Capt. James Gray (1749-1822)
Gray Family. - Another family that was prominent in town for many years, but leaves
no male descendent bearing their name, was that of Captain James Gray.
Gray was born in Newburyport, Mass., October 8, 1749. He came to Epsom when nineteen
years of age and was employed by the town to teach school.
In July, 1769,
he married Jane Wallace, who lived but a few years.
At the breaking out of
the war Mr. Gray at once joined the American forces and received a captain's commission
in the First New Hampshire Regiment.
As will be seen by the accompanying papers,
he was appointed an enlisting officer by Colonel Marshall, of Boston, and did
valiant service at Ticonderoga.
He married, for a second wife, Susannah Parsons,
of Newbury, Mass., daughter of Rev. Moses Parsons and sister to Judge Theophilus
Parsons. About 1778 they moved to Epsom, bringing into town the first chaise ever
owned in that place.
They lived for several years in the house of the widow
of Rev. John Tucke, the first settled minister in town, which we understand to
have been where George W. Bacheldor now lives. They then moved on to Sandborn's
Hill, and owned and occupied the farm now owned by Samuel Quimby. Afterwards they
bought on the turnpike, on what has ever since been known as "Gray's Hill."
He had a grist-mill on the Little Suncook River, near where the mill of Horace
Bickford now stands. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1788,
and was also town clerk, selectman and representative.
His appointment or
commission as coroner for the county of Rockingham, dated December 25, 1784, signed
by Mesheck Weare, President of the State, is still in a good state of preservation,
in the hands of his daughter, Mrs. Susan M. G. Perkins.
He was a teacher of
vocal music and for several years was church chorister.
The mother of Mr.
Gray was with him when he first came to town, and she was employed as a school-teacher.
Moses Parsons Gray, the oldest son of James and Susannah Gray, was born in Epsom
June 29, 1779. When quite a small boy he went to Byfield, Mass., to live with
is Grandmother Parsons, with whom he moved to Boston and attended school there.
At the age of fifteen years he became a clerk in a store for a short time, but
soon entered his uncle's employ as a sailor, that he might learn the art of navigation.
When he became of age, he took command of the ship "Diana" and made
several voyages to the West Indies and other foreign ports, having, while following
the sea, visited Spain, Portugal and Russia.
When about thirty years of age,
he returned to Epsom, where he resided until his death, which occurred November
8, 1858. After coming to Epsom he taught school in the Cilley District and also
in the Centre District.
While in Boston, after he had left school, he employed
his spare moments in the study of surveying, which art he was very frequently
called upon to practice while in Epsom, there being hardly a division line in
the town but what he was acquainted with, and he was often called to other towns
in the capacity of a surveyor. A plan of the town drawn by him is now in the possession
of the town.
Although he never studied law, yet his reading and his intercourse
with his uncle, Chief Justice Parsons, made him familiar with much that pertained
to the profession, so that he was often called upon to assist in the settlement
While he was hardly ever elected to any office by the town, yet
he very frequently assisted those who were elected, and his peculiar handwriting
can be found in several places upon the records.
Theodore Parsons Gray, born
August 8, 1781, followed the sea, and was killed by falling from aloft to the
main-deck, September 20, 1796, and was buried in "that vast cemetery where
there are no monuments."
Katharine L. Gray, born February 19, 1783, married
Dr. John Proctor, and lived in Epsom, where he died in June, 1837. She died in
Georgetown, Mass., March, 1854. They left no children.
Lucretia B. Gray, born
May 5, 1785, married William Brown and lived in Epsom, where she died May 11,
1875, leaving one son and two daughters, one of whom, Mrs. Susan E. P. Forbes,
has recently purchased "Fatherland Farm," the old Parsons homestead,
at Byfield, Mass., where she spends her summers.
James H. Gray, born June
29, 1787, was also a sailor, and died when but twenty-three years of age, upon
an island off the coast of Florida.
Judith Parsons Gray, born March 12, 1789,
married John Rand, of Epsom.
Of the eight children born to them, only one
had died, - James G., who died December, 1850.
The following found among the
well preserved papers of the late Captain James Gray, we deem of sufficient interest
to be given a place in the history of Epsom:
Letter from Captain Gray to his
"CHARLESTOWN (No. 4), May 18th, 1777.
