American Saga of Wexford-Born Immigrant Loftus Crosier Gray

The above is a picture of Loftus and Mary Gray, my great-great grandparents. Jack Holt, the husband of Mrs. Billie Jo Holt (who provided the above photo) is also a descendant of Loftus Gray. Jack's maternal grandfather was Walter Gray. The picture was given to Mrs. Holt by Anne Holt and later verified by a Gray cousin named Fred Morrison. Mrs. Holt, along with myself, have researched the life of Loftus Crosier Gray. Loftus married Mary Fitzpatrick of County Carlow, Ireland, on January 14, 1848, in Chicago. He was the son of Capt. Joseph and Bell Inda Crosier Gray of Wexford, Ireland. While in Chicago, his mother, Bell, and sister Fannie both contracted cholera and died. They were buried in Chicago.

Loftus and Mary homesteaded land in both Iowa and Kansas. Loftus Gray was mayor of Gluttenberg, Clayton County, Iowa, in 1852. They settled in Kansas and homesteaded land at Doniphon County, located on the Missouri River. The Territory of Kansas was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until January 29, 1861. The eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Kansas in 1861.

Some of the early settlers in the Kansas Territory were involved in the politics and guerrilla warfare swirling about the issue of Kansas entering the Union as a free or slave state. William Quantrill was a Confederate guerrilla operating in Missouri. Quantrill and his men attacked pro-Union civilians on either side of the Kansas-Missouri border. John Brown gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers in Kansas. Brown believed that the only way to defeat the system of slavery was through violent insurrection.

Many of the people who settled in the Kansas Territory came for land and business opportunities. All settlers in Kansas Territory endured the hardships found on any frontier. They raised crops to feed themselves and their livestock. They built houses and stores and established schools and churches. The weather was often a factor, and a large number of settlers left the territory after the bitter winter of 1856. [1]

Even though the Kansas-Nebraska Act "opened" Kansas Territory for settlement in 1854, a number of people already lived in the area. This included several tribes of Native Americans. Plains Indian tribes -- the Kansas, Pawnees, and Osages -- lived in and moved across Kansas, depending on the season. [2]

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, only visited Kansas once, nearly a year before being elected to that high office. Kansans loved this seemingly quintessential “common man.”

When Lincoln made his one and only Kansas visit in 1859, he seemed like just another politician, aspiring to the nation’s highest office. Most Kansas Republicans favored his better-known rival for the young party’s nomination, William H. Seward. Thus, Lincoln’s trip to the Kansas Territory received only slight press coverage and was relatively brief. His message, nevertheless, was one of significance for the territory and nation at a pivotal moment in our country’s history.

Abraham Lincoln crossed the Missouri River at St. Joseph by ferry and arrived in Elwood, Kansas, on November 30. That evening, he delivered his first Kansas speech at the Great Western Hotel. Lincoln condemned the institution of slavery, which the founders had considered an “evil” institution, and blamed the violence in Kansas Territory on the new policy of “popular sovereignty” as applied to the territories.

The next morning -- a bitterly cold one by all accounts -- Lincoln traveled to Troy, where he spoke for nearly two hours in the early afternoon, and then went on to Doniphan, some 10 miles away, where he delivered another speech and spent the night. Friday morning, December 2, Lincoln traveled to Atchison, arriving in the afternoon. At 8 p.m., he addressed a large crowd in the auditorium of the Methodist Church for 2 hours and 20 minutes.

The news of John Brown’s execution reached the territory during Lincoln's visit. Lincoln thought Brown had “shown great courage, rare unselfishness.” But, along with most Americans of the day, Lincoln believed Brown had gone too far. “Old John Brown has just been executed for treason against the state. We cannot object,” Lincoln reasoned, “even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed, and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right.” [3]

Loftus Gray enlisted as a private August 19, 1862 at Troy, Kansas, where Lincoln had given a speech in 1859. He joined Company B, 13th Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Infantry. The Thirteenth was raised in conformity to the quota assigned to Kansas, under President Lincoln's call of July 1862.

