Alberta Shelton McMurphy (1871- 1949) ─ An Early Oregonian
Alberta Shelton McMurphey, a daughter of pioneers, was an influential woman in early Eugene. The turreted green Victorian on the edge of Skinner’s Butte belonged to her family and is known as the “Castle on the Hill.” Of her many civic activities, Shelton McMurphey sponsored the city’s beautification movement in 1919. This included planting a rose garden at the train depot. Alberta’s daughter remembers editors chatting in the family’s parlor and dinner parties that seated up to 40 guests. Shelton McMurphey served as president of the school board, as well as the Ladies’ Auxiliary to the Chamber of Commerce.
Born in Monmouth, Oregon to Dr. Thomas Winthrop Shelton and his wife Adah Lucas Shelton, in eccentric Victorian gothic fashion Alberta — their second daughter — was called only “Pet” until the school age of 12. At that point she was allowed to choose her own name, which she did after a favorite Uncle Albert. Her older sister was Alvira.
As a young girl Alberta “rode circuit” on horseback accompanying her father on his medical rounds. Later in 1888 she graduated from the first class of the UO’s school of music. In addition to being a skilled pianist, Alberta served as a photographer’s assistant and exhibited photographs from her own glass negatives.
Future husband Robert McMurphey was a young executive at the Southern Pacific Railway when she met him at age 16. When McMurphey asked Dr.
Shelton for permission to marry Alberta (at age 19) Dr. Shelton wrote a letter explaining he needed more time to think about it.
“Many do not realize what it means for parents to think of surrendering the care and protection of the dearest love and pride of their hearts,” wrote Dr.
Shelton. Following the marriage, Adah moved to Portland in order to give the home over to the newlyweds so they could raise a family. Alberta and Robert had two daughters and four sons. McMurphey went on to found the Eugene Water Company and what is now the Eugene Chamber of Commerce (then called The Commercial Club.)