Sunday, January 29, 2012

Samuel Erskine Gray-interesting man!

This is the house that my great-grandfather, Samuel Erskine Gray, built in Edgewood Grove in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1912.  He and Charles S. Hernly developed Edgewood Grove in 1911. This picture of the house had fascinated me since I took it several years ago.  I want to visit the inside and yard of this house!  That may be one of my 2012 genealogical goals for the year!  I would like to learn more about the house such as how much it cost to build and what it is worth now.  At the time that Samuel lived there, the address was 317 Potomac Avenue.  From Terre Haute city directories it appears that Samuel lived in the house from 1912 to 1938.

Samuel was an interesting man.  To family, he was known as "Dad Gray".  

Samuel Erskine Gray was born  on the 10th of August 1861 in Lost Creek Township, Vigo County, Indiana on the National Road, about five miles east of Terre Haute.  He was the seventh of twelve children born to David Erskine and Isabel Malone Gray.  According to one obituary, Samuel was only able to attend school about three months each year until he began operating a small store, saw mill and grist mill.  In 1885, Samuel married Cora Carpenter Ferrel, daughter of William and Mary Amanda Carpenter Ferrel.  Samuel was 24 years old and Cora was 17 years old when they married.  A year after their marriage, their first child, Gladys Lorene was born.  Sadly, she died when she was nine months old.  A year later (1888) my grandmother, Lotta Nye was born.  Three more children were born: Harry in 1891, Fred in 1893, and Bertha Marie in 1896.  In 1899, Cora died of peritonitis, leaving Samuel with four young children.

From an obituary: 

“He was one of the organizers of the Central Loan Association in May, 1895, and from that date had served as director, appraiser, and at the time of death as vice president of this association, now know as the Central Federal Saving and Loan Association…”. 
 I am not sure that this information is accurate as I have found another article (from 1972) that relates the history of the bank and that article states that Samuel E. Gray was vice president of the bank in 1936.

Samuel was listed as the Postmaster for Terre Haute, Indiana from 1901 to 1910.  In 1907, he married Julia Etta Ferguson.  By this time, Samuel’s children were ages 21, 18, 16 and 13.  Lotta had graduated from Westfield College in 1907, shortly after Samuel’s marriage to Etta.

Again, from an obituary:

“On June 11, 1910, the Standard Investment Company was formed for the purpose of buying and selling real estate in the city of Terre Haute and vicinity.  Mr. Gray was a heavy stockholder in this company and served as general manager, treasurer, director and also President, and took a very active part in the company during its life.”

“He was a charter member and the second president of the Terre Haute Real Estate Board, now the Terre Haute Board of Realtors, which was organized May 4, 1916, beginning his term of office Jan. 1, 1918.  He was president of the Indiana Real Estate Association for the year 1930.”

As stated earlier, it appears that Samuel owned the home he built in Edgewood Grove until 1938.  In 1921, Sam bought thirteen acres in Owen County, Indiana on Jordan Village Road.  His son Fred had bought property there in 1919.  Sam built a small cottage there with screened in porches on three sides.  Guests slept in hammocks on the porches.  "Graybrook Cottage" was used as the family's vacation and week-end get-away.  My Dad spent many summers there as a child.  Fred sold his farm to his father, Sam, in 1926.  In 1932, The Gray Land Corporation was incorporated.  Sam and Etta moved to the farm around 1935.  His dream to build a lake in the valley was realized when it became a WPA project.  The dam was finished in 1938, and lots were sold.  In 1940, Sam built his daughter Lotta (my grandmother) a cabin on the lot she had chosen.  The original cabin (and outhouse) is gone now, but it was used by the family until 1976, when a new cabin was built on the lot.  Today Sam's great-great-great grandchildren enjoy time at Lake Graybrook in the summers!  That is quite a legacy that he left!

Sam lived at Lake Graybrook until his death in 1953.  He was ninety one years old when he died.  He outlived four of his five children.

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