JOHN T. GRAY. Continuously identified with the Town of Moscow from its birth to the present day, John T. Gray is one of its representative citizens and leading business men. His home has been in Kansas since 1886, and he came to Stevens County in the fall of 1894. His history is one of the interesting ones that helps to make the records of Kansas pioneering well worth reading.
John T. Gray was born in Bedford County, Virginia, April 19, 1860. His parents were Mercer H. and Ann J. (Robertson) Gray. Mercer H. Gray was born and maintained his home throughout life in Bedford County, Virginia. He was a son of Colonel John P. and Susan (Thornhill) Gray. Colonel John P. Gray was a native of Bedford County and was an officer in the War of 1812 and was a man of military importance and of large estate. He married Susan Thornhill, also of Bedford County, who lived into old age and died at the home of her son, Mercer H., the eldest of their children, the others being: Chapman H., Joseph T., Mrs. Elizabeth Hicks, of Bedford County, and Frances, who died unmarried.
Mercer H. Gray was a farmer and for some twenty years was in the service of the United States, a part of the time being an internal revenue collector. During the Civil war he was a Union man in sentiment but was physically unfit for military duty and his sterling qualities were made use of in the revenue service under General William Mahone. His death occurred in 1893, at the age of sixty-five years. Always a republican in politics, he was equally faithful to the Methodist Episcopal Church in his religious life. In early manhood he married Ann J. Robertson, who was born in Bedford County, a daughter of Thomas W. Robertson, who was also born there. Mrs. Gray survived her husband but one year, dying in 1894. Their children were as follows: Virginia P., who died in Virginia, was the wife of James P. Saunders; Cora B., who married J. W. Bradley, of Bedford County; John T., of Moscow, Kansas; Floyd, who lives in Bedford County; Gaston W., who is in business at Roanoke, Virginia; and Wilkins B., who still lives in Bedford County, Virginia.
John T. Gray came to Kansas from Bedford County by rail as far as Emporia. He then started working his way westward, inspecting the country as far as Garden City, where he took stage for Ivanhoe in Haskell County. When he arrived there he was suffering from a fever, by which he was incapacitated for forty-five days. This condition was truly disheartening, as his capital of $100 had become much depleted and the favorable business opportunities that he had anticipated finding were not discoverable. Finally he secured a position for the winter as a clerk for a merchant at Ivanhoe. He had completed his education in the Sunnyside High School of Bedford County, Virginia, and secured a school to teach in Haskell County, that three-month term being the only pedagogical experience in his life.
The next year the county was organized and Mr. Gray secured the office of deputy county clerk, his duties in this position being mainly transcribing the records from the old ones of Finney County for the new county. Finally he came into possesion of a team and made profitable use of the same, as did many of the settlers under like conditions, in doing a freighting business in addition to farming. Although the most rigid economy was necessary, Mr. Gray at last began to find himself in easier waters. For two years after reaching Stevens County he was a tenant farmer. He then purchased a farm on the north line of the county, not far from old Woodsdale, and also pre-empted land northwest of the Santa Fe, near old Ivanhoe.
Mr. Gray commuted this claim and entered his homestead in the same county, and when he had proved up his homestead came to Stevens County. The first Kansas home of Mr. and Mrs. Gray was the same in character and construction as those of their neighbors, and it has often been remarked that no subsequent home, however comfortable, convenient or ornate, has ever been able to take the place, in the affections of these pioneers, of the little one-room dugout that represented their first permanent "home," that necessity of the home-loving people of American birth. In 1917 Mr. and Mrs. Gray erected their commodious bungalow at Moscow. While proving up his homestead all the water they used had to be hauled a distance of nine miles.
In his various operations Mr. Gray proved himself a man of business judgment. He mortgaged his pre-emption to commute, and bought a cow with a part of that money. When he went to his homestead he had two cows and a team of mules, which team came to him in an exchance[sic] of his contest filing on a timber claim. After living on the homestead for seven years he sold it for $90. He then rented land in Stevens County for a short time and then purchased 160 acres for $60, surely a fine example of business foresight as that tract today is worth one hundred times as much. He borrowed money with which to buy a few cattle and in that way established himself in the cattle business and remained so until 1912.
Until 1910 Mr. Gray was an active farmer but in that year, because of his wife's failing health, he decided to leave the country and seek city comfort for her. He moved then to Liberal, and during the two years they resided there Mr. Gray served the town as marshal. He came then to the infant town of Moscow, with which he has been so valuably identified ever since. He founded the mercantile firm of J. T. Gray & Son, which continued until 1915, when he sold the business to Roscoe Morrell, but still has mercantile interests here of his own and is in the oil, grain and elevator business as the representative of the Hugoton Elevator and Warehouse Company and the Sinclair Refining Company.
In Bedford County, Virginia, Mr. Gray was married to Miss May Saunders, who was born there May 10, 1859. The Saunders family for generations have belonged to Virginia, and the branch to which Mrs. Gray belongs migrated from Franklin to Bedford County in early days. Her parents were James C. and Mary (Halley) Saunders, who had eight children, seven of whom reached maturity, namely: Mrs. Martha J. Fizer, Mrs. Fannie L. Hubbard, James Edward, Mrs. Gray, John Marcus, Alvin A. and Maud A.
Mr. and Mrs. Gray have six children: Marcus F., who was associated for a time with his father in business at Moscow; Annie M., who is the wife of W. T. Rosel, of Grant County, Kansas; Lizzie J., who is the wife of M. W. Cott, of Moscow, and has six children, Boyd, Thomas, Homer, Mary, June and May; Lucy, who is the wife of Jesse Hoskinson, and is the mother of two children, Thelma and Juanita; James H., who is a member of an ammunition train in the United States army, now "somewhere in France" but not forgotten by his people or country; and Fannie May, who is an acceptable teacher in the country schools. Politically Mr. Gray has always been affiliated with the republican party. He is identified fraternally with the Knights of Pythias.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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