Plum Street Series

Gourlay Brothers

Robert Gourlay was born in 1792 in Fifeshire, Scotland. His first wife’s maiden name was Cameron and they had 3 children, William, Thomas, and Sarah. Robert married Helen Lawson on October 22, 1822 in Edinburgh, Scotland. They had two daughters, Margaret and Lilly Ann, and three sons, George, James, and Alfred – who would become the owners of “Gourlay Brothers” in Detroit in the 1870s. Margaret was born July 26, 1829 and died in Detroit on March 8, 1918. George was born January 7, 1834 and died December 8, 1900 in Detroit. Lilly Ann was born December 31, 1835. She died May 17, 1860 in New York City. James was born December 3, 1837 and died November 19, 1919 in Detroit. Alfred was born July 31, 1845 and died in Detroit on March 5, 1930.

Robert Gourlay’s children with his first wife:

WILLIAM – born 1815 in Edinburgh. He was a popular comedian and actor, playing roles in Scotland, England, Australia, and America. He married Louisa J. Ryder on Oct. 25, 1841 and had 6 children – Ellen, Jessie, Robert, Corbet, John, and Alice. With his second wife, Susan, William had 2 more children, Minnie and William. The whole family was involved in the theatre. In 1866-1869, he and the family traveled to Australia. He visited New Zealand in 1874 with his collection of curiosities. In the summer of 1880, the Gourlay family made their last stage appearance in Newcastle, England. They presented Mrs. MacGregor’s Levee on July 26-27, 1880.
THOMAS – born 1820 in Edinburgh. He was also an actor. He and daughters Jeannie and Margaret were in the cast of “Our American Cousin” the night Lincoln was assassinated. Apparently, Jeannie had just left the stage when the shot was fired. According to a Feb. 3, 1968 article in The Pocono Record, Thomas covered Lincoln with a flag from the theater and helped to carry Lincoln to a house across the street. The flag is currently at the Pike County Historical Society’s The Columns Museum.

The cast from Our American Cousin the night of April 14, 1865

In the 1841 Scotland census, Robert’s family was living at 219 High Street in Edinburgh where Robert was a tailor. Robert died before the 1851 census, in which the family was still living at the same address. Helen was a draper and her sons George and James were draper’s assistants. In May 1855, Lilly Gourlay married George Welwood Murray in Edinburgh. The next year, Helen and her children left Scotland for New York. George Murray, Lilly, and their son George came in July 1858. In the 1860 U.S. Census, taken on June 5th, Helen and her three sons were living in New York City. George and James were clerks and Alfred was a compositor (a typesetter). Next to Helen lived her son-in-law George W. Murray, his sons George (4 years old) and James Alan (11 months), and Helen’s daughter Margaret. Sadly, Lilly Ann had died the previous month.

On October 21, 1866, James Gourlay married Jean F. Craig in Manhattan. On August 9, 1868, they placed membership at the Plum Street Church of Christ in Detroit. On January 15, 1869, George Gourlay married Maria Stanbery in New York. In the 1870 U.S. Census, Helen and her children Margaret and Alfred were still living in New York City. James and Jean were living in Detroit where James worked in a tailor shop. In the May 8, 1870 Detroit Free Press, an advertisement for Baxter & Gourlay, “fashionable merchant tailors” from New York, stated that they had just opened a store at 156 Jefferson Avenue. On May 1, 1873, Baxter & Gourlay dissolved. Baxter stayed at the Jefferson Ave. store and James occupied a store next to the Detroit Opera House. In 1875, Alfred Gourlay (who had married Laura Andruss in 1872) joined his brother in Detroit and Gourlay Brothers was formed. Their brother George joined them in Detroit in 1878 (I think his wife Maria never joined him in Detroit and stayed in New York with her parents until George divorced her for desertion in 1893). The brothers all joined the Plum Street Church of Christ and were “noted for their musical ability.” According to Boyd, William B. Thompson, ex-mayor of Detroit, used to stand outside the church building and listen to the singing (p. 106).

In 1875, James’ wife Jean went to Scotland with a bunch of her lady friends. According to the Paw Paw, Michigan newspaper The True Northerner for May 7, 1875, “A party of Detroit ladies will shortly leave their hubands, and unaccompanied by any male protector, will proceed to Scotland to see their relatives and recruit their health. The names of the party are: Mrs. A. R. Linn [Jeanette Craig, Jean’s sister], Mrs. John Harvey [Jessie G. Campbell, daughter of Colin Campbell & Caroline Linn], Mrs. James Gourlay [Jean F. Craig], Mrs. C. A. Lorman [Janette Linn, Caroline’s sister], and Miss Emma Haywood [Emma Hayward, John S. Gray’s sister-in-law].” In October 1875, the Plum Street Church of Christ’s Literary Society elected John S. Gray as president, James Gourlay as vice-president, and Alfred Gourlay as secretary.

According to the Detroit Free Press (8-14-1904), in 1876 at the Gourlay Brothers store, “one of the first illuminated signs in Detroit appeared, formed of gas jets. Of course, it attracted a good deal of attention, and, curiously enough, on the first night the jets were lighted, the sign did not work well and it read as follows: ‘Gourlay’s Shirt tore.'”

John Gourlay, nephew of the Gourlay Brothers

John was the son of William Gourlay, the half-brother of James, George, and Alfred. He became an actor and comedian like his father, beginning at 4 years old. He went with his father to Australia in 1866. He joined a group called The Salsbury Troubadours in America and toured with them in Australia and New Zealand in 1878. Later he joined with comedian Louis Harrison and toured with him for five years. He often visited his uncles in Detroit in the 1870s and 1880s. He married his Australian wife Hannah Lambert in August 1884 in Detroit. The reception was held at Alfred Gourlay’s home at 647 2nd Avenue. In 1887, they returned to Australia, where John continued his career.

In an 1893 article featuring John’s reminiscences, he recounted a story about him and his brother Robert: “We had been separated from childhood, for 16 years. When I was in Chicago I received a telegram from an uncle in business in Detroit, saying that Bob was with him, but was just then in Chicago on business. I took train from Chicago, and Bob sat beside me in the carriage. Neither of us know the other, and Bob proved to be a young man of very taking proclivities. He smoked most of my cigars, and, as the weather was cold, took my overcoat, and wound up by borrowing fifty cents. I found he was well known to the police, for when we arrived at a station near Detroit a policeman called out, ‘Hello, Gourlay!’ I got up and looked out of the carriage window, and he did the same. ‘What,’ I said, ‘is your name Gourlay?’ ‘It is,’ he said. Business, fraternal embrace. As Bob and I are both Scotch, I made him return the fifty cents.”

Of George, James, and Alfred Gourlay, only Alfred had children. He and Laura had a daughter and a son – Helen Lawson Gourlay (1873-1960), who married Vernon C. Fry, and Charles A. Gourlay (1879-1963). In the 1880 census, James and Jean were boarding with Alexander R. Linn and his family. James’ mother Helen died September 15, 1880 in Detroit and was buried in Woodmere Cemetery. In 1884, James Gourlay became a deacon at Plum Street Church of Christ and an elder in 1897.

Advertisements for Gourlay Bros., Linn Bros., and Lorman’s ice company from the “Report of Proceedings of the Michigan Christian Missionary Association at the 16th Annual Meeting held in Detroit, October 4-5, 1884”

In the June 1, 1900 U.S. Census, James and Jean Gourlay were living at 649 (now 3747) 2nd Avenue with George Gourlay and a servant named Anna Mitchell. James’ and George’s occupation was “gents furnisher.” Alfred (also a “gents furnisher”), Laura and their children Helen and Charles were living in the two-family house at 647 (now 3745) 2nd Avenue. Margaret Gourlay, Alfred’s sister, was also living with him. Around this time, the store moved to 153 Woodward Avenue (now 1059).

James Gourlay built this house in Detroit, now at 3745-3747 2nd Ave., in 1880
Gourlay Brothers sign on the left, at 153 (1059) Woodward Avenue in 1909, between Michigan and State Streets – from Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library

George Gourlay, who acted as manager of Gourlay Brothers, died on Saturday, December 8, 1900 at 7 AM at his brother James’ house, where he had been living. The 12/9/1900 Free Press said that George “had left the store in unusual spirits Friday evening, and his jovial and splendid disposition was in evidence, as with his usual pleasantry he joked with the men in the store.” He had been a president of the Detroit Musical Society and had sung before President Lincoln. His funeral was at Plum Street Church of Christ and he was buried in Woodmere Cemetery.

george gourlay
George Gourlay

In 1901, James Gourlay declared bankruptcy with a debt of $23,096.97 and assets of $15,582. His house and $216 in personal assets were exempt. He stated that his petition had nothing to do with Gourlay Brothers (Detroit Free Press, 3/9/1901). In August 1904, James retired from Gourlay Brothers, while his brother Alfred continued the company at 153 Woodward Avenue.

