'Three sorrowful households'

[Author’s note: This series of excerpts from the Regina Shober Gray diary began here.]

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The year 1876 marks the onset of Dr. Gray’s debilitating illness. He had the first of a series of operations in March, to correct a problem (according to Mrs. Gray) stretching back “these 30 or 35 years past.” [1] While he would live another four years, the diarist’s husband was henceforth rarely free from pain.

Another feature of the Gray diary from this point is the comparative failure of Dr. Gray’s brother, William Gray (1810–1892), who had hitherto been a mainstay of the family, his wealth and generosity easing things for Dr. and Mrs. Gray and their children.

Boston, Tuesday, 13 June 1876: Wrote yesterday to decline Sallie Gray’s[2] very kind invitation for Doctor and myself to make them a visit [in Brookline], beginning next Thursday. At first, Dr G. was much pleased at the idea and felt sure he should like to go. I knew his courage would fail ere the time came – but I encouraged him all I could; …yesterday he decided it was quite impossible for him to leave home. He is so miserable and so dependent for what comfort he has on the absolute ease & freedom of home & home conveniences that I feel sure it would give him more worry & harm to find himself a guest, even in his brother’s family, than any good he would get by the change of air & scene… It is doubly kind of them to ask us just now – for a guest so entirely invalided is a burden, however welcome a one.

'[His] best powers and judgment'

And they already have so much to depress them out there in dear Isa Loring’s[3] increasing blindness and her natural distress at the loss of 4/5th of her property, by the failure of the Atlantic Cotton Mills. In Wm Gray’s own disordered health and the wear of mind & nerve upon him as treasurer and selling agent for these Mills, to wh. he has given his best powers & judgment these 25 years past – only to see this miserable outcome of it all: stock selling, if sold at all, for 19 or 20 dollars and the whole thing at a dead stand… W.G. has a large part of his own & the family property in this mill.

Annie & Ellen [Gray][4] will lose a great deal – not enough to seriously embarrass or curtail their comfort – but to make them a little less easy and affluent. Dr. Gray holds no stock in the Corporation, happily, for he could ill afford to lose. Fred Gray,[5] F.C.G, & S.S.G.[6] all lose. To many people it must be a ruinous thing. It is all inexpressibly sad – and must be a bitter trial and mortification to my brother William, a man of unimpeachable ability & integrity. The sympathy & distress felt for him by my dear husband, has aggravated all his own illness & low spirits…

We hear that young Amory Codman[7] has died of malarial fever in Rome – he was their only son – about Rege’s[8] age. They have now only the daughter Pinkie.[9]

Sunday, 24 June 1877: Our old neighbour & friend Wm. B. Richards died yesterday at 6 a.m. after 3 months illness – he sank very rapidly within a few days. A good, worthy man. He leaves a wife (Cornelia Walter)[10] and two children – and a property much impaired by his brother Reuben A.R.’s[11] disastrous failure which ruined Reuben & George [Richards][12] and swamped some $70,000 for William! who however will leave enough to support the family comfortably.

Horace [Gray][13] is here for a few days – his visit will comfort and cheer the sad family at 22.[14] Fred [Gray] has been easier for some days – but is more poorly to-day; he keeps wonder fully bright & cheerful and makes frequent allusion in a perfectly natural calm way to his own death, as being not far off.[15] Doctor is sadly depressed all the time – but drives out daily & walks and reads and tries to fight down his demon – God help him and us all. Three sorrowful households we are…

'Rege has done very well'

Reginald & Morris [Gray][16] have taken their respective degrees [from Harvard Law School and Harvard College] – and we hear from outside that Rege has done very well – he with two others having selected the hardest course of study & acquitting themselves unusually well in it. Morris will begin law studies next term…

I am daily hoping to hear that Aunt Eliza [Clay][17] is about to start for the north – I wrote on the 17th and again on the 25th urging her to come, making our house[18] her head-quarters – and told her in my last, that if she delayed coming till next year, she would never see our dear Fred. again in this life. I think she will come – but it is a great effort for her, deaf & 68 years old. I wish we could afford to send Rege or Morris on to bring her here – but we cannot – and must hope she will find some friends coming north whom she can join…

Continued here.


[1] Entry for 30 March 1876. Dr. Francis Henry Gray (1813–1880) married Hedwiga Regina Shober in 1844. All entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Sarah Frances Loring (1811–1892) married William Gray in 1834.

[3] Sallie Gray’s sister, Isanna Elizabeth Loring (1814–1900).

[4] Dr. Gray’s younger sisters, Anne Eliza Gray (1819–1884) and Ellen Gray (1830–1921).

[5] Dr. Gray’s brother, Frederic Gray (1815–1877).

[6] The diarist’s elder sons, Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904) and Samuel Shober Gray (1849–1926).

[7] John Amory Codman Jr. (d. 1876), son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Amory Codman.

[8] Mrs. Gray’s third son, Reginald Gray (1853–1904).

[9] Martha Catharine Codman (1858–1948), who married Maxim Karolik in 1924. See also a previous reference to Pinkie Codman’s apparent elopement in 1875.

[10] William Bordman Richards (1815–1877) married Mrs. Gray’s friend Cornelia Wells Walter in 1847.

[11] Reuben Augustus Richards (1822–1893).

[12] Dr. George Edward Richards (1845–1919), a younger half-brother and a friend of Mrs. Gray’s son Frank.

[13] Dr. Gray’s brother, Horace Gray of New York (1821–1901).

[14] The household of the younger Gray siblings at 22 Mount Vernon Street; the William Grays lived at 20.

[15] Fred Gray died on 1 August.

[16] The diarist’s youngest son, Morris Gray (1856–1931).

[17] Dr. Gray’s aunt, Eliza Caroline Clay of Savannah, Georgia (1809–1895).

[18] At 1 Beacon Hill Place, around the corner from the other Gray households on Mount Vernon Street.

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