Murrell, William


1814 - Feb. 7, 1892
William Murrell was the son of Peter Murrell, who was the master of Rebecca, his mother. He was born about 78 years ago in Georgetown, South Carolina. After the death of his father, he was sold to a man in Alabama named Toby, who in turn transferred William to his son as a present. Young Toby lost William while engaged in gambling and he then fell into the hands of one Harris who brought him to New Orleans manacled, and sold him to a Mr. Stone. Here his work was of a trudging nature, a vocation that did not appear to accord with his disposition; hence we find him transferred, and now, the fifth time, to a minister of the gospel, Mr. Wolridge. This gentleman appears to have been unusually kind to him. He permitted him to preach, and even allowed him opportunity to improve his limited education, by leasing him out to J. C. Morgan, a book dealer, in New Orleans. Mr. Morgan esteemed William highly and kept him in trusty positions in his store during twelve years, when he died. After this he was permitted to hire his time, and continued to do so until he was emancipated by the proclamation of President Lincoln.
While in Alabama, when quite a lad, it was his practice to carry a spelling book in his pocket, and his young master, Toby, who was especially fond of following him up and down the furrows while ploughing, would show him how to pronounce the hard words. Having acquired. these few rudiments of education under such disadvantages, he never lost an opportunity to study and continued to improve, paying sometimes $3 per month for a few lessons.
It was at this early period of his life that he was converted, and soon thereafter felt that he was called to the ministry. Previous to 1865, Bro. Murrell’s ministerial labors were performed in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
On December 25, 1865, the Methodist Episcopal Church organized the Mississippi Mission Conference with twelve ministers, all of whom were self-made, having acquired whatever knowledge of letters they possessed under the most adverse circumstances, and from the seed of Christian religion, sown by these faithful twelve, has grown the eight conferences now in these three States, viz, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. It was at this conference that Bro. Murrell received his appointment, directing him to Thibodaux. Here he built a church, and in a little while had a 1arge membership connected with it. He was reappointed several times to this charge, and during this period had a church erected at Houma, another at Woodlawn, and also one at Napoleonville. He subsequently had a church erected at Pineville and had charge of several other appointments.
Bro. Murrell continued in the active service of the church until 1884, when he was super- annuated; he continued to preach, however, until a few weeks previous to his demise.
He was married to Comfort Caroline Cohee, on the ------ day of March 1851, by Reverend J. C. Keener.
While in the parish of Lafourche he was elected by the Republican Party to the constitutional convention of 1868, and subsequently to several terms of the State Legislature.
While in the State Legislature his bold and determined style of speech gave him the cognomen: “The wild man from Lafourche.” He obtained for two benevolent organizations, both of which are still in existence, State appropriations. Other benevolent causes secured some aid from the State through his efforts. Later he was appointed supervisor of registration for that parish. Completing the duties of that office he retired from political life.
William Murrell possessed some traits of character peculiar to himself. He loved the office of a minister and was especially fond of the pulpit, but to solicit and solicit and accept payment from his congregation was to him and odious task, and indeed, during his long stay at Thibodauxville, where his word was law, he never received one dollar for his services, and nothing but his hard circumstances afterward could have forced him to accept pecuniary aid from the people he served. None ever entertained a more exalted opinion of the position of a Christian minister than he did.
After he had been superannuated and quite reduced in circumstances and stricken with old age, he was offered a position which, in his estimation, was menial in its character; he stated that he could not accept it, and gave his reasons: “Because I am an Elder in the Methodist Church.” And yet it is equally true that he recognized the importance and did carry into practice the Savior’s mandate: “Blessed are the humble for they shall be exalted.” Radical in his political views, true in the cause he engaged for, a faithful and sympathetic leader, at a time and under circumstances when it was often worth a man’s life to be so, the people were naturally devoted to him.
His Christian conduct, during a period covering half a century may well serve others a good example, and though he was in the Methodist Church all the time and a strong defender of the doctrines of the church, still he possessed enough magnanimity to tolerate other Christian churches.
There is one special characteristic of him that was pre-eminent. William Murrell was a man in the highest sense of the word; a prince or king could not have taken greater liberty in the expression of his sentiments than he did. When once persuaded that he was right, he went forth to battle for the cause he had espoused with the courage of a lion, never hesitating or looking to see how his personal interest were affected; maintained his position with an iron will, whether the opposition came from the powerless or the powerful, the humblest or the most exalted, all to him were one; and if a time he seemed to have assumed an attitude inconsistent to the Christian religion, he is to be excused for his over zealousness for the cause he defended. He died Sabbath evening February 7, 1892, at his home in Carrollton and loving hands carried him to his burial.
Source: Journal of the Louisiana Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1893; Pages 82-84

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