Biography of Mrs. Louisa M. Wilson

The oldest of the pioneer residents of Merced Falls, Mrs. Louisa M. Wilson is a native of the town, being the fourth and youngest child of the late Charles Murray. He was born in Ireland and was brought to America when a child and was reared in Missouri. In 1849 he came West, driving his own cattle and stock across the plains and arrived in Merced Falls after a long and tiresome journey of seven months. From the proceeds of the sale of his stock, Mr. Murray built a hotel and opened a general store, which he conducted under the name of Murray’s Hotel and Store, and was very successful and built up a large trade with the miners. He also acted as postmaster of Merced Falls. In the early sixties a disastrous fire destroyed his store and hotel and, having no insurance to cover his loss, he quit the business and moved three miles below the Falls and engaged in the stock business, each year adding to his holdings until he had considerable land in Sections 3 and 4. In the latter part of 1865 he concluded the purchase of the balance of Section 4 and built a house into which he moved his family, and this is the home of Mrs. Wilson to this day. She has in her possession old account books kept by her father, including early post-office records, which are very interesting from a historical standpoint. When Charles Murray moved from the ranch into Merced Falls again he purchased the ferry business from “Hookey” Wilson, who had built and was conducting it. Mr. Murray made of the bridge a most elaborate affair, completely housing it in, with a separate passageway for pedestrians, the toll office being on the Merced Falls side of the river. This entire structure was swept away by the flood of 1861-1862. In later years he operated this ferry until his death, at which time James McCoy, the first husband of Mrs. Wilson, carried on the business until about 1900, at which time the county supervisors bought the ferry and soon after replaced it with the present steel bridge.

The Murray children were reared in Merced Falls. Charles Sheridan Murray was accidentally drowned in the Merced River at the age of sixteen, by slipping and falling from the top of the ferry. Sam R. Murray now resides in Madera County, and his son is Judge Murray of the superior court of Madera County. William E. Murray died at the age of twenty-two. The mother died at her home in Merced Falls on October 1, 1873, aged forty-six, and the father passed away at Oakdale on October 22, 1879, aged sixty-seven.

Louisa Murray was educated in the local schools. The sessions at Merced Falls were held in two localities prior to the erection of the present building. The first school was on the Kelsey ranch one mile below the Falls, but when fire destroyed the building a new school house was built on the same road, and is still standing, though vacated about ten years ago. Louisa and her brother attended these schools. The present school is a modern structure, located above the sawmill site of the Yosemite Lumber Company. In May, 1877, Miss Murray was married to James M. McCoy at Merced. He was born in 1851 in Silver City, Iowa, and came to California early in the seventies and conducted the livery stable and ferry business at Merced Falls; he died on July 4, 1906, survived by one son, Grover Cleveland McCoy, who is employed in the plumbing department of the Yosemite Mills, and married Eva De Camp of Fresno; and they have three children. He is a member of the Native Sons, belonging to an Oakland parlor.

On the edge of Merced Falls is the 160-acre ranch belonging to Mrs. Wilson. It is used for stock range, and here she engaged in the stock business with her late husband, James Clinton Wilson, whom she married on December 11, 1910 at Fresno. He was born in Iowa, on September 19, 1857, and was reared in Bates County, Mo. He arrived in Los Angeles, Cal., in October, 1888, and followed prospect mining for sixteen years in Tuolumne and Mariposa Counties. After locating at Merced Falls, in November, 1900, he resided here until his death on November 23, 1924.

Source: Outcalt, John. A history of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; Los Angeles, Calif. : Historic Record Company, 1925.

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