Our History

A Historical Timeline of Dan Murphy and the Origins of the Dan Murphy Foundation

A legacy of dedication to Southern California, vibrant Catholic education, and faith formation throughout the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

September 21, 1855

Dan Murphy

Dan Murphy Born

Dan Murphy was born in the coal-mining town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of Thomas Murphy, a local miner, and Ann Rafter Murphy. He grew up on a farm and received the equivalent of an eighth-grade education.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”


Tolono, Il

Go West

The Murphy family fled west after the Battle of Gettysburg to the town of Tolono, Illinois — known for its farming and the crossroads of 2 major railroad lines.
Photo courtesy of Rob Murphy and the Tolono Historical Society and Veterans Museum, copy and reuse restrictions apply.


Move to Hanover, Kansas

Homestead ads offered 160 acre parcels on the Midwest plains, which lured the Murphy family. They filed their claim on May 20, 1870 at the Hanover post office for a picturesque spot on a bend in the Little Blue river. The Murphy family of seven children were routinely sighted on Sundays attending mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
Photo courtesy of kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society, copy and reuse restrictions apply.


St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad engine

Dan Moves Out

At 15 years of age, Dan lands a job at the home office of St. Joseph & Denver City railroad in St. Joseph, Missouri — one hundred miles east of Hanover.


Los Angeles plaza, c. 1905

Arrival in Los Angeles

Dan Murphy stepped off a train in Los Angeles, a pueblo of 10,000 residents.


Frank Monaghan

Train Brakeman

Dan Murphy served as a brakeman, a dangerous job, on the Southern Pacific’s Yuma line, a 16 hour nightly run across the Sonoran Desert to Yuma, Arizona, from L.A. Frank Monaghan (pictured) is the conductor, and Frank & Dan become fast friends for 38 unbroken years.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”


Boat being launched on Colorado River in Needles, CA.

Needles, California

Charles Crocker, one of the “Big Four” leaders of the Southern Pacific, makes Monaghan and Murphy a lucrative offer to run a commissary rail car for the 4,000+ mostly Chinese workers that would build a line from Mojave to a new division point in the townsite of The Needles. The commissary car would supply sweets, tobacco, replacement clothing, and other premium items to the workers on ‘the front’. The hook was that if they were successful, Crocker would put Murphy in charge of developing the new town for the railroad men working there.


Monaghan & Murphy General Merchandise Store

Commerce and Law

The partners establish the Monaghan & Murphy General Merchandise and Mining Supplies store in Needles with goods leftover from their commissary car, which grows to fame supplying the mining industry in the surrounding area. This had been their desire all along, wanting to emulate the success of the “Big Four” leaders of the SP. Frank Monaghan becomes the justice of the peace and Dan Murphy the constable of the fledgling town.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”


Gold mines in Oatman, Arizona


Dan Murphy hits a major gold strike at his Josephine Mine located north of Kingman, Arizona territory.


Chicago World's Fair, 1893.

Chicago World’s Fair

Dan Murphy is one of 26 million visitors to the World’s fair where he was educated on the thermochemistry process to refine limestone into cement, and was introduced to the engineering (compressors & ammonia gas) needed to produce “artificial ice.” He purchases the mammoth ice-making equipment, along with a pair of massive water pumps, and loads it on rail cars for transport back to Needles.


Ice Plant in the Desert

Eight years later, The Los Angeles Herald would run a story, “Metropolis in the Desert”, to describe Dan Murphy’s steam turbine-driven electric-powered ice plant in Needles, with a capacity to produce 30 tons of ice a day. The ice was dropped into rail cars to preserve citrus and fresh produce coming out of California to the heartland of America. The Murphy Water, Ice and Light Company also pumped a million gallons of water daily to supply Needles.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”

December 17, 1899

Brea Cañon Oil Company headquarters

The Great Oil Strike

The headline in the Los Angeles Herald was “Great Oil Strike” to describe how Dan Murphy’s Brea Cañon Oil Company, one of the first oil fields in Orange County, struck the greatest oil gusher in the history of the L.A. basin.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”

February 25, 1900

Antoinette (Nettie) and Dan Murphy

Wedding Bells

Antoinette (Nettie) Sinnott and Dan Murphy were married in a quiet ceremony in St. Joseph’s Church in San Jose, CA.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”

January 1906

California Portland Cement Company, Colton, CA.

Concrete Business

Dan Murphy had passed the Slover Mountain (Colton, CA) location, a huge source of limestone, numerous times weekly while working the Yuma railroad line and had learned how quality cement was made by the Germans at the Chicago World’s Fair. As a board member (and Vice President) of First National Bank, he has heard how concerned the business community is of losing control of the “largest cement factory this side of the Mississippi”. So in 1906, Dan purchases a controlling interest in the California Portland Cement Company in Colton, CA, an operation that supplied concrete for the significant infrastructure build-out of Southern California. Shortly thereafter he buys out the major stockholders to become sole owner. This would become one of the true sources of Dan’s longterm fortune and legacy. After Dan’s death in 1939, his daughter Bernardine would become President of the Board. Future Dan Murphy Foundation board members, Richard Grant Sr., and Richard Grant Jr., served in senior leadership roles.

