Country music star Michael Martin Murphey donates maps to museum, plans return for second benefit concert |

Country music star Michael Martin Murphey donates maps to museum, plans return for second benefit concert

Country music star Michael Martin Murphey, left, shows Museum of Northwest Colorado Assistant Director Paul Knowles a set of maps depicting Indian and pioneer trails of the lower 48 states. Murphey donated the maps to the museum during a visit to Craig on Monday.
Jim Patterson/staff

CRAIG — Most who would recognize the name Michael Martin Murphey know the man for his music.

A multiple Grammy nominee with six gold albums to his name, Murphey — during his more than 50-year career in the industry — has definitely made his mark on the world of Western and country music.

But even the most die-hard fans of Murphey’s music might not know he is also a history buff, and he’s taken a keen personal interest in Craig’s own Museum of Northwest Colorado.

“I’ve been interested in history since I was a boy,” he said. “I started collecting Indian stuff during a vacation to the Grand Canyon, and that interest grew during my years in the Boy Scouts.”

Since then, Murphey has even started a nonprofit — the Murphey Western Institute — established “for the education, preservation, and perpetuation of the arts, culture, history, and legacy of the American West,” according to the website.

Murphey’s interest in Western history was on prominent display Monday, Sept. 17, when he stopped by the museum to donate a set of historic maps created in the 1960s by Los Alamos physicist Perry Van Arsdale and depicting the historic pioneer and Indian trails of the lower 48 states.

Characterizing Van Arsdale as “a Western history buff,” Murphey described the research behind the creation of the maps as “astounding.”

“His (Van Arsdale’s) whole mission was just to tie together all the Indian trails, pioneer trails, and trails that knit this country together in a very sophisticated way, long before we thought the populace knew anything about that,” Murphey said, adding that he thought museum Director Dan Davidson and Assistant Director Paul Knowles would be interested because “these guys who run this place are trail fanatics.”

He said the trails depicted on the maps graphically show much of the impetus behind the United States’ Western expansion.

“It really brings out the fact that they thought there was a lot better chance for Western expansion because of these trails that the Indians had done,” he said.

During Monday’s visit, Murphey also reiterated his support for the museum, saying he is trying to organize his schedule so as to perform a second benefit concert for the museum. Murphey sold out two benefit shows for the museum in April 2017, and said he would welcome the opportunity to play another, given he can work it into his schedule.

“I am a Western history buff,” Murphey said. “I’ve been all over the country, and I’ve seen just about every Western museum. (The Museum of Northwest Colorado) is a real gem, and it really deserves saving.”

Murphey said he first learned of the museum through a promoter in Grand Junction, who told Murphey he should visit. Murphey took that suggestion, and the rest is history.

There is no definite word on when Murphey might return for another show, but he said he wants to organize the event before the Nov. 6 General Election, when Moffat County voters will decide on whether to approve a dedicated mill levy to benefit the museum and the Moffat County Libraries system.

“I just have to work it into my schedule somewhere,” Murphey said, “but regardless of that, the museum could use a lot more private support. They have lots of exhibits here, and curating is expensive.”

Contact Jim Patterson at 970-875-1790 or


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