Below is a summary of the evidence1 regarding the five slaves owned by Pleasant and Hannah Holschauser Gray in Texas prior to Emancipation. Supplemental information about other people who at some point owned these individuals or people who may or may not be related to these individuals is included at the end of this document.
The first record we have of a slave owned by Pleasant and Hannah Gray is a receipt for the purchase of a young woman, age 26, named Kesiah in 1845. She was sold by Francis L. Hatch in a barter trade for land valued at $600. Although Pleasant Gray transferred 184 acres of his league of land to Francis Hatch, the receipt indicates that ownership of Kesiah was given directly and only to Pleasant’s wife, Hannah Holshauser Gray. This was unusual.
The purchase receipt for Kesiah was kept in the Gray Family Bible along with a few other papers and souvenirs by Hannah until she died in 1867 in San Mateo, California. In 1996 Frances Fisk Barker Larson, a direct descendant, donated the Gray Bible to the City of Huntsville. The city fathers have since entrusted the bible to Sam Houston State University’s Thomason Room Special Collections Archive. Somewhere along the way, the purchase receipt for Kesiah and other papers found interleaved in the bible have been lost or misplaced.
However, we have a partial transcription of the slave purchase record printed in Frances Larson’s book, Family Pride, page 47, also found in the Thomason Room at SHSU. The transaction is dated September 11, 1845.Type your paragraph here.
“Know all men by these present that I Francis L. Hatch of the town of Huntsville, Texas, for once in consideration of the sum of six hundred dollars to me in hand paid by Pleasant Gray and Hannah Gray of the said town and Republic the same being discharged by a conveyance of one hundred and eighty four acres of land lying near the said town of Huntsville…have this day bargained and sold to the said Hannah Gray a certain negro woman a slave for life named Kesiah and aged about 26 years of yellow complexion…And I the said Francis Hatch….agree….with the said Hannah Gray…to warrant and defend the title to the above named negro woman against claims of all persons whatsoever..."
1 Unconfirmed/uncorroborated evidence will be cited with the proviso that further investigation and proof are required.
The next evidence of slave ownership is a February 28, 1856 State of Texas Court settlement record for Pleasant Gray’s estate2 completed shortly before his widow Hannah Gray and all of her children emigrated to California by ox wagon. That settlement transcription reads:
Last updated 2/4/2020
While it may be difficult to confirm, it would appear that Kesiah’s name was changed to Hannah during her tenure in the Gray household. It would seem an unusual choice given that there would be two individuals with the same name in the same household. On the other hand, the purchase and estate settlement documents match closely in terms of Kesiah/Hannah’s birth year, given as 1819 and 1818 respectively.
The sale of lands and slaves as a result of Pleasant Gray’s death was duly advertised in the March 8, 1856 issue of the Huntsville Item newspaper:Type your paragraph here.
“When the Civil War broke out, father, being a Southerner by birth, was naturally in sympathy with the Confederacy. That feeling, and the prevailing Union sentiment in California, as well as what he thought was a better chance to aid the South, led father off on a mining venture to the west coast of Mexico….With us on that trip was our constant and faithful attendant, the colored girl, Nannie. I mention her with a tender feeling for her memory.
My father had brought her from Texas as a small child in the 1849 [sic 1856]4 trek across the plains to California. Nannie became a member of my mother’s family, grew up with us children, and spent her whole life in a faithful, undivided affection for the family. She never married and her ever-loyal devotion to our family remained during all her good life. For, though colored, she was just one of those women that Booker T. Washington tells about, who ever remained loyal to their old white masters — “Nursing them in sickness, feeding them in want, and burying them in death.” What would the South after the war have done without them?”
4 Mike Gray made two overland trips to California from Texas, in 1849 and 1856. He made the 1849 trip with his father Pleasant who died of cholera in Nebraska. If Nancy’s age, provided in the estate settlement document is accurate, she would have been two years old in 1849.Type your paragraph here.
Notes for Francis Lewis Hatch who sold the slave Keziah to Pleasant and Hannah Holschauser Gray in 1845:
Per the handwritten 1856 transaction record (see Appendix A), Hannah and her infant daughter Dicey were sold by Michael Gray, widow Hannah Holshauser Gray’s son, for $1,000 to William Reeves on April 5, 1856. Per the sale record, daughter Phoebe died sometime before the sale was completed and this is duly noted in the transaction.3
It is likely that Hannah and Dicey remained with the Reeves family until Emancipation. The US Federal Census Slave Schedules show that William Reeves owned 13 slaves in Walker County TX as of September 14, 1850. William Reeves died on August 20, 1856 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville TX. He died less than 6 months after the purchase of Hannah and Dicey Gray. His gravestone indicates that he was the first sheriff of Walker County. The 1860 Slave Schedules show that his widow Caroline owned 15 slaves, possibly including Hannah and Dicey. While the ages provided for older female slaves do not conform closely to Hannah’s likely birth year of 1818/19, there is a female slave listed who is the appropriate age for Dicey. Caroline McMillan Reeves died on February 28, 1870 and is buried at the McMillan- McCaskill Cemetery in Huntsville TX.