In the 1910 census, James and Alfred and their wives were living at 647 2nd Ave. Margaret, their sister, was living with Alfred and Laura. Laura died on December 8, 1911 at the age of 59 of mitral regurgitation. Jean Gourlay died on July 18, 1916 of hemipligia, which is paralysis on one side of the body. Margaret died on March 8, 1918 at the age of 88 of senility and old age.

Alfred Gourlay remarried on September 3, 1919 in London, Ontario to Mary Talbot. James died November 19, 1919 after six months of “senility of cerebral arteries.” His funeral was held at Plum Street and he was buried in Woodmere Cemetery. He was an elder at Plum Street for many years and was a choir leader. In the 1920 census, Alfred was still living at 647 2nd Avenue. He was listed as married, but Mary was not enumerated with him. His niece, Sara Gourlay, who was his half-brother William’s youngest child. She was 64, while Alfred was 75. Sara had been a nurse in Battle Creek, Michigan for many years. Alfred, at the time living at 1494 Virginia Park in Detroit, died on March 5, 1930 of cerebral apoplexy at the age of 84. His wife Mary was the informant on the death certificate. He was buried in Woodmere Cemetery with his first wife Laura.


[George Gourlay obituary]. (January 10, 1901). The Christian Evangelist, v. 38(2), page 50.

Boyd, R. Vernon. A History of the Stone-Campbell Churches in Michigan, 2009.

“Thirty-six years on the stage.” Star (Christchurch), Issue 4750, September 16, 1893, page 1.

Plum Street Series

Vernon C. Fry

Vernon Charles Fry was born on August 29, 1865 at Selkirk, Haldimand County, Ontario to John Fry and Caroline Overholt. His siblings were Frank Dewitt Fry (born July 15, 1868) and twin sisters Lillie and Minnie (born September 17, 1870). In the 1871 Canadian census, the Fry family was living in Rainham Township, Haldimand County, Ontario. Caroline and John, who was a medical doctor, were aged 34. Vernon was 5, Frank was 3, and the twins were 6 months old. Caroline’s father, Aaron Overholt, was living there, too. In 1881, they were living in the same place and their religion was listed as Disciples of Christ. Vernon’s mother Caroline died on March 11, 1891. In the 1891 census, John and the children were still living in Rainham. Vernon was 24 and a dry goods clerk, while Frank was 22 and a student. Lillie, a schoolteacher, and Minnie were 20.

Sometime between 1891 and 1895, Vernon moved to Detroit. He married Frances Anna Louise “Birdie” Colby on June 5, 1896 in Toronto. Their son Stanley was born in Detroit on October 30, 1896. Their next son Colby was born June 28, 1900. Sadly, Birdie died of pneumonia on May 6, 1901. They were living at 121 Bethune Avenue at the time. Her funeral took place at Plum Street Church of Christ.

Vernon Fry - Ford Investor Photo
From the Detroit Free Press, 6/16/1963 issue
(60th anniversary of Ford Motor Co.)

In June 1903, Vernon invested in Ford Motor Company along with other Plum Street church members Alexander Malcomson and John S. Gray, among others. Some sources say he was Malcomson’s cousin, which I haven’t been able to confirm. He bought 50 shares for $5000. According to a May 25, 1953 LIFE magazine article by Sidney Olson, he “paid $3,000 in cash after a struggle of many months with Malcomson and many a jouncing ride in Henry’s car, and pledged another $2,000, which he later paid out of dividends.” He paid the $3000 on June 26, 1903, $1000 in December 1903, and another $1000 in January 1904. After Malcomson was bought out in 1906, Vernon sold his stock to Ford on September 1, 1907 for $25,000. Woodall and Bennett also sold out at that time. If he would’ve waited 12 years, he could have made millions.

Vernon married again on July 15, 1903 in Detroit to Helen Lawson Gourlay, the daughter of Alfred and Laura Gourlay (more about the Gourlay Brothers in another post).

The newspaper account of their wedding sounds impressive:

“The wedding of Miss Helen Gourlay, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Gourlay, to Mr. Vernon C. Fry, took place at her home, 647 Second Avenue [now 3745 2nd Ave.], Wednesday afternoon at three o’clock, Rev. Arthur Jackson of the Church of Christ, performing the ceremony. Miss Walton, of Cleveland, was maid of honor, the groom being assisted by Mr. Charles Gourlay, brother of the bride. The bride was gowned in Brussels net over white taffeta, elaborately trimmed with cluny, her only jewels being a diamond necklace, the gift of the groom. A shower bouquet of stephenatis and bridal roses completed a beautiful costume. Miss Walton wore a dove-colored mousseline de soie over pink, trimmed with pointe l’ire lace, and carried a shower bouquet of Madame cusen roses. A reception followed for upwards of 100 guests. The color scheme of the decorating was confined to pink and white, roses and carnations being most in evidence among the hanging vines. In the dining room the table was covered with a white lace spread and decorated with spirea, ferns and la France roses… . The young couple left for an extended trip to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Boston, by steamer, and thence to New York where they will be extensively entertained. The trip will last about 5 or 6 weeks. The gifts were numerous and costly, many from abroad. Krolik & Co., with whom Mr. Fry is is associated, sent a magnificent bowl and standard of cut glass. Miss Gourlay is a musician of rare merit, having received a foreign education, is a member of the Tuesday Musicale and other musical societies in the city.”

Detroit Free Press, July 19, 1903
Vernon and Helen, photo from Vernon’s 1925 passport application at

Their daughter Grace Ethelwyn Fry was born on April 21, 1904 in Detroit. Their next child Margaret Jean Fry was born November 13, 1905. Their third child, John, was born February 1, 1908.

Children of Vernon C. Fry

STANLEY EVAN FRY – born Oct. 30, 1896 in Detroit to Vernon and his first wife Birdie. In 1918, he was employed by the Detroit Twist Drill Company. He joined the army later in 1918. He married Agnes Gringle in Springfield, Ohio on Oct. 31, 1925. They had a son, Stanley, Jr., on Jan. 18, 1929. Sadly, he lived only 3 days. Agnes filed for divorce on Apr. 29, 1930. It was granted on Mar. 30, 1931. Stanley married Gladys Brazil Chambers on Nov. 9, 1950 in Ohio. He died Jan. 14, 1971.
COLBY BARKLEY FRY – born Jun. 28, 1900 in Detroit to Vernon and Birdie. In 1918-20, he farmed in Wayne and Macomb Counties. He married Beulah M. Martin on Aug. 15, 1936 in Detroit. In 1940, they lived at 19817 Roselawn. Colby was employed by an armored car company, and Beulah was a secretary. They had a daughter Madalyn in 1945. Colby died Mar. 16, 1983 in Harrison, Macomb County, Michigan.
GRACE ETHELWYN FRY – born Apr. 21, 1904 in Detroit to Vernon and his 2nd wife Helen. She married Alexander D. Dickie on Jan. 2, 1932 in Birmingham, Michigan. They lived in London, Ontario, where Alexander was a salesman at a rubber company. He died Aug. 27, 1947 of coronary thrombosis. Grace died in Florida on Dec. 3, 2001 at the age of 97.
MARGARET JEAN FRY – born Nov. 13, 1905 to Vernon and Helen. She graduated from National Park College in Washington, D.C. Margaret married Charles Momberg (1907-1991) on Feb. 8, 1930 in Lucas Co., Ohio. They had 2 sons (George Charles, born 1930, and John Vernon, 1938-2019). In 1940, they lived at 20110 Santa Rosa. After Charles’ death, she moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Margaret died Sept. 7, 2011 at the age of 105.
JOHN G. FRY – born Feb. 1, 1908 to Vernon and Helen. On Jan. 10, 1931, he died of a skull fracture and internal injuries due to a car accident. The Detroit Free Press said he “was found crushed to death beside his overturned automobile in a ditch on Northwestern highway Saturday morning… . The body was discovered at 2:30 a.m. by a passing motorist. The car…was more than 75 feet from the body. It had gone into a ditch and rolled over several times. It is believed Fry fell asleep at the wheel while returning from Detroit” to his home on W. Maple Rd. in Bloomfield Hills. He was buried in Woodmere Cemetery.

