Jim Murray’s rise to great wealth began high in the Rocky Mountains in the small town of Pioneer, Montana. There he hit his first big strike, hired others to work his claims, and earned a reputation as someone who “couldn’t be bluffed, wouldn’t be cheated, and didn’t scare at anything.” He parlayed his mining wealth into banks, theaters, resorts, waterworks and commercial properties from Seattle to San Diego. In western business circles, it was believed his ready cash was second only to W.A. Clark. Where Murray shared no peers, however, was in his decidedly radical politics. From the Irish Land League protests of the 1880’s through the Easter Rising of 1916, he supported the violent overthrow of Britain’s rule in his homeland. Hoping for the Crown’s defeat in World War I, Murray’s extremism reached its peak when future World War II General Omar Bradley was dispatched to Butte, Montana to stop Murray’s network of “Sinn Féiners” from impeding the supply of copper to Britain’s war machine.
Told for the first time, this is the unvarnished story of Murray’s rise to great wealth and power, and the flamboyant cast of friends and family that endured his violent mood swings and his eccentric generosities. Farley relates the entirety of Murray’s audacious life: ruling over mining camps in Montana, dining with Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell in New York, showering the Monterey art colony with patronage, and propelling a loyal nephew to the top of a radical Irish-American organization with 60,000 members. His story concludes with the bitter fight over his massive estate, involving twenty-six relatives, nine years of court battles, and headline coverage by newspapers throughout the West. This is the tale of a western iconoclast, a pioneering and dominating spirit, more comfortable in saloons than board rooms, who fought for wealth and mother country to his last breath.
What others are saying…
“Jim Murray deserved a biography. I think he would have loved this one. It’s honest and it’s thorough, just as—in his own strange way—Jim Murray was. I’ve been at this business for more than fifty years. I have never met a more enterprising and a more tireless researcher than Bill Farley. This is historical detective work of the first order… And it tells a fascinating story about Butte and about the characters who made it: Jim Murray and his friends, Fat Jack Jones, John Maguire, and hundreds more.”
David M. Emmons, author of The Butte Irish (excerpt from foreword)
“From scratching for a living in the California gold rush to multi-millionaire status. This is the remarkable story—deftly handled—of a sometimes inspiring but often roguish Irishman who managed not to forget who, and what, he came from. By introducing us to James Murray, his puckish, resourceful and courageous ancestor, Bill Farley has faithfully and skillfully added to the canon of Irish contributions to the history of the American West.”
Myles Dungan, author of How the Irish Won the West
“Farley has great affection for his principal subject, which makes for enjoyable, effortless reading….One wonders why Murray has not already been the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster.”
Aaron Parrett, Montana the Magazine of Western History
“Author Bill Farley offers a fascinating look at James A. Murray, a largely unheralded early Montana magnate, who had a reputation even as a child as “both troublemaker and saint…Farley fleshes out the Irishman through years of research and skillful writing, making every effort to give an accurate sense of this iconoclastic buccaneer and accomplished capitalist.”
CK Willis, Lively Times