Biography of Michael F. Murphy of Grand Forks, North Dakota

Michael F. Murphy, born March 28, 1858, in Dubuque County, Iowa, became a prominent figure in Grand Forks, North Dakota. After a diverse career in bookkeeping and sales, he co-founded Collins & Murphy in 1886, growing it into the state’s largest farm implement and fuel business. Post-1893, he excelled in the insurance industry and was highly active in public affairs, including serving on the Grand Forks city council, school board, and as a state senator. Married to Margaret E. Bowler in 1882, they had eight children, with Margaret notably surviving a tragic 1909 steamship collision.

Michael F Murphy
Michael F Murphy

Michael F. Murphy is recognized as one of the prominent figures in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He was born on March 28, 1858, in Dubuque County, Iowa, to Patrick and Ellen (Manning) Murphy. Michael received a solid education, attending both common and high schools. He furthered his studies at Bayles’ Business College in Dubuque. Following his education, he taught for five terms in district schools in Iowa and Minnesota. In March 1879, he moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where he worked as a bookkeeper for Porrett and Rossiter until August of the following year. He then served as a bookkeeper for L. D. Burger & Company for one and a half years. Afterward, he became a salesman for Peterson and Sargent, a farm machinery and implements dealer, for one year. From 1883 to 1886, he traveled as a salesperson and collector for the Ames Iron Works.

On January 1, 1886, Michael Murphy partnered with Stephen Collins to establish Collins & Murphy, a general farm implement and fuel business in Grand Forks. Through their capable management, the business flourished and became the largest of its kind in the state. In January 1893, Murphy sold his interest in the company to his partner.

Following his departure from the implement and fuel business, Mr. Murphy became the general agent for the Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. He oversaw the loan department and built the largest loan business west of Chicago for the company. Michael Murphy is known for his proactive nature and active involvement in public and civic affairs. He served in the Grand Forks city council, acting as its president in 1889. He was elected to the school board in 1893 and served for twelve consecutive years, including six years as board president. Since 1904, he has been a member of the Grand Forks City Park board and serves as one of the regents of the University of North Dakota. From 1897 to 1901, he was a member of the state senate and has been actively engaged in Democratic party activities, serving as a member of the state central committee and as a delegate to the national convention. He played a role in establishing the North Dakota Bankers’ Association and served as its president in 1904. Currently, he is a member of its executive committee.

Mr. Murphy also holds various positions in banking institutions. He is the president of the State Bank of Reynolds, North Dakota, and the State Bank of International Falls. Additionally, he serves as a director of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Jamestown, the State Banks of Hoople and Concrete, and the North Dakota Railroad Company.

He actively participates in fraternal organizations, being a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Catholic Order of Foresters, and the Knights of Columbus.

On May 2, 1882, Michael Murphy married Miss Margaret E. Bowler, and they have had eight children. Unfortunately, Mrs. Murphy was one of the victims of the tragic collision between the steamships Republic and Florida on January 23, 1909. Despite sustaining serious injuries, she displayed immense fortitude and bravery, earning praise from officers, fellow passengers, and the press in New York and other cities. Among their children, Mary, Louis, and Margaret are alive.


C.F. Cooper & Company, History of the Red River Valley, Past And Present: Including an Account of the Counties, Cities, Towns And Villages of the Valley From the Time of Their First Settlement And Formation, volumes 1-2; Grand Forks: Herald printing company, 1909.

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