Friday, January 17, 2020

Notable Women of Pennsylvania Archaeology – Louise Welles Murray (1854-1931)

Continuing with the theme of notable women of Pennsylvania Archaeology, we now turn our attention to Louise Welles Murray. A native of Athens, PA in Bradford county, Mrs. Murray was by all accounts, an exceptional individual. At age 3 1/2, she entered school and at 18 graduated from Wells College in Aurora, NY while also attending the Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem, PA and Mr. Brown’s school in Auburn, NY. She is credited with bringing attention to the archaeological resources of Bradford County and the town of Athens, which sits at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers near the New York state line in northeastern Pennsylvania. She is also credited with founding the Tioga Point Museum of which she served as the director until her death in 1931.

Mrs. Murray was described as an “ardent lover of accuracy” giving her time freely so that others might share in her knowledge of the area’s early inhabitants. She was an authority on Pennsylvania history.

Louise Welles Murray (1854-1831)

Louise Welles Murray’s interest in historical research appears to have been seeded by the fulfillment of a request made by her mother that she should publish material relating to some French Refugees and their Azilum. Louise’s grandfather was Bartholomew Laporte, a French Émigré and one of the 1794 founders of French Asylum. After 14 years of research, her volume, “The Story of Some French Refugees and their Azilum” was published in 1903. A second edition was published in 1917 with additional information gathered by Mrs. Murray.

In 1882, when Native American burials were discovered in the garden plot of her home in Athens, it attracted the attention of both Louise and her husband Millard P. Murray.   For Mrs. Murray, this was the beginning of a 50-year interest in the native inhabitants of Pennsylvania. The site would come to be known as the Murray Garden site (36Br2). This site, significant for its evidence of early Susquehannock pottery, is believed to have been occupied about 1525.

A selection of early Susquehannock pottery recovered from the Murray Garden site.

Members of the Susquehanna Archaeological Expedition were invited by the Murrays to excavate their garden site in 1919. The results of which she published in two parts in the journal American Anthropologist (1921) under the title “Aboriginal Sites in and Near ‘Teaoga,’ Now Athens, Pennsylvania”.

In 1931, shortly before Louise Welles Murray’s death, she heard Donald Cadzow speak about his excavations at Safe Harbor. Cadzow encouraged her to apply for a grant to carry out excavations in the area, which she obtained with the goal of having Cadzow direct archaeological excavations in Athens. At the time of Louise Welles Murray’s death, she had recently been elected second vice president for the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology.

The Spalding Memorial Library Building which houses the Tioga Point Museum, founded by Louise Welles Murray

Throughout her professional life, Louise Welles Murray exhibited a thirst for knowledge and a desire to share that knowledge with those around her. She strongly advocated for record keeping during archaeological excavations and looked down upon the actions of those who dug sites with no care for recording artifacts or the locations from which they were found.
We hope you have enjoyed this edition of Notable Women in Pennsylvania Archaeology. It is an honor to celebrate the contributions of these pioneers in the field — Frances Dorrance, Mary Butler, Verna Cowin, Catherine McCann and Louise Welles Murray. We hope our readers recognize the significant contributions these women have made in preserving the past. We hope that you’ll be inspired to read some of their publications and learn more about our archaeological heritage in Pennsylvania.

A list of online books by Louise Welles Murray can be found through the library at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Evening Times [Sayre, Pennsylvania]
1931            Obituary for Louise Welles Murray. April 23:3. Sayre, Pennsylvania.

Kent, Barry
1984            Susquehanna’s Indians. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Harrisburg.

Murray, Louise Welles
1921            Aboriginal Sites in and Near “Teaoga,” Now Athens Part I, Pennsylvania. American Anthropologist, 23(2):183-214
1921            Aboriginal Sites in and Near “Teaoga,” Now Athens Part II, Pennsylvania. American Anthropologist, 23(3):268-297

Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology
1931            Louise Welles Murray. Bulletin of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology 2(2):1-3

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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