History is a funny thing; the adage is that it is written by the winners. I suppose so however the writers of Price history skipped the Fitzgeralds. Good thing is, history can be rewritten. Today we bring you the Fitzgeralds of Price - The ones before T.D. & J.D.
Aunt Cathy is a less beloved character in John's book. However, as her character develops a unique love for her pain grows for readers. John took his inspiration for Aunt Cathy from his Aunt Isabelle. In real life she was Mrs. Thomas Murphy. Meet the exceptional couple whose story inspired the character of Aunt Cathy.
*Thomas & Isabelle Murphy at home in Price, Utah. Thomas and Isabelle are holding reading material. I believe the man in the chair off the porch is likely Thomas Fitzgerald aka Papa.
In 1897, a pharmacist/chemist, Thomas Murphy, and his wife Isabelle* relocated to Price, Utah from Colorado. They had married in their home state of Pennsylvania likely planned to remain there, however Murphy contracted consumption. On advice of the family physician, he moved westward to drier climates.
Initially the Murphy family consisted of three members, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, and their young daughter Florence.
Sadly, Florence died by the age of six in 1895. It is unknown if grief of her loss, or continued ill health on his part, or opportunities in Price were what drew Thomas and Isabelle to the new town. Whichever it was, by 1897 they made Price their new home until 1903. Thomas Murphy, brother-in-law to Thomas Fitzgerald (Papa), became one of the Co.'s in Fitzgerald & Co.
Dozens of Newspaper clippings reference the Murphys hosting game nights and socials in their home. Isabelle owned a milliner shop and her work was widely regarded. In short, they were power couple until 1903.
In 1902, Thomas Fitzgerald was struck with two conflicting issues, his eternal restlessness and wanderlust, and debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. The initial solution for the wanderlust was for Fitzgerald to look at setting up shop in other towns. He wandered to Wyoming and Idaho looking at hotels, restaurants, and saloons. However, the arthritis kicked in. Leaving him stuck for months indoors, both out of town and in Price. By June of 1902, Thomas Murphy became the preeminent owner of Fitzgerald & Co. It was a fantastic opportunity. An opportunity that only lasted one year.
Fatality - Death Takes a Hand
Nearly a year to the date from when Thomas P. Murphy had acquired Fitzgerald & Co., his life was over. He had attended an event in Salt Lake City "in connection to his business" and was struck by illness. He went to open his window in his hotel room and plunged four stories below to his death. So ominous was his passing, that it made the front page of Eastern Utah Advocate newspaper. Mrs. Thomas Murphy (Isabelle) and her sister Miss Josey Fitzgerald of Price took the train to Salt Lake, then onward to Colorado where they buried Mr. Thomas Murphy with his young daughter Florence.
For Isabella Murphy it was the beginning of a long and lonely life.
Most Forgotten Little Sister - Josephine Fitzgerald
There is always one relative or sibling who gets forgotten. I don't know what that is, but it seems inevitable. In the Price Fitzgerald lore, Aunt Josephine was that sibling. When she arrived in Price, or even how she got there is a mystery. She was single, she supported herself as the county recorder in Price. Where she lived while in town is just as mysterious. John only once mentions her in Papa Married a Mormon. She is nearly an enigma. If it wasn't for the local paper, we would never know anything about her.
During the years that the Price newspapers posted society and civic events, Josie Fitzgerald was always listed among party participants or hosts. Her success in the county recording office was scattered among the highlights. Yet, somewhere along the way, Isabelle and Josephine decided to return to Towanda, Pennsylvania and live out the rest of their days. They weren't glorious days, but they did have each other for companionship. And as the west was a rough experience. I presume having each other was enough.
*Isabelle Fitzgerald is written multiple ways on multiple documents. The same face is attributed to Isabel and Isabelle. Likewise she is listed as Isabela, and Isabella..