I've been exploring Internet Archive for new sources and stumbled onto Cayuga County NY Historical Society publications.
One issue caught my attention because it had the early history of the Republican Party in Cayuga County. I knew my great-great-grandfather, Erastus Murray, was a Republican because his name was published in a newspaper in support of the nomination of Lincoln in 1860. I was curious to understand the local political events and mood of that era.
My curiousity paid off in a small, but for me, significant way. In Collections of Cayuga County Historical Society : no. 10 I learned that prison guard appointments were political appointments.
So, apparently Erastus had strong enough connections to the Cayuga County Republican Party that he received an 1859 appointment as a prison guard at Auburn Prison.
This makes the crumbling of the family in 1861 even more mysterious to me. What happened to Erastus? In probate records for his sister, friends and surviving family said their last knowledge of him was that he was very ill and they presumed he'd died around that time. Why would they not know? What circumstances would have prevented them from being aware? And why did Erastus not contact his family after he recovered? From other records, I know that he didn't die until much later, in another county's poorhouse. And from the poorhouse records, I know that his "Habits" were good, meaning his problems weren't related to alcohol.
I think I'm too used to fiction where all mysteries get solved and explained. *Sigh*