Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History

Gray Family Papers

Manuscript Collection: MC033

Collection Summary

Creator: Gray family
Title: Gray family papers
Dates: 1826-1864
Abstract: Correspondence, diaries, legal documents and printed materials created by the Gray family or collected by them record events in Virginia and Texas from before the Texas Revolution to the Civil War.
Identification: MC033
OCLC Record No.: 47248938
Quantity: 1 box (.4 linear feet)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History, La Porte, Texas

Creator Sketch

William Fairfax Gray was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, on November 3, 1787, to William and Catherine Dick Gray. As a land agent for Thomas Green and Albert T. Burnley, Gray first visited Texas in 1835. He attended the 1836 convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos and kept a detailed diary of its proceedings. Gray left Texas during the "Runaway Scrape" but returned with his family in 1838, settling in Houston where he practiced law. Among Gray's titles were clerk of the Texas House of Representatives, secretary of the Texas Senate, district attorney in Texas, clerk of the Texas Supreme Court, and secretary of the Philosophical Society of Texas. He was a Mason and a devout Episcopalian. He and his wife, Millie Richards Stone Gray (1800-1851), married in 1817 and had 12 children, six of whom lived to adulthood. Gray died in Houston on April 16, 1841.

Peter W. Gray, 1819-1874, son of William and Millie Gray, came to Houston, Texas, with his family in 1838. He became a captain in the Republic of Texas army and second lieutenant of the Milam Guards. From 1841 to 1861 Gray served as district attorney of Houston. He married Abby Jane Avery in 1843. In 1846 he was elected to the first Texas state legislature, and there he authored the important Practice Act, regulating Texas court procedures. Gray was a founder of the Houston Lyceum, which later became the Houston Public Library. After Texas secession, Gray represented the Houston district in the first Confederate House of Representatives. He became a volunteer aide to General John Bankhead Magruder in 1863, and saw action in the battle of Galveston. In 1864 Jefferson Davis appointed Gray his fiscal agent for the Trans-Mississippi Department. After the war Gray started a Houston law practice and was the first president of the Houston Bar Association. For a brief time prior to his death, he was appointed associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Like his father, Gray was an active Mason and Episcopalian.

Edwin Fairfax Gray, 1829-1884, son of William and Millie Gray, served in both the Republic of Texas Navy and United States Navy, and while in the latter, sailed with Commodore Matthew Perry on his historic trip to Japan in 1853. After resigning from the Navy in 1858, Gray was appointed Texas state engineer, and secretary/treasurer of Houston Tap and Brazoria Railway Company in 1860. He joined the 3rd Texas Infantry during the Civil War and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war Gray returned to engineering and often acted as an inspector for railroad construction. Gray had three children with his wife, Rosalie Woodburn Taylor Gray, whom he married in 1857.

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, diaries, legal documents and printed materials created by the Gray family or collected by them record events in Virginia and Texas from before the Texas Revolution to the Civil War. Those documents created by a Gray family member are arranged by individual. Contained in the William Fairfax Gray series are a handwritten Constitution of the Philosophical Society of Texas, a letter from James Madison, and an oath of allegiance to Texas made before Gray. A transcript of Millie Gray's diary covers the time period of 1832 to 1840, and documents her life in Fredericksburg, Virginia, her husband's move to and return from Texas, the family's journey to Texas, and life in Houston. In the Peter W. Gray series are correspondence with Nathan Fuller and Jefferson Davis in 1862, and a key to the writing of a Galveston secret society. "Notes on the Occurances of 1842" and the journal excerpt are believed to have been written by Peter W. Gray.

Documents collected by the Gray family are arranged according to material type and function. Seven letters written to Sam Houston and one written by him, document 1830s and 1840s Texas. Other notable correspondence is by former president Andrew Jackson, covering the approach of Texas annexation in 1844; Confederate governor of Texas Francis R. Lubbock, concerning martial law in Texas; and early Texan jurist and diplomat George W. Terrell, writing to Ashbel Smith and Lord Aberdeen of Britain. One of the 1000 printed copies of Col. Travis' March 3, 1836 letter from the Alamo reveals his situation there. A hand-drawn map documents the Texan defenses at Fort Defiance in Goliad in 1836. "An Ordinance" covers the terms under which the government of Texas planned to dissolve its union with the United States in 1861. "General Orders," written by General John Bankhead Magruder, is in regards to the exportation of cotton from Texas in 1863.


