William Henry Harrison Murray, 1871 (From Adirondack Murray, a biographical appreciation by Harry V. Radford, 1906) William Henry Harrison Murray, c. 1875 New York Public Library Image 56083 Frontispiece to Camp Life in the Adirondacks, "O, royal sight it was to see them come one after another over the verge." S. R. Stoddard said that Murray's Phantom Falls were the Raquette Falls Born: April 26, 1840

Died: March 3, 1904

Married: Married Isadora, divorced in 1886; Frances Mary Rivers

Children: four daughters

Reverend William Henry Harrison Murray, also known as Adirondack Murray, was a clergyman and author of an influential series of articles and books that popularized the Adirondacks; he became known as the father of the Outdoor Movement.

Born in Guilford, Connecticut, he graduated from Yale in 1862 and served as a minister in Greenwich, Connecticut and Meriden, Connecticut from 1869 through 1873. He also delivered Sunday evening lectures about the Adirondacks in a Boston music-hall that proved highly popular, and he published a series of articles based on the lectures in a Meriden newspaper. In 1869, they were published as a book, Adventures in the Wilderness; or, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks.

The literary tone of the book made it extremely successful; it went through eight printings in its first year. Murray promoted New York's north woods as health-giving and spirit-enhancing, claiming that the rustic nobility typical of Adirondack woodsmen came from their intimacy with wilderness. A subsequent printing, subtitled Tourist's Edition, included maps of the region and train schedules from various Eastern cities to the Adirondacks.

Although the book was to become one of the most influential books in the conservation movement of the 19th century, paradoxically, within five years it led to the building of over 200 "Great Camps" in the Adirondacks; "Murray’s Fools" poured into the wilderness each weekend, packing specially scheduled railroad trains. 1

Many people and places from the Saranac Lake area are mentioned in the book, including Martin's, Bartlett's Carry, Reuben Reynolds, Lute Evans, etc.


  • Camp Life in the Adirondacks (Boston, 1868)
  • Music-Hall Sermons (1870-1873)
  • Words Fitly Spoken (1873)
  • The Perfect Horse (1873)
  • Sermons delivered from Park Street Pulpit (1874)
  • Adirondack Tales (1877)
  • How Deacon Tubman and Parson Whitney kept New Year, and other Stories (1887)
  • The Story of The Keg and The Man Who Didn't Know Much (1889)


New York Times, March 4, 1904


Eccentric Clergyman and Writer Passes Away, Aged Sixty-four.

GUILFORD, Conn., March 3.—The Rev. William Henry Harrison Murray, better known as "Adirondack Murray" died at his home here to-day. He was sixty-four years old. _

William H. H. Murray, preacher, author, and lover of good horses, was born in Guilford, Conn., in 1810. He came of a poor family and from an early age supported himself by manual labor. He took a course in Yale, being graduated in 1862, and subsequently became pastor of the First Congregational Church, Meriden, Conn. While holding this pastorate he went one Summer into the Adirondacks and sent to a Connecticut paper accounts of camp life, which were afterward incorporated in a book. This authorship won him the name of "Adirondack Murray."

Mr. Murray married a daughter of Sheldon Hall, a farmer, of Essex, Conn., and in 1868 he became the pastor of the Park Street Church, Boston. Not long- afterward he engaged in the breeding of Morgan horses at his Guilford farm. His congregation was opposed to Mr. Murray's sporting proclivities, and in 1874 he resigned from the pastorate of the Park Street Church.

For three years following, Mr. Murray preached before large audiences in the Music Hall. He started a periodical called The Golden Rule, which proved a failure.

He was next seen running a restaurant in Montreal during the Ice Carnival. He engaged in lecture work the following Winter in Boston, and afterward settled down to farming on the Murray homestead in Guilford.

Mr. Murray was the author of several novels, The Doom of the Memelons being the latest. Besides his "Adirondack Days," the work by which he is best known, he wrote "How Jack Norton, the Trapper, Kept His Christmas."

