Mary Murphy was born in Egremont; Cumberland on the 17th May 1879 first child to Catherine Murphy, no father is mentioned on the birth certificate. Catherine later married William Murphy and he is named on Mary's marriage certificate to John O'Brien as her father. In 1881 she was living with her Mother, Father (if indeed William Murphy was her natural father) Grandmother, Aunts, and uncles in Croft Terrace, Egremont. In 1891 she is living at 4 Wyndham Lane with her family.

1901 sees her living in Sale, Chester, working at the home of Henry P Bury, cotton manufacturer, as a general servant.

The following information was given to me by Laurie Fowers; Great grand daughter of Mary Murphy:

Here is what I wrote about Mary in 1989. "The woman dear to me, Mary Murphy was born the 17th day of May 1879 (*1) in Egremont, Cumberland, England to William & Catherine (Murphy) Murphy. Her mother Catherine was not married at that time to William. Later Catherine had another illegitimate daughter whom she named Annie. Catherine married William 3 months after Annie was born, and it was always assumed that Mary was William's daughter.

Mary told her children about how she had worked in the mines when she was a young girl, picking up pieces of coal. She didn't like doing it, but it was something most of the miner's children did.

Mary married John O'Brien in St. Mary's Catholic chapel in Egremont, Cumberland, England on the 7th of January 1902 when she was 22 years old. John was the son of Cairns O'Brien and wife unknown. John's grandparents were Michael and Margaret O'Brien nee Rowe.

According to Ellis Island Records, John left Egremont for the USA on the 5th of February 1902. He was listed as being 24 years old, married and a miner by trade. He departed from Liverpool and listed his destination as Sevier County, Utah. (In the online Free BMD index, there are two John O'Brien's listed as being born in Whitehaven District, England, during the quarters of Sep 1877, and Dec 1877.) The date that Mary came to the USA, has not been found in the Ellis Island Records yet.

After Mary immigrated to the USA, she set up housekeeping, while John worked in the mines. She and John had their first son; Cairns O'Brien on the 9 March 1903. John's increasing drinking, and physical abuse of Mary culminated in her leaving the USA and returning to England. When she left, she had no intention at that time of ever returning to the USA. While she was in Egremont living with her parents she had another son, John William Murphy. He was born the 1st of Sep 1904.

Why Mary decided to head back to the USA is unknown. It is also unknown whether or not she had taken her oldest son Cairns back to England with her, maybe John wouldn't let her take him when she left? Perhaps she thought that things would work out with John, or IF she was involved with a man by the name of James Pepper at that time is also unknown (see below). On her way back to the USA, her hand was crippled, so she carried John William (Jack) on the arm of the hand that was crippled during the entire voyage so that no one would find out about her hand when she arrived in the USA. It is possible that Mary feared she would not be allowed to enter the States with a disability especially as she was a domestic servant. (My comments) By the time she returned to Utah however, her husband John O'Brien had died from an appendicitis attack while working in the mines. Mary's daughter Marie stated that Mary met a man by the name of James Pepper on the way back to America, she became intimately involved with him sometime after this, though he promised her a future and love, he left to work in the diamond mines in Africa and never returned. She then had a baby girl who she named Annie Marie on the 17th of July 1908; she was given the surname of O'Brien (although known to my family as MARIE PEPPER).

During the next few years, Mary was alone; she had no money and no one to help her take care of her children. She decided to leave her children at the Catholic Orphanage in Salt Lake City while she found work as a housekeeper. She wanted to make and save enough money so that she could take care of them. She started working for a prominent Salt Lake family (their surname was Cannon). While she worked there, the Cannon family had a friend named Thomas Tidwell who visited them often. He was much older than Mary but he was attracted to her, and very kind to her. He lived in American Fork, Utah which was about 20 - 30 miles away from Salt Lake City, had a farm, and was financially well off. According to Marie, the Cannon family told Mary that she'd really be wise to marry this gentleman so she could live out on the farm with him and her children.

Mary may have become attracted to him Thomas as well though, (even though their age difference was quite a bit different-he was 83, she was 30), and Mary once stated that he didn't look or seem as old as he was. (One of Thomas' neighbours stated that Thomas could run up to the back of his horse, jump up and put his hands on it's rump, then hop on it bareback when he was 83!)

Mary married Thomas on the 4th of January 1909, then was baptised in the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" on the 8 Nov 1909 in American Fork, Utah. All 3 of her children moved to American Fork to live with her and Thomas. On the 22nd of September 1910, Thomas and Mary had a beautiful daughter whom they named Martha Elmira Tidwell. She was their only child. After being married only 3-1/2 years, Thomas became ill with a rash after working outside with his honeybees. He steadily became sicker and died 3 weeks later on the 17th of June 1912.

Mary was alone again with 4 children now to raise. She was now financially stable, but must have been lonely. Thomas had 4 wives before he married Mary. He had many children from 3 of his previous wives. One of them, David Absolom Tidwell was 13 years older than her. She married him almost 1-1/2 years after Thomas died, on the 19 October 1913, on the 28th of November 1917, they had a son together whom they named; Thomas Leslie Tidwell.

Mary's son Cairns stated to Laurie Dykes Fowers that he "liked the old man Thomas", but that David was NOT a good person. Marie also told her that David would beat the Cairns, John and her, and was a very mean man. She said that once David hit her with a razor strap because she had been cleaning the kitchen floor with a rag and David asked her to get his pipe. She told him just a minute, because she was wringing out the rag. When David hit her with the strap, she screamed and her brother Carrie came in and beat up David. He then told him "Don't you ever touch her again" and David never did hit her again. She and her brothers worked in the fields planting wheat, she said that they had a beautiful crop one year; David took credit for it when the church members came to visit. David was always very nice and sweet when the ward members would come.

When Marie and Martha were little girls, they would look through all of the gorgeous blouses Mary used to have in a trunk. She didn't ever wear them. Mary was a very pleasant woman, but could be outspoken. Mary was mostly quiet though, and didn't ever talk much about her life, or when she was young. Marie did remember that she LOVED getting letters from England, and was very happy when she did. The letters that were edged in black were dreaded though, and Marie remembers how sad her mother was when she learned of her mother's death.

Mary lived in American Fork with her husband and 5 children for 11 more years after the birth of her last son Thomas "Tommy". She died the 9th of May 1928. She was a hard working little Irish woman who never gave up even though she had lived a tough life most of her life.

Most of the personal information about Mary and her children, was given to me by Mary's daughter Marie "Pepper" O'Brien Anderson Hibbard

Laurie Fowers 2003

Patricia Clews updated 11.03. 2006.