James A. Murray

Butte's Radical Irish Millionaire

Bill Farley

Foreword by David M. Emmons

"Farley has great affection for his principal subject, which makes for enjoyable, effortless reading....One wonders why Murray has not already been the subject of a HOllywood blockbuster, since so many of his exploits and shenanigans seem ready-made for the digital screen."–Aaron Parrett, Montana the Magazine of Western History

Jim Murray’s rise to great wealth began high in the Rocky Mountains in the small town of Pioneer, Montana. There he hit his first big strike, hired others to work his claims, and earned a reputation as someone who “couldn’t be bluffed, wouldn’t be cheated, and didn’t scare at anything.” He parlayed his mining wealth into banks, theatres, resorts, waterworks, and commercial properties from Seattle to San Diego. In western business circles, it was believed his ready cash was second only to W. A. Clark. Where Murray shared no peers, however, was in his decidedly radical politics. From the Irish Land League protests of the 1880s through the Easter Rising of 1916, he supported the violent overthrow of Britain’s rule in his homeland. Hoping for the Crown’s defeat in World War I, Murray’s extremism reached its peak when future World War II General Omar Bradley was dispatched to Butte, Montana, to stop Murray’s network of Sinn Féiners from impeding the supply of copper to Britain’s war machine.

Told for the first time, this is the unvarnished story of Murray’s rise to great wealth and power, and the flamboyant cast of friends and family who endured his violent mood swings and his eccentric generosities. Farley relates the entirety of Murray’s audacious life: ruling over mining camps in Montana, dining with Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell in New York, showering the Monterey art colony with philanthropy, and propelling a loyal nephew— future US Senator, James E. Murray—to the top of a radical Irish-American organization with 60,000 members. The elder Murray’s story concludes with the bitter fight over his massive estate, involving twenty-six relatives, nine years of court battles, and headline coverage by newspapers throughout the West. This is the tale of a western iconoclast, a pioneering and dominating spirit, more comfortable in saloons than board rooms, who fought for wealth and mother country to his last breath.

248 pages, 6 x 9, paperback
Item 525, ISBN 978-0-87842-682-9
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  • Regular price $14.00