Robert Emmett Murphy was the sixth of eight children born to William H. and Elizabeth Smyth Murphy. He was born on the 2nd of August in 1878 in Peoria, Peoria County, Illinois. He was baptized at St. Patrick's Church in Peoria with his godparents being his uncle, James Murphy, and his aunt, Mary Smyth Fox.
Robert's mother died from childbirth in 1883, when Robert was five years old. His father remarried a year later, and it appeared that Robert and his siblings no longer lived with their father after the marriage. In 1888, Robert was listed in the Peoria Census as age nine, living with his brother, Patrick (who was nineteen) in the home of their uncle, Charles Smith. Robert's father died in 1891 when Robert was thirteen years old.
In 1894, Robert was living in his father's old home and was a clerk for S.C. Bartlett and Co., which was a grain and commission company.
The next record I have found of Robert is from the 1896 Peoria City Directory. It showed that Robert was living with his brother Patrick. Their sister Alice married that year and, in 1898, Robert was listed as living with Alice, her family, and his younger brother Edward. He was still working for the S.C.Bartlett company. In 1899, both Robert and Edward were living with Alice and her family. Robert was not listed as employed.
The 1900 Peoria Census listed Robert still living with Alice. By then he was a clerk for the Board of Trade. The census showed that he had been unemployed for eight months in the past year. In 1904, the city directory showed that Robert was a clerk for the TA Grier and Co. in Peoria, which was also a grain and commission business. The 1908 directory showed that Robert as unemployed and still living with Alice. In 1909, living with Alice and her family, Robert had his own company listed as his employment, the RE Murphy and Co., at the Chamber of Commerce.
The 1910 Peoria Census listed Robert as age thirty-two, living with Alice and family. It showed his employment as a grain dealer at the Board of Trade.
I lost track of Robert for a number of years after 1910. He wasn't listed in the Peoria Directory for 1912. I have not been able to find him in the 1920 Census. However, his brother Patrick died in 1920 and the obituary states that Patrick's brothers, William, James, and Robert lived in St. Louis. When his brother Charles died in 1924, his obituary also stated that Robert lived in St. Louis. I have not located him in the 1930 Census. His brother James died in 1931, but his brothers and sister were not mentioned in his obituaries.
Robert was found in the 1940 Census for St. Louis. He was listed as a patient at the St. Vincent Sanitarium for the Insane. In 1944, his sister Alice died and he was again listed as living in St. Louis.
Robert died on the 4th of January in 1949 at St. Vincent's. He was seventy years old. Robert was buried on the 8th of January in 1949 in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis in a charity lot of St. Vincent's.
The death certificate for Robert states that he died in Rural Wellston, St. Louis County, Missouri at St. Vincent's Sanitarium where he had been a resident for 15 years. It stated that he was divorced and that his occupation had been as an advertising manager for a publishing company. The informant was William H. Murphy (his brother) of Fort Worth, Texas. The cause of death was Terminal bronchopneumoniato. "Other significant conditions: Involutional Meloncholio-15 years". That meant that he suffered from depression for the last fifteen years of his life. I suspect that he suffered from mental illness all of his adult life.
Interestingly, the informant, his brother William, died just thirteen days later. Since William had been in the hospital for seventy three days in Texas, he must have given information over the phone and was not able to make arrangements. I have always been surprised that Robert was not buried in Peoria with the rest of his family.
Some of this information was confusing. My great-aunt had stated that Robert had never married. Information from a cousin obtained from a letter reported that Robert had spent years on and off the mental ward at St. Vincent's Hospital in St. Louis, and that his older brother William had spent years trying to take care of him. She said that Robert had married.
When Alice Murphy Cody (Robert's sister he had lived with until moving to St. Louis) died, she passed on three silver spoons to her daughter Mary. When Mary died in 1981, the spoons passed on to my mother. When my mother gave them to me, we believed that they were spoons of a son that Alice had, who died very young. The spoons have the name "Robert" engraved on them.
I polished the spoons a couple of weeks ago, and noticed that each of the spoons had a date on them. The first date was "December 25, 1893". The next was "Dec 94", and the last was "1896". At first I was kind of stunned as I thought about how these spoons probably hadn't been polished for maybe 100 years? Then I realized that these spoons couldn't have been for Alice's baby, because she didn't even marry until 1896. These spoons were Robert Emmett Murphy's spoons! So the first one was given to Robert when he was fifteen years old. It seems like an odd gift to me to give a teenage boy, but maybe it was common back then.
I have always found the story of Robert very sad. I remember when I was young that my grandmother mentioned him one time and I was fascinated with his name. I was born the same year that Robert died. When I asked my mother about him, she had no memory of him at all, not even of ever hearing of him. She had been quite close to her grandparents so I was surprised by this. I wonder if the family just never spoke of him. Robert's younger brother, Edward, was my great-grandfather. He was the only sibling to survive after Robert and William died. Edward lived another ten years, dying in 1959.
This is yet another case of wishing that I had asked more questions when I was younger!