August 1907


Dan and Nettie Murphy adopt Bernardine (3 yrs of age).
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”

April 1909

His Holiness Pope Pius X

To Rome

Dan and Nettie Murphy, accompanied by Reverend Thomas J. Conaty, Bishop of Los Angeles, sailed to Italy and held a private audience at the Vatican with His Holiness Pope Pius X.


Standard Oil Refinery at El Segundo

Standard Oil, of which Dan Murphy’s Brea Cañon Oil Company was  a major supplier, sees the need to build a new refinery in the Southern California area (its their second refinery, inspiring the name ‘El Segundo’) in order to refine oil into gasoline and kerosene for the SoCal market. Dan purchases land around the proposed refinery before news gets out and eventually becomes the largest shareholder in Standard Oil of California.
Photo courtesy of University of Southern California Libraries and California Historical Society.


Aiding the War Effort

During World War I, Dan Murphy helped launch the Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, becoming the company vice president, which built freighters for the merchant marine fleet. The freighters were later converted into a fleet of passenger ships for the Los Angeles Steamship Company in which Dan was an original investor.
Photo courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Photo Collection / Los Angeles Public Library


Dan Murphy Forms a Holding Company

The articles of incorporation are filed to establish the Dan Murphy Company. All of Dan Murphy’s various company holdings in real estate, oil, cement, cold storage, banking, etc., were transferred into the Dan Murphy Co by 1938. Bernardine Murphy was named to replace Dan as chairman in the event of his death.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”


Boulder Dam, c. 1935

Boulder Dam

The dam, which later is renamed Hoover Dam, is completed at the site Dan Murphy identified in 1883 to build a flood control dam to protect the Mojave Indian farmlands and the rail infrastructure around Needles, CA. His vision was realized 50+ years later and concrete from the California Portland Cement Company was used to make it happen.

September 14, 1939

Dan Murphy obituary clippings

Dan Murphy Dies

He passed away at home from a sudden heart attack, one week from his 81st birthday. Archbishop John J. Cantwell officiated at the Solemn High Requiem Mass held at the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana.

Early 1940’s

Murphy residence on West Adams Blvd.

West Adams Boulevard Makeover

With her parents deceased and the once highly coveted West Adams Blvd location falling out of favor, Bernardine proceeds to purchase the various estates for sale and donates the structures to the Brothers of Saint John of God, who convert the houses into retirement facilities and nursing homes.

January 16, 1954

Bernardine and Daniel Donahue

Bernardine Gets Married

Bernardine Murphy weds Daniel Donohue, a former Brother of Saint John of God in a quiet ceremony celebrated by Cardinal James Francis McIntyre.


Bishop Conaty - Our Lady of Loretto High School

The Foundation is Formed

The Dan Murphy Foundation is established and the holdings of the Dan Murphy Company soon transferred into the foundation. Bernardine is the chair of the board and other founding members include Daniel Donohue (vice president), Cardinal McIntyre, Richard Grant Sr. (secretary-treasurer), and Joseph Peeler. The Board followed Dan’s example by donating generous sums to the Vatican, the many and varied programs of the Los Angeles Archdiocese in education, religious orders & vocations, service to the poor, sick, and disadvantaged youth. In keeping with Bernardine’s interest in the arts the Foundation has regularly supported programs in the arts and music.

March 5, 1968

Bernardine Dies

Bernardine Murphy Donohue died suddenly of a heart attack, ending a life that saw many honors, the highest being the title of “Papal Countess”, a rare honor bestowed by Pope Saint John XXIII in 1960.
Photo © Joseph Francis Ryan “Ice & Oil”


Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

Daniel Donohue Leads Foundation

Bernardine’s husband Daniel Donohue went on to lead the Foundation for the next 40 years. He passed away in December of 2014. Major projects that were made possible through the Foundation’s generosity under Daniel Donohue’s leadership were Thomas Aquinas College and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles that opened in 2002.


Richard Grant and Daniel Donahue

Richard Grant Jr. Takes the Helm

Richard Grant Jr. joined the Dan Murphy Foundation as a trustee in 1969, and assumed the Secretary and Treasurer role in 1972. In 2009 he succeeded Daniel Donohue as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the President — only the 3rd person to hold this position since 1957. A signature project for the Foundation under Richard Grant’s leadership was the $35 million lead gift to the Archdiocese of L.A.’s ‘Called to Renew’ capital campaign in 2018.

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