A search of Ancestry.com for Hannah Gray in the greater Walker County Texas area in the post Emancipation era reveals just one possible census record in which she is living with a son, George Gray, and his family in 1880. Further research is required to clarify if this Hannah Gray is the same person as the former slave of Pleasant & Hannah Gray. Please see the discussion of George Gray below. Hannah Gray is buried in the African American section of the old Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville TX. The death date on her gravestone says simply 1867.
Hannah’s daughter Dicey Gray is recorded in the 1880 Census living in Walker County, age 26 (which conforms to her likely birth in about 1854/1855). Also recorded is a child Robert, age 7, a servant, and another child Sis, age 1. The record indicates that both Dicey’s mother and her father were born in Texas; she is single and a servant. She is living in the home of William McKinley Parrish who was a key player in a notorious bit of Reconstruction history called the Walker County Rebellion. It is worth a brief synopsis of the event as it sheds light on the environment in which Dicey lived.
In December 1870 a freedman, Sam Jenkins, was found murdered a few days after he testified against several whites in an assault case. Investigation led to the arrest of four people, including John “Mac” McKinley Parish. Three, including Parish, were found guilty in a state district court. Gunfire broke out in the courtroom and in the ensuing melee two prisoners, including Parish, escaped across the border to Louisiana on horses provided by local Huntsville citizens.
Ten people were arrested on charges of aiding in the escape or not answering the call for a posse. By the end of March 1871 all charges were dropped. By 1880 John Parish had returned to Huntsville and had become a deputy sheriff of Walker County. For more on the Walker County Rebellion, see the Texas State Historical Association website, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ jcwfv.
There are additional records for Dicey Gray. Texas Marriages, 1837-1973 indicates that she was married on December 5, 1889 to John Johnson in Walker, Texas. No further records have been found that show them living together. In the 1893 and 1894 Dallas City Directories “Dicey Gray” is listed as a cook living in the home of Joseph S. Letcher, a physician. Dicey Gray is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville next to her mother Hannah. Dicey died March 29, 1897, a little more than 20 years after the death date on her mother Hannah’s grave marker.
The 11-year old slave George was, in all likelihood, sold on the Courthouse steps in April 1856. No transaction record has been found thus far.
ancestry.com provides evidence of a George Gray of African American descent born in Huntsville, Texas ,and living in Walker County after Emancipation. In the 1880 US Census he is listed as a wagon maker living in Walker, Texas, with his mother, Hannah, his wife and two children The birth date provided for George Gray is 1843 versus 1845 as given in the Pleasant Gray estate settlement. The birth date for his mother, Hannah, is ~1825 versus 1816 in the purchase document for Keziah and 1818 in the Pleasant Gray estate settlement document.
In the 1900 US Census, George Gray’s family includes his wife, a total of four children and a lodger, Melissa Alexander. His birth date is given as April 1847 (versus 1845 in the Gray estate settlement). His occupation is given as wheelwright; his two oldest children are listed as school teachers. They reside in Huntsville, Walker, Texas.
There are two pieces of documentation for this George Gray which cast shadows over his connection to the slave Hannah Gray in the Pleasant & Hannah Gray family. First is his death certificate which lists his mother as Hannah Neal.
Nothing more has been found about Hannah Neal to date. Second is the 1876 death date inscribed in Hannah Gray’s grave marker in the Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville TX. This death date would preclude her being listed with George Gray’s family in the 1880 US Census. However, it is worth noting that Pleasant Gray’s wife, Hannah Holschauser Gray, died in California in 1876—the same year listed on the Oakwood grave marker. A closer look at the grave stones for Hannah, her daughter Dicey and two other close neighbors in the cemetery indicate that all of them may have been produced after 1896 — 20 years after the death date on Hannah’s stone . Hannah’s marker may have been installed retrospectively, and her descendants may not have known her actual death date. It is possible that they learned that “Hannah Gray” of Huntsville died in 1876 and assumed it was their ancestor’s death date instead of their ancestor’s former mistress’ death date.
There is one further cloud over the connection of the 11-year old slave George in Pleasant and Hannah Gray’s estate and the George Gray found in the records mentioned above. There was another pioneer Gray family in Huntsville who may have owned slaves prior to Emancipation. That family [Ephraim Gray Sr., Ephraim Gray Jr. (1823-1879), Mary Jane Gray (1858-1879) m. Christopher C Gibbs (1848-1929)] has no known connection to Pleasant Gray’s ancestors, siblings or descendants. More research is necessary to determine if this separate Gray family had a slave named George prior to Emancipation.