"My Dear Susie:
As I would not, if possible, let any opportunity of writing to you pass unnoticed,
therefore I embrace the present by the post to Exeter, viz. : Mr. Waldo. I arrived
here last Tuesday at night, as you will find by my Journal, transmitted to your
Father; but it was attended with some difficulty, the roads being so excessively
miry and my horse taken sick that I was obliged to walk a considerable part of
the way ; but at present am very well. I expect on Tuesday next to take my departure
for Ticonderoga, to put my baggage upon my horse & travel through the woods,
which journey is eighty miles from here. When I left Exeter I forgot my Coffe
pot and thought not of it until I got to Keene, so that I am now at a loss how
to make use of my coffee. Since I came here I have heard from my Brother, by Mr.
Tucker, who left him about a fortnight since in good health and high spirits.
Capt. McClary has been very ill here, but has marched since through the woods.
"My Love and duty to the family. The reason of my putting my Baggage upon
my horse or going on foot is because the wagon cannot get through the woods."
from Captain James Gray to his father-in-law, the original being in the possession
of his granddaughter, Mrs. A. W. Perkins, of Chichester.
June 26, 1777.
"Hon. Sir: The last letter which I sent you by Col. Little
I hope came safe to hand. I have now the pleasure, by Dr. Conner, of Exeter, to
write a second. The Wednesday after the date of my first I set of from No. 4 for
Ticonderoga. Our wagon not being able to carry our Baggage through the woods,
I was obliged to load mine upon my horse and venture my body upon my Legs through
to my Journey's end, which, perhaps, may be said to be no small risqué.
However, after a tedious Journey, I arrived at Ticonderoga, distance from No.
4 eighty miles, the 28th of May. Nothing worthy of observation has occurred to
me since I cam e into Camp until the 17th instant, at which time the Camp at Ticonderoga
was alarmed by the report of small arms at about half a mile distant from the
Line, in the woods, which proved to be a party of Indians, about thirty in number,
which lay in ambush for us and had then fired upon some of our men as they were
returning from duty into Camp, three of which were killed and one carried off
by the Savages, upon which a scouting-party was immediately sent in pursuit of
them; but so precipitate was their retreat that we could not overtake them; but
in their hurry to Crown Point they were met by a party of Rangers, eleven in number,
who readily gave them fire. The Indians returned the same, upon which three or
four rounds were exchanged, when the Commander of the party of Rangers, Lieut.
Little, received a wound in the arm & was obliged to retreat with the loss
of three men. The next day a scouting-party came upon the same grounds, where
they found one Indian dead and took another who could not keep up with his party;
him they brought into Camp and now have him confined.
"Sir: If I am not
to tedious, I would observe that those four men who were killed and taken belonged
to one Company and one mess, and the fifth, who was the only one left of the mess,
was the next day standing with his gun loaded in his hands, leaning his chin upon
the muzzle of his gun, when it went off, as he was talking with is Brother, and
drove the whole charge through his head, dashing his brains through the side of
the house by which they were standing.
"I have just received news from
Ticonderoga that the British Troops are landed at Crown Point; this I believe
to be depended upon as a fact, so that we are now preparing for Battle.
St. Clair has the Command of the Troops in this department. We have fit for duty
about 3000 men and about 1000 unfit for duty, by reason of disorders that are
incident to Camp life.
"The 18th I was ordered, with my Company, to take
command of this post, where we are to keep Garrison within the stockade. How long
we shall remain here I can't say. I will endeavor to write again by the post who
goes and comes through this Garrison.
"A letter, sir, would be very acceptable.
"My Duty and respects to all.
"REV. MOSES PARSONS, Newbury Falls.
"To be left at Mr. Davenport's
bank of an old document, headed "return of the 3d New Hampshire Regiment
of Foot, in the service of the United States, commanded by Col. Alexander Scannel,
Ticonderoga, June 28, 1777," in which Captains Gray and McClary, of this
town, were reported as on duty, the former with thirty-nine men and the latter
with forty-nine, is found the following in Captian Gray's beautiful writing:
6th July 1777, - Retreated from Sheensboro' & lost all my money, Baggage,
&c. Lodged in the woods at Night.
