The Grays in the Highlands Part 4: Was Thomas Gray Heritage Owner of Skibo Castle Scotland?

This is the fourth installment of Chapter 2 of The Gray Clan with my research notes, questions and thoughts added. If you read something and have corrections or additional information, I am all ears!

This fourth part of Chapter 2 contains information on pages 10-11. The content in italics is the original transcript from the book. My notes and research will appear below it and start with [KG].

Here are links to the other published portions of this series:
The Grays in the Highlands Part 1: The Memories of Thomas Gray
The Grays in the Highlands Part 2: Leaving Their Beloved Skibo, Scotland
The Grays in the Highlands Part 3: Contributions From Rev. Joseph C. Brown

If interested, I’ve created a document where you can view/read the full text of Chapter 2 without my research notes.

SKIBO! Once upon a time, one of the most famous and beautiful establishments in Northern Scotland, through the Centuries, perhaps more beautiful, when the modern life began to seep in through the vacillated stone structures of the earlier era.

The grass growing to the doors of the homes, not far from this the bed of ‘simples’ for the housewife to use, the herbs (yarbs) for medicines, or seasoning foods, for the poulticing of any unhealing sores and stomach ache.

In the stormy winter evenings, the mothers sitting at the fireside, spinning, scutching flax, knitting the clumsy stockings, rows of apples roasting at the edge of the fireplace, the ‘Rymer’ telling tales of goblins, ghosts,haunted houses, and burial places, headless horsemen and the romance of the wandering singer and storyteller, the memories of the suffering and persecution, which rained upon their defenceless heads when the English Protestants persecuted them, over their native moors and wild recesses of their Mountains. Over the Mantles, the old flint lock gun, lay on deer horns above the fireplace, where the fire was never allowed to go out. The post of hot water on the hearth, stones heated were sometimes used to hasten cooking. Vegetables were backed in the hot embers-even fish or fowl, or sweet smelling loaves of bread. When a new fire was started, two sticks were rubbed together, or two pieces of prized flint to start the spark.

The weary shepherd, roaming all day with the flocks of sheep, which they had brought home at night, to the rude shelter, the goats climbing the eerie Mountain crags, browsing all day, at night slowly wended their way to the “Village of the Goats” a group of stalls where each Goat knew its own pen, these made snug with brush and dirt roofs and walls, and easy to protect from Marauding animals.

SKIBO! No Deed or Title could be given a new owner, by the ones who finally lived on the Gray Estates. Because, the real owners of Skibo, for the long weary years marching into Eternity, had ‘walked out’ on a matter of conscience and principle, and voluntarily had relinquished all claim to their age-old estate that lies between the River Shin, to the West, and the River Evelix, 20 miles to the East, midst the Grampian Hills of Northern Scotland.

[KG] Based on this description I’ve created a map of the Skibo Estate. I think this is probably off by quite a bit on the north. I don’t know that it would have gone inland this much, but for us Gray researchers, it gives us a general place to start when looking for old Thomas. I also recently found out that the Falls of Shin would have been in Skelbo estate lands, not Skibo estate.

We know that the day came when Thomas Gray confessed to his wife, gentle Mary, that he felt the only possible way out of an unbearable situation was to emigrate to the new Continent. Many of their relatives and friends had gone and reported back their deep pleasure and happiness in the change.

Mary grieved. How could she leave her beloved homeland, all she wanted was a place of her own in the World, without strife and loss of kin by sudden death. Her beloved ‘mon’ with her and the prattling children about her knees.——- But! Tammas! Whate’er ‘e says, we will do. We will ready oursel’ and just start quick like. She never quite overcame her burring Gaelic speech.

Reading thus far, we can, in a measure understand the heart wrenchings of those old Patriots, who left ALL for the unknown World in the “New Westmoreland” over the Seas.

———————————————–

[KG] Again, they mention relatives and friends who had already emigrated to the new continent. This could mean the U.S. or Canada, but given the area where they settled in Pennsylvania was called “Little Scotland” and its pioneer nature when they did, I have to believe (or at least hope) that there may be clues among some of their Butler County neighbors.

