Visitors to the
are familiar with the Gray family. Displays include Emma’s dress from 1871 and a calendar picture from the J. M. Gray Lumber and Building Material business. Both houses at the museum were built by John and Emma Gray and their dining room set has returned. Emma inspired the name of Aunt Emma’s Tea House. Sutton Museum
So who were the Gray’s?
Hosea Gray, his son John M., son-in-law George W. Bemis, Wilson Cunning and his wife came by covered wagon to School Creek on May 4, 1871 where only Luther French lived in his dugout.
P. McTighe built a shanty for a store next to the Gray’s first dwelling within a few days and Curran, Higgins and Kearney & Kelley opened their saloons. The School Creek settlement was underway.
Hosea Gray was born in
Pennsylvania in 1816, lived in Indiana and Illinois and made it to in 1839. He served as Iowa sheriff for four terms, practiced law, and was Clerk of the District Court retiring in 1850. He then bought a 640 acre stock farm and in 1856 was a member of the state’s Constitutional Convention. In April, 1861 he formed a company in the Sixth Iowa Infantry serving two years before a serious illness forced him from the front lines. He finished the war as a Lieutenant Colonel recruiting and training troops. Linn County
Hosea and John started a lumber yard on August 24th of 1871 the day after Thurlow Weed’s carload of lumber arrived from
. The Gray lumber yard was on the west side of Way Avenue, north of the tracks. Lincoln
John’s wife Emma and Ada Augusta Bemis joined their husbands early that summer. Emma Wolcott was born in 1850 in
. Her father died of injuries in the Civil War. Elizabeth, Illinois
Ada Bemis was the daughter of Hosea Gray and wife of George W. Bemis. Her accounts of pioneer days in Sutton can be found online. A search using “Ada Bemis Sutton
” returns “Nebraska Trailblazer #5” and “The Easter Blizzard” at nebraskahistory.org. Hers was the first piano in the area and her performances were in great demand. Nebraska
George and Ada Bemis moved their family to
York where she helped organize the first branch of the WCTU west of . Daughter Anna Gray Bemis married first a Mr. Cutler and later a Mr. Palmer. She contributed her name and funding for the Lincoln Anna Bemis Palmer Museum in . A display honoring Anna is to the right of the door as you enter. York
Two sons of George and Ada Bemis entered the publishing business. George Jr. edited J. Sterling Morton’s “Conservative” and was the first editor of the Lincoln Star. As a member of the First Nebraska Infantry in the Spanish-American War, George Bemis, Jr. was one of the first ten men into
after it was taken. His brother Eugene was editor and columnist with “The New Teller” in Manila from 1911 until 1949. The family of his wife, Kate Houston generously contributed a copy of York Eugene’s book, “The Squawker Book” to the . The book is a collection of the humorist’s poems and columns and gets off to a great start with the dedication: “We ain’t mad at nobody”. Sutton Museum
Back in Sutton, Eugenia Maria Gray, another daughter of Homer Gray married Samuel Carney in 1878. Carney came to Sutton from
and worked in I. N. Clark’s hardware store. He purchased the business from I. N. and later passed it on to his son Samuel Gray Carney. The younger Sam Carney hired a young fellow named Les Bauer to work in the hardware store. Les carried that lineage of Sutton hardware businesses into the memory of many of us. Pennsylvania
Many of the Sutton pioneers played their part and moved on with little trace of the families remaining. The Gray family name may have faded but the extended Gray family left some distinguished tracks.
This article appeared in the May, 2010 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For information about the magazine contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Mustang Inc., 510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979.