Local genealogists make serious discoveries

MURRAY — It’s been said, “You know you’re a genealogist if the highlight of your last trip was a visit to the cemetery.”

Members of the Kootenai County Genealogical Society experienced this on June 11 with a trip to Murray Cemetery of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was the band’s first outing since COVID hit, and they weren’t going to let the rain stop them.

GAR Murray Cemetery, on Kings Pass Road near Murray, is a small cemetery with lots of character thanks to years of restoration work by Larry and Sandy Hammer. After moving to Murray, the Hammers felt drawn to the neglected graveyard and got to work.

They straightened and cleaned the markers and spent countless hours researching old records while doing their best to identify and mark the locations of over 200 previously unmarked graves.

One of the most notable figures buried at Murray Cemetery is Maggie Hall, better known as Molly B’Damn.

Born in Ireland in 1853, Hall sailed to America in 1873. Shortly after arriving in New York, Hall met and secretly married a wealthy man named Burdan who thought the name Molly suited him better.

Once the marriage was discovered, Burdan’s father cut off his son’s monthly allowance, leaving the couple in dire straits. At her husband’s urging, Hall turned to prostitution.

After her marriage failed, Hall continued in commerce at various locations, eventually following others who headed to the mountains of Coeur d’Alene in search of gold.

She set up a brothel in Murray.

Whether the name Molly B’Damn came from a mispronunciation of her name or from her colorful language, he remained with Hall until his death in 1888 from tuberculosis.

One of the most touching grave finds shared by the Hammers was that of Ethel Lee Fuller, a 2-year-old child who died in 1887.

Sandy Hammer had placed a marker where she thought the grave might be based on cemetery records. In 2020, Larry dug up a nearby flat headstone without identification. He kept looking and found a toe stone with “ELF” confirming it was Fuller’s grave. Sandy’s marker was only a few yards away.

The Hammers led members of the genealogical society to the headstones of local figures, sharing their stories, and also pointed to the final resting place of Hollywood stuntman Taylor E. Duncan.

The grave of Charles “Rod” Burnell, who was a longtime active member of the genealogical society, was of particular interest to Kootenai County genealogists. His wife, Alice, is still a member. A plaque in the genealogy section of the Hayden Library thanks the Burnells for their service to society.

The Hammers have recently moved out of the area and are looking for someone to take over the upkeep of the cemetery. The hard work has been done, but the cemetery will fall into decline without regular maintenance.

The Kootenai County Genealogical Society offers free genealogical help at the Hayden Library on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. Society meetings are held the third Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the Hayden Library, except July/August and December/January. Visitors are welcome.

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