In the April 1910 U.S. census, Vernon and family lived at 94 Hazelwood Avenue (now would be 604 Hazelwood). Vernon was 44, Helen was 37, Stanley was 13, Colby was 9, Grace was 5, Margaret was 4, and John was 2. A servant named Pauline Kuhnile, aged 22, also lived there. Vernon’s occupation was listed as a manufacturer in the automobile industry. Later in 1910, Vernon, “representing a syndicate of gentlemen,” purchased the plant and materials of the Detroit Dearborn Auto Company for $14,800. The plan was to move the equipment to Detroit “and that a new car may be manufactured” (Detroit Free Press, Dec. 18, 1910).

In 1916, Vernon and his real estate partner began selling properties in the new Sherwood Forest subdivision at Woodward and the “newly paved” Seven Mile Road, which their advertisement announced was “destined to be the Grosse Pointe of the North Woodward section.” (Detroit Free Press, Dec. 9, 1916). In 1918, Fry donated the land at Hamilton and Tuxedo for a new Plum Street Church of Christ building. In 1920, he was part of “The Citizens’ Committee on Street Railway Service” – against the mayor’s proposal. In 1922, Fry supported the extension of Livernois Avenue to the site of the future zoo at Woodward Avenue and 10-mile road.

“Ferndale [Church of Christ] began around the fall of 1923. They dedicated a building on Paxton and Academy in 1925. It was a wooden building in Ferndale built by Vernon Fry of Hamilton [Church of Christ] out of reclaimed lumber. He had all this stuff torn down and had it laying around so built a church building. He was a builder and real estate man. At one time he owned practically the entire area around Livernois and Six Mile… .”

Harmon Black, interviewed by Vernon Boyd on Nov. 14, 1986 (from Rochester Univ.’s MI Churches of Christ collection –

The society pages of the Detroit Free Press were full of the travels of the upper crust, including the Fry’s – especially during the cold winter months. In April 1924, Vernon and Helen returned home after a six-week-long trip to Florida, Cuba, and Panama. In late January 1925, they and their daughter Grace left for Florida, with some time spent in Cuba and Jamaica, returning at the beginning of April. In the summer of 1925, Vernon and Helen took their daughters to Europe. In 1926, they again spent January – April in Florida. In 1927, they went to Seattle for a real estate convention, then traveled to Alaska, Banff, Lake Louise, and the Canadian Rockies. During the summers, the family spent time at their summer home called Woodcliff Lodge at Menesetung Park in Goderich, Ontario.

In 1930, Dearborn Church of Christ bought lots at the corner of Chase and Gould roads and a building paid for by Vernon Fry was put there.

Hamilton Blvd. (Plum Street) Church of Christ preachers and officers.
Photo taken October 24, 1936. Vernon Fry is circled.
(from Rochester University –

Vernon Fry died at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario on September 6, 1948 at the age of 83 from osteogenic sarcoma which began in his right pelvis bone. Helen died December 17, 1960 in Florida where she was living with her daughter Grace.

Plum Street Series

John Simpson Gray

John Simpson Gray was born in Edinburgh, Scotland to Philip C. Gray and Amelia (Tasker) Gray on October 5, 1841. He had one sister, Isabella, born February 19, 1834 and one brother, David, born November 8, 1836. Philip C. Gray was a Scotch Baptist but started reading the writings of Alexander Campbell in the Millenial Harbinger journal. He started a congregation of like-minded people in Edinburgh. The family, along with 11 others from the congregation, left Liverpool on April 9, 1849 and arrived in New York on April 30, 1849. The Grays stopped at Buffalo, New York where John’s uncle William Gray was living. Philip and his family continued on to Wisconsin and farmed until 1857 when the family moved to Detroit. There Philip established a toy business. He and his wife joined the Church of Christ. John attended high school in Detroit in 1858 and, upon graduation, became a teacher in Algonac, Michigan. In the Spring of 1859, he returned to Detroit and joining his father’s business. He also joined the church that year, and his sister Isabella and her husband Walter Sanderson joined when they arrived in Detroit that year.

Philip, Amelia, Isabella, David, and John Gray on the ship Constitution in 1849.

Isabella Gray married Walter Sanderson (who had accompanied them from Scotland in 1849) in Wisconsin on April 6, 1856 and they joined her parents in Detroit in 1858. In the 1860 U.S. Census, Walter, Isabella, and their 3-year-old son James (who had been born in Wisconsin) were living with Isabella’s parents and brother John in Detroit. Walter and John were listed as “clerks in fancy store,” while Philip owned the “fancy store.” Isabella’s next child was Amelia, born April 22, 1862 in Sandwich, Ontario. Their son, Philip Gray Sanderson, was born in August 1866 in Detroit (he later became a physician) and their daughter Grace was born December 14, 1868 in Detroit. In the 1870 U.S. Census, Isabella’s family lived next to her parents and her husband’s occupation was “dealer in land.” Their last child, Edmond Lindsay Sanderson, was born on May 7, 1872. In the 1880 census, they still lived next to Isabella’s parents. Walter was in real estate, while son James was a civil engineer. Walter was apponted an elder at Plum Street in 1880. In February 1883, their daughter Amelia married George I. Lindsay. The Sandersons were old friends of the Lindsay family from Wisconsin times. Grace married a nephew of George Lindsay’s, Walter E. Lindsay, on November 20, 1901 in Detroit. James died by suicide on September 18, 1885 in Bay City at the age of 28. His funeral was at Plum Street. Walter Sanderson, who also served as the church clerk and kept great records, died on May 18, 1888 of blood poisoning.

George Townsend, Mark Twain, and David Gray in 1871
from the Library of Congress –

From Wisconsin, John Gray’s brother David moved onto Buffalo in 1856 and became the secretary/librarian of the Young Men’s Christian Union. In 1859, he started working for the Buffalo Courier newspaper, eventually becoming editor. He often wrote his family in Detroit and visited them there. John sometimes visited him in Buffalo. Between 1865 and 1868, David traveled through Europe and the Middle East and wrote a series of letters for the Courier. By April 1868, he was back in Buffalo and met his future wife, Martha Guthrie, in September. On June 2, 1869, they were married in New Orleans. Their first child David was born August 8, 1870 (between 1940-1947, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and died in 1968 at the age of 97). David and Martha’s next son, Guthrie, was born in March 1874. His was an electrical engineer. He died August 26, 1905 at the age of 31 of sarcoma of the pelvis, having gone to the Muskoka area of Canada for his health. Their last child, a daughter named Emily, was born on January 23, 1882. She married Chauncey J. Hamlin and through their son Chauncey Jr., she became the grandmother of actor Harry Hamlin. Emily died in 1933. In September 1882, David Sr. and his family went back to Europe for David’s health. They stayed in Montreaux, Switzerland until April 1884. They returned to Buffalo in June. In ill health again in 1888, it was proposed that David go to Cuba accompanied by his brother John. There was a blizzard on March 12, so their train from Buffalo was delayed until the 15th. Their train derailed around 2:45 AM on March 16th, according to John, and David was badly injured. He never regained consciousness and died on March 18, 1888. Martha died in August 1931.

Philip and John ran the toy company until 1861, when they partnered with a Mr. Pelgrim to form a candy company called Pelgrim, Gray, & Co. Unfortunately, their store and stock were lost in a fire in January 1862. Philip retired soon after. John and Mr. Pelgrim added Joseph Toynton to the partnership. In 1865, Mr. Pelgrim retired from the candy company, now named Gray & Toynton. In 1870, the name changed again to Gray, Toynton, & Fox when J. B. Fox was added as a partner. Both Toynton and Fox died in 1881. John continued running the company and eventually employed 200 people during busy season.

Gray & Toynton’s business card, c1865.
From the Burton Historical Collection at Detroit Public Library

James Mitchell’s 1891 “Detroit in History and Commerce,” he described Gray, Toynton & Fox like this: “the factory at 20 to 26 Woodbridge east is five stories above a commodious basement…and is fully equipped with the latest and most improved machinery and appliances for manufacturing by its extensive operations” (p. 109). It employed 150 people and earned $400,000 a year.

Gray, Toynton & Fox listing in the 1895 Detroit City Directory

Meanwhile, in October 1864, John married Anna E. Hayward in Wisconsin. Their first son Philip Hayward Gray was born in October 1865. Another son, Paul Robert Gray was born July 24, 1867. A third son, David, was born January 20, 1870. Their last child, a daughter named Alice, was born August 6, 1875. In the 1870 U.S. Census, John’s family was living in Detroit in the 5th ward. His occupation was “confectioner.” His real estate was valued at $4,000 and his personal estate was $2,000. Philip was 5, Paul was 2, and David was 4 months. Anna’s 18-year-old sister Sarah was boarding with them and a 20-year-old servant named Mary Wilson was also living there.

