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Austin.  It also reduced the profits of the boarding house, and the Grays turned to hiring out servants in order to compensate.[35]

These social advances were also challenged by the trials of living in the Texas urban frontier, including a yellow fever epidemic in their first year of residence.  Millie's diary recorded the traumatic threat of "Sickness -- Sickness -- Sickness all around and many deaths."  All members of the family including the slaves suffered from an unnamed illness soon after their arrival, with Millie herself in bed for two months.  "Poor Charley suffered severely," according to his mother.  On September 8, 1839, she noted that four-year-old Alice was "still quite sick."  Ill health characterized the entire first year of the Grays' life in Texas.[36]

William Fairfax Gray also continued his Masonic involvement in Texas.  He had attended the initial meeting of the Grand Lodge of Texas in December 1837 and held offices and fulfilled committee responsibilities.  Some tensions and discontinuities characterized his early involvement, but he attended meetings and Millie accompanied him to "a great Masonic parade & an oration" on her birthday in the summer of 1839.  Gray became a member and master of a Houston Masonic lodge in 1840.[37]

Neither his leadership in church, educational, cultural, and fraternal activities nor the family's role in hosting governmental officials at the capital reversed the pattern of Gray's earlier political frustrations.  Twice he lost city alderman election bids in Houston, though he served on the local police patrol and presided at elections at the courthouse.  In 1839 President Lamar passed him over in appointing the county's chief justice.  Instead, in early 1840 he once again had to settle for a position as clerk of the Supreme Court, a duty that took him away from home to attend sessions in Austin.  Persistence and connections finally yielded a better office.  Gray applied to Lamar in October 1840 for appointment as district attorney of Harris County, which the president offered in November.  Senate confirmation came the next month.[38]

Gray presented himself for this position on the basis of character and patriotism rather than legal abilities, and he frankly admitted, "My main object in seeking this office, is to endeavour to achieve, through a diligent discharge of its duties, a provision for my family which my present business denies."  Yet, he also promised, "I do not seek it as a sinecure [and] . . . am well aware that it is an office of much labor and responsibility."  His performance indicates his continued commitment to battling the forces of disorder and moral offensiveness on the Texas frontier.  During his first month in office the grand jury handed out 255 indictments for various forms of gambling, lewdness, drunkenness, and bawdiness.  Clearly, that effort did not bring about a triumph of polite society.  He tried only 11 cases, winning fewer than half.  Further, the work hastened the end of his life.  Gray caught cold in Galveston while working at a session of the


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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