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James W. Gray was a Texas Revolutionary veteran
Wilson County Historical SocietyFebruary 27, 2013 | 1,052 views | 1 comment
Spain had ruled Texas for over 200 years and Texans attempted to break the Spanish yoke several times. Once was in 1811 with the Las Casas Uprising and again in 1812 with the Gutierrez-McGee expedition, which culminated in the Battle of Medina. Both were failed attempts. In 1821, Mexico took the reins of power over the people of Texas. Soon, Anglo settlers began migrating to Texas. Texas was already populated by settlers of mostly Spanish descent, some of whom had large ranches and managed large herds of cattle. By the early 1830s Mexico was concerned with the number of Anglo settlers coming to Texas and placed some restrictions on these migrants. Santa Anna was becoming a force to reckon with. He was a dictator and called himself “Napoleon of the West.” Texans liked independence but had no love for dictators. These issues must have been on the minds of Texans and men who came to Texas from other states and countries and volunteered to fight for Texas independence. Whatever the reason, they fought and Texas won her independence from Mexico. In the beginning, the Texans opposing Santa Anna and Mexico were volunteers until Sam Houston began to organize a regular army. James W. Gray came to Texas and entered into this fray.
James Gray was born Nov. 29, 1814, in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is unknown when he arrived in Texas, but he arrived in time to fight in the Texas Revolution. Records show that he made application to the Republic Claims for service rendered during the Revolution. He received a pension from the state of Texas in the 1870s. When he applied for the pension, it was stated that he was in the war when it started in Gonzales. He was 21 years old but even at this young age, he was older than some of the men who entered this fight for Texas independence from Mexico. He fought under the command of Edward Burleson at San Jacinto.
While the men were fighting for Texas independence, the hostile Indians were raiding Texas settlements and killing the citizens. After the Texans won victory at San Jacinto, the Indian hostility continued. Many of the men who fought in the war for Texas independence remained in the army of the Republic of Texas to defend the citizens. James W. Gray enlisted in the Republic of Texas Army on Oct. 10, 1836, and remained in that service until November 1837. The records show he received a pension through the Republic Claims for service as a soldier in the Republic of Texas Army. He also received a land bounty consisting of 1,280 acres for services rendered as a Texas soldier.
By 1837, the Republic of Texas had little money and the military had to be cut back. Yet, hostile Indians were still raiding farms and ranches. Texas citizens were brutally killed. Some of the men who fought in the Texas Revolution and became soldiers in the Republic Army were again called upon to defend the citizens of Texas. James W. Gray was no exception. Men, now private citizens of the Republic, rode with groups of men who were ranging the countryside chasing hostile Indians. These ranging groups did a similar job to that of the Texas Rangers. Today, some historians recognize men of these early ranging companies -- Mounted Volunteers, Minutemen, and others as Texas Rangers. James Gray was a Mounted Volunteer. In 1839 he rode as a Mounted Volunteer in Capt. S.B. Franks’ Company, which was under the command of Col. Henry Wax Karnes in a campaign against hostile Indians made from San Antonio in the summer of 1839. In another campaign, he rode under the command of Col. Juan Seguin. He also did service in later campaigns in defense of Texas Citizens.
James Gray married Simona Hernandez in 1841 in San Antonio. She was the daughter of Margarita Seguin and stepdaughter of Mariano Seguin, who received a large land grant near San Antonio. The 1850 census record shows that James Gray was a tinsmith and a merchant in San Antonio. At this time, he was 35 years old. His wife, Simona, was also 35. They had three children at this time. James was 8, Mary was 6, and William was 4 years old.
James Gray and his family moved to some of the land his wife had inherited from her mother. Gray established a home near the San Antonio River. He encouraged laborers and renters to move to the area. Ranchers and cowboys began to trade in the community and James Gray began the process of founding Graytown. Gray and his wife gave land for a Catholic church and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church was built there. It was the religious center for Catholics within a 30-mile radius of Graytown. A mercantile store, blacksmith shop, and some bars opened for business and he operated a ferry. A post office was established in 1860. Graytown was a part of Bexar County until 1869, and then it became a part of Wilson County.
The 1860 census shows James Gray and his family were living in San Antonio where he was a merchant.
The Civil War started in 1861. Texas was now a part of the United States and Texans voted to become a Confederate state. James Gray enlisted as a Confederate soldier. His name was on a document at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum titled: Partial list of Texas Ranger Co. and unit commanders. The list was compiled by Christina Stopka, a researcher at the museum. In 1862-63, Gray was a captain of Bexar County 30th Brigade TST.
In 1873, James Gray purchased some land in Lodi from Nemencio de la Zerda. Nemencio de la Zerda had established the Lodi ferry at a crossing on the San Antonio River in 1872 and it had made a crossroads community of Lodi. Gray’s land was located at the corner of Goliad Road (the San Antonio and La Bahia roads) and the road to the Lodi Ferry. It was here at this busy crossroads that James Gray started a blacksmith shop, a tin shop, operated a store, and a bar. He continued to operate a business here until his death Sept. 12, 1884. He is buried in the Floresville City Cemetery with “Texas Veteran” engraved on his tombstone.
Many of the men who fought in the Texas Revolution, served in the Republic of Texas Army, fought hostile Indians, and engaged in other campaigns in defense of Texas had to wait until the 1870s before they could collect their service pay. Not all lived to realize any compensation. Without these courageous men who had a hunger for independence, and saw a need to win independence from Mexico, who generously donated their time, their gear, and in some cases their lives -- the Republic of Texas may not have been established. Again and again, they stood up for Texas. If James Gray was alive today, and was called on again to fight for Texas, he may well answer the call.
Compiled by Maurine Liles, on behalf of the Wilson County Historical Society.
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