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losses added to the burden when in July their one-month-old daughter Susan died.  The financial decline continued.  In January of 1835 some of Gray's books that had been set aside had to be auctioned off.[15]

Gray responded to these setbacks by acquiring a new profession.  He attended law lectures from November 1834 until March 20, 1835, receiving his license to practice on May 4.  Rather than setting up an office, he developed a business relationship with family member and benefactor Thomas Green and his partner Albert T. Burnley of Washington, D. C., who were interested in land speculation in the West.  Gray's instructions were to set out on a trip to find real estate of high quality and low price in sparsely settled parts of the Southwest.  He was authorized to secure titles and make suitable purchases, writing back frequently and keeping notes in the form of a diary.  Gray also set out to find a place to relocate his family.  As Millie wrote a week before his departure, "We hear of a great many persons emigrating, and I reckon we shall go too some day or other."[16]

Gray spent most of September travelling on business in preparation for his journey.  On Sunday, October 4, 1835, the day before his intended departure, the entire family attended church and took communion.  Monday came and went, as Millie noted, with "every thing in confusion," punctuated by her husband's failure to get to his stage on time.  That delayed the beginning of the journey until Tuesday when the family "took a sorrowful leave of Mr Gray."[17]

Episodes of confusion and sorrow also erupted on the Texas scene at the very time that Gray's sojourn began, with the result that he would find an altered state when he finally crossed the Sabine on January 28, 1836.  What the business partners hoped to locate was a land of immense opportunity for speculation; instead, Gray walked into a land characterized by economic uncertainty, social disorder, war, and political crisis.  The fighting began on October 2 at Gonzales, four days before Gray finally caught his stage; however, the origins of the conflict can be traced back a decade or more.

In many ways land was the key to the evolution of Texas.  Mexico had won its independence in 1821 after a decade of destructive war with Spain that left all the new nation depopulated and impoverished, including the distant province of Texas.  Joined in statehood with Coahuila, the hopes of Texas rested on its one great resource, immense and sparsely settled land.  Mexico operated under a liberal constitution written in 1824 and modelled in part after that of the United States but even more decentralized.  For example, the national government established a colonization policy that allowed lands to be dispersed to emigrants with more specific requirements and supervision by the states.  The Coahuila and Texas government provided grants of a league and labor of land (4,605.5 acres) to heads of family who were either native or naturalized citizens.


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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