Mission Statement:

"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."


Captain David Reid Murchison

Wilmington Merchant and Civic Leader

Papers of the Cape Fear Historical Institute



David Reid Murchison was born at the Murchison

family ancestral home, Holly Hill, Cumberland County,

North Carolina on 5 December 1837, the son of Duncan

(1801-1870) and Fannie Reid (1806-1839) Murchison.

The Murchison patriarch was Kenneth McKenzie

Murchison (David Reid’s grandfather) who came to the

valley of the Cape Fear from Scotland in 1773.

Though most of his neighbors were newly-arrived

Scots loyal to the British king, Kenneth became

a Whig (patriot) and soldier in the Cumberland militia.

Murchison prospered after the war in a cotton mill

operation named “Manchester” after the famous mill

center in England, a name which lives on today in

Cumberland County. He died in 1836 at age 88, with a

eulogy that spoke of “Another Revolutionary patriot

gone to sleep with his compeers beneath the silent

clods of the valley.”

David Reid Murchison spent his boyhood days at

Holly Hill, received his early education in

Cumberland County, and later attended the

University of Virginia. He left the latter institution

in 1856 to become a bookkeeper in the New York

City firm of Bauman & Murchison.  In 1858 he came

to Wilmington to be a partnerin the firm

of Eli Murray & Company.

The outbreak of war in early 1861 he was a private

in the Wilmington Light Infantry and participated in

the seizure of Fort Caswell at the mouth of the

Cape Fear. Within a few months, he raised a

company of 108 Wilmington volunteers

with R.B. McRae and T.H. McKoy, of which

Murchison served as lieutenant.

The company was assigned as Company C of the

Seventh North Carolina Regiment, North Carolina State

Troops, and saw action during the Seven Days battle

around Richmond, Fredericksburg, Sharpsburg, and

Second Manassas. In April, 1863 he was transferred

to the 54th North Carolina Regiment and promoted

to Captain as assistant quartermaster, though

poor health in 1864 kept him from active service,

and was subsequently appointed by President

Jefferson Davis to be inspector-general of the

Commissary Department of North Carolina.


Brother-in-law Charles Manly Stedman described

Captain Murchison as

“a singularly brave man, devoid

of fear. Cool and self-reliant under all circumstances,

he gave confidence and strength to the weak and timid.

He was generous, full of sympathy and of kindness

to the poor and needy, to whom he gave with an

open and liberal hand. He was a sincere man,

abhorring deception and hypocrisy and looking with

scorn upon all that was base and mean.”

Captain Murchison’s oldest brother Colonel John R.,

was mortally wounded while leading his Eighth North

Carolina Regiment at Cold Harbor on 1 June 1864.

Older brother Colonel Kenneth Murchison was

captured with 1500 men of his Fifty-fourth

North Carolina Regiment at Rappahannock

Station in early November, 1864 – and spent

the following 20 months as a

prisoner at Johnson’s Island.

After the war he returned to Wilmington and resumed

his partnership with Eli Murray, as the firm Murray

and Murchison. In July 1866 he joined his brother

Kenneth M., John D. Williams, and brother-in-law

George Williams and established the firms of

Williams & Murchison in Wilmington, J.D. Williams

& Company in Fayetteville, and

Murchison & Company in New York.

David Reid Murchison was also a member of the

first Board of Directors of the Bank of New Hanover

in 1872; first president of the Produce Exchange;

president of the Wilmington Compress and Warehouse

Company; and president of the Express Steamboat

Company providing service between Wilmington

and Fayetteville.

He was among the early members and incorporator

of the prestigious Cape Fear Club, and served as

President in 1868. He was the uncle of architect

Kenneth M. Murchison, Jr., designer of the

Murchison National Bank building on the

northwest corner of Front and Chestnut Streets,

and earlier site of the Cape Fear Club.

Murchison married Lucy Wooster Wright (1850-1913),

daughter of Joshua Grainger and Mary Ann (Walker)

Wright, on 11 January 1872. Their one child was

daughter Lucile Wright Murchison, who later gave the

old Murchison home on South Third Street to the

Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina, now the

diocesan headquarters. The Murchison’s were

members of St. James Episcopal Church.

He and Charles Stedman jointly purchased Orton

Plantation in the late 1870s. They sold the property

in 1884 to David’s older brother, Col. Kenneth M.

Murchison who lived there until his death in 1904.

Stedman continues:

[Captain Murchison] was a man of extraordinary business

sagacity, which was made manifest about the year 1880,

when, after being appointed receiver of the Carolina

Central Railway, he startled the community by buying

out the whole [rail]road, and he conducted it

successfully until his health began to fail,

when he sold it out at a profit.”

Captain Murchison died on 22 February 1882 while

seeking medical treatment in New York, and was buried

in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery. At the time of his

death, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and the

Produce Exchange both suspended business and in

a body attended the funeral.

Stedman said of him after his death:
“He was in the full meridian of his intellectual powers

and his nobility of mind and heart was never more

clearly manifested than in his last days. He went

to his rest, his fortitude unshaken by long-continued

and severe suffering, his chief desire to give the

least possible pain and trouble to others, solicitous

not for himself, but for the happiness

of those he loved.

His gentleness and self-abnegation were as beautiful

as his iron nerve was firm and unyielding.

North Carolina has furnished to the world a race

of men who by their great qualities have shed luster

upon the State which gave them birth. In the elements

of character which constitutes true greatness –

courage, honor, truth, fidelity, unselfish love of

country and humanity – Capt. David Reid Murchison

will rank with the best and noblest of her citizens.”


The Story of Fayetteville and the Upper Cape Fear, John A. Oates
The Cape Fear Club, 1967-1983, Cape Fear Club
Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, Edwards & Broughton
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, W. S. Powell, UNC Press