Children of John S. Gray and Anna E. Hayward

Philip H. Gray married Mary A. Studley on May 6, 1890 in Ann Arbor. They had 4 children: Harold (1894-1972, married Laura Ley), Evelyn (1899-1974, married Richard M. Cameron), Almena (1903-1990, married John E. Wilde), and Philip II (1906-1978, married Margaret Day). Philip died November 25, 1922 in Boston. Mary died in 1939.

Paul Robert Gray married Frances Noble on January 23, 1900 in Detroit. They had 3 daughters: Frances (1901-1982, married 1st Waldo H. Brown who died in a 1939 naval reserve training flight crash; married 2nd Dr. Charles Merkel. See April 11, 1983 Detroit Free Press article “Glimpses of a Lavish Life”), Elizabeth (1902-1998, married Dr. Nelson B. Sackett), and Ann (1908-1994, married Joseph Scherer, Jr.). Paul Robert died September 27, 1929. Frances died in 1945.

David Gray married Martha L. Platt on January 16, 1894 in Detroit. They had a daughter, Sylvia Alger Gray (born January 15, 1902, died July 15, 1903 of nephritis), and a son David Gray, Jr. (1908-1966, married Helen “Nancy” Maxwell). David Sr. died on May 9, 1928. Martha died Sept. 16, 1946. The Montecito Journal has as article about David and Martha and their home life in California in the Winter/Spring 2012/13 edition (Moguls & Mansions by Hattie Beresford, v. 5, issue 2)

Alice Gray married William R. Kales on October 1, 1895 in Detroit. They had 5 children: Margaret (1896-1975, married Neil McMath – their daughter Margaret was kidnapped on May 2, 1933 and returned 2 days later. The Boston Globe ran a story on it recently: “Kidnapped on Cape Cod” by Alex Kingsbury), John Gray (born Dec. 4, 1899, died Jan. 2, 1902 of acute nephritis and uraemia), Robert (1904-1992, married Jane Webster), Alice (1909-1989, married Robert Hartwick), and Ellen (1914-1997, married Hugo Huettig). Alice died in 1960, and William died in 1942.

On John’s passport application dated February 2, 1872, he was 30 years old and 5′ 10″ tall with dark brown eyes and hair. He was described as having a medium forehead, a larger than medium nose, a large mouth with a rather sharply defined chin, high cheekbones, and a sallow complexion. Walter Sanderson, his brother-in-law, was the notary public that signed his name to Gray’s statement on January 26, 1872.

Portrait of John Simpson Gray, later in life
From Rochester University’s Michigan Churches of Christ collection

By the 1880 census, the family was living at 41 E. Forest Avenue (which would become 87 after the 1921 city renumbering) in Detroit. John actually bought this property in September 1874. The Detroit Free Press on 9/20/1874 stated this real estate transaction, “Caroline M. Weed to John S. Gray, lot on the north side of Forest Avenue, in Carlisle & Brooks’ section of park lots 34 and 35 for $1800.” This was located between John R and Woodward. In May 1875, Gray and others from the street petitioned the city council to pave Forest Ave east between those two streets.

In the June 10, 1880 census, John was 39 and still a confectioner. Anna, his wife, was 40 and sick with “female weakness.” Philip, Paul, and David were 14, 12, and 10 and all attended school. Their daughter Alice was 4. Anna’s 2 sisters Sarah and Emma were living with them. Sarah was 28 and a schoolteacher. Emma was 29 and was “at home.” The servant Mary Wilson, aged 29, was still working for them. They also had another female servant, 24-year-old Anna Taylor and a 21-year-old coachman named Theodore Bear. By the 1900 U.S. census, Gray’s kids were out of the house. He (aged 58), his wife Anna (aged 59), and sisters-in-law Sarah (aged 48, private teacher) and Emma (aged 49, stenographer) were living at 41 E. Forest with servants Bertha Dufke and Margaret Wren.

Detroit Free Press, August 12, 1883. On 10/18/1882, the newspaper covered the St. Louis Excursion Train taken by the Grays and the Linn’s, starting from Detroit, stopping in Adrian, and traveling on to St. Louis.

John Gray was very involved in the philanthropic, spiritual, and intellectual life of Detroit society. As early as 1875, Gray was elected president of the Literary Society of the Church of Christ on Plum Street, along with James Gourlay as vice-president and A. L. Gourlay as secretary (Detroit Free Press, 10/9/1875). In 1884, John was elected as a deacon of Plum Street Church of Christ, along with C. Lorman, W.F. Linn, A.A. Trout, and James Gourlay. His brother-in-law Walter Sanderson was elected elder at the same time. In February 1892, Gray was appointed treasurer of the Russian Family Relief Fund created by the governor (Detroit Free Press, 2/27/1892). At the same time, he was the president of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Exchange of Detroit. In 1894, Gray was on the executive committee of the Wayne County Bible Society (Detroit Free Press, 3/7/1894). In January 1895, John Gray was elected president of the German-American Bank of Detroit. In December 1896, he was elected as a member of the Board of Library Commissioners of the Detroit Public Library for a 6-year-term, and in February 1900 was elected president of the board. He was also a member of the Detroit Archaeological Society, becoming its president in January 1905.

In 1903, Gray sold his company Gray, Toynton & Fox to the National Candy Company and became its vice-president. Also in 1903, Gray’s involvement in the future Ford Motor Company began. Alexander Malcomson, a business associate of and in debt to Gray, asked him to invest in a company being formed by Henry Ford. Many sources claim that Gray was Malcomson’s uncle, but I have been unable to find the original source of this, nor any vital records or documents proving it. According to Boyd, Gray thought this investment was “asinine folly” (p. 326). John met with Ford and agreed to invest $10,500 with the option to back out with full reimbursement (from Malcomson) within a year. Since he invested the most cash, John was made President of the Ford Motor Company, which was incorporated on June 16, 1903. Other investors besides Ford and Malcomson were James Couzens, Albert Strelow, the Dodge Brothers, John W. Anderson, Horace H. Rackham, Vernon Fry, Charles Bennett, and Charles J. Woodall. Most had some connection to Malcomson. Within a few years, Malcomson and Ford fell out over the direction of the company (high-end vehicles vs. vehicles for the masses), and Malcomson sold out his shares to Ford in May 1906. More about the early years in the Ford Motor Company will be in another post.

Detroit Free Press, Feb. 12, 1905. They often traveled to California for Gray’s health. Gray and his wife Anna traveled extensively in Europe as well. In 1896, the Grays had even been in Athens for the Olympic Games.

The Gray’s seem to have made annual trips to California during Michigan winters for John’s health. He often had heart trouble. In February 1906, in Los Angeles, John suffered an attack. They stayed there for nearly two months. When he was planning to return home in April, his doctor advised against it “saying that the least excitement would kill [him].” They later headed for San Francisco, but stopped at Pacific Grove (about 115 miles south of San Francisco) for a visit. They stayed there on the night of April 17 instead of moving on. This was fortunate for them because around 5 AM on April 18, San Francisco was hit by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. On April 19, 1906, the Detroit Free Press reported that the couple was due to arrive in San Francisco on the evening of the 17th and “their friends are greatly alarmed and fear that the tour took them to the city just in time for the disaster.”

Detroit Free Press, April 27, 1906

In the May 7, 1906 issue, the Detroit Free Press ran a narrative by Gray describing what happened. In Pacific Grove, “the shock was very severe” but “the place is small and the buildings are nearly all of frame construction, so that the property loss was comparatively small.” They had to wait a week for the railroad tracks to be fixed, but eventually they reached Oakland after a 13 hour trip (which usually took 3 hours). He stated, “The trains and stations were filled with wouned and poverty-stricken people.” The Gray’s made it back to Detroit by early May. John died due to his heart trouble on July 6, 1906, likely exacerbated by his California adventure. John left behind his wife Anna and four adult children, 1) Philip Hayward, who pursued a career in insurance and stayed with the Central Christian Church. He funded a dormitory at Hiram College, 2) Paul Robert, represented the Gray Estate in Ford Motor Company along with his brother David. Paul stayed with the Plum Street Church of Christ. He funded the building of Fairview Church of Christ and donated $50,000 to Freed-Hardeman College, 3) David, who was a member of the Ford Motor Company board in 1913. In 1919, Ford bought out all other investors, and the Gray heirs received $26,250,000 from their father’s 1903 investment of $10,500, and 4) Alice, wife of William R. Kales of the Whitehead & Kales Iron Works.

