Isaac Murphy

Photo of Isaac Murphy
Isaac Murphy

Quick Facts

Significance:
Wartime governor of Arkansas (1864-1868)
Place Of Birth:
near Pittsburgh, PA
Date Of Birth:
October 16, 1799
Place Of Death:
Huntsville, AR
Date Of Death:
September 8, 1882
Place Of Burial:
Huntsville, AR
Cemetery Name:
Huntsville Cemetery

Isaac Murphy was an educator, surveyor, lawyer and Arkansas state legislator who was one of only five representatives to vote against secession in 1861, and the only legislator of the five who refused to change his vote after the result was clear.

When war came, Murphy fled his home in Huntsville to Union-held northern Arkansas and became a civilian aide to Union General Samuel Curtis. Left behind, his daughters Louiza and Laura became the focus of a steadily increasing campaign of harassment and abuse. Then in December 1862, a detachment of U.S. cavalry that had escorted Murphy's daughters through the lines after a visit to their father was largely destroyed by a guerilla band. In a possible reaction to these events, members of Co. G of the 8th Missouri Cavalry (U.S.) executed nine Southern soldiers and civilian sympathizers, including Murphy's son-in-law and grandson-in-law. In the uproar that followed, two local colleges managed and supported by the Murphys were shuttered.

In 1864, Murphy was elected Governor of Arkansas where, for the next four years, he struggled to navigate between a population evenly divided between unrepentant Confederates and impatient reconstructionists. He remained in office until 1868 when Arkansas ratified the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and was readmitted to the Union.