The Philadelphia Press of some time in 1898, as nearly as can be ascertained, had the following, most interesting item. We feel it should have a place here:

Quote!
“The fact that Andrew Carnegie should be referred to as ‘Skibo’ that is to say, the name borne by the old Gray family, who for Centuries were lords of Skibo, and owners of the Castle of Skibo, serves to recall the fact that a blood-curdling curse rests on this same Castle. Now, everyone North of the Tweed is asking whether this curse will work against the new American owner of Skibo, the same way that the curse pronounced against the Lord Byron, who made a drinking cup of the skull of one of the old time Abbots of Newstead Abbey, continues to blight, not only all the descendants of the Lord Byron, but likewise the Webb family, who for the last forty years have owned Newstead Abbey; says the Phila. Press.

The ban on Skibo dates from the early part of Century, when by some foul wrong, the Gray’s who had owned Skibo for several hundred years, were deprived of their ancestral home, and possessions by some people of the name of Doul.

Misfortune overtook the latter, and since then Skibo has passed through many hands including those of the (Douls), MacKays, Gordons, Dempsters, Chirnsides and several others, ill luck pursuing them all until the place was acquired by Andrew Carnegie. In fact, since the Gray’s were ousted, near 200 years ago, no family has possessed it for more than one generation. At this time, Mr. Carnegie has the good wishes of all the District, into which he has brought much money and he is adding to the Castle in such a way, regardless of cost, that it promises to, before long, be one of the finest castles North of the Tweed. It is situated in the Northwest part of Scotland.” end quite.

[KG] Good luck to the latest owners with the curse! Maybe someone will eventually return it to the Gray family? 😉

Our Thomas Gray, 1761-1853, was heritage owner, and per present information, Lord Gray of Skibo, Scotland. Sometimes known as Newstead. Comprising a very large acreage and several villages. The waterfall of Loch-Shin included. The Estate lying north of Dornoch Firth.

[KG] And here we are, the claim of our Thomas Gray being heritage owner of Skibo. As much as I would love this to be true I’m just not convinced yet. I think there’s an element of truth here. It seems that the relatives who put this book together from different branches of Thomas’s children all felt that he was from Skibo and that he himself claimed to be from Skibo. Going with that, I think it is most likely that he identified as being from Skibo and was most likely a relative of one of the Grays of Skibo.

I recently came across an article on the blog for the Dornoch Historylinks Museum regarding how Highland men identified themselves. Here are a few quotes from the article that pertain to my hypothesis that Thomas Gray was not heritage owner of Skibo, but rather lived or worked on the estate, and/or was a relative of the Grays of Skibo. He may have felt a strong relationship and identity with the place even if he wasn’t the heir.

“Most men were clearly associated with one specific settlement, farm or estate in the mind of the community.”

“It was through length of years and the intimate use and organising of the landscape that they became identified with it, shaping their self-identity and their identity within the community.”

“Such a man drew his identity from his social status, his membership of a local family, his authority over the residents of the tack, and his association with that piece of land. Holding a tack was part of the old system of clanship, so his and his family’s connection with that land was embedded deeper in time than that of the plasterer and the gamekeeper, even the farmer.”

“Despite the mobility of the nineteenth-century, part of Highland masculinity was a deep identification with the places they were from, where they lived, where they worked, and which they shaped.”

Do you think Thomas Gray was heritage heir? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

The Grays in the Highlands Part 3: Contributions From Rev. Joseph C. Brown

1799 Sutherlandshire ScotlandThis is the third installment of Chapter 2 of The Gray Clan with my research notes, questions and thoughts added. If you read something here and have a correction or additional information, I am all ears!

This third part of Chapter 2 contains information on pages 7-10. All of this information was provided by the Rev. Joseph C. Brown, first president of the American Branch of the Thomas Gray’s. The content in italics is the original text from the book. My notes and research will appear below it and start with [KG].