Gray’s funeral took place July 9, 1906 at the Plum Street Church of Christ. William D. Campbell conducted the service, G.G. Taylor delivered the prayer, and Charles Loos pronounced the benediction. James Gourlay directed the choir. Pallbearers included Vernon Fry, Alexander Malcomson, William G. Malcomson, and Charles Gourlay, among others. Henry Ford was an honorary pallbearer. Gray was buried at Woodmere Cemetery. On the day of the funeral, the Detroit Public Library and its branches were closed until 11:30 out of respect for Gray.

According to a brochure produced by the Detroit Public Library in 1914, the John S. Gray branch of the Detroit Public Library was built in 1906 and remodeled in 1913. It was built at the corner of Field and Agnes Streets and designed by architects William G. Malcomson and William E. Higginbotham. Other photographs of the interior of the branch from the early 20th century are here. 2015 photographs from a Detroit urban explorer are at this website. The portrait above the fireplace was unveiled at the library’s rededication in 1914.

Children’s Room at the John S. Gray Branch, 1914 (portrait of Gray above fireplace). From Burton Historical Collection at DPL


Plum Street Series

Beginnings of the Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ/Christian Church in Detroit


Thomas Hawley (originally Scotch Baptist) and his family, including son Richard, had come to the United States in 1815. Between 1815 and 1835, they lived in Cambridge, MA, Germantown, PA, Wheeling, WV, and Cleveland, OH. In 1835, Alexander Campbell preached at the Cleveland courthouse. The next year, Richard was baptized. Thomas and the family (except for Richard) joined the Disciples of Christ. In 1840, they moved to Detroit.

Meanwhile in Scotland in 1838, Philip C. Gray, also Scotch Baptist, joined with others in Edinburgh to start a congregation. He had been influenced by Alexander Campbell’s writings in the Millennial Harbinger. In the same year in Paisley, Alexander Linn and his sister Caroline became friends with Helen Lambie and began attending services at the Methodist church with Helen. In 1839, Alexander Linn became a member of the Scotch Baptist church because they didn’t sprinkle for baptism and didn’t require belief in Calvinist doctrine. The whole Linn family also joined. In 1840, however, Caroline Linn joined with the Disciples of Christ meeting in Glasgow (Colin Campbell was already meeting with them).

In Fall 1841, six Hawley family members started meeting for worship at Thomas Hawley’s home in Detroit. Alexander Linn, now married to Helen Lambie, and his sister Caroline, now married to Colin Campbell, arrived in Detroit in 1842 and began meeting with the Hawley family. Their parents William and Jean (Ralston) Linn also moved to Detroit and joined. In 1843, Thomas Hawley’s son Richard settled in Detroit with his own family. Between 1844 and 1853, the congregation meeting at the Hawley home moved to a few different places – a schoolhouse on the corner of Randolph and Congress streets, Fireman’s Hall on Woodward between Congress and Larned, and the Detroit Institute on Jefferson near Antoine.

Meanwhile in 1849, the Gray family settled in Wisconsin.


In 1853, Thomas Hawley’s wife Rebecca died and he returned to England the next year. Also in 1854, Charles A. Lorman was baptized by Alexander Linn. The church moved to the Detroit Court House, east of Campus Martius. Isaac Errett, leader of the so-called “New Interest,” visited and preached in Detroit often. He was a big influence on Colin Campbell and Richard Hawley. The “New Interest” group supported instrumental music in worship, missionary societies, and some other ideas that other members disagreed with. In the spring of 1856, the congregation bought a lot on the southwest corner of Miami Avenue and State Street, and Hawley and Campbell were appointed trustees. The building, however, was never built, perhaps due to the friction between the congregation and Campbell and Hawley. The group continued to meet at the Court House until the Spring of 1863. In 1857, Philip C. Gray and his family moved to Detroit from Wisconsin. On December 24, 1858, Alexander Linn’s sister Janet married Charles Lorman. In 1859, Walter and Isabella (Gray) Sanderson also moved to Detroit, and John S. Gray joined the church.


In 1862, Richard Hawley, Colin Campbell, and fourteen others withdrew from the congregation meeting at the Court House and started meeting independently at a building on the corner of Jefferson and Beaubien. They adopted Isaac Errett’s “Synopsis of Faith and Practice” as their by-laws. This seemed a lot like a creed to the Linns and other men in the other congregation. In Spring 1863, the Court House congregation bought and moved into the old Tabernacle Baptist Meetinghouse on the north side of Howard Street between 2nd and 3rd streets. They call themselves the Howard Street Church of Christ, Charles Lorman, Philip C. Gray, Alexander Linn and 2 others were chosen as trustees. In 1865, Errett left Detroit for Cleveland to start the journal “Christian Standard.” He left W.T. Moore in charge who wanted to repair the rift between the congregations. In October of that year, the two groups met at Howard Street and adopted resolutions for merging (Walter Sanderson, P.C. Gray’s son-in-law, was the secretary at the meeting). On November 16, 1865, the churches joined together for worship again at the Jefferson and Beaubien building. The organ was used even though the Howard Street people didn’t want to. In 1866-1867, Moore left for Kentucky and a man named Hobbs was voted to replace him (Hobbs was called Pastor, another problem to the Linn group). The group tried to elect officers again (which had failed in 1865). Hawley and Campbell nominated each other for elders, as well as Alexander Linn and four others for deacons. Alexander protested the whole thing and withdrew his name. Hawley and Campbell were elected as elders, and P.C. Gray, Charles Lorman, and two others were elected as deacons. Lorman and Gray declined since they hadn’t received a majority vote. Alexander lead protests so often that Hawley and Campbell charged him with unruly and disorderly conduct and considered excluding him from the congregation. Hobbs resigned and a man named Berry replaced him. Alexander Linn resigned his membership, and Hawley and his family and some others withdrew and began another “faction.” There were now 3 groups: the Howard Street group (Linn), the original “new interest” group (Campbell), and the new “new interest group (Hawley).” Charles Lorman, Linn’s brother-in-law, opposed Campbell and Berry about by-laws and 19 members sign a petition. Campbell and his clerk son, John M.L. Campbell, sent a letter out that upset many. Finally, on December 15, 1867, Berry and Campbell excommunicated 11 of the 19 petition signers, including Helen Linn (Alexander’s wife), Philip C. Gray and his wife Amelia, Charles Lorman, and Walter Sanderson and his wife. Starting in 1868, Colin Campbell’s group met at St. Andrew’s Hall on Woodward and State street for awhile. Eventually Campbell’s group and Hawley’s group combined and met at 41 Washington Avenue until 1884 as the Central Christian Church. In January 1868, Linn and Lorman’s group started meeting at the Detroit Ice Company (owned by Lorman) while they sold the Howard Street property. In February 1868, the Church of Christ bought two lots at the southwest corner of Fourth and Plum streets for $1800. They formed a committee to build a meeting house for $2000. During construction, the congregation met at the Celtic Historical Society Hall on Michigan Avenue and Cass. Their first service at Fourth and Plum was on July 26, 1868, with Alexander Linn preaching about “The aims of the church in maintaining a distinctive existence” and Philip C. Gray presiding over the Lord’s Supper. On August 9, James and Jean Gourlay placed membership and by September 6, there were sixty members.

Meeting – The Disciples of Christ meeting on the corner of Fourth and Plum streets, hold public worship on Lord’s Day morning at the usual hour and at 3 1/2 o’clock in the afternoon. Bren, Black and Beatty, of Toronto, Ontario, will address the meeting on this occasion. A cordial invitation is extended to all.

Detroit Free Press, August 23, 1868

From the Burton Historical Collection at Detroit Public Library: “Disciples of Christ Church (Christian), 4th & Plum St., 1882”. Prior to 1906, the terms “Disciples of Christ” and “Church of Christ” were interchangeable.


Christian Church
In 1871, Colin and Caroline (Linn) Campbell founded the Orchard Lake Community Church for a summer chapel (Colin had bought Apple Island in 1856 for $3050). Its original building was dedicated on July 18, 1874. In the 1879 Detroit City Directory, Colin Campbell’s church was named the Central Christian Church and was located at Washington Avenue between State and Grand River with Colin Campbell and Asa Sears as elders. Colin Campbell died in September 1883. In 1884, the church moved to Second and Ledyard Streets.

The Christian Church on Washington Avenue. From the Burton Historical Collection at Detroit Public Library. This photo was owned by Colin Campbell’s daughter who inscribed on the back, “Father and Uncle Thomas Linn bought this building from the Scotch Presbyterian Church and paid for its removal from the eastern side of Woodward Ave. to its site on Washington Blvd. This was before 1870 or about that time.”

