Shelton McMurphey Johnson House
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The history of the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, or the “Castle on the Hill,” begins with Thomas Winthrop Shelton and his wife, Adah. The Sheltons made the move from Salem to Eugene with their daughter, Alberta, in 1873. After buying 320 acres from pioneer Mary Skinner Cook, Dr. Shelton hired architect Walter Pugh to design a home to sit on the slope of the butte overlooking downtown and the train station. Nels Roney served as the builder. The home was completed in 1887; however, an aggrieved workman set fire to the house (only admitting to the crime once, on his deathbed, decades later), and the home had to be rebuilt. The building was completed in 1888, for a total cost of $8,000. 1888 is marked on the home's western elevation.
Dr. Shelton, Adah, and Alberta lived in their home until Dr. Shelton died of leukemia in 1893, at the age of 49. After her husband’s death, Adah moved to Portland and gave the house to her daughter. Alberta lived there with her husband, Robert McMurphey, whom she had met at a Christian Endeavor Conference in Minnesota. The couple had four daughters and two sons.
Robert McMurphey died in 1921 in Roseburg, Oregon. Alberta spent the majority of her years living in the house atop the hill, and remained an active member of the community in Eugene for 28 years following her husband’s death. She died in a nursing home in Portland in 1949, and the house was sold to Eva Johnson and Eva’s husband, Curtis Johnson.
Dr. Eva Johnson was born in Pendleton, Oregon, but moved with her mother to Eugene following her father’s tragic death in the Blue Mountains. They lived with Eva’s grandmother in the Campbell House, just around the corner from the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House. Eva and her husband Curtis had met at Rush Medical School in Chicago. They had three daughters and one son, and spent 25 years practicing medicine in Madison, Wisconsin. Eva studied psychology and Curtis served in the U.S. Army, including a stint as the pediatrician for General Douglas MacArthur’s son.
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