Mr. Gray's first business experience was as a dry goods clerk in a store at New Madison, O. He afterward went to Portland, Jay county, Indiana, and was there a short time, returning to New Madison, where he continued as a dry goods clerk and then proprietor until his removal to Union City. In this city he started a dry goods store and grain-buying business of his own, and continued either alone or with partners until after the close of the civil war, when he sold out. With Nathan Cadwallader, he organized in 1865 at Union City the Citizens' Bank. He continued the banking business only a few years, when he entered the practice of law, for which he had been preparing himself for several years.
Of all the brilliant sons that Indiana has produced, no name on the pages of her history shines with greater luster than that of Isaac P. Gray. As a citizen, he was beloved, as a statesman, admired, and at his death was mourned by the whole commonwealth. As governor of the state, Mr. Gray was always true to the best interests of the people, whom he tried faithfully to serve.
Isaac P. Gray was the son of John Gray, who was born in Chester county, Pa., and died at New Madison, Darke county, Ohio. His occupation was that of an inn-keeper and he was a Quaker, his ancestors having come over with William Penn. On his father's side, the family held several important positions in connection with colonial government under Penn.
Mr. Gray's mother's maiden name was Hannah Worthington. She was also of Quaker descent, her ancestors likewise coming over with Penn.
Isaac P. Gray was born October 18, 1828, in Downingtown, Chester county, Pennsylvania. There were no special traits of character in his childhood days, or early youth, of any particular importance, or personal peculiarities, which would lead us to suppose that he would be the man of mark that he was in his future years.
Mr. Gray's father moved from Pennsylvania, when he was about eight years old, to Urbana, O., in 1836. Shortly afterward they moved to a place near Dayton, O., and in 1842 moved to New Madison, O. He came to Union City, Randolph county, Indian, November 30, 1855.
When the civil war broke out, Mr. Gray was appointed colonel of the 4th Indiana cavalry, but was compelled to retire on account of ill-health. He afterwards organized the 147th Indiana infantry and was offered the colonelship, but declined the same. He had charge of the state guard (Minute Men) during the Morgan raid.
Mr. Gray was always a Republican in politics until 1872, when he became a Liberal Republican, and after affiliated with the Democratic party. He became active in Republican politics after the close of the war. He was a candidate for nomination against George W. Julian, who was then at the zenith of his influence, and came within a few votes of defeating him. In 1868 he was nominated and elected state senator from Randolph county, serving four years, and while senator, and president pro tem of the senate. It was while acting as president of the senate that he secured the ratification by the state of the fifteenth amendment. In 1870 he was appointed consul to St. Thomas by President Grant, and confirmed by the senate, but declined. In 1872 his candidacy was urged by his friends for nomination of congressman at large, but it was withdrawn by his orders. In the same year he was a delegate to the Liberal Republican national convention at Cincinnati, which nominated Horace Greeley, and was also a member of the national committee for the Liberal party, whose nominee was endorsed by the regular Democratic convention at Baltimore. In 1874 he was offered the nomination of attorney-general of Indiana, but declined.
In 1876 Mr. Gray was unanimously nominated by the Democratic state convention for lieutenant-governor on the ticket with James D. Williams. His majority at the ensuing election was greater than that of Gov. Williams. In 1880 he was a candidate for the nomination of governor, and upon his defeat by only four votes, he was unanimously re-nominated for lieutenant-governor. Upon the death of Gov. James D. Williams, he served as governor from November 22, 1880, to January 12, 1881.
Mr. Gray was nominated by the Democratic legislative caucus of 1881 for United States senator to succeed Hon. Joseph E. McDonald as the Democratic nominee against Gen. Benjamin Harrison, the Republican nominee. His party, however, was in the minority. In 1884 he was nominated for governor against Hon. David Turpie, and the late Mahlon D. Manson, the hero of two wars. In 1877 he was the choice of the majority of the Democratic members of the legislature for United States senator, but owing to the contest over the lieutenant-governorship and for fear a Republican might succeed him in the governorship, he declined to be a candidate and directed the nomination of Hon. David Turpie. In 1888, at the St. Louis convention, his name was presented by his friends for vice-president, and by many it has been claimed that, had he been nominated, the ticket would have been successful. In 1892 he became a prominent figure in national politics. He was considered the possible Democratic candidate for the United States presidency. In 1893 he was appointed United States minister to Mexico by President Cleveland, his first diplomatic appointment.