Church of Christ
In 1871-1873, the church on Plum Street held several multi-day meetings and raised money for various causes like the victims of the fire in the Thumb in 1871 and an 1873 yellow fever epidemic in Memphis. In the 1879 Detroit City Directory, the Plum Street church was referred to as the Disciples of Christ at the corner of 4th and Plum with elders A. Linn and P.C. Gray. At Plum Street, Philip C. Gray served as an elder from 1875-1892, while Alexander served as one from 1875-1882. Walter Sanderson was an elder from 1880 until his death in 1888. In December 1882, a committee including Lorman, J.S. Gray, James Gourlay, W.F. Linn, W.G. Malcomson, A.A. Trout (Alexander Linn’s son-in-law) and James Sanderson was formed to buy a lot at 14th and Ash Streets and build a meeting house. The first service at 14th and Ash occurred on May 6, 1883. Alexander A. Trout was appointed the leader there with W.G. Malcomson and James Sanderson as his assistants (these appointments apparently lasted a year).

Note on back: “Mission Chapel – Disciples of Christ, 14th Ave & Ash St., 1883.” From the Burton Historical Collection at Detroit Public Library.

In 1885, Ella F. Linn (daughter-in-law of Alexander Linn) started a Sunday school between Fort and Dix in a store building on what is now W. Vernor near Lansing Ave. Sarah Malcomson (Alexander Malcomson’s wife) helped her. In 1887, the church bought a lot at Vinewood and Dix for $3250. This new congregation grew to 100 members. Alex Y. Malcomson was an early member at Vinewood. In 1888, both Alexander Trout and Walter Sanderson died.

Vinewood Church of Christ, c1900, during building updates. From


In 1891, Plum Street hired W. D. Campbell as their full-time preacher. Many members at 14th and Ash left to help at Vinewood and also to go back to Plum Street because they liked W.D. Campbell. After 10 years, the 14th and Ash mission was abandoned. In 1894, W. D. Campbell baptized Otoshige Fujimori at Plum Street. In 1898, Fujimori started a mission in Takahagi, Japan. John S. Gray paid half the balance for the purchase of the land. On December 26, 1905, there was a celebration of the anniversary of the Bible school of the Plum Street Church of Christ and architect W.G. Malcomson was the school’s superintendent. Also in 1895, Plum Street established a Cameron Avenue mission. After meeting in various places, John S. Gray paid to build a meetinghouse for that congregation on a lot at Clay and Cameron Avenues. The first service was held on June 7, 1903. Gray’s death on July 6, 1906 was a “severe blow to church efforts.” (Boyd, 112).


On August 1, 1912, Claud F. Witty became the preacher at Plum Street. In 1914-1916, the Fairview Church of Christ began by meeting in a remodeled dwelling at the northwest corner of Waterloo and Lemay Avenues in a section of Detroit called Fairview. In 1916, John S. Gray’s son Paul Robert Gray contributed the money for Fairview’s permanent building (Fairview later became Lemay). In 1918, the Plum Street congregation moved to Hamilton and Tuxedo to land donated by Vernon C. Fry. Then, according to a history of the Westside Central Church of Christ written by Claud Witty,

…an evil hour came upon us… . Upon hearing of this move, Brother A. Y. Malcomson, one of the Plum Street members, decided to take over the building on Plum Street and assemble another congregation, which would retain the historic name of “Plum Street Church of Christ”… . His first move was to employ Fred Cowan…as the minister. The second move was to go before the Cameron Avenue congregation… .

Malcomson went before Cameron Avenue to offer Cowan as preacher (supported financially by Malcomson). A church in Harlan, Kentucky church sent out a call for help and Malcomson asked the Wittys if they would go and he would pay their expenses. While they were gone, Malcomson wanted to combine the Gratiot Avenue mission and the Cameron Avenue church under Cowan. Some agreed and some didn’t. Malcomson sent two of his trucks to the Warren Avenue church (which became Westside Central) to load up their furniture and returned their key to the owner, without the congregation or Witty’s knowledge. His plan was to combine the enlarged Cameron Avenue church with the new congregation on Plum Street, as well as the Warren Avenue congregation.

The final move was to close the Warren Avenue church, as well as Gratiot Avenue and Cameron Avenue. This would make the new congregation consist of a goodly number of the Plum Street members, many from Vinewood, all from Warren Avenue, all from Cameron Avenue, and all from Gratiot Avenue… . Leading members were invited to the home of Brother Malcomson on different occasions for secret meetings.

The plan was not very successful. Twenty-three members of Warren Avenue did go over to the new congregation, but the congregation as a whole did not. This also happened at Cameron Avenue. In fact,

…many of the members, including all that went from Warren Avenue and Brother Malcomson himself withdrew from the effort and Brother Cowan and those loyal to him went in a body to the Central Christian Church, where Brother Cowan was made co-pastor with Edgar DeWitt Jones.

In 1925, the Central Christian Church and the Woodward Avenue Christian Church merged.

A final congregation I wanted to discuss is the Dearborn Church of Christ, which I have some personal connections to. The group first gathered on August 4, 1929 at the Robert Oakman school. W.G. Malcomson spoke at the service. In 1930, they bought lots at the corner of Chase Road and Gould and a temporary building paid for by Vernon C. Fry was put there.

Dearborn Church of Christ building from 1930-1937
– from

On November 13, 1936, ground was broken for a permanent Dearborn building designed by W.G. Malcomson. The building was not completed until 1942, but they occupied the basement beginning on August 5, 1937.

Dearborn Church of Christ building and congregation in June 1942. The building was designed by W. G. Malcomson. From


Plum Street Series

Plum Street and the Ford Motor Company

Sometimes I like to take little side adventures into the family histories of people that aren’t related to me at all. Through my work at Rochester University and their “Michigan Churches of Christ” collection, I became acquainted with John S. Gray and Alexander Malcomson – two men who helped Henry Ford found his company in 1903 and who were members of the church of Christ. In trying to connect Gray and Malcomson genealogically (various sources mention that Malcomson was Gray’s nephew), I created a family tree. As the tree grew more and more, their connection to the Plum Street Church of Christ and the Ford Motor Company (though not the uncle/nephew connection) grew clearer. Many of the prominent businessmen of the day attended Plum Street and its associated congregations, and married women from other prominent families in the city that also attended. Individually, these families contributed to the business scene of the city, but through marriages they solidified their social status. Hopefully this series will show the fascinating interconnectedness between the families belonging to what became the Plum Street church of Christ and the involvement of these families in the social and business life of the City of Detroit, not only with Ford Motor Company, but also with ice and coal companies, general stores, and the great architecture firm of Malcomson & Higginbotham.

Topics I hope to cover in this series: 


Veto McKinley

James Alfred Mann, seated left, with his first wife Emma and their children Arthur Veto McKinley, Margie, Martelia and baby Mary in 1910

Another 2nd cousin 3x removed from my husband was a man with the interesting name Arthur Veto McKinley Mann. He was born May 16, 1900 in Marion County, Alabama to James Alfred Mann and Emma Frances Coons. They had been married in February 1899. One can only assume Arthur’s father didn’t want Republican President McKinley to win re-election that coming November 1900. Since the voting age in 1896 was 21, it’s safe to say James, who was only 16 when McKinley was elected the first time, didn’t vote for him or his opponent Democrat William Jennings Bryan. In fact, 1,201 men in Marion County voted for Bryan, while only 502 voted for McKinley. Bryan won all 11 of Alabama’s electoral votes, as well as the popular vote (130,298 to 55,673)

On June 21, 1900, about a month after Arthur Veto McKinley Mann was born, William McKinley and his running mate Theodore Roosevelt were officially nominated at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. On November 6, 1900, McKinley again defeated William Jennings Bryan, but not in Marion County, nor Alabama. Marion County went for Bryan 1,137 to 685 for McKinley. Bryan again won all of Alabama’s electoral votes and the popular vote (McKinly got nearly the exact same about as in 1896 – 55,612, while Bryan received 97,129 votes).

McKinley’s second inauguration took place on March 4, 1901. On September 6, 1901 while visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, McKinley was shot by Leon Czolgosz. McKinley died from his wounds on September 14, 1901.



Dating Photographs through their Photographers

Recently, my mother-in-law gave me a 19th-century album full of family portraits. She knew the portraits were of relatives from her father’s side of the family, but none of them were identified. Luckily, I recognized one of the photos from It was of my husband’s 3rd great-grandmother Elisabeth (Kline) Becker/Baker and her sisters Catherine (Kline) Hartman and Dorothea (Kline) Eberhart.