Here are links to the other published portions of this series:
The Grays in the Highlands Part 1: The Memories of Thomas Gray
The Grays in the Highlands Part 2: Leaving Their Beloved Skibo, Scotland

If interested, I’ve created a document where you can view/read the full text of Chapter 2 without my research notes.

We are impressed to insert some findings, which are a contribution of the Rev. Jos. C. Brown, 1st President of the American Branch of the Thomas Gray’s: Notes taken from the Scottish Antiquary Vol. VIII, IX. These are entitled:

GRAY OF SKIBO and Over Skibo, in Parish of Creich, Sutherlandshire.

The Family of Gray of Skibo is stated by Sir Robert Gordon, (History of Sutherland), to descend from Lord Gray of Foulls.

Lord Gray of Foulls was Andrew Gray, only son and heir of Sir Patirck, Master of Gray. He died 1513-1514, having married as second wife, Elizabeth, daughter to John Stewart, Earl of Athole. By his first wife, his son was John Gray of Culmaly, and by his second, Patrick Gray. (First wife’s name unstated.)

The second son of Lord Gray, having slain the constable of Dundee, fled to Ross, where he acquired lands, circa 1456. His descendant John Gray, in the time of Adam Gordon, 14th Earl of Sutherland, 1515 & 1514 to 1537, settled in Sutherland entering the service, first of Robert Stewart, then of Andrew Stewart, Bishops of Caithness.

From Bishop Andrew, John Gray obtained as reward for his many services rendered to the bishops, the feu of the lands of Culmaly, Kirkton, Rogart and Cuttle. He afterward exchanged Culmaly and Rogart with the Earl of Sutherland for Sordell or ‘Swordell’, Creich and the rest of the Church lands in the Parish. The Earl afterward named him as “Heritable Constable of the Castle of Skibo” and gave him the feu of the lands of Nether Skibo and others.

Recorded that in 1529 a feud arose between Bishop Andrew and Sutherland Baird of Duffius. The latter was killed. Then follows an account of how Alexander Gray, Vicar of Far was carried off to Duffis Castle, and was finally freed by the intervention of John Gray of Culmaly.

It seems that the second son of Lord Gray of Foulls was Andrew, as mentioned above, and that he married —– and had two sons, the one bearing the name of Andrew and the other Alexander, which doubtless is the one mentioned above, because he became the Vicar of Far. He in turn had a son James Gray living about 1514.

Alexander Gray mentioned above, was Chaplain of the Chapelry of Kinnold, in the Cathedral Church of Caithness, 1534(?) and from 1529 to 1559 Vicar of Far. In 1544 he settled his lands of Auchinlovy, in the Diocese of Caithness on John Gray of Culmaly and his male issues, with the remainder to Patrick, brother of John and his male issue.

NOTABLE THAT THE GRAY FAMILY SPREAD rapidly and obtained much Church preferment. Sir Thomas Gray was Vicar of Rosemarkie in 1546.

William Gray was Minister of Assynt, 1576.

William Gray was treasurer of Caithness, 1577-1820 (?)

Master James Gray was preacher at large, 1649, and William his son was preacher at Clyne.

The Grays of Arball and Newtoun and various other families, derive their origin from the Grays of Skibo.

————

[KG] You can download what I believe to be this same book from Archive.org, A Genealogical History of The Earldom of Sutherland by Sir Robert Gordon. I haven’t had a chance to read the full book yet, but there are quite a few mentions of the Gray surname.

LORD GRAY OF OVER SKIBO

Alexander, second son of George Gray III of Skibo by Jane Gordon of Embo. By a disposition dated Skibo, June 15, 1694, Sasine on it Jan. 7, 1695, George Gray, writer of Edinburg, heritable proprietor of the lands of Over Skibo, disposed of them to Alexander Gray (brother of Robert Gray of Skibo) and Anna Munroe, his spouse conjunct fee and their heirs. Witness Robert Gray of Skibo; James Gray of Pitachgussie; Robert Gray commissary of Sutherland. His children were John and Jean.

