'May we have strength'

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
[ Author’s note: This series of excerpts from Regina Shober Gray’s diary began here.]

The 1878 Gray diary[1] is unusual in filling two full volumes instead of the more usual single one Mrs. Gray devoted to the events in her life. Volume 1 ends with this entry, one that mixes hope and anxiety, sightseeing and sickbeds.

Hotel Monnet, Vevey,[2] Saturday, 3 August 1878: We left Berne yesterday morning (Friday), having really had, on Thursday, from 7½ to 8½ a.m., a full, magnificent view of the whole great range of snow-clad Alps [and] the Bernese Oberland; and a grand sight it was. There they were in their great, white glory, when I opened my shutters, and I rushed up two flights of stairs to call Mary & Sam [Gray], who felt well repaid for being so unceremoniously disturbed in their morning slumbers.

We did not get another good view, nor have that long, for soon a soft little white cloud gathered round the great Schreck-horn – then the peak of the Finster Aar – and [the clouds] grew & grew – and other peaks donned cloudy crowns – and by a little after nine o’c. a.m. only a fine line, or sharp splinter here & there, showed through the soft, white, disguising mantle of cloud, that the great, white, solemn hills were there still, and not merely the baseless fabric of a vision.

The railway side from Berne to Vevey is through a beautiful country – and the latter part of it along the shores of Lake Leman (or Geneva), the largest of all the Swiss Lakes – and very beautiful with its wondrously blue color. Dr. [Gray] bore the ride here pretty well, but had a miserable hour or two from 2 o’c. a.m. in the night. He is quiet and free from severe pain this morning.

We are delightfully accommodated here with a nice parlor, up one flight from the street, and at a ruinous rent – but we shall leave on Monday for Geneva where Dr & I shall wait while Mary & Sam take a look at Chamouni [Chamonix] & Mt. Blanc. It would be simple madness for Doctor to attempt the long, rough drive there, even in an easy Berlino; any such jarring of late has inevitably ended in a severe attack of pain in the kidneys; but we are not willing the children should lose it. It is a disappointment of course not to go there ourselves – at least it is to me – I would have liked of course to see Mt. Blanc, but not if Doctor were to suffer in consequence…

Among letters rec’d to-day is one from Horace G.[3] presenting Dr. with $2500 and begging him to stay abroad till the autumn of 1879; but he will not do it, I am sure; he is pining for home now all the time – and I fear we shall not even persuade him to winter in Italy; but of that I do not yet give up hope. He is increasingly sick, and far less well than when we left home; so far the whole thing has been a total failure for him.

He enjoys nothing, & takes no interest, poor man, in anything outside of his own misery & distress – and the constant change of scene & fatigue of travel only more exhaust his already exhausted powers… His strength of will & firmness of purpose are gone, wrecked in this morbid, nervous prostration! A letter from F.C.G.;[4] he offers to sail Oct. 15th and release Sam, if we decide to remain here.

It is a dull, rainy day – so we shall defer “Chillon” till tomorrow…

(Sam Gray’s forthcoming marriage[5] was one reason for substituting his brother Frank in the family party. Mrs. Gray had noted Sam’s engagement to Carrie Weld in April[6]: “We have had an exciting day. At the breakfast table [at the Hotel de Rivoli in Paris], Sam announced to us the news of his engagement to Carrie B. Weld. It did not take us wholly by surprize; some of us have had grave suspicions on the subject for a long time past.

“It is a relief to my anxieties about him to be able to account thus for his looking so poorly of late; it must have seemed hard to him to have to leave his home as our escort, with this great heart-interest undecided. Carrie is not a stranger to us – we have known and admired her for years – but her health has been poor and I have not seen her for a long, long time – Mary has. God grant her health may be soon re-established. I tremble to have this dear son garner up his happiness in so fragile a frame; but we will hope for the best. Of course, the engagement cannot be spoken of as yet, till it can be announced simultaneously to both families.”[7])

In Vevey, Mrs. Gray’s 3 August diary entry continues:

I had a pleasant letter to-day from Carrie Weld; she seems to be gaining strength at the Mts; I hope Sam will find her much stronger when he goes home – but I fear he has garnered his hopes on a very fragile casket, nevertheless – but from all accounts a very charming & loveable one. God bless and keep them both.

And may God help us, to bear with patient trust all that may be in store for us; I feel very anxious for that consultation with Dr Lombard [a specialist in Geneva] – and yet I dread it beyond measure. His words will be a benediction – or a doom. May we have strength given as our need is!

Continued here.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. In 1878, the Grays were traveling in Europe for Dr. Gray’s health with their children Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923) and Samuel Shober Gray (1849–1926). Entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] In Vaud, Switzerland.

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

[4] The Grays’ eldest son, Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904).

[5] Samuel Shober Gray married Caroline Balch Weld (1846–1912) on 15 January 1879. Sam and Carrie Gray’s daughter Hope (1882–1979) later donated her grandmother’s diaries to NEHGS.

[6] Entry for 18 April 1878.

[7] The engagement was announced in May 1878 (entry for 26 May 1878).

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