Organized into nine series and nineteen subseries; arrangement is alphabetical and chronological.


Restrictions on Access


Terms Governing Use

Open for research by appointment.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the San Jacinto Museum of History. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Jacinto Museum of History as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Index Terms

Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889
Fuller, Nathan
Gray, Edwin Fairfax, 1829-1884
Gray, Millie, 1800-1851
Gray, Peter W., 1819-1874
Gray, William Fairfax, 1787-1841
Houston, Sam, 1793-1863
Jackson, Andrew, 1767-1845
Lubbock, Francis Richard, 1815-1905
Madison, James, 1751-1836
Magruder, John Bankhead, 1807-1871
Smith, Ashbel, 1805-1886
Terrell, George W.
Travis, William Barret, 1809-1836
Philosophical Society of Texas
Fort Defiance (Goliad, Tex.)--Maps
Houston (Tex.)
Texas--Annexation to the United States
Texas--History--Republic, 1836-1846
Texas--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Constitution of the Philosophical Society of Texas
Notes on the occurrences of 1842

Administrative Information


[Identification of Item], Gray Family Papers, MC033, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.


Gift of George D. Sears, 1958.

Processing Information

Processed by Joel Minor, 2001.


"Gray, William Fairfax" The Handbook of Texas Online.

"Gray, Peter W." The Handbook of Texas Online.

"Gray, Edwin Fairfax" The Handbook of Texas Online.


William Fairfax Gray

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32 1 Correspondence 1831 April 13, undated
2 Legal Documents 1837-1839

Millie Richards Gray

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32 3 Diary (transcript) 1832-1840

Peter W. Gray

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32 4 Correspondence 1862
5 Diary 1842
6 Key undated

Edwin Fairfax Gray

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32 7 Correspondence 1856

Collected Papers: Correspondence

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32 8 Sam Houston from Stephen F. Austin (transcript) 1836 October 16
9 Sam Houston from George Bancroft 1845 November 24
10 Sam Houston from G.B. Jameson (portion) 1836 January 18
11 Sam Houston from J.R. Reiley 1842 June 22
12 Sam Houston to Col. Yoakum 1849 January 31
13 Sam Houston from Lorenzo de Zavala 1836 March 14
14 Andrew Jackson to Sam Houston 1844 March 15
15 Andrew Jackson to W.G. Reeves 1844 June 15
16 Francis R. Lubbock to General P.O. Hebert 1862 September 26
17 Francis R. Lubbock to Texas Delegation in Confederate Congress 1862 September 30
18 G.W. Terrell to Ashbel Smith (3 letters) 1842-1845
19 G.W. Terrell to Lord Aberdeen 1845 May 1
20 General 1829-1862
21 Envelope: Thomas M. Bagby undated

Collected Papers: Autograph

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32 22 Autograph: Thomas J. Rusk undated

Collected Papers: Legal

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32 23 Donation Warrant: T.H. Bruce 1838 May 15
24 Mexican stamp legal form (blank) 1826-1827

Collected Papers: Printed Materials

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32 25 Broadside: Letter from Col. William B. Travis 1836 March 3
26 Broadside: "An Ordinance" 1861 February 1
27 Broadside: "General Orders" 1863 February 22
28 Newspaper Clipping: The Bellville Countryman 1862 September 6
29 Newspaper Clipping: The Houston Daily Telegraph 1864 April 28

Collected Papers: Maps

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32 30 Plan of Fort Defiance 1836 March 2


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32 31 Genealogy of Gray Family undated
32 Constitution of the Philosophical Society of Texas 1837 December 5
33 Correspondence: To Sam Houston from Lorenzo de Zavala 1836 March 14
34 Printed Materials: Letter from Col. William B. Travis 1836 March 3
35 Printed Materials: "General Orders" 1863 February 22