John Gray, Second of Over Skibo. He served as heir general to his father Alexander Gray of Over Skibo, Oct. 20, 1741. He married Katherine, daughter of Duncan Fraser of Achnagairn. Their children were Alexander, Christian and Katherine.

Alexander Gray the Third of Over Skibo, served general to his father, Dec. 22, 175. There were two sasines, 1, Oct. b, 1764 in favor of Hugh Munroe of Teannich for the lands of Nulintoun of Alness. 2. Sept 20, 1776 in favor of George Ross for lands of Tarness and Pradlestoun, parts of the borough of Commertz. He married Rebecca MacDonald, May 1767. Their children were; Alexander and Janet.

Alexander the Fourth of Over Skibo, was heir special to his father Feb. 1, 1779. On May 18, 1779 on a precept from Chancery a Sasine was made to the same effect. He was the head of the firm of Gray and Agilvy. Army Agents of London. He married Mary Susanna only daughter of Richard Wainhous. Their children, Allen, Caroline, Harriet, Susanna. Alexander Gray, dying without legitimate male issue, the Estate of Cromarty in virtue of settlement to George Ross, (mentioned hereinafter) devolved upon Katherine Munroe, third of Calcairn and second wife of Hugh Ross of Glastullich, she being grandchild of Jean Ross (Sister of George) by her husband Robert Kirke of Dornoch. Much litigation ensued before Mrs. Ross came into possession of her claim, the opposer of her claim being an illegitimate son of George Ross.

(The above statement and disposition may have something to do with the of the property of George Ross by his will which proved in London, 1786. The most important items of that will are contained in the following account which was taken from the same general account in the “Scottish Antiquary.”)

WILL OF GEORGE ROSS OF CROMART and of Conduit St. Middlesex.——- Alexander Gray and John Agilvy of Spring Garden, upon trust, to realize all, etc. in Surry and Middlesex, West Indies, etc. To call in all monies due upon the lands of Over Skibo, still in Alexander Gray’s possessions. (Mortgages, etc. to pay off 30,000 lbs. Deducting 3000 lb for the lands of Over Skibo.)

These; to the trustees named in the marriage articles of Alexander Gray my nephew and Susanna his wife. The Trustees are to lay out any residue of monies in the purchase of lands in the County of Cromartz or adjacent counties. Then follows directions to payment of such invested monies-for factors to manage such Estates. (Following this statements of certain amounts to a large number of people.)

He desires his Nephew Alexander Gray and his other trustees to carry on all necessary improvements, expending nearly 200 lbs, attending to planning for plantations, enclosures to hedges, —- “I desire Mr. Gray to be at the expense of carrying on my poor Orphan Nephew Master George Gordon’s education; that he consult Dr. Ross under whose care I put him, as to the profession his genius leads him etc., —— (Flatters himself as to his disposition, etc.) “I have lived for many years, leaving to Mr. Gray to cause to mark the spot of my internment, etc., — Proved in London 1786.

———-

[KG] I have yet to research any documentation for this information and I believe there may be typos in some of the person and place names.

(This all must be in -or about the time of the bitter persecution which arose in Scotland, both Religious and Political, which resulted in the Gray’s leaving their Scotland home and emigrating to the new America. Further certified information must come from some unbiased history of the Religious movement.)

———-

We note these notes seem to be rather fragmentary, and of course we do not prove definite connection with the Gray’s who came to America. But as we read these items, the names, etc., we have the feeling that here are the men and women who are the forebears of the Gray’s we know so well here.

Signed J.C. Brown. Minister.

[KG] If anyone has additional thoughts or research to back up any of this information in relation to Thomas Gray, I’d love to hear from you!

The Grays in the Highlands Part 2: Leaving Their Beloved Skibo, Scotland

Skibo Castle, Scotland from Wikimedia

This is the second installment of Chapter 2 of The Gray Clan with my research notes, questions and thoughts added. If you read something and have corrections or additional information I am all ears!

