James A. Murray and W.A. Clark likely met in the early days of the Montana Territory, shortly after Murray arrived in 1863. They certainly became acquainted when they both served as delegates to the Democratic Party Convention, from Deer Lodge, in 1872. In 1885, they teamed up to finance a new opera house for Butte, and in 1890, they were working closely again with the Democratic Party in Butte.
After the Rockefellers took over most of the privately owned mines in Butte in 1900, Murray and Clark partnered together on several ventures. Augustus Heinze joined the two in these partnerships. In Idaho, they chose to compete against each other in a race to stake the Belle Marsh Mine, with Murray besting Clark’s men with some questionable tactics.
Shortly after Clark’s engagement to Hugeutte Clark’s mother, Anna La Chappelle, an article appeared in the local paper that claimed Murray turned down the young women’s request for financial assistance, and instead referred her to Clark. Recent biographies of Hugeutte have attempted to discredit the story by implying Murray and Clark had no formal relationship, or worse, were financial and political enemies.
In Empty Mansions, the authors write, “The unofficial version (of the two meeting), printed in anti-Clark newspapers, casts Anna as the forward one. According to this one, Anna called on a banker in Butte, asking him to sponsor her acting career. That man declined but suggested that she contact another banker who might receive her more generously, W.A. Clark.
In the Phantom of Fifth Avenue the authors, write, “the problem with this tantalizing account is that it ignores the classic tenet of journalism: consider the source…James Murray, a gambler turned millionaire mine owner was one of Marcus Daly’s closest friends, and he ran a bank that competed for business with Clark’s bank. Murray was a Republican, and his name was floated as a potential rival to William Andrews Clark for a Montana Senate seat.
Whether the story of Murray’s secret introduction was true or not, both authors failed to represent the close relationship between the two men, prior to, and after the marriage between Anna and Clark. Most telling of all perhaps, is that when Murray died in 1921, he had a loan of over $28,000 extended to Clark’s wayward son Charlie – a loan he apparently made no effort to collect upon. Also missed by the authors, was Murray’s penchant for hijinks. It is very likely that readers of the period did not question the possibility of Murray’s involvement.