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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Murphy Grave

Murphy Grave

 Marking the corner of this early Red Cloud Cemetery is this collection of graves belonging to the Murphy family. This land was part of the Miner Ranch and was given by J. L. Miner, prototype for Christian Harling in My Ántonia, to be the Catholic Cemetery. Around 1904, most of the graves were moved to the Red Cloud Cemetery with the consent of descendents; the Murphy graves remain. James Murphy was the prototype for My Ántonia's Larry Donovan. He died of tuberculosis in 1901. On his tombstone is the inscription, "Gone but not forgotten."

“Larry Donovan was a passenger conductor, one of those train-crew aristocrats who are always afraid that someone may ask them to put up a car-window, and who, if requested to perform such a menial service, silently point to the button that calls the porter. Larry wore this air of official aloofness even on the street, where there were no car-windows to compromise his dignity. At the end of his run he stepped indifferently from the train along with the passengers, his street hat on his head and his conductor's cap in an alligator-skin bag, went directly into the station and changed his clothes. It was a matter of the utmost importance to him never to be seen in his blue trousers away from his train. He was usually cold and distant with men, but with all women he had a silent, grave familiarity, a special handshake, accompanied by a significant, deliberate look. He took women, married or single, into his confidence; walked them up and down in the moonlight, telling them what a mistake he had made by not entering the office branch of the service, and how much better fitted he was to fill the post of General Passenger Agent in Denver than the rough-shod man who then bore that title. His unappreciated worth was the tender secret Larry shared with his sweethearts, and he was always able to make some foolish heart ache over it.”— My Antonia