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Churches - St. Luke's Episcopal Church

Cedar of Lebanon in the Yard of the Residence of Rev. F. J. Murdoch, Transplanted from Palestine 50 years ago, Salisbury N. C.

In 1846, Francis Johnstone. Murdoch was born in Asheville, North Carolina to Irish parents.  He attended the Citadel and then served six months for the Confederacy.  He adhered to the Anglican devotion to ritual, and in 1868, he was ordained into the Episcopal Church.  At that time, the Church was placing a greater emphasis on evangelism in the western part of North Carolina.  He traveled extensively, and his youthful energy was the catalyst for the formation of congregations throughout that area.  He became the rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury in 1872, and during the first year, the number of communicants increased to over 100 while the Sunday School attendance flourished as well.  In 1884, he married Eliza Marsh. 

Dr. Murdoch became involved in community affairs.  He saw the employment crisis of the time, and he helped to bring textile jobs to the area as well as agreeing to serve on the Board of Directors of several cotton mills.  He was instrumental in bringing electric power to the Salisbury area.  He was sensitive to the needs of Negro church members.  He became co-editor of The Register, a quarterly paper that reported church news, events, and deaths as well as editorials. 

In 1887, Dr. Murdoch helped to form the Rowan County Church Conference, and this organization later expanded into Cabarrus County.  This group was responsible for the upkeep of church property as well as overseeing the financial and other records of the local churches.

During the next two years, Dr. Murdoch and two other local ministers helped to organize eleven churches in the area.  He also saw the need for a parochial school to educate young men and encourage them to enter the ministry.  In September of 1891, the new school began in the yard of St. Paul’s Church on South Main Street.  Although he helped to teach there, the school was plagued by debt and poor attendance.  Finally, in 1899, the school closed due to the improvements of public schools in the area.  Still concerned with education, Dr. Murdoch sponsored St. Stephen’s Order in 1901 to train young boys to be clergy and lay leaders.  There were seven degrees to attain based on age and knowledge of the Church Catechism.

Seeing a need for service from the women in the church, Dr. Murdoch formed the study/service group “Daughters of the King” in 1892, and his wife was president of the organization.  The group was formed to pray, encourage other young women to participate, and to sew for the children of Thompson’s orphanage.

Dr. Murdoch supported an extensive renovation of St. Luke’s, but he died in 1909 before the work was completed.  For his years of service and dedication, the new altar of the church was installed as a memorial to him.   His residence was on West Horah Street.

Raphael Tuck & Sons Postcard Series No. 065 Printed in Germany.


Powell, William S. St. Lukes Episcopal Church 1753-1953Salisbury: St. Lukes Episcopal Church, 1953

Hood, Davyd Foard The Architecture of Rowan County North Carolina: A Catalogue and History of Surviving 18th, 19th, and 20th Structures  Salisbury: Historic Salisbury Foundation, 2000

Salisbury City Directories.

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