As for the 9-year old Nancy Gray, presumed daughter of the slave Hannah Gray, we know that she traveled by oxen wagon to California with the widow Hannah Holshauser Gray and all of her children in 1856. Upon arrival in California she became a free person. Nancy lived with the family of Michael Gray, Pleasant & Hannah Holshauser Gray’s son. She is listed as a servant in both the 1860 and 1870 US Censuses in Mike Gray’s household. While she is listed as white in the 1870 census, her birth date matches that of the Pleasant Gray estate settlement document. There is also proof of her life in California within the Gray family in a memoir, When All Roads Led to Tombstone, pages 140-141, authored by John Pleasant Gray, Mike Gray’s son:
1856 Sale of Hannah, Dicey and Phoebe Gray
2 Pleasant Gray died on 9 June 1849 of cholera just before reaching the fork in the Platte River, Nebraska, where the city of North Platte is now located. A transcription of his estate settlement can be found among the Gray family papers at the Thomason Room at SHSU or online within Candyce Dixon’s Genealogy of the Gray Family, https:// pleasantgray.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/family-tree-pleasant-gray.pdf.
It would appear that there were close social and political connections between Francis Hatch and Sam Houston. Their shared “Union” political belief is mentioned in the biography of Hatch recorded above and found on p. 73 of the History of Colusa County. Their social connection appears in a 1921 Courier Gazette (McKinney TX) newspaper article which records that Francis Hatch sold the 174 acres of land [sic] he obtained from Pleasant Gray from the sale of Kesiah to Sam Houston who built his Huntsville home on it:
Notes for Joseph S. Letcher in whose household Dicey Gray lived as a cook in 1893-94:
Born April 1, 1850 in Coosa, Coosa, AL. 1850 & 1860 US Federal Censuses
Resident and physician, Dallas, TX. Dallas City Directories, 1889-1894
Died November 30, 1896. Texas Wills & Probate Records, 1833-1974; Obituary, Dallas Morning News, December 1, 1896
Joseph Letcher’s will includes a list of debts owed to various individuals among whom is a “Nicey McKinney” for $50. There is no known connection between Nicey McKinney and the Millie McKinney who is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville. It might be an avenue for further research.
Notes for Madison McKinney and Millie McKinney who are buried in Huntsville’s Oakwood Cemetery next to Hannah Gray and Dicey Gray:
The available evidence to date shows that there may be either one or two couples named Madison and Millie/Milly McKinney, residing in Walker county and in Galveston. In addition, there is a record of a marriage between a Madison McKinney and a Mary Turner in 1893 whereas the Huntsville grave marker for his wife Millie McKinney is dated substantially thereafter in 1911.
Records for Madison McKinney:
In 1850 Judge Hatch was elected a member of the Texas Legislature….General Sam Houston’s first term in the United States Senate was about to expire and this Legislature was to elect his successor…Judge Hatch was the Houston or Union candidate and was triumphantly elected….At this session of the Texas Legislature  a debate occurred… attracting much attention in the State and in other States of the Union as well….A bill was introduced into the Legislature providing that the owner of any negro slave, who might thereafter be convicted in court of a capital offense and executed therefor, should be paid the full market value of the negro slave so executed. Judge Hatch opposed the measure and greatly distinguished himself in the protracted debate that ensued. The bill, however, passed both houses of the Legislature by a large majority…Judge Hatch soon afterwards resigned his seat in the Texas Legislature, and with his family emigrated to California, making the journey through Mexico.
Copyright 2013. Gray decendants. All rights reserved.
Apart from the 1860 and 1870 census records, no further evidence has been found to date of Nancy Gray’s life. No death date is known.
The older part of Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville Texas has a separate area in which African Americans were buried. Among the few headstones are four markers, possibly all produced at the same time or on two distinct occasions for Mrs. Hannah Gray, Mrs. Dicey Gray and two other people, Mr. Madson McKinney and Mrs. Millie McKinney.
There is no known kinship between the Grays and the McKinneys. However, the families were among the founders of the Huntsville Colored Baptist Church.
Madison McKinney, Joshua Houston (formerly Sam Houston’s slave) and other trustees purchased a half acre of land for the church on December 10, 1869.
Madison McKinney was a trustee and deacon of the church for many years. Ella Fisher Gray, George Gray’s wife, and Ellen Houston, Joshua Houston’s daughter, were the first Sunday school teachers. The church became a spiritual and intellectual center as well as a place of refuge for the black community of Huntsville.