The Murray Family History – From Scotland to Nyasaland via South Africa

Here is a fascinating bit of the Murray family history.  It’s part of the book, William Murray of Nyasaland which I am currently working on.  Enjoy:

andrew-murray-africa-for-christ--pal-box The first missionary of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa to go to Nyasaland was the Rev. A. C. Murray, a son of the Dutch Reformed parsonage of Graaff Reinet.

The Murray family of which he was a member, played a very important part in the church and the religions life of the Dutch people in South Africa.  About thirty to sixty years ago, quite a large number of our ministers and missionaries either belonged to the Murray family or were connected with it by marriage.  The first Murray to come to South Africa was Andrew Murray, a minister of the Church of Scotland, who had wanted to become a missionary.  His mother had, however, strongly objected as she was afraid that if he became a missionary, he would be devoured by cannibals!  He had therefore not gone to the mission field, but in 1821 he accepted an invitation go go to the Cape of Good Hope.  Dr. Thom, the Dutch Reformed Church minister at Caledon, was on a visit to England and Lord Charles Somerset, at that time Governor at the Cape, had charged him to try and find ministers for the vacant congregations at the Cape to obtain teachers as well.  One of the first ministers whom Dr. Thom found was Andrew Murray, who felt that the need at the Cape was so great that he dared not refuse the invitation.  At the same time, he also saw in his going to South Africa an opportunity to do something with regard to mission work amongst the natives and thus to fulfill a long-felt urge.

After his arrival at the Cape, a notice appeared in the Government Gazette to the effect that he had been appointed to the congregation at Graaff Reinet.  He was to live and labour there for the next 45 years.

In 1824, two years after his arrival at Graaff Reinet, he undertook a journey to Cape Town to attend the sitting of the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church.  There he met the young lady who was to become his wife, Maria Susanna Stegmann, the eldest child of Johan Gotlob Stegmann and Jacomina Sophia Hoppe, both of German descent.

When Mr. Murray arrived in South Africa, he could speak Dutch fairly well as he had spent ten months in Holland, before coming out, to learn the language, and he very soon identified himself with his adopted country.

In course of time eleven children were born to the couple in the Graaff Reinet parsonage.  The eldest son John, born in 1826, was later to become one of the professors at the Theological Seminary at Stellenbosch.  The second born son in 1828, became the famous church-father and prolific writer on spiritual subjects whose books are known throughout the world to-day, – Andrew Murray of Wellington.  The third son William, born in 1829, later minister at Worcester, was the father of the subject of this book.  The fifth child was Charles, who was to become his father’s successor at Graaff Reinet and Andrew Charles Murray who became the first Dutch Reformed Church missionary to Nyasaland, was his son.  The youngest son of the parsonage, George, also became a minister so that out of the six sons born to Andrew Murray and Maria Stegmann, five became ministers of the Gospel whilst four daughters married ministers.

Andrew Charles Murray – he was always known as “A.C.” to distinguish him from his father and his uncle – had felt himself called to the mission-field when he was a student at the Theological Seminary at Stellenbosch, where he became the first secretary of the Student’s Missionary Society.  In that capacity he had written to Dr. Stewart of Lovedale to ask advice with regard to a new field of work, where the gospel was unknown, and Dr. Stewart had replied that Nyasaland was such a field and that missionaries of our church would be heartily welcome there by the Scottish missionaries.

 Look out for the book, William Murray of Nyasaland which will be coming out in the next few months – and please remember to pray for this work.  Thank you very much!