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 2, 1987

Adirondack Pied Piper


By some strange coincidence several of the best known among the early Adirondack writers just happened to be members of the clergy. Their books, which appeared in the mid 1800's, were widely read and attracted many outsiders to the area. A few of these disciples of forest and stream were the Reverends John Todd, Joel Headley, and William Murray. Todd published "Long Lake" in 1845, Headley came out with "The Adirondack or Life in the Woods" in 1849, but then, in 1869, Murray produced the best seller of all with his "Adventures in the Wilderness or Camp Life in the Adirondacks."

William Henry Harrison Murray came into this world, with very little fanfare, at Guilford, Conn., in 1840 where, as a young boy, he worked on the family farm. He soon made up his mind that there must be much better ways to earn a living and at an early age he set his sights on an advanced education, and was soon enrolled in the Guilford Institute, just four miles from his home. He walked this distance, to and from, each day bare-footed so that he could save every penny toward the cost of a future college entry. While attending the Institute Murray demonstrated a remarkable ability in the field of oratory and was quickly named captain of the debating team.

His eloquent speaking manner soon won recognition beyond the ivy walls of the Institute for although he was not born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, he was, never-the-less, blessed with a silver tongue. He became the chief organizer of the "Clionian Society" which sponsored public debates and his spirited presentations never failed to pack the Town Hall during his stay at Guilford.

Getting on with his education, Murray entered Yale, at New Haven, with meager financial means but a wealth of enthusiasm. Upon leaving Guilford he carried a new pair of boots under his arm, wearing them only as he entered the city. As an Eli student he was a prodigious reader, but by no means was he chained to the classroom. Whenever the opportunity arose, he was off to the woods with rifle or rod in pursuit of those sporting activities which, in later years, would play such an important role in his life.

During his final days at Yale he felt a strong inclination toward the ministry and in 1862, he Centered the East Windsor Theological Seminary where, once more, his charismatic speaking ability won wide admiration. He was made an assistant pastor in New York City and then went to pulpits in Meriden, Greenwich, and Washington.

His greatest opportunity arrived when he was summoned to the then very prestigious Park Street Church in Boston. It was in this pulpit that the young minister's fame reached its zenith. Whenever he preached, there was standing room only and his sermons went out in print to reach all who could not be present. He was soon being lionized by the elite of Boston society as dinners in his honor were given by Emerson, Longfellow, Agassiz, Holmes and Hawthorne.

Murray was the toast of the town! Despite the allure of such-glamorous attention he did not lose his keen interest in the out-of-doors and 1864 found him heading for a vacation in the Adirondacks.

This trip proved to be the turning point in his life. Camp life in the wilderness of northern New York's forests completely mesmerized the clergyman to the extent that its siren's call soon challenged his calling to the cloth. His Adirondack excursions were suddenly becoming more frequent and lengthy. The Park Street Church elders were beginning to suspect that they had an absentee minister.

Then came the book!

In what was meant to be a simple attempt to share his adventures in April of 1869 Murray published a little volume of fact and fiction entitled "Adventures in the Wilderness or Camp Life in the Adirondacks" and the Adirondacks have never been the same. Perhaps no one was more surprised over the explosive success of the book than the author himself. If there had been such a rating at that time, his entry would have topped the best seller's list. Other early writers before him, such as Hoffman, Street, Hammond, and Lossing, had reported on the glory of the Adironacks, but none gained the wild fire reception accorded to Murray.

The factual portion of his book is contained in Chapter I wherein Murray informs his readers on how to get here, what to wear, where to buy the best equipment, which hotels to consider, what it costs, and, finally, how to hire a guide. This latter consideration he claimed to be the most important decision, "For a skillful guide is a joy and consolation." His own choice in this department was "Honest John" Plumbley of Long Lake and Murray describes an appointment with his guide as follows: "having engaged John to meet me a year from a certain date, at 5 p.m., on the Lower Saranac, I have rolled up to Martin's and jumped from the coach as the faithful fellow, equally on time, was in the act of pulling his narrow boat up on the beach."

According to Murray there were two types of guides, the hotel guide and the independent guide and he strongly favored the latter. In his own words, "The independent guides, so called, are, as a whole, a capable and noble class of men. They know their calling thoroughly, and can be relied on."

