Nevada County








            Prominently identified with the business interests of Nevada City is Thomas Benton Gray.  The Keystone state has furnished California with a large proportion of its exemplary men whose warm sympathy and willing hands have been prominent factors in the upbuilding of this great state.  Among the number may be mentioned Mr. Gray, who was born in Sunbury, Center County, Pennsylvania, on the 1st of July, 1834.  On the paternal side the ancestry can be traced in this country back to 1620, when the Gray family was founded in America.  For many generations the Gray’s were prominent in England, and Sir John Gray was killed at the second battle of St. Albans in 1461.  The family crest was a lion couchant.  Desire Gray, a daughter of Edward Gray, married a Mr. Kent and with him came to America in the Mayflower in 1620, she being the first white woman to land in this country.  Her brother, John Gray, came later.  He was a government pensioner, having lost an arm in the English navy.  From him our subject is descended, being of the sixth generation removed.  In all of the wars of the nation representatives of the name have loyally defended American rights.  John Gray, the second of the name and a son of John Gray, the first, was born in the latter half of the seventeenth century and married Ruth Hebbard in Beverly, Massachusetts, on the 28th of April, 1704, he died February 29, 1712, and his widow afterward became the wife of Benjamin Webster.  John Gray, a son of John and Ruth (Hebbard) Gray, was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, May 17, 1707, and at Windham, Connecticut, on the 26th of February, 1728, married Anne Hebbard.  After her death he wedded Catherine Gardner at Sharon, Connecticut, the wedding taking place on the 18th of September, 1747.  She was the great-grandmother of our subject and died in Sharon in 1761.

            James Gray, a son of John and Catherine (Gardner) Gray the grandfather of our subject, was born in Sharon, Connecticut, August 3, 1759.  On the 26th of March, 1786, in Sharon, he married Parthena White, who was born in Sharon in 1768.  They had five sons and four daughters, of whom John White and James were born in Rutland, Vermont, while the others were natives of Hartwick, Otsego County, New York.  In 1805 the grandfather, James Gray, removed from Bath, Steuben County, New York, and with his family settled in what has since been known as Gray’s Valley or Hollow, in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  He owned a tract of dense timber land a mile square, on which a few settlers lived in log cabins, and in the forests there were many deer, elks, bears, panthers, wolves and foxes.  Gray’s Valley has since continuously been the home of some members of the family.  At present Lafayette Gray, a second cousin of Thomas B. Gray is living there.  The grandfather, James Gray, died at the home of his son Victor, in Covington, Pennsylvania, in 1845.  He served throughout the Revolutionary War, part of the time under his brother Captain Silas Gray, of the Fourth New York troops.  He was in several battles, notably the storming of Stony Point, July 15, 1779.

            On the maternal side Mr. Gray, of this review, is also descended from old Revolutionary stock.  His grandfather, Royal Cole, who was born in Dutchess County, New York, in 1757, served in the war for independence in the Fourth New York militia and also with Rhode Island troops.  He was at the battle of Brandywine, Trenton and Princeton and was with Washington’s forlorn hope at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776.  His wife, Hannah Cole, acted as a nurse in the Revolutionary War.  They reared two sons and seven daughters and made their home in Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, where they both died.  The grandfather was ninety-seven years of age at the time of his death, which was occasioned by patriotic excitement July 4, 1852.  His wife was more than ninety years of age when called to the home beyond.

            John White Gray, the father of our subject, was born in Rutland, Vermont, January 3, 1788, and removed with his parents to Gray’s Valley, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  When the country again became engaged in war with England he donned the uniform of the nation and went to the front under General Harrison.  During the Battle of Chippewa he sustained a severe wound in the forehead from a well-directed saber blow of an enemy.  Prior to the War, in 1806, he had purchased the remaining time of his minority of his father for three hundred dollars, and entered upon an active, useful and successful business career.  He founded the city of Covington, Pennsylvania, and was for many years a leading politician in that state, being twice a member of the Pennsylvania legislature.  He was a great admirer of Thomas H. Benton and Stephen A. Douglas, having met them and worked with them in politics.  He also enjoyed the personal friendship of General A. C. Dodge, W. F. Coolbaugh and Henry Gear, all since United States senators.  It was Mr. Gray who first named Mr. Coolbaugh in the Democratic convention as a candidate for state senator of Iowa.  In 1842 he removed from Pennsylvania to Iowa, locating in the city of Burlington.

            On the 16th of September, 1832, John White Gray married Miss Mary Susan Cole, in Gray’s Valley, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  Thomas Benton, of this review, is their eldest child.  Amanda Sarah, who was born March 15, 1837, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was married February 4, 1857, to Homer H. Hemenway, at Lansing, Iowa.  He is now a lumber merchant of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Their children, all natives of Lansing, Iowa, are Grant C., born January 8, 1858; Genett M. born December 8, 1860; Laura D., born November 17, 1864; Mabel G., born August 11, 1867; and Robert W., born April 26, 1872.  Henry Clay Gray, a brother of our subject, was born in Burlington, Iowa, August 15, 1842, and during the Civil War became a member of the Chicago Mercantile Battery, which command was under General Sherman in all of his operations in the west and protected his retreat across the Yazoo River after his disastrous attack upon Vicksburg.  Henry C. Gray married Matie Mason, in Chicago, Illinois, in 1873, and is living in that city, where he has long been a grain broker and a member of the board of trade.

            After the removal of his parents to Iowa, Thomas B. Gray remained with relatives in the Keystone state until fourteen years of age, when he joined the family in the west.  He acquired his preliminary education in the public schools and completed his collegiate course in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1852.  In 1854 he came to California and engaged in mining in Sierra County for three years.  On the expiration of that period he returned to Iowa, where for a time he was connected with the educational interests of the state as a teacher.  He also learned the printer’s trade in the office of the Burlington Hawkeye.  In 1864 he again came to the west, locating in Montana, where he carried on farming.  He also served as county assessor and county treasurer there for a period of six years, and on leaving Montana removed to Virginia City, Nevada, where he occupied the position of principal of the high school and was elected county superintendent of public schools in 1882 for two years.  On the expiration of that term he came to Nevada County, California, and had charge of the schools here from 1884 until 1889.  He was a most successful educator, having the ability to impart clearly and readily the knowledge he had acquired, and his faithful performance of each day’s duty gave him courage and inspiration for the work of the next day.  He is now largely interested in mining, being the principal owner of the Buckeye mine, which has yielded many tons of very rich ore.  He also has the district agency for the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, and in the various branches of his business has met with creditable success.

            In 1866, in Montana, Mr. Gray was united in marriage to Miss Cornelia Brooks, a native of Missouri, and they now have four children, all born in the Gallatin Valley, Montana:  Nettie, the wife of J. W. Fly, of Bozeman, Montana, born December 13, 1867; Lucy, at home, born October 16, 1869; Charles R., born September 15, 1874; and Harry B., born December 11, 1871.  The latter has recently returned from Manila, being a member of Company C, First Montana Regiment of Volunteers, with which command he participated in sixteen different engagements during his service in the Philippine Islands.

            In politics Mr. Gray takes an active interest supporting the Democratic Party.  Socially he is connected with the Masonic fraternity, belonging to the Royal Arch chapter and Eastern Star.  He has filled the most important offices of the lodge and is a worthy representative of the craft.  His identification with the educational and mining interests of Nevada County has made his history an integral part of the annals of this section of the state.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 746-749. Chicago Standard Genealogical  Publishing Co. 1901.

© 2011  Gerald Iaquinta.





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