Friday, June 12, 2015 Henry "Jack" Muir (1903-1986)

Before I begin, I should mention that Henry Muir has been one of the toughest people I've researched. He changed his first name, provided different birth years and locations on various forms, and lost touch with his full sister, my grandmother, Alice (Muir) Jennings, for several years. Much of this biography will be filled with caveats.

Henry was born on 29 May 1903 likely in Adair County, Missouri, to Robert and Ida Mae (Riggin) Muir. He was their oldest child, born seven months after their marriage. Later in life Henry used 1899 as his year of birth, but I do not believe that is possible because his parents had not yet met. Henry almost always provided Missouri as his state of birth. However, in 1940, his wife told the census enumerator he was born in 1910 in Illinois. He was also going by Jack Muir, which he began to do sometime before 1930. Henry married for the first time in 1921; he was 18. At that time he provided his correct age and what I believe to be his correct place of birth. I did find it sad that he did not know his mother's name.

Perhaps it's understandable. His mother in 1909 died of tuberculosis when he was six years old. The next year, when the census was enumerated, Henry lived with his recently widowed father and younger sister. They lived in a rented house in O'Fallon, Illinois, next door to his paternal grandmother and her youngest daughter, Janie. I imagine "Grandmum Maggie" as my grandmother called her, helped her son with his children when he was working in the coal mines.

In 1911 Henry's father remarried and his second wife had three of their four children by 1920. The entire family and Henry remain hidden in the 1920 census. Henry's younger sister, Alice, lived with Grandmum Maggie. Henry's third half-sibling was born in West Virginia, so I believe the family lived there even if they cannot be found in the 1920 census.

On 29 June 1921, 18-year-old Henry and 16-year-old Mary Frances Canterbury got a marriage license. He lived in Walls Creek, West Virginia, and worked as a laborer. He signed his name as Henry R. Muir, the only time I have seen a middle initial. They were married in Walls Creek on 3 July 1921.

Henry and Mary Frances had a daugther, Mary Inez Muir on 8 November 1922 in Buchanan County, Virginia. Some time before 1926 Henry left the family. The 1930 census was enumerated in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 14 April 1930. At that time he was likely married to Armitar. Henry, who was now going by Jack Muir, worked as an electrician.

Henry's sister, Alice, always said Henry did not like his step-mother. She believed they got into a fight and Henry hit her, knocking her unconscious. He thought he killed her and fled. I always supposed it to be a family legend my Grandma made up to explain why she was not included in her father's life much after he remarried. Perhaps it is true and explains why Henry started going by Jack Muir. We just don't know.

Henry and Armitar got a marriage license on 24 February 1930 in Acadia Parish, but no for the marriage date exists in available records. In 1935 Henry "Jack" and Armitar lived in Los Angeles, California. The next year Henry "Jack" was listed in the Los Angeles city directory as living at 1008 West 11th Street. No occupation was listed.

By 1940 the family was back in Louisiana and lived Rayne, the town of Armitar's birth. Henry worked as a truck driver.

Henry had a daughter, Trudy Muir, in 1953. I do not know who her mother was. His obituary also listed two other daughters: Ellen Davis and Carol Swafford. I know nothing about them at this time.

In 1951 Henry "Jack" Muir filed a civil suit against Samuel S. Seither, et al. A joint compromise was reached in August. $220 was exchanged but I do not know who paid whom. This lawsuit was reported in the Times-Picayune.

Some time after 1953 Henry "Jack" began a relationship or married Eppa "Eppie" (Swan) Childs. She was killed in an accident involving a tractor-tailor truck in 1975, according to a granddaughter of Henry's. They were together as a couple nearly 30 years, likely the longest of any of his relationships.

Robert Muir, the father of Henry "Jack," died in 1956 and it was some time after this that Alice (Muir) Jennings, Henry's only full sister found him. They visited each other a few times, once according to my cousin, Joann, about 1962 or 1963 when Henry traveled to Maryland, just after Grandma had retired. Another visit occurred when Alice (Muir) Jennings traveled to Louisiana not long before his death.

Henry "Jack" married for the third time to Edith Mary (Davenport) Samples in May 1979 in St. Bernard Parish courthouse. Henry lived in Kenilworth, Louisiana, and Edith was from St. Louis. They planned a month-long honeymoon along the Mississippi gulf coast, which I just love.

Henry Muir and Edith (Davenport) Samples Wedding, unknown newspaper,
30 May 1979; courtesy of  Wanda Morrow

Henry "Jack" Muir died on 24 May 1986 just five days before his 84th birthday in Gretna, Louisiana. I do not know if Edith survived him or had already died. His funeral was held the next day in Gretna, but I do not know if or where he was buried.

I want to thank the many grandchildren of Henry "Jack" Muir, who have reached out to me over the years through,, my Tangled Roots and Trees Facebook page, by email and telephone. I would not know this much about my grand uncle's life without their input. I also have a Semple cousin from New Zealand, who seems to be as obsessed about genealogy as I am. She is much better at Google searches than me and we have so enjoyed getting to know each other and collaborating on our shared family research. While Dad was able to communicate, he was so pleased to learn about these discoveries.

1910 US Federal Census, Census Place: O'Fallon, St Clair, Illinois; T624_323; Page; 4A; Enumeration District: 0155; Image 641; FHL microfilm: 1374336
1930 US Federal Census, Census Place: Police Jury Ward 7, East Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Roll:792; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 29; Image: 716.0; FHL microfilm: 2340527
1940 US Federal Census, Census Place: Rayne, Acadia, Louisiana; Roll: T627_1377; Page: 23B; Enumeration District: 1-1
Alice (Muir) Jennings Genealogy Notebook, pages 8-9
Times-Picayune, 25 May 1986
Unknown Newspaper, 30 May 1979
US, City Directories, 1821-1989, 1936 Los Angeles, CA (Henry Muir)
US, Louisiana, Acadia Parish Marriage License Index, 1887-1999, 1930 Muir, Henry Jack - Alleman, Armitar
US, Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Number: 439-07-6122; State: Louisiana
US, Tennessee Probate Court, 1957 Settlement of the Estate of Robert Mur, Sr. (Deceased)
US, West Virginia Marriages Index, 1785-1971, 1921 Muir, Henry R. - Canterbury, Mary Frances
US, West Virginia Marriage License, 1865-1969, 1921, page 314


  1. Grandma Edith had passed away before grandpa, she passed away in her sleep in their home in Waveland Ms. Not sure of the year, i was still a young girl. That's me in the picture.

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