This second part of Chapter 2 contains information on pages 5-7. The content in italics is the original text from the book. My notes and research will appear below it and start with [KG].

Here are links to the other published portions of this series:
The Grays in the Highlands Part 1: The Memories of Thomas Gray

If interested, I’ve created a document where you can view/read the full transcription of Chapter 2 without my research notes.

We have, as yet, no certain knowledge of the exact time that Thomas Gray and his Wife, (Mary James Gray, also of Royal Family,) with their four children-four others born later-left this Scotland home and came to the “New Westmoreland” Wilderness to make their home in the new land, we do not know how much time was consumed, between their leaving Scotland and these beloved scenes, near to Dornoch Firth, but we do have positive proof of their arrival in the new land, because the Deed to the 419 A119 P land is still on record at the Butler County Court House, in Butler, PA. and it is dated April 13, 1792. Bought from the Provincial Government.

[KG] I have yet to research the deed but given the detail on the source, I would say this is a proven fact. I hope to get ahold of this and make it available on the website.

Thomas Gray made very positive statement, that he and his wife and family, were compelled to forsake their beloved homeland, rather than make concessions to prevailing oppressions, which would compromise their stern Calvinistic consciences. Thus, the day came when they prepared to leave Scotland, taking only what they could carry with them, of material things. A bit of clothing, some vessels to prepare their food in, the old brass clock, a prized possession, made in Edinburg, the beloved old Family Bible (Gude-Book) also printed in Edinburg, and most prized of all, their four small children. Sophia b 1784; James b 1786; William b 1789; and ‘wee John’ just cumin twa’. (This was the means of positive identification, to us, when they settled in the ‘New Westmoreland’. John Gray was a soldier in the War of 1812-14 and his Military Record stands, as also his edates on his Headstone, in the old White Oaks Springs Cemetery, on Route 69, out of Butler, PA. (There is also a tradition of some sort of a small Chest that was brought, but there seems no way of locating definite trace of this article.)

[KG] The statement regarding the need to leave their homeland coincides with the timing of the Highland Clearances and known historical facts that would back this sentiment. Finding John Gray’s military record is also on the research to-do list!

Letters were very unusual, rather of the type of a message, sent by courier, but someone had brought word back, from over the Sea, of a beautiful Country where they could live without oppression, with the ‘pull-haul’ of false leaders, who imposed the death sentence for the slightest infraction of law-just or unjust.

They were told that they could worship their God as they wished, no need to hide their inner-most heart-felt worship, no need to hide the cherished Bible, the Word-o-the ‘Gude-Mon’ for their guidance and comfort.

We know positively, that they left Skibo, in Northern Scotland, without formality of selling the broad Acres, the lovely Mountains, the small scattered Villages, the comfortable spots, where a “wee hoose” cuddled in a beautiful spot, sheltered from wind and storm, the heather covered hills rising back of it’ the deep roots of Centuries of living, the long and honorable struggle of a race, who wanted freedom of action, cleanness of living and conscience devoid of forced wrong doing.

They left their wealth of tradition, their home ties, their folk-songs lore, their William Wallace, and Robert Bruce, whose glories will never die, as long as Scottish memories endure.

Nostalgic memories of the faces, places and events, remain to bless and sear and burn, the slow tranquil passage of time, noted by Sundials, in the Garden, moon marks on the floor and window sill, or on the doorway, floors scoured bone white, where the sun shines straight through the house at even tide.

[KG] I found a quote in an article from The Society of the Propagation of Christian Knowledge in 1791 that “over the previous 19 years more than 6,400 people emigrated from the Inverness and Ross areas.” Ross lands were on the other side of the Dornoch Firth and according to the Scottish Antiquary passage mentioned in the first part of my research on this chapter, the Grays initially came to the north settling in Ross. It’s quite possible that they had friends or family members from those 6,400 people mentioned that had emigrated to the US and sent word. People often settled near other family members or acquaintances that had gone before them. I think it would be worth researching neighboring land owners in Butler County, PA to see if we could find details on where they were from. It may give us more insight on Thomas and Mary.

This passage also mentions the “wee-hoose”, again, this makes me believe Thomas never lived at Skibo Castle but elsewhere near or on estate grounds.

Some of the more fortunate owned clocks similar to the one made in Edinburg, like the one old Thomas brought with him.

In the gathering room of the old Scottish home, the ruling family-or owners, Laird, Lord, or Shireman, sat at the end on a sort of raised platform, a wee bit higher than the rest of the room, where the helpers, retainers, or those who lived in the Villages, which belonged to the Estate, gathered on a Sabbath eve. To listen to the ‘Laird’ read the ‘Gude-Book’ and read prayers, then join in the singing of the weird, four note sort of minor melodies, of that age. Always Psalms. These were learned and often were repeated to ward off spells.

The Schoolmaster came to the house and held School, the fireplace of this room made long enough to hold a great log. The space back of this front log large enough to cradle a Modern Ford. The chimney, not always drawing good, as the smoke casually floated over the heads of the ones on the crude benches, but it did provide both heat and light.

Some of these lucky youngsters were to become men of affairs. Doctors, at least dispensers of herbs, carrying their leeches’ their lancet, (for blood-letting), some songsters, with the Poetical gift and the musical voice, the strength and purity of tones, floating out over the hills and braes.

Their homemade garments, cloth spun by the prized spinning wheel, that held the place of honor, in the best gathering room, the trousers short and buttoned at the knee, sometimes laced with deer thong, many of these reciting long portions of the ‘Gude-Book’ will sometimes become worthy ‘Dominies and Ministers’-some become Barristers and Shopkeepers. And there was always the Storyteller, Bard or Rhymer, to promote the ancient glories of Scotland.

No work was done on the Sabbath Day. It was ‘The Lord’s Day.’ The best music was the favored music. The whole populace gathered to join the Melodies.

SKIBO! We have been unable to locate any published travels of the family of Thomas Gray and his family, coming from Northern Scotland. Excepting the tales told and retold and copied and filed, that came down through the years, from the teeming brain of our old Patriot, Thomas Gray himself.

SKIBO! The famous- the beautiful- suffered many vicissitudes through the Centuries Mr. Carnegie, in 1898, in search of a home site, traveled over this section, he noted the beautiful scenery. He wanted plenty of land, good trout streams and salmon, wooded hills, Lochs and streams, bordering on the Sea. He wanted, also a waterfall. We are told that he took a wagon at Bonar Bridge, (it was called a wagonette), driving along the peaceful highway, beside the Kyle of Sutherland, shimmering in the sunlight, grazing sheep in the meadows, the old old road mottled by the shade of the overhanging trees and the road outlined with lichen covered stone walls. The rustic beauty of the scene, the softness of the air, the sea and land and mountains blending into a true masterpiece of beauty. The Castle seat a mass of ruins, the cottages were shabby and neglected, as was the land, all of it in about as bad condition as decades of neglect would bring. He had the true Scot’s faculty of seeing its possibilities. He could vision the fascination of the sweep of the rolling lands, on his West the River Shin, one the East the River Evelix, (so named from the Celts having transferred the Celtic imagery of fire to its corsucating surface). These two Rivers are about 20 miles apart indicating the size of the Estate.

In 1898, Mr. Carnegie viewed the old Castle site, the crime of neglect, the Castle a mass of ruins, the Cottages, which were a part of the early life of the Estate proving that no master was there to cherish or rejoice. His archeological experts discovered traces of the medieval moats, which surrounded the Castle, the Monks walk recalled the Roman Catholic Era, following the sides of the Gardens. Some Yew trees 6 or 7 Centuries old, still flaunting rich foliage, the beechen hedge, also of very ancient ghostly past and St. Mary’s well bubbling away, as it has for Centuries, we spoke of the other authentic landmark, the gray stone cottage, Achinduich, located on an eminence that overlooks the Valley of the River Shin, some 20 miles from the Castle. A retreat where Centuries later, the Carnegies spent quiet days and soothing nights.

[KG] According to records about Skibo Castle on Canmore, managed by Historic Environment Scotland, “No part of the old Castle remains. The oldest part of the present castle was built about 1875, but most of the present building was built between 1899 and 1901.” Even though I don’t think Thomas lived at Skibo, I think it is possible he was familiar with the estate and castle, but the castle he was familiar with no longer exists.

Thomas Gray, Jr. & Elizabeth Craig in Armstrong County, PA Circa 1834

The following is Chapter 1 of The Gray Clan featuring Thomas Gray, Jr. and his wife Elizabeth Craig. The book does not indicate who the narrator of this long ago scene was. Was it a child, cousin or sibling of Thomas and Elizabeth?

Based on the ages of the children described and the passing of Mary James Gray, I would guess this scene took place circa 1833-1834. I have yet to verify any of the facts presented in this chapter. Once I reach Thomas Jr. on my research list I will update this post.

thomas gray 1799

Thomas Gray, Jr. at about age 30.

Thomas Gray, Jr., and his good wife ‘Lizabet’ Craig Gray, sat at ease enjoying their sunset meal. Three-year-old Thomas Henry, perched on a homemade stool, between his father and his mother, tiny year old Johnny Addison, already asleep in his ‘trundle-bed crib’ the two elderly spinster sisters of ‘Lizabet’ completed the family circle. They are speaking of the past year, with its happenings.

“I wish we could persuade Peterson, James’ son to come and settle near us. He is such a stalwart lad, and I fear he is not content in the old home, since his brother Thomas went away East, to Blairsville, to settle. Even his beloved horses do not seem to arouse him from his lonely unhappy state. He told me, when he came here to bring the tidings of our mother, Mary James Gray‘s death, in 1830, that he seriously considered leaving the old home in Forward Twp., Butler County, to locate elsewhere. He feels that there is no future there for him. Masonry and Carpentry seem to be overworked, the Journeyman’s Cabinet and Carpenter Shop of his father James Gray, on Conoquenessing Creek, near Murderingtown, holds little interest, and, as for farming. Well. The ground seems to have become worthless. ‘If there was just some way to enrich those large fields.”

‘Lizabet’ sighs. “It don’t seem possible that mother has been gone these four years, and our bonny wee Maggie and Elizabet lying on the hill out there, nearly the same time.” Will the day ever come when we can find summat to fight the dread Croup?”

And, she walks unsteadily over to the crib of the sleeping John. Johnny-ah-Addison-ah, as she calls him, she hada–shall we call it–a button hook ending to most of her words. She covers the child and walks to the door, looking out to the opposite hill-side, where the new Cemetery has been laid out, on the North side of their farm.

It is very evident that she soon expects another little one in the family circle.

“Tammas! Will ye be comin here? Who can yonder herseman be? He seems strange. He rids ever so wearily.” Thomas comes to her side and looks intently out over the fields, to the Trail, near the good spring, a few hundred feet from the forks of the road, which ran on to another settlement, through Shouptown, then on to Duncanville and the Trading Post at Kellersburg.

Thomas watched the approaching traveller. “He rides like me Faither! -later- He look like me Faither!” Then with a joyous shout, “It IS me Faither.” He starts running to meet him, gathers him in his strong arms, the tears running unchecked down his cheeks.

Questions, answers, news, all so mixed up that it seems impossible to find a coherent thought or action. But there was never a question of the warmth of welcome or happiness in the presence of the beloved old father, Thomas Gray. Who had come to them for a last haven.

After the wayfarer was made comfortable and at home, and the ‘beastie’ rubbed down and bedded for the night, the story developed, being told and retold, as with the ‘tongue-of-age’ until it become well known, not only to those living there but to all the generations following. We shall give it as completely as our family notes, traditions and records furnish basis for the truth of the same.

—–

Recorded in the Kittanning, Armstrong County, PA court records we find:

Land Transfer; Tract 313. Warrant 2869. 130 A. P. 35 to Thomas Gray, Jr. from the Holland Land Company. (Willink, Agt.) in Madison Twp. – 19 June 1833. Also the Armstrong County History records p. 283 “Madison Twp. land given for Gray Cemetery.”

