Niagara Gazette — Carol L. Murphy, 69, a leading tourism operator in Niagara County and longtime owner of Murphy's Orchards in Burt, died Thursday in Buffalo. She had been in ill health for a long time.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. June 9 at the farm that is a recognized program of the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network. The Town of Newfane also has designated the farm as a historic landmark and the McClew Interpretive Center at Murphy's Orchards is a member of the Local Interpretive Center for the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail.
John Percy, president and chief executive officer of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., said Murphy's death was a tremendous loss to the tourism community.
"She was a dedicated and loving entrepreneur of her farm and its products," he said. She also possessed a deep understanding of how agri-tourism has encouraged farmers to turn to tourism to strengthen operations and keep their farms viable.
For years, Murphy cherished the opportunity to take countless visitors around the farm, always stopping inside the large barn to glimpse at a secret compartment underground, a safe place to shelter the runaway slaves who sometimes traveled through Newfane enroute to crossing the border near Niagara Falls or Buffalo. As Murphy would explain: the slaves were considered free once they entered Canada and authorities there were generally reluctant to turn them back to this side of the border.
Local historians also have noted that the slaves on the run along rural roads and wooded areas in Newfane sometimes slept overnight on boats docked at near the locks of the Erie Canal in Lockport.
The family said the farm, the Tea Room on site, and the McClew Interpretive Center will continue to operate.