Original portrait from the album
Image from user with their caption

Most of the portraits were from photographers in Owosso and Bay City, Michigan, Toledo, Ohio, and Danville, Illinois. In examining the Kline family, who came to the U.S. in around 1854, Elisabeth and Dorothea’s families lived in Danville, Illinois in 1860, and while Dorothea stayed in Illinois, Elisabeth’s families re-located back to northwest Ohio, where Catherine’s family had stayed. Meanwhile, other Kline siblings Frederick, Wilhelmina, Conrad, and John Nicholas moved to Bennington, Shiawassee County, Michigan.

While I had a general idea of the possible identities of the portraits, I thought finding out when the photographers were in business would help me date the images and (maybe) further narrow down the identities.

Michigan Photographers

The Clements Library at University of Michigan hosts the online edition of the Directory of Early Michigan Photographers by David V. Tinder. This resource was incredible helpful – arranged by city (including different address changes) and also by photographer. Here are the photographers contained in my mother-in-law’s collection:

Beebe & HorsemanOwossoca1893
Moore Bros.Owosso1884-1891
W. E. MarshallBig Rapids1886-1913
G. F. SterlingWest Bay City1886-1895
Harman & VernerBay City (914 N. Water St.)1884-1889
Miller / Miller’sBay City (710 Washington Ave.)1884-1887
DragoBay City1886-1897
C. B. ColburnBay City1869-1891

Illinois Photographers

I wasn’t able to find a source for Illinois photographers as good as Michigan’s, but I did find a website that mentioned “Early Danville Photographers.”

Phillips & BergstresserDanville1886-1888
W. BoyceDanville1884-1888

Ohio Photographers

In Google Books, I was able to search the 1998 version of Ohio Photographers, 1839-1900 by Diane VanSkiver Gagel.

BallToledo (205 Summit St.)1890
ChesebroToledo (61 Summit St.)1883-1888
ChesebroToledo (417 Summit St.)1890-1893
Arthur & PhilbricToledo (159 Summit St.)1888
Geo. FieldsToledo (57 Summit St.)1878-1886
Geo. FieldsToledo (113 Summit St.)1889
A. C. SwainToledo (205 Summit St.)c1891-1900


I do have one photograph by Hutchinson of 110 Jackson St., Elkhart, Indiana but I haven’t been able to find any information on this one.


Alpha and Omega

I found some interesting names recently while researching my husband’s family. Apparently it was a thing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to name twins Alpha and Omega. My husband’s grandmother’s extended family from Tennessee/Alabama has two sets! The first set is related to him by marriage. Alpha Wills was married to my husband’s 2nd cousin 3x removed, Terah Y. Stiles. Terah’s grandfather Franklin A. Martin, Jr. and my husband’s 3x great grandmother Missouri Frances (Martin) Mann were siblings. Alpha was born in Texas on December 24, 1895 and died September 25, 1993. Alpha’s twin sister Omega (of course also born on Christmas Eve 1895) died on February 1, 1981.

Alpha and Omega Wills in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census

The next set of twins is a “step” situation so the relationship is a bit convoluted, but hopefully I have it figured out. Missouri’s son Alexander Mann was married first (in 1911, separated in 1912) to a woman named Nancy Alice Reynolds who had previously been married (in 1895) to a William Lewis. They’d had 6 children including twin daughters born in 1907 named Alpha and Omega Lewis.

Alpha and Omega Lewis in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census after their mother had married a third time.


Peckett’s on Sugar Hill

So if you get bored researching the same old ancestors, you should branch out and find out more about the siblings of the people in your direct line. Following another relative’s line can lead to some interesting stories, like the one I’m going to write about today.

Katharine Belknap was my 2nd cousin 3x removed (her grandfather, William, was the brother of my 3x great-grandfather, Thomas Belknap). Katharine was born August 13, 1874 in New Hampshire to George and Jennie (Ranlett) Belknap. George died in 1879. Katharine had a sister, Annie, that died in April 1874 at the age of 2. In 1880, Jennie and Katharine were living with Jennie’s parents in Littleton, Grafton County, New Hampshire. Katharine married Robert Plimpton Peckett, a hotelkeeper in Lisbon, New Hampshire, on March 30, 1895 in Littleton. Robert’s father, John Wesley Peckett, had been an attorney in New York.

John “had brought his family [to Sugar Hill] to spend healthful summers at John Goodnow’s boarding house. In 1876, together with Goodnow, John Peckett constructed the imposing Goodnow House… . When his son Robert was 21, he and his brother John took over the operation of the hotel, changing the name to Franconia Inn, but it was destroyed by fire in 1907.”

– Arthur F. March in his Arcadia publication “Franconia and Sugar Hill,” 1997, page 82
Goodnow House (Franconia Inn), c1876-1888

In 1893, a farmhouse which had been acquired from a Mr. Goodnow was moved across the road, in February 1900 they took in their first guests (from Depending on the time of the year the U.S. Federal Census was taken, there were varying numbers of people living at Sugar Hill. In the 1900 census (taken on 6-30-1900) of Lisbon, Grafton, N.H., Robert and Katharine were listed with their daughter Deborah (aged 4) and son Robert Jr. (aged 4 months), along with Jennie Belknap (Katharine’s mother), a cook, farm hand, gardener, kitchen girl, stable boy, table girl, and stable boss. Robert’s father, John Wesley Peckett, died in 1904. Their daughter Katharine was born July 8, 1906.

After the Franconia Inn burned in 1907, the farmhouse mentioned previously became the center of Peckett’s-on-Sugar-Hill Inn. In the 1910 census (taken 5-11-1910), Robert, Katherine, Jennie, and the three children, Deborah (aged 15), Robert Jr. (aged 10), and Katharine (4) were listed along with more employees: a farm manager, hotel housekeeper, waitress, pastry cook, kitchen girl, 2 farm laborers, and a gardener.

In the 1920 census (taken on January 21, 1920), Robert, Katharine, and Jennie were living at Sugar Hill. Deborah (aged 24) and her husband Joel Coffin were also living with them. Robert Jr. was 19 and Katharine was 13. Their employees included a “hotel man,” a maid, a nurse, a chauffer, 5 waitresses, 2 chambermaids, a dish washer, and 2 cooks.

The First Ski School

Katharine’s mother, Jennie Belknap, died in 1926. In 1928, 22-year-old Katharine Peckett spent a Christmas break skiing in Switzerland. She encouraged her parents to visit to show them how Peckett’s-on-Sugar-Hill could become a ski resort and school. In Spring 1929 at Sugar Hill, Katharine “supervised and worked at clearing the side hill, adjacent to the now many-winged farmhouse. This became the major slope for the first bona-fide ski school in America in the winter of 1929-30. The first two instructors were German, one being Herman Glatfelder” (from

N.H. Historical Marker Number 73

In the 1930 census of 4-30-1930, Robert, Katharine, and young Katharine (aged 23) had a chef, 2 farm laborers, office clerk, and chambermaid at the inn. In the 1940 census (taken on April 8), Robert and his wife Katharine were at the Ritz-Carlton on Madison Avenue in New York City. Katharine died on September 17, 1951 and Robert died in Manhattan on March 6, 1959. They are buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Franconia, NH. Peckett’s-on-Sugar-Hill closed in 1967. The original resort building is now gone, but the rest of Peckett’s on Sugar Hill is now a wedding venue. Cocktail hours take place on a patio made from the building’s foundation. There are also five “cottages” on the estate available to overnight guests, one of which is the “Iris Farm House,” on the original dairy farm.

Bette Davis at Sugar Hill

Arthur A. Farnsworth was an assistant manager at Peckett’s-on-Sugar-Hill. After finishing two movies in 1939, Bette Davis visited Peckett’s for a rest. She turned an old barn into Butternut Lodge and built Butternut Cottage. Davis met Farnsworth and, according to the story, got herself intentionally “lost” in the woods, knowing that he would be the one sent to search for her. They married in 1940.

Arthur died in Hollywood on August 25, 1943 of a skull fracture he suffered during a fall while walking on Hollywood Boulevard. He had fallen down the stairs 2 months before in New Hampshire while running to the phone. In the autopsy, it was discovered that he had a blood clot from that previous fall that caused him to become dizzy and to fall on the sidewalk (from the LA Times).

‘In memoriam to Arthur Farnsworth
“The Keeper of Stray Ladies”
Pecketts 1939
Presented by a Grateful One’

He was buried at Butternut. In 1945, his family requested that he be re-interred in the family cemetery in Pittsford, Vermont. After this, Bette’s visits to New Hampshire lessened. She sold Butternut about 20 years after she first came to the town. After that the plaque pictured above showed up on a boulder in Coppermine Brook.

