HENRY C. MURFIN, JR., MIDN, USN
Henry Murfin, Jr. '07
Date of birth: January 1, 1885
Date of death: June 11, 1907
From the 1907 Lucky Bag:
Henry was lost when the steam-powered launch he was aboard was run down and sunk on June 11, 1907, in Hampton Roads. He was a passenger returning to the battleship Connecticut, which he was stationed aboard, from the Jamestown Exposition.
Henry’s brothers H. Cloy and Dr. James G. Murfin lived in Philadelphia.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 21, 1907, via researcher Kathy Franz:
Cloy Murfin went at once to Norfolk where the search for the bodies was being conducted. For a week he remained there, but could get no trace of the young midshipman’s body. Finally, he sent a telegram to the doctor in this city saying briefly: “No trace of Henry’s body.” He decided to return home.
On board the New York steamship, by which Murfin started to make the return journey from Norfolk to Cape Charles to take the train for Philadelphia, all the passengers knew of Cloy Murfin’s grief. He sat out on the front deck, his head bowed in his hands, his hair ruffled and his tie awry. He did not seem to care what the passengers thought; he was alone with his grief.
Thinking to comfort the young man, the captain went to him and talked for a while. “They all have to go sometime,” he said, roughly, but kindly, shaking the young man’s shoulder. “Who knows, the lad may be better off.”
“He was the best youngster that ever lived,” said Cloy. “He was dying to go to Annapolis and when he graduated he would write home telling us of the future that was before him. Now he’s gone.”
Murfin turned away from the Captain and looked out over the Chesapeake. They were about a mile out from Old Point Comfort. Murfin noticed a launch steaming past and something white on the deck caught his eye. It was a piece of canvas, thrown over some object.
“That,” said the Captain, to divert the young man’s attention, “is one of the launches that have been prowling around Hampton Roads for the last five days.”
“That’s where they are searching for the bodies,” said Murfin.
A gust of wind at that moment sent the canvas on the little launch flapping upward, revealing a blue coat, with gold edging on the sleeve.
Murfin caught hold of the Captain’s arm. “Look at that,” he shouted, straining forward. “It’s a midshipman’s uniform. The arm is lying limp. It’s Harry. Quick, catch the launch.”
The Captain assured the young man that it could not be his brother. “All that I can see,” he said, “is a strip of blue cloth. It is probably one of the officer’s coats.”
“Oh, don’t talk about it. I know that it is Harry!” cried Murfin, shaking the arm of the Captain and urging him to turn the New York towards Old Point.
A score or more of the passengers, coming from the gayety of the Jamestown Exposition, gathered around the young man and the captain, quietly sympathetic. “Let him have his way,” they urged.
The captain gave the order, and the boat was turned in towards the point. It arrived some time before the little launch made a landing. As the New York runs upon a schedule time, it started away at once, leaving Murfin standing upon the pier, waiting for the launch to make fast. Passengers crowded the deck of the Norfolk boat, pitying the sad figure of the young man waiting patiently upon the pier for the dead body of his brother.
No sooner had the boat docked than Murfin scrambled to the deck. He rushed to the spot where he saw the flapping canvas. He turned it down and saw the blue uniform, and the discolored face of the young midshipman. He fell upon his knees and buried his face in the canvas. The men on the launch guessed at the situation and allowed him to remain there a moment before leading him away.
Henry’s was the last of the bodies of the missing men to be found. It was the excursion steamer Ossining that found him. After being put in a metallic casket, it was taken to the Norfolk Naval Hospital. His brother, Navy Lieutenant Orin Gould Murfin (Class of 1897) claimed the body, and his family arrived to take the remains back to Portsmouth, Ohio, for burial.