Photo by Inga Smith

The Graceland Area

Maurice Patrick "Pat" Murnan was a railroad man. One night, he stopped in a gaming house operating on 11th Avenue. He won over $3,000 playing cards and dice. The woman who ran the house offered to play a game of showdown with Pat. She bet her gaming operation and he bet his $3,000. Pat won. That win resulted in Pat leaving the railroad profession to become a professional gambler. During that part of his career, when he was asked his occupation, Pat would answer "a man who accepts wagers on the speed and endurance of thoroughbred horses". Pat amassed quite a fortune from his pursuits. As part of his overall operations, Pat owned the area that is now occupied by Graceland Shopping Center.

Graceland Stock Farm, a race horse farm, was named after Pat's second wife, Grace Backenstoe. When Pat died in 1937, his extended family engaged in a lawsuit. His children from his first marriage contended that Pat and Grace were never formally married. The lawsuit dragged on. Grace died in 1939. Finally, in 1942, the case was settled. An Arizona Justice of the Peace had produced a 1915 marriage certificate and the court ruled in Grace's favor.

Cherry Hill School

The education of the young was considered to be a priority of the pioneers. Very quickly, they recruited school teachers and built schoolhouses. Miss Griswold settled here in 1809 and established the first Clinton Township School on the Lisle farm. Michael Baker arrived in 1811 and Diadamia Cowles in 1813. At first, the schools were built of log. Then, the clay from the ravines was used to make brick and the buildings were replaced. Located across the street from Graceland Shopping Center, Cherry Hill school still stands as an example of one of these brick schools.

Local historian George Campbell's site has an in-depth chronicle of Graceland's history.

Return to mural