Checking in on Condon

Main Street, Condon, Oregon. August 2009.

Main Street, Condon, Oregon. August 2009.

Over time we have written with some frequency about Condon, Oregon, the small farming community where Linus Pauling spent much of his youth.  And though we have come know a fair amount about the history of this little town in Gilliam County, it was not until recently that the Blog had an opportunity to actually visit the area and take a few pictures.  Here are a few things that we saw:

Herman Pauling’s pharmacy building, written about here, no longer exists.  In its place is a lovely little park.

Former location of Herman Pauling's drugstore.  Now a park on Main Street, Condon.

Former location of Herman Pauling's drugstore. Now a park on Main Street, Condon.

Gone too is Pauling’s first school – the Condon Grade School built in 1903.

Condon Grade School, built 1903.  Photo courtesy of the Gilliam County Library.

Condon Grade School, built 1903. Photo courtesy of the Gilliam County Library.

Linus Pauling (far right) with his Condon elementary classmates, 1909.

Linus Pauling (far right) with his Condon elementary classmates, 1909.

We had known about Pauling Field at the Condon State Airport, but this was our first glimpse.

Pauling Field, Condon State Aiport.

Pauling Field, Condon State Aiport.

We had also known about Linus Wilson Darling’s (Pauling’s maternal grandfather) grave, which is located at the Condon City Cemetery, but did not realize that he was buried next to Florence Darling, one of his six children, a toddler who died twenty-two years before her father at the age of two.

The Condon Cemetary.

The Condon City Cemetery.

Linus Wilson Darling's marker, Condon cemetary.

Linus Wilson Darling's marker, Condon City Cemetery.

Grave of Florence Darling, Condon cemetary.

Grave of Florence Darling, Condon City Cemetery.

Close inspection of L. W. Darling’s marker indicates that he was very proud of his fraternal memberships – the plaque notes that “Here Rests a Woodman of the World” and elsewhere bears a symbol of the Knights of Pythias.  And though most of the marker has not been restored, the spherical stone at its peak appears to have been turned to a more symmetrical position, at least when compared with this 1988 photo.

Linda Pauling Kamb, Linus, Pauline and Lucile Pauling at the grave of L. W. Darling, Condon, Oregon. 1988.

Linda Pauling Kamb, Linus, Pauline and Lucile Pauling at the grave of L. W. Darling, Condon, Oregon. 1988.


Our trip to Condon was rendered decidedly more fruitful by a visit to the terrific Gilliam County Historical Society museum which features, among other artifacts, an antique bicycle-powered jigsaw.  The society’s collections also include a few very rare images of William P. Murphy (Condon’s “other” Nobel Prize winner) who, as it turns out, was a member of Condon High School’s first graduating class in 1909.

The Condon High School class of 1909.  William P. Murphy (incorrectly identified as Will J. Murphy) is seated at the far right.

The Condon High School class of 1909. William P. Murphy (incorrectly identified as Will J. Murphey) is seated at the far right.

Here’s an Oregonian image of Murphy and his family as they set off to Sweden for the Nobel festivities in 1935.

William P. Murphy and family en route to Sweden.  Image first published in the Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1935.

William P. Murphy and family en route to Sweden. Image first published in the Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1935.

The Historical Society’s Pauling-related collection includes a fabulous vertical file of stories that appeared in the local media throughout the years.  One such article, written in 1969 during Pauling’s trip to Corvallis for the centennial celebration of Oregon State University, recounts many of the more interesting details of Pauling’s colorful family history.

All the Darlings were highly intelligent people, although some had quite a percentage of oddity.  W. L. Darling, ‘Bill’ a brother of L. W. Darling, was a paper hanger and a painter.  He was also a confirmed spiritualist.  His control was an Indian named ‘Red Cloud.’  Chatting with the spirits was an every evening affair with Bill.  He was trying to get the spirits to tell him the location of the lost gold mine in the Lonerock Country.

The article further notes that

Pauling’s aunt Stella Darling was a safe expert.  She could open any safe and had a national reputation.  She once traveled to London, England to open a safe.

The vertical file likewise includes documentation of various births, weddings and deaths, most of which are written with a great deal of local flavor.

Announcement of Herman Pauling's wedding to Belle Darling, Condon Globe, May 1900.

Announcement of Herman Pauling's wedding to Belle Darling, Condon Globe, May 1900.

Announcement of the births of Linus and Pauline Pauling, and the death of Herman Pauling. Condon Globe and Condon Times, 1901, 1902, 1910.

Announcement of the births of Linus and Pauline Pauling, and the death of Herman Pauling. Condon Globe and Condon Times, 1901, 1902, 1910.

Announcement of the birth of Lucile Pauling, Condon Globe, 1904.

Announcement of the birth of Lucile Pauling, Condon Globe, 1904.

Our favorite item though, is this announcement of the marriage of either H. C. Pauling or Louis Carl Pauling to Miss Ava Helen Miller, as reported in the Condon Globe Times on June 29, 1923.  Note, in particular, the flipped ninth line of the first paragraph – part of the cost of doing business during the era of handset news type.

