In the autumn of 1920 the Board of Directors of the Pacific Coast Conference of Unitarian Churches took note of the approaching eightieth birthday of Mr. Charles A. Murdock, of San Francisco. Recalling Mr. Murdock’s active service of all good causes, and more particularly his devotion to the cause of liberal religion through a period of more than half a century, the board decided to recognize the anniversary, which fell on January 26, 1921, by securing the publication of a volume of Mr. Murdock’s essays. A committee was appointed to carry out the project, composed of Rev. H.E.B. Speight (chairman), Rev. C.S.S. Dutton, and Rev. Earl M. Wilbur.
The committee found a very ready response to its announcement of a subscription edition, and Mr. Murdock gave much time and thought to the preparation of material for the volume. “A Backward Glance at Eighty” is now issued with the knowledge that its appearance is eagerly awaited by all Mr. Murdock’s friends and by a large number of others who welcome new light upon the life of an earlier generation of pioneers.
The publication of the book is an affectionate tribute to a good citizen, a staunch friend, a humble Christian gentleman, and a fearless servant of Truth—Charles A. Murdock.
In the beginning, the publication of this book is not the deliberate act of the octogenarian. Separate causes seem to have co-operated independently to produce the result. Several years ago, in a modest literary club, the late Henry Morse Stephens, in his passion for historical material, urged me from time to time to devote my essays to early experiences in the north of the state and in San Francisco. These papers were familiar to my friends, and as my eightieth birthday approached they asked that I add to them introductory and connecting chapters and publish a memorial volume. To satisfy me that it would find acceptance they secured advance orders to cover the expense.
Under these conditions I could not but accede to their request. I would subordinate an unimportant personal life. My purpose is to recall conditions and experiences that may prove of historical interest and to express some of the conclusions and convictions formed in an active and happy life.
I wish to express my gratitude to the members of the committee and to my friend, George Prescott Vance, for suggestions and assistance in preparation and publication.
My very early memories alternate between my grandfather’s farm in Leominster, Massachusetts, and the Pemberton House in Boston. My father and mother, both born in Leominster, were schoolmates, and in due time they married. Father was at first a clerk in the country store, but at an early age became the tavern-keeper. I was born on January 26, 1841. Soon thereafter father took charge of the Pemberton House on Howard Street, which developed into Whig headquarters. Being the oldest grandson, I was welcome at the old homestead, and I was so well off under the united care of my aunts that I spent a fair part of my life in the country.