Woman of the Century/Katharine Albert McMurdo

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McMURDO, Mrs. Katharine Albert, social leader, was born in the "Beckwith Homestead," the beautiful home in Palmyra, N. Y., of her grandfather, Col. George Beckwith. Her maiden name was Katharine Albert Welles. Her youth was chiefly spent in New York City, where her parents, Albert, the historical and genealogical writer, and Katharine Welles, resided, and where she became the wife of Col. Edward McMurdo, a brilliant Kentuckian, who fought for the Union throughout the Civil War. KATHARINE ALBERT McMURDO A woman of the century (page 499 crop).jpgKATHARINE ALBERT McMURDO. In 1881 they took up their residence in London, where Col. McMurdo engaged in such important and far-reaching enterprises as to make his name a familiar one throughout the financial world. He was one of the earliest to recognize the commercial and financial possibilities of South Africa, and his investments and enterprises in that country gave him almost the importance and power of a potentate. Their mansion in Charles street, Berkeley Square, a survival of the time of William III, into which they had introduced many modern comforts and luxuries, became the center of a generous hospitality, where scholarly, agreeable people, distinguished in letters, art or science, men notable for civil or military services, or for lineage and position, found congenial association. Ever a devoted student of the best books, with a mind enriched by extensive travel, a residence in foreign capitals, and acquaintance with intelligent society, with a brilliant conversational gift, and a fascinating personality, she soon won a host of devoted friends. The happy home in Mayfair received an awful shock in 1889, when Col. McMurdo died, without a moment's warning, from the bursting of a blood-vessel in the brain. The Portuguese government took advantage of that event, and seized the Delagoa Bay Railway, an important line traversing the Portuguese territory in southeast Africa, from Delagoa Bay on the coast to the Transvaal frontier, which Col. McMurdo had built under a concession direct from the king of Portugal, and which from its unique position gave the man whose courage and enterprise had prompted its construction a power sufficient to arouse the envy of the Portuguese government and people. The seizure was made under the flimsy pretext of a technical breach of contract, and was such a high-handed outrage that the English and American governments took prompt action to protect the interests of Mrs. McMurdo and those associated with her husband in the ownership of the railway. Portugal admitted its liabilitv and joined with the United States and British governments in asking the Swiss parliament to appoint a commission from the leading jurists to enquire and determine the amount of idemnity to be paid tor the railway and the valuable rights conferred by the concession. That being one of the interesting diplomatic incidents of the day, with four government! officially concerned, Mrs. McMurdo was thrust into a prominence perhaps repugnant to one of her retiring disposition. The tribunal will conclude its labors in 1892, in accordance with the terms of the protocol under which is sitting. In all her business with the State Department, with diplomatic and other officials, her great dignity, composure, ability and good sense have commanded respect and admiration. Her engagement to Frederic Courtland Penfield was formally announced, and their marriage was celebrated in the fall of 1892. Mr. Penfield is an American gentleman who has lived many years abroad and who is widely known in diplomatic, literary and social circles. He was for several years United States vice-consul-general to Great Britain It is probable that, after her marriage, Mrs. McMurdo will divide her time between Europe and America.