Tag Archives: Overland Trail

The Beginning Of The Civil War

At the outbreak of the Civil war, John Gray enrolled in the Union militia but was rejected at Leavenworth, Kans.  Still desirous and anxious to serve his country, he joined the Brown County Kansas Home Guards.

While Mr. Gray was away, his wife, Annie Maria, cribbed 1,000 bushels of corn and cut and hauled the winter’s fuel from the woods, a distance of seven miles. Alice and her mother and siblings lived all alone and unprotected.

John Gray was possessed of a roving disposition. He was one of the original “Forty-Niners” who crossed the plains to the gold fields of California during the great rush of 1849. He returned home via Cape Horn (using the Drake Passage, South America. The Passageway was a major milestone by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. It was used before the Panama Canal was built in 1914. ) He also went on many freighting expeditions to Pike’s Peak and was an old Indian fighter.

After the memorable trip on horseback to Sycamore Springs, Alice Gray became friends with Chief Chawkeekee of the Kickapoo Tribe.  She was often asked to sit in on the Tribal Council. White men were never allowed to attend the Council. Women were rarely allowed to have this honor.

Alice taught school during the greater part of her mature life, and later years was engaged in the Indian service. Her first appointment in the Indian service was at Tuba, Ariz., as a teacher among the Western Navajos.

At her own request she was transferred to the Great Nemaha School of Iowa Indians and worked for several years on the reservation in Horton, Brown County, Kansas.

Miss Alice Mabel Gray married George W. Williams in 1881.

George Williams was seventeen years old when his father died, and he was left to help an invalid mother rear a family of boys and girls in a new and barren country. With ox teams he helped break up the virgin sod. With four yoke of oxen he hauled all the family supplies from the Missouri river. This was one of the first homesteads in Nemaha County, KS.

The Overland Trail to the Far West passed through Nemaha County near Oneida and Seneca KS at this time, and great wagon trains of gold seekers were constantly passing through on their way to the mountains of California. Many of the Pony Express riders and the old United States Rangers were well known to him.

Mr. Williams had often seen large herds of deer on the land where Oneida is located. He had many times seen hostile bands of Indians decked out with paint and war regalia and looking for trouble, but no depredations were committed by the Indians near the Williams’ home.

 

When the Oneida post office was placed under the civil service, Alice Williams was appointed the postmistress, The First Woman Postmistress.

Alice has direct descendants who came to America on the Mayflower and also family members who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

Connected to “Sacking and Burning” of Lawrence KS-1856

At this point, I want to give some background information on who was John Gray and his daughter, Alice.

Much of this information is summarized from various “Nemaha County (Kansas) Historical Records and Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, KS.

John Gray was married in Illinois in 1857 to Annie Maria McCune, who was born in New York, left an orphan at the age of twelve years, and then made her home with a cousin.

The cousin was the editor, George Washington Brown, who came to Kansas in 1854 to be the editor of the “Herald of Freedom.” – The first free-state newspaper in the Territory.

Mrs. Gray (Annie Maria McCune) was in Lawrence, Kansas in 1856, when the town was sacked and burned by pro-slavery ruffians, and she lost all earthly belongings.

Lawrence 3Lawrence 2Scenes of Lawrence

She then went to Illinois with a pro-slavery family named McVeigh, and later was married to John Gray. Six sons and a daughter (Alice) were born to this marriage.

John Gray and his family settled at Hiawatha, Brown County, Kansas, in May of 1857. There was just one house in Hiawatha at the time. Mr. Gray came there to make his in the new state of Kansas. He located a homestead one mile north of Hiawatha. (It was from here that John and his daughter, Alice, later made the trip to the “healing waters” of Sycamore Springs.)

Alice Mabel Gray was born in 1860 at Hiawatha, Kans., the daughter of John and Annie Maria McCune.

Later….more on John Gray and Alice