Murray's favorite jumping off place was at Martin's Hotel on Lower Saranac Lake since he could leave Boston at 8 a.m. on a Monday and arrive there at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday. His favorite campsite was on a small island in Raquette Lake which, for a time, was known as Murray's Island. He advised his readers that midsummer was the best time to come and he personally chose to arrive in early July and stay for two or more months. He assured the distaff side that they, too, could enjoy the Adirondacks without fear of hardship or wild animals.

Murray listed the following items of attire for the ladies: "A pair of buckskin gloves, with chamois-skin buttoned near the elbow, a flannel change throughout, thick balmoral boots with rubbers, and a short walking dress with Turkish drawers (of course!) fastened with a band tightly at the ankle."

Fictionary part of book

In Chapter II Murray turns to the fictional portion of the book, the "Adventures" part of his title. In this department he regales his readers with exciting tales of hectic battles, with giant trout, catching a deer by the tail, and risking the fearsome rapids of Phantom Falls while in pursuit of a ghost canoe. The author winds up this latter tongue-in-cheek episode with the following paragraph: "Just one word, Mr. Murray, before you stop. Did you really see a ghost and is there any such place as Phantom Falls? To which query of yours, gentle reader, pausing only one moment to answer, before I quarter this Christmas orange, I respond, 'Ask John.' " Should anyone be so gullible as to ask John, he would simply reply, "Ask Mr. Murray."

And the hordes camel They arrived in such overwhelming numbers as to cram the resort hotels, throng the waterways, and completely exhaust the ranks of the native guides. The resultant phenomenal migration became widely known as "Murray's Rush," and those participants, each clasping a copy of his book, became known as "Murray's Fools." While his followers were earning such derisive titles, Murray earned for himself the title of Adirondack" Murray, a time-honored sobriquet applied to a very choice few down through the ages.

Wife wants divorce

It soon became apparent that this new acclaim brought more satisfaction to the author than his former fame as a preacher, but his congregation back in Boston did not share in all the acclamation being tendered their pastor. Some were of the mind that they had acquired more of a sportsman than a minister. Murray was spending so much time in the out-of-touch remoteness of the Adirondacks that his wife finally sued for divorce on the grounds of desertion. Murray's attempts to live up to his hard won nickname was apparently causing a wave of disaffection among his religious followers and his career as a minister soon came a cropper.

To add to his problems his reputation was further damaged, inadvertently, by an innocent bit of medical advice contained in Chapter I of his book. Boasting of the curative powers to be found present in the pure mountain air of the Adirondack region, Murray enthusiastically reported on a case involving a consumptive patient. A young man, suffering from tuberculosis, entered the woods in such a weak condition that he had to be carried by his guide. However, after spending an entire summer in camp, sleeping out of doors on balsam boughs, and breathing the clean fresh air, he walked out in the autumn a healthy robust person. This observation, coming as it did some seven years prior to Dr. Trudeau's arrival in Saranac Lake, created quite a sensation. As a result many consumptives joined "Murray's Rush" hoping for a similar miraculous recovery. Obviously some were in such advanced stages of the disease that cure was impossible and the rigors of camp life in the wilderness only hastened their demise. The resultant deaths were blamed on Murray and a public outcry was raised which, when added to the absenteeism, finally cost the author his pulpit.

To Murray this seemed like a good time to take a trip, and travel he did, to various points in the U.S.A., Canada, and Europe. He was well received on the lecture trail and continued to turn out books and magazine articles. None of these later efforts came close to matching the success of his original "Adventures in the Wilderness."

Murray retired to the old family homestead in Guilford where he spent the final dozen years of his life. He died there in 1904 at the age of 64. His biographer, and certainly his greatest admirer, Harry Radford, claimed that Murray was the greatest of all American orators as well as the most competent sportsman of his day. Oddly enough Radford, through his conservation efforts toward the restoration of moose, elk, and beaver in the region, came to share his title and became widely known as "Adirondack Harry."

During his late years, whenever Murray was asked to autograph one of his books, he would invariably pen the inscription: "As years go on and heads get gray, how fast the guests do go."

External links



1. This article appeared originally on Wikipedia under the title William Henry Harrison Murray