"Former Condon Boy Married," Condon Globe Times, June 29, 1923.

"Former Condon Boy Married," Condon Globe Times, June 29, 1923.

Condon is not an easy place to access – it was built to serve the needs of area farmers and is nowhere near a major highway.  Our afternoon in the town was, however, defined by the kind of small-town hospitality that would seem a cliché were it not so genuine.  We’re already planning a return visit.

For more stories of Linus Pauling’s life and times in Oregon, see our continuing series commemorating the Oregon150 celebration or visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Oregon 150

William P. Murphy: Condon’s Other Nobel Prize Winner

William P. Murphy, 1930s.  Image courtesy of the Nobel museum.

William P. Murphy, 1930s. Image courtesy of the Nobel museum.

Condon – as you are undoubtedly already aware if you are a regular reader of this blog – is a very small town in Gilliam County in North-Central Oregon. According to the 2000 census, the town’s population consisted of only 759 people, and in the early 1900s, when the Pauling family lived in Condon, the population was even smaller.

Despite its size, Condon can boast of an interesting statistic: Two of its early 1900s residents would later go on to win Nobel Prizes. One of these men is the blog’s namesake, Linus Pauling. The other man is a lesser-known physician named William Parry Murphy.

William P. Murphy was born on February 6, 1892 in Stoughton, Wisconsin. He was educated at public schools throughout Wisconsin and Oregon, and in 1910, he graduated from Gilliam County High School. Unfortunately, other information about his youth is scarce, and it is not clear precisely how long he lived in Condon. According to legend, his and Pauling’s time there overlapped, but if their residences in Condon did in fact coincide, it is unlikely that they would have had much in the way of contact with each other. Pauling was born on February 28, 1901, and was therefore a full nine years younger than Murphy.

However, we do have record in our collection that these two men corresponded with each other later in their lives and that Murphy was one of the 9,000+ signatories of Pauling’s famous United Nations Bomb Test Petition.

William P. Murphy's signature added to "An Appeal by American Scientists to the Governments and People of the World"

William P. Murphy's signature added to "An Appeal by American Scientists to the Governments and People of the World"

Following his public school education, Murphy attended the University of Oregon in Eugene. In 1914, he received an A.B. degree, and spent the next two years teaching physics and mathematics in high schools around Oregon. After his short stint as a teacher, Murphy decided to attend medical school. He spent one year at the University of Oregon Medical School in Portland, and appears to have left Oregon for good that summer when he enrolled in courses at the Rush Medical School in Chicago.

On September 10, 1919, Murphy married Pearl Harriet Adams, and that same year was awarded the William Stanislaus Murphy Fellowship at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He retained this fellowship for three years, and graduated from Harvard in 1922 as a Doctor of Medicine.

After his graduation in 1922, Murphy interned at the Rhode Island hospital in Providence. Not long after, he was appointed resident physician at Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston. During his short time at the University of Oregon Medical School, Murphy had become interested in developing a cure for anemia. However, he wasn’t able to actively work towards this ambition until he was at the Boston hospital. He specifically began to work on pernicious anemia, using intramuscular injections of liver extract as a treatment for both pernicious anemia and hypochromic anemia.

After his time at Peter Bent Brigham hospital, Murphy was appointed instructor of Medicine at Harvard. At Harvard, Murphy was able to work with George Richards Minot and George Hoyt Whipple to develop a treatment of pernicious anemia through a diet of uncooked liver. Murphy, Minot, and Whipple shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for 1934 “for their discoveries concerning liver therapy in cases of anaemia.” In 1939, Murphy collected his work in the text Anemia in Practice: Pernicious Anemia.

Although Murphy never lived in Oregon again, he did occasionally return to visit his parents, sister, and two brothers, all of whom lived in Portland. On one occasion, not long after winning the Nobel Prize, Murphy was interviewed for an article in The Oregonian. When asked about pernicious anemia, he noted:

A few years ago pernicious anemia was one of the diseases that was always fatal, it was sure to be fatal within a year. But now it need not be so anymore than measles or other minor complaint. A person who has pernicious anemia has a life expectancy as long as if he didn’t have it, providing the proper treatment is given.

(Sadly, Murphy’s breakthroughs were not made soon enough for Linus Pauling’s mother Belle, who died of pernicious anemia in 1926.)

Throughout the remainder of his career, William Murphy worked as a consulting hematologist to several hospitals. He also made his way through the ranks at Harvard Medical School, moving from Assistant in Medicine in 1924 to Senior Associate in Medicine in 1958. After his retirement, he was appointed Emeritus Lecturer in Medicine at Harvard.

Although he shared the Nobel Prize, leaders in the nation of Finland called him the “real discoverer” of the cure for pernicious anemia and gave him the Order of the White, the country’s highest decoration. He also received the Cameron prize from the faculty of the University of Edinburgh and the Gold Medal from the Massachusetts Humane Society, and was elected a member of the Halle academy of science in Germany.

William P. Murphy died on October 9, 1987.

For more information on Condon’s other Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.  For more stories of Pauling’s relationship with Oregon, click here.

Oregon 150