Posts tagged W.R. Gray

“The Old Sexton” by Park Benjamin

The following poem was found on the back of the other poem I featured about a week ago from the book titled “Uncle Herbert’s Speaker.”  I guess W.R. Gray loved to read and write poetry.  I found the full poem on the Internet by googling and finding the 19th century editor of “An American Anthology” was Edmund Clarence Stedman. People back in W.R. Gray’s time dealt with risk and death, which is what this poem is about, death… However from the yellowed script I read an additional line, the very last line that was omitted which is: “Gather–gather–gather them in!”

NIGH to a grave that was newly made,
Leaned a sexton old on his earth-worn spade;
His work was done, and he paused to wait
The funeral train at the open gate.
A relic of bygone days was he, 5
And his locks were white as the foamy sea;
And these words came from his lips so thin:
“I gather them in: I gather them in.
“I gather them in! for man and boy,
Year after year of grief and joy, 10
I ’ve builded the houses that lie around,
In every nook of this burial ground;
Mother and daughter, father and son,
Come to my solitude, one by one:
But come they strangers or come they kin— 15
I gather them in, I gather them in.
“Many are with me, but still I ’m alone,
I ’m king of the dead—and I make my throne
On a monument slab of marble cold;
And my sceptre of rule is the spade I hold: 20
Come they from cottage or come they from hall,
Mankind are my subjects, all, all, all!
Let them loiter in pleasure or toilfully spin—
I gather them in, I gather them in.
“I gather them in, and their final rest 25
Is here, down here, in the earth’s dark breast!”
And the sexton ceased, for the funeral train
Wound mutely o’er that solemn plain!
And I said to my heart, when time is told,
A mightier voice than that sexton’s old 30
Will sound o’er the last trump’s dreadful din—
“I gather them in, I gather them in.”

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Selling points of St. John, Kansas

You just never know what you will find when going through old correspondence and other memorabilia.  God bless the pack rats but someone has to make sense of things and I guess it might as well be me.  I enjoy reading through yellowed newspaper clippings and also trying to decipher people’s penmanship.  I can say this from all the letters and diaries I’ve looked at, my ancestors from the Norwegian side of the family had very good hand writing.  (I wish I had much better penmanship, the computer is partly to blame for my scrawl!)

Looking over my husband’s grandmother letters, who probably had so much work to do that she dashed it off quickly, it takes longer to read her writing.  I only saw one letter dated in 1919 from my husband’s GREAT grandmother and she had terrible spelling and grammar.  Again, my Norwegian ancestors cared about how they wrote even if English was their second language.  I may have to type up an example showing a bad example from a person who had English ancestry.  Better yet, I’ll try to scan the 1919 lined paper that is very aged and yellowed.

For now, I want to share what was written up in a St. John, Kansas newspaper about my husband’s grandfather W.R. Gray.  It was a kind of promotional to get people to live in the town of St. John.  The businesses were trying to promote what an amazing little town they had by listing all the different industrial and businesses that were already established by 1921.  Here’s what was written about W.R. Gray:

“…Last, but by no means least, isthe St. John Art Gallery, owned and managed by W.R. Gray.  Mr. Gray has the reputation of being one of the very best photographers in Central Kansas and always keeps abreast of the times in photography.  People come from far out of hte St. John trade territory to have their photo work done in Mr. Gray’s studio.

So, as we said before in this article, the publication of our long list of industrial articles was made possible by the patronage of the wide-awake firms mentioned above and the News, on behalf of both ourselves and Mr. Evans, desires to publicly thank them.

During the publication of the series, Mr. Evans touched upon county resources in general, also education, churches and commercial life, real estate, etc. Mr. Evans has showed quite clearly that real estate in the vicinity of St. John is much cheaper considering the price, than in the older agricultural states of Illinois, Iowa and Indiana…”

So, one last poem I had to share that might have been an original with W.R. Gray but I doubt it.  I think it is cute and was in a little notebook where you have to flip the pages to get the next answer.  The title is: “Such is Life” by Jessie Gray, she was a single woman all her life in the small town of St. John, Kansas and kept her father’s photography business going after his death in 1947.

They were out upon a picnic, and were sitting on the sand.

The moon was shining brightly, and he held her little ______?


As he held her little shawl, how fast the time did fly,

His eyes were filled with longing, as he looked into her _______?

…lunch basket.

As he looked into her lunch basket, and wished he had a taste.

He seemed supremely happy, his arms around her________?


With his arms around her parasol, fortunate for this young chap,

With happiness she trembled, as she sat upon his_______?


She sat upon his handkerchief, this charming sweet young miss

Her lips an invitation, he slyly stole a _______???


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Obituary for a frontier photographer in Kansas

Okay, so what does Kansas have to do with Kazakhstan besides sharing some of the same letters? Yes, glad you asked. While going through old letters, I came across some interesting things about my husband’s grandfather who went by the name of W.R. Gray.  There’s renewed interest in our family because this dignified Kansas gentleman has a great, great grandson going by the same name. Kazakhstan is interested in babies but also in their ancestors  (to know seven generations back, means you are a good Kazakh) so that’s where I can make the tie in.  Just to give you an idea how obituaries were written in newspapers over sixty years ago, I’ll retype for you just the first part of it:

“William Rossetter Gray was born in Greentown, Howard county, Indiana, March 22, 1865, and departed this life at Bethel hospital in Newton, Kansas at 12:15 the morning of August 2, 1947.  At the time of his death he had reached the age of 82 years, 4 months, and 11 days.

Mr. Gray went to Newton to get medical advice concerning his failing health May 23rd and remained there until the end.  There it was found, he had a malignancy too far advanced for treatment.  At the time he left, he was still serving the public through the studio and felt he could hardly neglect his work to take time for sickness.  Although never ill enough to go to bed, he often worked when he should have rested.

Will, as he was called, was the tenth of fifteen children born to his Christian parents, Luther S. and Rebecca Gray. In early life he confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and joined the Methodist church.  During his illness he often assured those about his sick bed of his hope of eternity.

In 1883, he moved with his parental family to a farm new McPherson, Kansas.  Here he met Mary Catharine Tipton, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tipton, to whom he was married April 6, 1898. To this union five children were born.

In 1905 he purchased the studio in St. John and moved his family with three children in March of that year.  He was a pioneer in the field of photography and continued in the profession through the many scientific advancements to the present day methods.  He attended all conventions possible to progress in his work and became a member of the Photographers Association of America, as well as the Kansas Professional Photographers Association and Southwest Kansas Photo Club.  He served his territory with untiring efforts in a pleasant, friendly manner.

He was a member of the First Methodist church and the men’s Bible class, the Chamber of Commerce and Odd Fellow Lodge No. 539 to which he was especially devoted.  Two years ago he received his 40 year Odd Fellow Membership pin.  He led an unusually clean, highly principled life and had a keen sense of humor.  His leisure time included much reading, writing of poetry, working with tools, listening to the radio and visiting with friends around town.”

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