Family connections

Anne Curry and Pearces From left: Nancie Stewart Curry Pearce, John H. J. Pearce, Anne Curry, and Charles Steward, 1961.

I recently skipped ahead in the Gray diary, as I had a printout of the 1873 volume and thought it might be fun to skim through that year’s entries. It was interesting to see the shifts in Mrs. Gray’s tone: she is, after all, about ten years older than when I last “checked in” with her, and her children – and their family and friends – are that much older, too, with more definite personalities and interests. At first glance, she seems less willing to suffer fools gladly, and she says what she means: “Mrs. M. is a woman who has wholly lost the respect of the community – her conduct with young Gregorson being very reprehensible….”[1] As before, though, she is surrounded by sick relatives, including her older sister Mary Morris Shober (1816–1873), who died in May.[2]

I was surprised and delighted, when reading through Mrs. Gray’s periodic listing of her friends’ children’s engagements, to find mention of a family connection. My aunt (and godmother) was born Beatrice Anne Curry; her mother, Nancy (or Nancie) Stewart, was the daughter and granddaughter of men named William Adams Walker Stewart. It was the latter to whom Mrs. Gray is referring in this July entry:

“On Monday last Fanny Gray, our precious beloved Francesca [Frances Loring Gray, Mrs. Gray’s niece], exploded a bombshell, so to speak, in the bosom of her family, by announcing her engagement to Mr. William Adams Walker Stewart, of New York; – he is only 23, at least 5 or 6 years younger than Fan; is not in strong health – and has just finished his law studies; is very small and young looking, very refined and gentleman like in appearance & manner, with handsome delicately cut features; and he will take our beloved Francesca to New York to live! – and oh what a loss that will be to the home where she is the brightest sun beam. Never the less the dear girl does seem so happy in her love – so sure that it is the one happiness for her and Mr. Stewart, that one must rejoice with them, while fully realizing all the disadvantages of his feeble health & comparative youth. Her own family of course were prepared for this – but none of the rest of us had a suspicion. I think we shall all like him very much.”[3]

The Gray–Stewart marriage had some interesting sequels, in addition to Aunt Anne’s grandfather; the Stewarts’ youngest child was Frances Violet Stewart (b. in 1881), who married the Reverend Norman Thomas in 1910. A well-known Socialist clergyman and politician, Thomas became a towering figure in mid-twentieth-century American life: for example, he was the first guest chosen to appear of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line in 1966. As the secretary of the Class of 1905 at Princeton noted, following Thomas’s death in 1968, Norman Mattoon Thomas had been voted the most intelligent man in the class: “If we could have foreseen the future, we must also have proclaimed him the most courageous.”[4]


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, entry in April 1873.

[2] John W. Jordan, ed., Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, 3 vols. (1911), 1: 76.

[3] Gray diary, entry for 16 July 1873.

[4] Edward Gray, William Gray of Lynn, Massachusetts, and Some of His Descendants (1916), p. 132;;

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward