“Charles Albert Murdock (1841-1928)
Unitarian, Civic Leader and the Earliest Printer of Taste in the Far West
As we discuss the history of Unitarianism in Washington DC, Boston and New York, it would be good to consider as well what was happening for Unitarians on the West Coast.
Charles Murdock (1841-1928) came from Boston to San Francisco in 1854, but lived for the first ten years in Arcata, in the far north of California. He came to live in San Francisco in 1864. He was a member of the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco for 63 years, until his death in 1928. He was superintendent of the Sunday School much of that time. He was a printer by trade, known for the artistic quality of his work.
For over thirty five years as a volunteer, he combined his expertise as a printer with his literary ambitions to edit and write for the Pacific Unitarian, a thirty page monthly newsletter for the Pacific Unitarian Conference. It contained editorials, sermons, lectures, reports of Unitarian meetings, and “notes from the field” from the Unitarian churches in the far west. The newsletter ended shortly after Murdock’s death.
Murdock was close friends with Rev. Horatio Stebbins, his minister, and wrote a book about him, Horatio Stebbins, his Ministry and his Personality. He served his city as a member of the Board of Supervisors, on the Board of Education and as one of those who helped in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake. He served in the California Legislature. In 1905, San Francisco Call described him as a “well known progressive citizen of high character and recognized ability.” Although he was never a part of San Francisco’s rich elite, this working class professional became a widely respected elder of the intellectual community. Among his friends were Bret Harte, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Muir, and William Keith.
In 1921, he wrote an eighty page book about his life and friendships, A Backward Glance at Eighty. He died in January 1928 at the age of 87.”