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MURRELL, JESSE CRAFT

Jesse Craft Murrell
State legislator Jesse Craft Murrell (1856–1927) served seven terms in the Texas House of Representatives. Courtesy Legislative Reference Library of Texas and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

MURRELL, JESSE CRAFT (1856–1927). Jesse Craft Murrell, state legislator and farmer, was born on May 12, 1856, in Ray County, Missouri. Murrell was the eleventh of twelve children born to William Alexander Murrell, a slaveholder from Kentucky, and Nancy Ann Lee (Nunnally) Murrell from Virginia. In 1857 the Murrell family relocated from Missouri to Bonham, Texas, and then moved again in 1860 to Cooke County, Texas. Murrell attended school in Cooke County and remained there for the rest of his life; he eventually settled in Gainesville. The Murrells were prosperous, and when Jesse’s father died in 1867, Jesse inherited about 300 acres of land. He maintained his wealth through the pursuit of various occupations, including cattle driver, rancher, cotton planter, and landlord. 

In 1888 the Democratic party nominated Murrell to represent District 31, comprising Cooke and Grayson counties, in the Texas House of Representatives. Murrell ran virtually unopposed and was elected as a state representative in the Twenty-first Texas Legislature (1889–91), the first of seven nonconsecutive terms. He was reelected in 1890 to serve District 30, representing Cooke County, in the Twenty-second Legislature (1891–93). During this term, he served as the chair of the Stock and Stock Raising Committee. He was elected in 1892 to represent District 9 in the Twenty-third Legislature (1893–95) and served as the chair of the State Affairs Committee. Murrell chose not to seek reelection in 1894, possibly to focus on his family. Murrell was again elected in 1900 to represent the District 9 in the Texas House during the Twenty-seventh Legislature (1901–03). He was reelected in 1902 to serve in the Twenty-eight Legislature (1903–05). Murrell served his final two terms in the Texas House in 1917 and 1919 and represented District 48 in the Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth legislatures. In the Thirty-fifth Legislature (1917–19), he was a member of the committee tasked with preparing the articles of impeachment against Governor James E. Ferguson. Murrell served as the chair of the Banks and Banking Committee during the Thirty-sixth Legislature (1919–21). Throughout his terms as a state representative, Murrell served on numerous committees, most often the committees of State Affairs and Stock and Stock Raising. 

Murrell married Ada J. Moss on July 20, 1893, in Cooke County. The couple had two children, but one died in infancy. Ada gave birth to their one surviving child, William Alexander Murrell, on September 6, 1902. Tragedy struck the Murrell family on April 12, 1894, when Jesse’s brother, Tom Murrell, along with his brother’s wife and son were murdered by John Crews.  Crews subsequently was the last person hanged in Denton County. 

 Murrell remained an active member and participant in the society and politics of Cooke County even when not serving in the state legislature. The Texas Commissioner of Agriculture appointed Murrell as the Texas delegate to the American Cotton Growers’ Association meeting in 1896. He was an active local Democrat and selected to serve on the Executive Committee for the Texas Democratic party in 1908. He often campaigned for various political causes and candidates and participated in local political clubs, such as a local Bryan Club to support William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 presidential campaign. He campaigned for William Poindexter in the gubernatorial election of 1910 and was a supporter of prohibition. Additionally, Murrell was a Royal Arch Mason and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Jesse Murrell died in Dorchester, Texas, in Grayson County, while visiting the family of his sister-in-law, on November 12, 1927.  He was buried in Gainesville at Fairview Cemetery alongside his wife who had preceded him in death. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Morning News, November 13, 1927. Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Jesse Murrell (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=2604&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=murrell~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed March 6, 2016.

Sarah E. Robinson

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Handbook of Texas Online, Sarah E. Robinson, "Murrell, Jesse Craft ," accessed December 14, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmurr.

Uploaded on June 22, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.