On a visit to the states he caught cold which developed into pneumonia during his return trip. He was unconscious the morning of his arrival in the city of Mexico and died at 7 p.m. the same day, February 14, 1895, in the American hospital. The body was removed next day to the American legation, remaining there a day and night under a military guard of honor promptly sent by the Mexican authorities. The remains of Minister Gray started north on the morning of February 16, 1895, being escorted to the depot by a full division of the Mexican army. President Diaz, members of his cabinet, the entire diplomatic corps in uniform, government and city officials and the American colony in line, and all afoot, marched to the Central railway station, fully a mile from the legation. In a interview President Diaz said that Mr. Gray was as able a minister as the northern republic had ever sent to Mexico, although the United States had sent many strong men. He ordered by wire every government building in Mexico to fly the flag at half-mast. Numerous buildings in the City of Mexico, including government buildings, American residences and business houses and the American club were draped in mourning, and all festivities were postponed. Many resolutions of condolence were adopted. The American congress passed a resolution of thanks to Mexico for the honors paid Minister Gray. At Ciudad Juarez there were demonstrations in honor of the funeral cortege as it left Mexico. It was met at Chicago by an Indiana reception committee. The remains lay in state at Indianapolis in the capital one day and were viewed by thousands. The interment took place at Union City, Ind., February 22. All business was suspended and an immense throng attended the last sad rites. Gov. Matthews, state officials, members of the legislature, prominent public men and a host of friends from over the state went from Indianapolis on the funeral train.
Mr. Gray was a member of the Hendricks club from the date of its organization to the time of his death. He was not a member of any secret order, never having belonged to one, except the Odd Fellows for a short time and was not a member of any church organization.
Isaac P. Gray was married September 8, 1850, to Eliza Jaqua of Yankee Town, O. Her father's name was Judson Jaqua, a native of Columbia county, New York, and her mother's name was Lucinda Braffett, a native of Bradford county, Pa., both being of New England descent. They were married on December 15, 1816, in Bradford county, Pa., and came west to Lebanon, O., where they remained about a year, when they moved to a farm near Yankee Town, about two miles south of New Madison.
There were four children, two of whom, Lyman and Warren, died young, and two are still living, Pierre Gray of Indianapolis, Ind., and Bayard Gray of Frankfort, Ind.
Mr. Gray was pre-eminently a self-made man, never having had the advantages of a college education, and only a few weeks in the public schools. His opportunities of attending any school were very limited by the pioneer conditions existing in the days of his youth, but he never lost a chance to acquire knowledge. He always made the best of everything within his reach, and was trained and educated in that broader school of human experience. In this is found a reason for his success in life, and as he grew toward manhood, his habits of industry grew in activity, developing great for ?? of character, combined with ambition and aggressiveness. When he entered politics he became a master hand. With his keen foresight and discriminating judgment of human nature, he constantly arose in the confidence of the people and developed the greatest personal following attained by anyone in the Democratic party. By reason of the close touch in which he kept himself with the people, he ever had a strong following among the Republicans, which accounted for his greater majorities.
As to Gov. Gray's personality, it has been said: "He was engaging and pleasant. Those who met him day after day always found him ready to open a neighborly conversation. His manner was suave, gentle and encouraging. He had a pleasant recognition for every one. He had an excellent recollection of names and faces. Mr. Gray's proverbial caution prevented him from disclosing in a casual meeting any party secret or deep political policy. He was neat and unostentatious of dress. He usually wore a dark frock coat buttoned low, disclosing a low-cut vest and ample shirt front with a single diamond stud. He was a forcible speaker and especially strong in debate, being one of the most noted political canvassers Indiana ever had, and always in demand. He was rugged, physically, easily withstanding the vicissitudes of campaigning. No man ever had a more devoted following. He possessed that indefinable magnetism that attached men to him. He was fair to his enemies, true to his friends."
Men of Progress - Indiana, pages 581-4.
Transcribed by Andrea Long
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