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match for Gray in other respects as well.  Millie was an intelligent, resourceful, and resilient woman.  They shared an interest in music, which she maintained in spite of a progressive loss of hearing.  She bore hardship with a minimum of complaint.  Half of the twelve children to whom she gave birth died in infancy.  When the head of the family lost his job and property, she gave piano lessons, took in work as a seamstress, reduced the number of servants, and assumed more household management duties.

However, for the first fifteen years of their marriage, economic successes far outweighed the setbacks.  Gray won appointment as postmaster in Fredericksburg, adding to the family income.  The Gray household expanded.  Beginning with the birth of Peter W. Gray on December 12, 1819, the Grays added two other surviving sons and two daughters before 1833.  Other family members, including one man in his twenties and another in his fifties, resided in the Gray home in 1830, and there were four slaves to take on the domestic workload.  The children went to school and took dancing lessons while their parents developed a busy social calendar, with dinners, teas, phrenology lectures, bridal parties, and similar events almost a daily occurrence.[14]

This pattern of ease ended abruptly in early 1834 as a result of the vagaries of American politics.  The diary reveals an anti-Jacksonian tilt, and this emanated from personal as much as philosophical origins.  A. C. Gray recalled that his father suffered from the credit tightening that accompanied President Andrew Jackson's "war" against the Bank of the United States.  More significantly, William Fairfax Gray was one of those officeholders turned out by the "spoils" system, which rotated government positions to Democratic partisans.  He lost the postmaster job on January 7, 1834, and immediately fell into a state of bankruptcy.  Millie recorded that "in consequence of the pressure in his business resulting from [the loss of office, Gray] was compelled . . . to make an assignment of everything in the shape of property for the Benefit of his cr[editor]s."  The court-appointed trustee kept the bookstore open and employed fourteen-year-old Peter as clerk.  "His salary is for the present our means of subsistence," wrote Millie.  William F. Gray attempted to recoup some of the fortune by collecting debts, but these efforts failed to stem the downward financial spiral.  Near the end of April the family house, furniture, and servants were auctioned off, though the losses were eased because family members like cousin Thomas Green purchased some of the furniture and slaves, returning them to the Grays for their use.  In May they set up a temporary household while a more suitable place was being readied for occupancy.  Millie bought a piano and began giving music lessons, took in boarders, and worked in the home as a seamstress.  After only two months one of the hired servants had to be discharged.  Personal


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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