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entries made on his trip westward since October of 1835.  The diary had been kept in compliance with orders of his employers (Thomas Green and Albert T. Burnley), who had requested a reliable record of observations regarding potential land purchases.  Fortunately, Gray recorded his impressions of people and politics as carefully and completely as he did the required investment notations.  No other work equals his diary for immediacy, accuracy, perceptiveness, and readability.

The twelve volumes that he eventually wrote were preserved by his family until 1909, when the last surviving child, printer Allen Charles Gray, published them in his hometown of Houston.  His motivation was primarily preservation of family history: "Having occasion to examine my father's record of his experiences and observations during his visit to Texas in 1835-36, I found the ink of a large part of it so faded and dim as to render it certain that in a comparatively short time it would become unreadable.  I felt therefore that prudence required it should be put into a more durable form, to preserve the information contained in it for the benefit of his descendants, and possibly for the use of the future historian."[ 2]

Despite its limited circulation and the printer's uncertainty about its historical value, the diary became a classic.  The sometimes acidic historian Andrew Forest Muir, who compiled the most complete biographical profile of William Fairfax Gray, described the diary as "one of the most important sources for the history of revolutionary Texas."[ 3]

Several years later Texana bibliophile and scholar John H. Jenkins went further, concluding that "it remains one of the best and most unbiased records of the turmoil in Texas during its most important winter and spring."  He pointed out that Gray provided a careful account of the Convention, social experiences such as the Runaway Scrape, reactions to the fall of the Alamo, and assessments of Texas politics, particularly with regard to the leading figures in Texas.  "It is these perceptive insights into character that make Gray's diary so significant," wrote Jenkins.  He cited other scholars, in particular T. R. Fehrenbach, who noted that most accounts "tend to be self-serving and must be suspect.  But Gray wrote spontaneously about people with whom he had had no previous contact, and his impressions, although acquired on short acquaintance, add greatly to our understanding of the key men in the great drama unfolding around him."  Equally important, Jenkins also noted, was the candid and often critical appraisal of the Texas people contained in the diary.[ 4]

Gray descendants became aware of its value.  One correspondent in 1919 wrote that no printed copy could be located and gave it high praise: "There is nothing to compare with Gray's Diary for graphic and detailed pictures of the time."[ 5]  This awareness led the family to explore more ambitious plans for

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The Diary of William Fairfax Gray, from Virginia to Texas, 1835-1837
Copyright 1997 William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas