The Gray Family
By Descendant, Tom Stephenson
The Gray family came to America from Edinburgh, Scotland in the spring of 1849.
They sailed on the 'Constitution' from Liverpool to New York City. Philip Cadell Gray had been a
merchant in the stationary and crockery trades in Edinburgh and was determined to seek a new
life of farming and religious renewal in America. A member of 'The Disciples of Christ', he was
active in that congregation throughout his life.
The first stop for the Gray family was the home of Philipís brother, William, who had established himself
in Buffalo, New York. William and his wife Henrietta attempted to dissuade Philip from proceeding to the
wilderness of southern Wisconsin to farm, but Philip was headstrong and after a two week respite in Buffalo
they boarded a vessel bound for Sheboygan. The family settled on the Fox River, 30 miles west of Waupon,
Fond Du Loc Co., Wisconsin. It was a tough existence and within ten years a decision was made to move to
Detroit and start a toy business.
Philip Cadell Gray and his wife Amelia Tasker had three children, Isabella, David and my Great, Great Grandfather
John Simpson Gray. Detroit proved to be a very good move for the Gray family. David moved on to Buffalo,
New York, where he was successful as editor of the Buffalo Courier. Isabella and John settled in Detroit and stayed
close to their parents all their lives. John entered into the toy business after a short stint of teaching in Algonac,
and soon they sold the entire toy stock and entered into candy manufacturing. Philip Cadell Gray retired in 1862 and
John assumed full responsibility for the business. Over the next fifteen years John brought in new partners and
by 1881, Gray, Toynton & Fox had become the largest confectionary manufacturer in Michigan and John, an active
and respected figure in the Detroit business community.
In 1903, a business associate named Alexander Malcomson urged John to consider investing in a company being
formed by an ambitious engineer named Henry Ford. John was lukewarm to the idea as there were many automobile
companies already in existence. He agreed to meet with Ford and others who were already on board and on
June 16, 1903, John S. Gray invested $10,500.00 with the option to back out with full re-imbursement within a year.
The $500.00 was tacked on to the $10,000.00 to secure Johnís position as President of the company. John was never
optimistic about his shares in the new Ford Motor Company and at one time remarked that he could not in good
conscience sell them to anyone, as the venture was sure to be a failure.
For the progress of The Ford Motor Company from that point on, I would refer you to the numerous books on
the subject. As for the Gray family, John died in early July of 1906 leaving his wife Anna and four adult children; my
Great grandfather, Philip Hayward, Paul Robert, David and Alice, all heirs to The Gray Estates. My interest in
Ford Motor Company trickles off at this point as Philip was pursuing a career in insurance and was not interested in
the automobile industry. Paul Robert and David, however, continued on at Ford as representatives of the Gray Estates
and were involved until the Michigan Supreme Court decision in 1919 forced Henry Ford to settle with his investors.
It was one of the most dramatic payouts in the history of American commerce, and the Gray Estates received over
$25 million. Not bad for an initial investment of $10,500.00.
Philip continued in the insurance business, but was more interested in church and philanthropy until his
death in 1922. David moved to Santa Barbara where he died in 1928 and Paul Robert died in 1929.
This only scratches the surface of the Grays of my heritage, who, like so many others, set out with hope and
determination, and possibly, without realizing it, became an American Family. John S. Grayís involvement with
The Ford Motor Company is no claim to greatness achieved, but simply an illustration of a hard worker who
was at the right place with the right stuff. That hard work and right stuff helped lay the groundwork for his
grandsons David and Paul Robert Gray to pursue ventures such as the Gray Motor Company.
Sources for this capsule of my Gray ancestors:
Monopoly on Wheels, Henry Ford and the Seldon Automobile Patent
By William Greenleaf
Published by Wayne State University Press. Detroit, 1961
Ford: The Times, The Man, The Company
By Allan Nevins
Published by Charles Scribnerís Sons, New York, c1957
David Gray, Life, Letters, Poems, Etc.
Published by The Courier Company, Buffalo, New York, 1888
Men of Michigan
Published by Michigan Art Company, Detroit, c1904
The Triumph of an Idea. The Story of Henry Ford
By Ralph H. Graves
Published by Doubleday, Doran & Company, Garden City, New York, 1935
John Muir. Rediscovering America
By Frederick Turner
A Merloyd Lawrence Book
Published by Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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