The Murphy/Dellinger Families, Taylor, Texas – Summary of Janetta McCoy’s Talk
Dr. Janetta McCoy, retired professor, architectural preservationist and owner of Pecan Manor Bed & Breakfast, was among the five speakers presenting oral histories at the first “Deep in the Heart of Taylor” story night at Taylor’s Moody Museum, October 13, 2018.
My home for the past seven years, the Pecan Manor Bed & Breakfast, also served as home for Taylor’s Murphy and Dellinger families. Tonight, I’ll highlight the support and accomplishments of the wives of these two influential Taylor families.
Dan Murphy, a landed Irish immigrant, found Taylorsville, Texas in 1873 while working on the railroad as it cut south from Fort Worth. He recognized the potential for the community and ended up calling it home. The town’s name would later be shortened to Taylor.
He had met a nice woman in Palestine, Texas, but hesitated to bring her to this rough railroad town for two years. Once he secured a place to live, he brought Hannah Boyle Murphy and her infant daughter to Taylor, Texas.
Those days must have been hard for Hannah, with none of her family here, no conveniences, no running water, no electricity, no transportation, no paved streets and while having babies. She had to grow much of her own food and water was purchased by the barrel.
Dan began acquiring land and in 1883 built a house on Seventh Street, where the old Taylor High School was later constructed. Their estate stretched from Seventh Street to Lake Drive and from Main Street to Davis and included today’s Murphy Park. Eventually, Dan and his cousin, George Burkett, commercialized the artesian well on that property. Dan’s greatest achievement, in fact, was probably developing a water supply for the growing city.
Dan’s building and contracting business was in much demand as Taylor grew. Hannah’s life became a little easier with time and with the Murphy’s emerging prominence in the community. About 1890, Dan tore down the original house on Seventh Street and built a new larger one. It was designed by architect Henry Struve and included a bedroom designed for a maid. There was also a trunk room for out-of-town guests.
Hanna and Dan raised three children, Grace Boyle Murphy, the baby that came with Hannah, Dan Junior and Joseph. Joseph married and moved to Wenatchee, Washington. Grace married James Dellinger in 1898, a local boy with none of her advantages.
James (J.W.) Dellinger was born in Illinois and came to Taylor to live with his grandparents at the age of six following the death of his parents. He had worked for Mr. Murphy in a variety of capacities since he was 15. Dan had been concerned about his daughter marrying a man with little to offer. In an effort to protect her, it is told that Dan made a deal with the City that J. W. Dellinger would always have a job.
Dan Murphy died the year that following the wedding, and Hannah died a year after that. Son, Joseph Murphy inherited the house on Seventh Street, but it then came into the possession of Grace and J.W. Dellinger. There they raised three children, James Junior, Joe Hannah and Grace Mary.
J.W. joined the police force in 1916 and became chief of police in 1920. He served in that capacity for 36 years and sometimes as fire chief, as well. There were many letters in his file from J. Edgar Hoover congratulating him in a variety of successful ventures. He was a contemporary of Dan Moody and likely participated in the Taylor Ku Klux Klan investigation that brought national attention to Moody’s prosecution of the Klan.
Back in 1881, Mr. Murphy had made a deal with the City that when they were ready to build a new high school, it should be built on his property. In 1922, the City told the Dellingers, “We’d like to execute that deal now…on the property where your house is.” The City gave the Dellingers $24,000 for the six and a half acres and J.W. put the house on logs and moved it to its current location, about a thousand feet away.
Mrs. Dellinger became an iconic social leader, teaching high school English and also elocution and social graces to younger high school girls. Dellinger activities were regularly reported in the local Taylor Daily Press. The social pages were filled with articles about afternoon soirees, train trips and even reports that seeing Mrs. Dellinger’s Christmas wreath on their front door was a sure sign of the coming season. Little Jimmy’s appendicitis hospitalization, surgery and recovery were reported daily as front-page news.
By the late 1930s, Jimmy had become interested in congressional politics and was a big LBJ fan. J.W. was a big LBJ supporter and became good friends over the years. There is evidence of LBJ coming to Taylor specifically to see the Dellingers.
I was feeling sorry for Mrs. Dellinger upon learning that Chief Dellinger typically changed shirts three times a day. There was no washing machine and no electric iron. I was reminded, however, that she had a maid and that the downtown laundry would do a shirt for three cents – wash it, starch it, iron it and return it the same day. Life was different.
Grace Boyle Dellinger passed away in 1952 and was mourned as one of Taylor’s most gracious hostesses. J.W. kept the trust and confidence of Taylor citizens for 40 years, but it was his wife who grounded him, gave him a sense of community and made him a part of this community.
There are streets and a park named for Murphy and Dellinger and I’d like to think that public honors are meant both for the men and for the women of those families.
Click here for the transcript of the audio file