The 13th Kansas Infantry was organized on September 10, 1862, at Camp Stanton in Atchison, Kansas. Under the command of Colonel Thomas Mead Bowen, the regiment was attached to 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Frontier.

While Loftus was a member of the 13th. they were involved in action at Newtonia, Missouri, on September 29, 1862; the battle of Cane Hill on November 28th; and the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, on December 7, 1862. In the Battle of Prairie Grove, the command was forced to cross a rapid mountain stream several times, resulting in numerous soldiers' deaths due to exposure. They continued in an expedition over the Boston Mountains to Van Buren, Arkansas, Dec. 27-31.[4]

Loftus Gray, while on the march in the winter of 1862 from Atchison to Cane Hill, Arkansas, a distance of more than 300 miles, contracted a severe cold. Loftus developed a fever, which caused inflation of the lungs. This led to heart disease with weakness and trembling. Loftus Gray, at 45 years of age, received a discharge from the U.S. Army on March 17, 1863, in Springfield, Missouri. The discharge document states he was born in Wexford, Ireland, and that his occupation when he enlisted was a farmer.

In an affidavit dated August 20, 1881, James Floyd states he knew Loftus Gray from 1857 to his enlistment in 1862. Loftus was a farmer, worked on the St. Joseph & Topeka Railroad and also on building a levee located at the Wharf in the town of Doniphan, Kansas. Loftus was examined by surgeon Wheeler of Troy, Kansas, and was pronounced in good health before entering the service. On his return from service, he was not able to perform manual labor except for light work. In another affidavit, dated September 10, 1881, August Katner states that he had been well acquainted with him and neighbors of Loftus from 1858 to 1871 in Doniphan County, Kansas. August also states Loftus was only able to perform light work after his discharge from the Army such as driving a team. [5]

Loftus Gray Jr. remained in Kansas to farm while Loftus and Mary, with their children, moved to Woodson County, Kansas in 1871. They homesteaded 80 acres and built a 1 1/2-story house. Fifty acres of the land were plowed and cultivated. They also dug two wells, built a shed and stable. They set out 900 fruit trees. With Loftus in poor health his wife Mary and the children had to do a lot of the manual labor.

The Gray family in 1883 by way of the Oregon Trail, settled for a time in Oregon. Loftus and Mary then moved to Smith River, California, before finally settling in Crescent City, California.

Mary Gray's obituary states she died at the age of 103 years, 6 months and 12 days. Mary was born in County Carlow, Ireland, on Sept 15, 1823. She came with her parents from Ireland when she was a young girl. Her parents were Miles Thomas and Julia Kelly Fitzpatrick. They first landed in Quebec, and they moved on to Chicago. Mary received her husband's Civil War pension of $50 a month. In many ways, Mrs. Gray was a remarkable women and was possessed of unusually keen faculties, which she retained practically to her dying day. Even in her old age, Mary insisted on doing some kind of work. Being one of the very few people who would pass the century mark, she had many visitors and there were articles written in magazines and papers in the United States about her. Mary attracted extra attention as the oldest pensioner living in the United States.

The inscription on Loftus Crosier Gray's tombstone reads [Sacred to the memory of Loftus C Gray Veteran of late War, Youngest son of Capt. Joseph Gray and beloved husband of Mary Gray, Born in County Wexford, Ireland, April 13, 1813. Died at Crescent City, CA. December 5th, 1897]. Mary and several of their children are also buried there in the Pioneer Cemetery in Smith River, California. It is a scenic location, with a lily farm adjacent to the cemetery. Fred Morrison's parents are buried there and a son named Joseph, who rode for the Pony Express.

1. Kansapedia - Kansas Historical Society
2. Kansapedia - Kansas Historical Society
3. Kansapedia Kansas Historical Society
4. 13th Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry – Wikipedia
5. National Archives Washington, D.C

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Tags: America's Civil War, American Frontier, Family History, genealogy


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