Lots of good pictures here:


The Tragic Story of Betsey Bolt

James Bolt was born about 1804 in New York State. I believe his father, David Bolt, was the brother of my 4x great-grandmother, Hannah. James married Elizabeth “Betsey” Utter in the late 1820s in New York. In the 1830 census, James and Betsey were living in Andes, Delaware County, New York. Their daughter Louisa was born about 1830, and another daughter Polly was born about 1832. Their son Stephen was born about 1838, and another son Benjamin was born about 1840. Their last child Merritt was born in 1843, about 10 months before Betsey’s (spoiler alert!) disappearance in May 1844.

The April 1848 issue of the Journal of Insanity contains transcripts from John Johnson’s November 1845 trial for Betsey’s murder. So that is where I’m getting much of the following information. The main witness against Johnson, Ann Burdick, had been a patient in a psychiatric hospital and her questionable mental health was a roadblock to the validity of her testimony. In fact, this trial was “one of the first instances of expert testimony in the United States that could be regarded as falling under the general umbrella of forensic psychology or psychiatry” (Huss, M. T. Forensic Psychology. Wiley, 2008. p. 50).

According to James Bolt’s testimony, he and his family had been living in Greene, Chenango County in southern New York since about 1838.

Spafford, H. G. (1813) State of New-York for Spafford’s gazetteer
. [Albany: H.C. Southwick]. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

In early April 1844, James moved his family to a farm belonging to John Johnson in Triangle, Broome County, NY about 10 miles west of Greene. James described his relationship with his wife during his cross-examination: “I had no difficulty with my wife, lived as happily together as men in general so, not any difficulty between me and my wife except that she wanted to go back to Delaware County where we moved from…”. His family had been acquainted with Johnson for about 9 years by that time. On the day of the move, three men, Nyrum Johnson (John’s son), Frederick Burger, and Harvey Hammond (Ann Burdick’s brother-in-law), moved all the household goods, while James and his oldest son, Stephen, went on foot, driving their animals ahead of them. Louisa, the oldest daughter, rode with Nyrum Johnson. Betsey and her baby Merritt rode in a wagon with John Johnson. Johnson passed James about four miles from Greene and beat all the wagons to the new house. By the time James approached the house, Nyrum and Harvey had already dropped their loads off and were heading away and Johnson had already been there and gone, dropping off Betsey and the baby.

When James arrived, he noticed that his wife was quiet and “cast down,” complaining of pain in her arms, unable to comb her hair. Betsey’s daughter Louisa testified that she overheard a conversation between her mother and Johnson later in which he asked if Betsey had told her husband anything. She said she hadn’t but should, and then he threatened her. Eventually Betsey did tell James what had happened when she arrived with Johnson at the house on moving day. She said that when they got there, Johson caught her and threw her on the floor, put the end of a buffalo skin in her mouth, and raped her. Johnson told her if she ever told her husband about it, “he would destroy her.”

James called a doctor to examine Betsey because she was so ill. Dr. William Purple, a physician in Greene, examined Betsey on May 7, 1844 and found her “weak and feeble…unable to discover any physical cause of her illness. She was agitated and disturbed, exhibited much anxiety, pulse weak and rather quick, nerves weak and irritable.” She said she couldn’t sleep and had no appetite. Purple prescribed “cathartics and anodynes.” James confronted Johnson after Betsey told him what had happened. Johnson said that James “would stand no chance” if he reported Johnson. Then Johnson admitted he had done wrong and would settle it with James with land or money, that James just had to name the price. James refused.

On Sunday, May 12, 1844, Betsey “had been deranged during the day and evening.” James had been locking the front door every night, but that night could not find the key. He brought in a barrel of milk to block the door instead. He left a fire burning all night. Most of the family slept in the main room where the door was. Betsey tried to leave the house once, but James stopped her and put her back in bed. Later she got up, checked the children, and “got her pipe and sat down by the fire and went to smoking.” James watched her awhile, but fell asleep. He woke up to the sound of the door latch. The door was left open and both pairs of Betsey’s shoes were left. She had been wearing a dark calico dress and stockings, but no shoes or bonnet. James went out to find Betsey, checking the well and around the house and garden. He then headed towards the woods. James and Louisa both testified that Betsey had been trying to run away to the woods all day. Neighbors joined in the search, and James afterward made some trips to “places where a deranged woman had been seen rambling about,” but none of them turned out to be Betsey. She had disappeared without a trace.

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, May 14, 1846, page 2

A neighbor, Vincent Van Arsdale, testified that he saw Johnson in a corn field at the end of June, 1844. Johnson was thrusting a stick into the ground and warned Vincent to keep a good lookout because he thought James Bolt had killed his wife and hidden her on the farm. Vincent told Johnson that he didn’t believe that Bolt killed Betsey. Two men, Fitch and Decker, testified that they had seen Johnson the day Betsey disappeared. He had been passing through Greene in a one-horse wagon and a man wearing a cloak partially covering his face was with him. Another neighbor, Allen Jeffers, said he heard a one-horse wagon going east slowly at 1 AM on the night Betsey disappeared.

A woman named Ann Augusta Burdick testified that in August 1845, she had been washing clothes at a spring near her mother, Amy Baxter’s, house. John Johnson and Mrs. Baxter were in the house, and when Ann tried to go in, the doors were locked. From outside, she overheard Johnson and Baxter talking: Johnson was asking her if “she could get rid of Mrs. Johnson as well as he did of Mrs. Bolt.” Ann then went to another door, opened a window and reached in to unlock the door. She saw Johnson and her mother on the bed. Johnson grabbed Ann’s arms and asked if she had heard him and if she would tell what she heard. Ann said she wouldn’t.

A couple of weeks later, Ann was at her mother’s house and Johnson arrived, asking if her mother was there, but she wasn’t. Ann’s husband came by and Johnson told her to hide in the other room. Mr. Burdick left and Johnson led Ann to the kitchen and tied her hands and then tied her to the bedpost. He tied a bonnet around her eyes so she couldn’t see. Johnson brought in a bag of bones and emptied it on the hearth. He told Ann to put them on the fire, but she fainted instead. When she awoke, the bones were burning. Johnson then took them out of the fire, laid them on the hearth, gave Ann an axe while he held another axe, and told her to pound the bones. Ann fainted again and woke up when he threw some water in her face. Johnson put the bones back on the fire and threatened to kill Ann if she told anyone. He said he would “serve [her] as he had Mrs. Bolt’s bones.” Ann described the bones and the bag, saying she saw what looked like a human head among the bones, but that she had never seen a human skeleton before. She also testified that the bones were purple before they went on the fire and white afterward.

Later when Ann returned home, two people grabbed her in her room. She claimed that one of them was wearing a dress and, after they left when she yelled, she found her mother’s cape on the floor. The next evening after she fell asleep, two men gagged and blind-folded her, and carried her out of the house. They tried to force her to drink something out of a vial, but she knocked it away. They carried her to a swamp and threatened her with a knife. They rolled her face down into a brook, put a couple of logs on top of her, and stood on top of them. She claimed one of the men said he had done enough for $5 and the other said “he had not got his pay for carrying Mrs. Bolt off yet.” Other witnesses later described searching for Ann in the swamp and finding her nearly dead in 3 – 4 inches of water, her hands tied and still gagged.

Johnson’s lawyer then cross-examined Ann about hysterical fits she had had in the past, trying to dismiss her testimony. Ann’s mother, Amy Baxter, testified for the defense and refuted Ann’s testimony, saying that the conversation with Johnson never happened and that she had never been on a bed with him. She described a fit Ann had in which she said she had visited heaven. Dr. Amariah Brigham, head of the so-called lunatic asylum at Utica, testified that Ann had been taken to the asylum on October 24, 1845. He described her symptoms and those of other “hysterical and nervous women.” The defense rested after Brigham said that hysterical persons’ testimonies “should be received with caution. They often say things in that state which they do not recollect when sane.” The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating for only 30 minutes.

The editor of the Journal of Insanity summed it up this way: “…Nothing has occurred since the trial…to throw light upon the mysterious circumstances of the affair. That a woman in a deranged state of mind disappeared as stated, several years since and has not since been found–and that another woman disappeared from her home in the day-time, and was found imbedded in a brook in a swamp, with her hands bound and a gag in her mouth and nearly dead, are facts.  How these occurrences were produced, we leave for others and for time to explain.”