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William H. Gray, 1817-1855


Posted By: LuAnn Goeke (email)
Date: 5/11/2009 at 20:22:52

Biography of William & Elizabeth Gray of Ireland, Alabama and Iowa

William and Elizabeth Gray were born and married in Ireland where their oldest children, Margaret and Mary Jane, were born, the last being born in January of 1841. Soon after that, the young family immigrated to the United States. In about 1843, their next child, Thomas, was born in Alabama. Within a year or two, the family had moved again, this time to Clinton Co., Iowa where two more children were born.
William appears to have been a carpenter and joiner, as well as a millwright. Shortly after the move to Iowa, in about 1844, William bought out two of the three partners in an Elk River Twp. hemp-mill that was being converted into a grist-mill. Two years later, in the spring of 1846, he went into the flouring-mill business with Wm. "Billy" G. Haun at a place soon known as Hauntown.
This flouring-mill enterprise quickly grew to include a whiskey distillery, a malt-house, a store and a warehouse, and by November of 1846, both the mill and distillery were in full operation. The capacity of the distillery was nine barrels per day. Its product was mostly sold in the pineries [lumber camps], and as the reputation of Elk River whisky was not yet fully established, it was customary to brand the barrels "Old Rectified Whisky, from B.J. Moore & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio." From this date until 1857, Hauntown was one of the most important business points in this section of the country, and Billy G. Haun was considered to be one of the financial "heavy dogs."
Sometime between 1847 and 1854, William sold out his interest to Haun and moved to nearby Teed's Grove to build a new flouring-mill, which was still in operation in 1879. But the Gray family was struck by tragedy during the mill’s construction. William, then about 38 years old, died on February 2nd, 1855, from unknown causes, while “superintending the erection of the Teed’s Grove Mill.” He may well have died from a disease because his wife, Elizabeth, died within a week of her husband, on the 9th of February, 1855. Both were buried in the Teed’s Grove Cemetery.
Their deaths left six orphaned children ranging in age from three years to seventeen. They were:
Margaret Gray, age 17, b.Ireland.
Mary Jane Gray, age 14, b.Ireland.
Thomas Gray, age 12, b.Alabama.
David Gray, age 11, b.Iowa.
Elizabeth A. Gray, age 8, b.Iowa.
James A. Gray, age 3, b.Iowa.

Hon. George F. Green of Iowa Twp., Jackson Co., Iowa, was appointed administrator of the estate and guardian of the children. A year after the parents’ deaths, in the Iowa Census of 1856, these children were scattered among several households in both Clinton and Jackson Counties.

Margaret Gray married Adam Lehman of Lyons, Clinton Co., Iowa where both lived out their lives.

Mary Jane Gray married George W. Coe from Jackson Co. and they later moved to Carroll Co., Iowa.
Thomas Gray, enlisted in the Army at age 18 and served in the Civil War. He survived the war and may have moved to Cass Co., Nebraska, then to Klickitat Co., Washington State.
David Gray, also enlisted in the Army at age 18 and served in the Civil War. He married a Jackson Co.-born woman named Harriet, and they eventually moved to Woodbury Co., Iowa and were there until at least the 1900 census.
Elizabeth A. Gray, after a few years, was adopted by her guardian, George Green, and his wife. In 1870, she married William H. Koch of the same area and they lived there the rest of their lives.
James A. Gray, was also raised by his guardian, George Green. In 1876, he married a neighbor girl named Kate Davis, and they lived in the same neighborhood until Kate’s death in 1895. By 1900, James is listed in Des Moines, Polk Co., Iowa and has a new wife, Estelle (Smith) Davis. James died there in the winter of 1914-1915. Estelle then moved back to Miles, Jackson Co., Iowa.

As I followed the children through the census records, it became clear that many of the children either never knew or didn’t remember that they or their parents had been born in Ireland. What they all seemed to remember was Alabama, and that showed up in nearly all of the census records.

Gray Family Tree on RootsWeb

Carroll Biographies maintained by Lynn McCleary.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

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