William Gray

A Guide to the William Gray (1793-1873) Papers, 1819 1875
Call Number Mss1 G7952 a FA2
(Part of the Virginia Heritage: Guides to Manuscripts & Archival Collections in Virginia)
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Main Entry:Gray, William, 1793-1873.
Title:Papers, 1819-1875.
Size:ca. 4,000 items.
Biographical Note:William Gray (1793-1873) was a prominent tobacco shipper and manufacturer associated with several firms in Manchester, Va. Born in Prince Edward County, Gray moved to Manchester (part of Chesterfield County incorporated into the City of Richmond in 1910), around 1810. In 1821, Gray became a partner in Gray & Pankey and, twelve years later, established his own firm, William Gray & Co. He directed the company’s operations until his death in 1873.

William Gray’s papers have been divided into two groups: those that relate to his personal life and those that deal with his tobacco businesses. In addition to his tobacco ventures, Gray was a director of the Bank of Virginia, a trustee for the Manchester Methodist Episcopal Church, a trustee for the town of Manchester, and a justice of the peace for Chesterfield County. Much of his personal correspondence concerns these subjects. Researchers should note that many of these letters from friends and family also concern tobacco and leasing of slaves for tobacco factories. It should also be noted that additional William Gray papers are located at the Valentine Museum in Richmond. A partial index to Gray’s personal letters appears below.

Other prominent or frequent correspondents include: Richmond attorney Arthur Alexander Morson, Randolph-Macon trustee and benefactor, D’Arcy Paul, and Philadelphia businessman and son-in-law, Osbourn Wattson. A letter of 15 August 1861 from William Gray’s nephew, John A. Garnett, concerns the 44th Virginia Infantry in Highland County; another of 30 September 1861 concerns the Cheat Mountain campaign; and a third of 19 January 1862 discusses camp life and desertions in Greenbrier County. Letters from James Gray discuss the financial panic of 1837 while letters of 15 and 20 September 1853 concern White Sulphur Springs and Hot Springs. Two 1864 letter from James Thomas Gray, Gray’s son, discuss prisoner exchanges and conditions at Point Lookout, Md. A letter of 11 April 1862 from another son, William Granville Gray, concerns the 21st Virginia Infantry, Co. F., and Turner Ashby.

Provenance:Gift of Robert B. Mayo in 1986.