The Gray Clan & White Oak Springs Church, Renfrew, PA

white oak springs Presbyterian church, Renfrew, Pennsylvania

Image from “The Gray Clan” of White Oak Springs Church circa 1896.

Below is a transcript of the information appearing at the beginning of The Gray Clan about the White Oak Springs Presbyterian Church in Renfrew, PA. According to family history, this is the church where our immigrant forefather’s family would have attended.

You will notice in the book they refer to the church as “White Oaks Springs Church.” They also mention Mother Mary’s grave lying next to the old stone steps of the original church close to a pine tree. Descendant Bill Brown visited White Oak Springs several years ago and found Mother Mary’s (Mary James Gray) grave under a pine and quite overgrown.

According to the White Oaks Springs Presbyterian Church website, the following history is given for the church with slightly different dates from the information in The Gray Clan.

“White Oak Springs was organized in 1818 when some members left the Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church following a controversy over which version of the Psalms should be sung.

The church gets its name from a grove of white oak trees surrounding a spring not far from where the church now stands.

The first worship services at White Oak Springs were held in a tent in summer and in a barn in the winter months.  A brick church was built in 1820  but was destroyed by fire in 1852, with a new church constructed the next year.  The congregation has been served by 26 pastors over its 194-year history.”

White Oaks Springs Church. Erected about 1862. Picture taken 1896. Bell Tower built 1900. The front faces South, toward the Springs. The Cemetery to the East.

Dunning McNair ‘The Land Jabber’ gave the ground, 10 acres. When William McLeod died in 1804. For church and burial purposes.

Early records of the Monongahela Presbytery show reports from here. Rev. Joseph Kerr was assigned to visit the field. Associate Reformed. However, history records, Francis Williams and Poythress here – Saddle-Bags Preachers, as early as 1796. Also Rev. James McConnell, born Antrim Country, Dervock, Ireland, preached here previous to 1800. Using the slab-seated “meetin-house” and tent below the road. This was the usual place to meet for worship. Near the Springs.

It was during his Pastorate – or period of time there – for as yet, no records of this has been located. We do know that he was there over a period of some years, -that the unusual visitation of ‘the revival which they called “The Falling work” because of the remarkable physical manifestations, which accompanying it, when those under deep conviction of sin, would fall prostrate, and would lie prostrate for hours, in an unconscious state, losing all strength of body and mind. On recovering, it showed no harm to the person, but the whole spiritual outlook was changed.’ (This occurred over to the West, in the section nearer to Nebo.)

McConnel, at the ‘Slab-seated Meetin House’ near White Oaks Springs, resented this and remonstrated strongly. “He told his people. ‘It BE BUT. He CANNA’ mean, HYMNS. Nae Nae. He CANNA mean hymns! (This true incident places the “Falling Work” definitely before the 1800 date.) By 1818, the Pioneers were ready to build a Brick Church (see p. 231) The indentations of this Brick Church are still strongly visible, to the right side of the picture. (which is East or on the Butler side.) The steps were near the old pine tree, standing there now, and Mother Mary’s grave lies close to the old steps.

Map of the Thomas Gray Place – Connoquenessing Twp., Butler Co., PA

The front page of The Gray Clan is a hand drawn “Map of the Thos. Gray Place.” This page in our copy of the book has taken a beating as the cover began to deteriorate and eventually fell off. To begin with, some of the text was faint and difficult to read. I’ve scanned the map and placed a few numbers and words next to their originals in clearer type. I’ve also recreated the key, “Map of the Old Places.”

You can view the .jpg of the map below or download a copy. I’ve also created a Map of the Thomas Gray Place Google Map displaying these locations with my best guess as to their very general locations. Eventually, I hope to compare original land records and early maps with current maps to pinpoint more precise locations. For now, this gives us a general idea of where these places would have been.

map of the thomas gray place butler county, pa