"Monday, 7th, - Got into Fort Ann
at 6 in ye morning; everything in the utmost confusion; nothing to eat. At 11
o'clock A.M. was ordered to take the Command of a party upon a scout and marched
with 150 men besides 17 Rangers; had not marched from Garrison into the woods
more than half a mile, after detaching my front, Rear and flanking Guards, when
we met with a party of Regulars and gave them fire, which was Returned by the
enemy, who then gave back. I then pursued them with close fire till they betook
themselves to the top of a mountain. At the foot of this mountain we posted our
selves and continued our fire until 6 P.M., when a reinforcement of 150 more joined
me; but night approaching obliged me to return with my party to Garrison, after
finding one of my party killed and 3 wounded, and three of the enemy killed by
our first fire.
"Tuesday Morning, 8th, - Myself, with Capt. Hutchins,
with the same number of men, marched to the aforesaid mountain and attacked the
enemy very warmly. The engagement lasted about 2 hours, at which time the Commander
of yo Garrison sent Colo. Ransleur with a small party of militia to reinforce
us. We then advanced (firing) up the hill, where we found the enemy's surgeon
dressing a Capts Leg. Those, with two of their wounded soldiers, we took and sent
in, and a number of our own people, men & women, who were the day before cut
off by the enemy, we retook. At last, finding out ammunition gone and none to
be had in Garrison, ordered off my wounded and some of the dead, and formed a
retreat. Much fatigued when I returned and found no refreshments, neither meat
or drink; immediately a Council was called and the prisoners who were retaken
brot upon examination, who gave information that an express just arrived before
we made this second attack and gave the enemy intelligence that a reinforcement
of 2000, with Indians, were near at hand to join them, at which time they were
to make a general attack upon us. It was then determined upon to retreat to fort
Edward, after setting fire the Garrison. Accordingly, the wounded were sent off,
except one, who was one of my own Company; him the Surgeon thot proper not to
order off, that he would soon expire, or that if he was likely to live, the enemy,
when they took possession, would take care of him. This I knew not of till we
were ordered to march, at which time I turned back alone (my Company being gone)
to the rear of the Army, where I found him. I then picked up a tent & fastened
it between two poles, laid him upon it, and hired four soldiers to carry him.
I took their four guns with my own and carried them to fort Edward; this was about
3 o'clock P.M.; rained very hard; distance from fort Ann to Fort Edward, 14 miles;
arrived at Fort Edward at 10 in the Evening; no Barracks nor Tents to go into;
therefore laid down in the rain and slept upon the ground; the fatigue of this
day I believe I shall always remember.
"Colo Ransleur, wounded; Capt
Weare, wounded; Ensign Walcutt, killed; Isaac Davis, a sergeant in my company,
killed. Our loss is the two skirmishes about 15; the Enemy's unknown.
9th, - I found my self very much indisposed, having no cloths to shift myself
with & nothing to eat or drink, but walking about to make myself warm. Upon
parade I met Capt. Peters (a Dutchman), a gentleman I never had seen but once
before; he seeing me in my helpless situation took me to his tent, gave me a dram,
then ordered some warm breakfast for me. Here I refreshed. He then procured barracks
for my Company and furnished with Blankets to lodge on. I then sent my wounded
men off to Albany. Applied for kettles for my Compy, but in vain; obliged to mix
our flour in our hats and bake it upon Chips before the fire and broil our salt
beef upon the coals.
"Thur. 10th, - Confined to my barrack; sent for
a Doctor - none could attend - no appetite to food.
"Frid. 11, - Applied
by an officer to Gen. Schuyler to go down the river to recruit my health; could
not obtain it.
"Sat. 12th, - Gens St. Clair, Poor, Patterson & Termo
arrived. Gen. Nixon's Brigade marched into camp in the Evening. Gen1 Poor, having
heard that I was sick, came with Colo Long & Maj. McClintock to see me and
gave me liberty to go to Saratoga to recruit.
"Sun. 13th, - Set off on
horseback and rode to Fort Miller, where I met with Col. Scammell, then proceeded
to Saratoga, but the inhabitants being alarmed by the Tories, who every night
were plundering houses, were moving off; therefore, I was obliged to ride until
12 at night before I could get a lodging. Lodged at Mr. Van Vaiters.
14th, - Set off and well to Still Watter; could get no entertainment; rode to
the above return is the following: