
She went below deck and returned, shouting, “THank God, they are drinking and playing cards.”
On their arrival in America, the Murrays found their way to Knox County ... and that’s where R.L. Murray’s search took him.
At this latest reunion, four cousins came from Knoxville — three are sisters. They were sought out by Murray when he visited the cemetery there and realized there were kinfolk in the area still. So when the reunions were revived, the cousins were there.
Faye Edmonds said what drew her each year was “mostly food — love to eat it, and everybody is friendly.
Myra Irwin said she had been coming since the current organizer Frances Swafford’s grandkids were little. “I enjoy the fellowship,” she said. It’s the only time of year ... would like to see it continue.” She commented on the food also — “food not bad and good fellowship.”
Sandra Murray Bunch said she likes seeing how the kids grow. She said she can’t remember how long she’s been coming to the reunion ... “since R.L. (Murray) came and found the cemetery.” Her great-grandfather, she said, built and placed markers there.
Janice Murray lives in Cleveland. She said she’s been coming ever since the reunions started. “I enjoy the fellowship and the food.” She added, “I meet new people and discover kinfolk.” That seemed to be the consensus of everyone attending.
Age doesn’t matter when it comes to family reunions. And that’s what it is — family. History is shared by several generations as they meet to renew kinship and fellowship.
Since R.L. Murray passed on, Frances Swafford has had the responsibility each year to organize the clan’s event. She the daughter of Gilbert “Bert” Murray, who was the son of Samuel Francis Murray, who was the son of Charles Madison Murray, who was the son of Robert Murray.
Children at the reunion prove the next generation expects the tradition to continue.
Allyn Harrison said she had been coming ever since the Murray family had been having them. “I feel it’s important to be here,” she said.