MADISON, GA'S HISTORIC CEMETERIES

Artisans

WILLIAM GRAY

Born in Scotland in 1823, stone carver William Gray immigrated to the United States, started his family in Vermont, moved to the South, was chased back North by Confederates, and then settled in Atlanta for a life of marble work and politics. 

 

By 1850, at age 27, he and his English wife Mary, age 25, had joined the industrial and retail boom in Rutland, Vermont, where he was a stone cutter. In 1852 their daughter Jessie was born there.

First a village of agriculture and sheep, "in the early 19th century, small high-quality marble deposits were discovered in Rutland, and in the 1830s a large deposit of nearly solid marble was found in what is now West Rutland. By the 1840s, small firms had begun excavations, but marble quarries proved profitable only after the railroad arrived in 1851. At the same time, the famous quarries of Carrara in Tuscany, Italy, grew largely unworkable because of their extreme depth, allowing Rutland to become one of the world's leading marble producers," explains Wikipedia. 

The Gray family moved to the South about 1860, just before the

Civil War. A March 1864 Rutland, VT, newspaper article, described

the family's adventurous "recent escape from Rebeldom" by foot,

boat, train. Click here and here for more of this tale. The Grays may

have remained in Vermont through the rest of the war.

In at least 1867 through 1876 William Gray advertised in the

Atlanta papers as marble yard owner, a "worker and dealer in

Italian and White Rutland Marble Monuments, Tombs, Head-

stones, Tablets" etc. His "office and yard" were located opposite the Georgia Railroad Depot in Atlanta.

In 1870 William Gray advertised in the weekly Atlanta paper, The Plantation. The editor

gave the marble business his support in a small article entitled "Atlanta Marble Works," that

included: "it is with sincere pleasure that we have the opportunity of expressing the confi-

dence and respect we have long entertained for Mr. William Gray, the head of the firm.

Mr. Gray belongs to that class of working man who, like Hugh Miller, from taste and culture,

and exalted probity, makes labor honorable, and his position in society one of influence and

commanding respectability." The Grays lived in Fulton County, GA - he listed in the census

as a marble dealer and she a housekeeper - in the third ward of the city of Atlanta at 434

Fair Street, with their daughter Jessie, 18, her husband Julius Edwin Leas, and their son.

Leas worked for his father-in-law as an agent.

 

The Atlanta City Directory of 1877 listed Gray's home as above and his Atlanta Marble

Works as 77 East Alabama Street.

 

Gray was also City Councilman of Atlanta's Third Ward in at least 1877 and 1884. In her

1966 dissertation about race relations in Atlanta based on council minutes, Betty Thomas

wrote, "In 1877, Councilman Gray resolved that the city authorities...remove all bodies from

the portion of the cemetery west of the Confederate Grounds. This area was known as

'slave square.' The removed bones or bodies were to be reinterred in 'Colored Pauper

Grounds,' without any distin-guishing features except for those who originally had head

boards...and that the land made available through the removal of the bodies was to be divided into lots which were to sell for not less than fifty dollar each...the Cemetery Committee was able to realize over two-thousand dollars worth of property." This cemetery was to be named Oakland, and was in Gray's third ward.

Thomas also mentioned another of Gray's resolutions dealing with race relations, when in 1884 he resolved to attempt to "establish some type of care for the sick of the colored population. Arrangements were made with the Central Ivy Street Hospital, to care for those of  the Colored population who were in condition to merit attention in a charitable institution during the year.' " This lasted for only a short time, until the hospital became privately owned.

The 1880 census listed the entire family at the same house. Still residing at the family home on Fair Street, which later became Memorial Drive, he died in the fall of 1881 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Resources:

The Atlanta Daily Sun October 21, 1871

 

The Daily Opinion (Atlanta, GA) December 27, 1867. gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu

 

Findagrave. findagrave.com/memorial/106850850

 

Greater Atlanta Georgia City Directory. A.E. Sholes, Publisher, 1877. archive.org/stream/emory1877/emory1877_djvu.txt

 

Green Mountain Freeman (Montpelier, VT) March 8, 1864. chroniclingamerica.loc.gov

 

The Plantation. Plantation Publishing Company, 1870. books.google.com

 

The Rutland Herald Weekly. March 10, 1864. chroniclingamerica.loc.gov

 

Thomas, Betty Collier, "Race relations in Atlanta, from 1877 through 1890, as seen in a critical analysis of the Atlanta City council proceedings and other related works" (1966). ETD Collection for AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library. Paper 1184. Online

 

U.S. Census 1850, 1870, 1880

 

Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutland_(city),_Vermont