Brevet Brig. General Eli Houston Murray (USA), Territorial Governor of Utah

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Brevet Brig. General Eli Houston Murray (USA), Territorial Governor of Utah's Geni Profile

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Eli Houston Murray

Birthdate: (53)
Death: November 18, 1896 (53)
Immediate Family:

Son of David Rodman Murray and Anna Marie Murray

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About Brevet Brig. General Eli Houston Murray (USA), Territorial Governor of Utah

Eli Houston Murray (February 10, 1843 – November 18, 1896) was Governor of Utah Territory between 1880 and 1886.

He had been brevetted to the rank of brigadier general in the American Civil War, and was appointed Governor in 1880.

The newly-appointed anti-Mormon territorial governor openly supported the Liberal Party of Utah. Thus, the 1880 territory-wide election for a congressional delegate unexpectedly proved the closest that the Liberal Party got to sending a representative to Washington D.C.

The Liberal candidate, Allen G. Campbell — with 1357 votes — lost resoundingly to Mormon General Authority George Q. Cannon who had 18,567 votes. However, before Governor Murray certified the election, a protest on behalf of Campbell was filed. The protest listed a dozen claims, chiefly that Cannon, born in Liverpool, England, was an un-naturalized alien. The protest also claimed that Cannon's practice of polygamy was incompatible with the law and a delegate's oath of office. Murray agreed and issued certification to Campbell in spite of his poor showing.

George Q. Cannon, in Washington at the time, argued that only Congress could decide on a member's qualifications. He furthermore received a certificate from sympathetic territorial election officials which stated he had received the most votes. This document convinced the House of Representatives clerk to enter Cannon's name on the roll, so Cannon began drawing delegate's salary.

Both Murray and Campbell traveled to Washington to dispute the seat. Each side battled over the position for over a year, even through the assassination and eventual death of President James Garfield. On February 25, 1882, the House of Representatives finally rejected both candidates. The House refused Cannon his seat not for his dubious citizenship, but for his practice of polygamy. The entire ordeal actually brought unfavorable national attention to Utah regarding the "Mormon Situation" (polygamy).


A native of Cloverport, Kentucky, born in 1843, Murray attained the rank of brigadier general during the Civil War and also completed a law degree at the University of Louisville. He married Evelyn Neal and was a U.S. marshal and newspaper editor before Rutherford B. Hayes named him governor in 1880. Murray certified the election of Allen G. Campbell (who never served) as delegate to Congress, although George Q. Cannon, an LDS Church leader and a polygamist, received more than ten times as many votes. Murray's attacks on the Mormons influenced national policy. Following the Cannon incident, twenty-three bills dealing with polygamy were introduced in Congress. Chester A. Arthur reappointed Murray, but Grover Cleveland dismissed him in 1886. Murray worked as a journalist in San Diego before returning to Kentucky. He died in Bowling Green in 1896. The city of Murray in Salt Lake County is named for him.

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Brevet Brig. General Eli Houston Murray (USA), Territorial Governor of Utah's Timeline

February 10, 1843
November 18, 1896
Age 53