When I first started looking into making the connections between one Little Orphant Annie character and the other - it was not lost on me that the creator of the Little Orphan Annie comic strip - Harold Gray - had the same last name as the real Little Orphant Annie who had inspired James Whitcomb Riley's poem - Mary Alice Smith Gray.
Of course, if the two families WERE related - it would be by marriage - of Mary Alice Smith to John Wesley Gray; however, the connection was intriguing enough for me to try to check it out - and to see if there were any connections between the two. And, here is where I am at on this one:
Let's start with Mary Alice's husbands' family:
John Wesley Gray was the fourth child and youngest son of Joseph Hill Gray and Miriam Gray. John Wesley was born in 1843 and died in 1921. His father is the one that interests me most with the Gray family connection.
Joseph Hill Gray was born in North Carolina in around 1796. I do not have an exact birth date because his tombstone does not provide it. There were no death certificates issued by the state of Indiana when he died on September 30, 1871, and the only Indiana marriage that I know of - to Dianna Estes Newland - took place in 1870 - just before he died. This marriage would not have had a marriage application - which would have listed parents and other vital statistics. Unfortunately, Indiana did not require birth or death certificates or marriage applications (which list vital statistics) prior to 1882.
What I do know about Joseph Hill Gray is mostly gleaned from census records - -which are not the most reliable, and a land record. In all of the census records his nativity is listed as North Carolina - - so I don't question where he was born. However, in the 1850 census his birth year based on age is given as 1796. In the 1860 census his birth year based on age is 1809, and in the 1870 census his birth year based on age is 1798. I am going with 1796 - - because this was given when he was he youngest (so hopefully he had no trouble remembering his birth year), and it isn't too far off from the 1798 that was given in the 1870 census which would have been his last census. There is one other census where I have been able to find him - and that is the 1840 census. That census only provides a range for ages - and he is listed as being between 30 and 39 in that census. So if he was 39 - - he would have a birth year of 1801.
While his birth year is very questionable - there is one definitive piece of information that the census gives me - - Joseph Gray was most definitely living in Sugar Creek Township in Hancock County from 1840 - until his death. Since he is also buried in the McNamee Cemetery in the same township - - this backs up this information.
The only other clue that I have about Joseph is that while he may have been born in North Carolina - there is evidence that he lived in Ohio for a period of time. The land patent for Joseph Hill Gray's farm in Hancock County, Indiana was purchased from the government in 1835. On the patent it states that Joseph Hill Gray of "Greene County, Ohio" purchased the property. What further supports an Ohio residence is that Joseph Gray's oldest son, George - who has a birth year of 1833 (and is also buried in McNamee Cemetery) - is consistently given a native state of "Ohio" - while all of the rest of the children born after: Joseph H. Jr., David, John Wesley, and Rhoda - all have a birth state of Indiana. Since the farm in Hancock County was purchase in 1835 - and the rest of the children were born in 1837 or later - - this makes sense.
I know that Joseph H. Jr, David, John Wesley and Rhoda - - were all the children of Joseph H. Sr and his wife Miriam. However, I do not know when Joseph Sr. married Miriam? Miriam, who I do not know her maiden name, was born in Kentucky based upon census records. She is ten years younger than Joseph in the 1850 census. She is listed as 3 years older than him in the 1860 census - and she is gone by the 1870 census. Her passing sometime after the 1860 census also makes sense as Joseph remarries in 1870 - but not before the census was taken. I have given her an 1806 birth year - as this coincides with the info in the 1850 census.
I did find a notation by a local cemetery preservationist, Cindy True, on the Find-a-Grave site for Joseph Gray she believes that George Gray may have been the son of a different wife - by the name of Melinda. I have emailed her to see if she can clarify this for me. So if this is true - Joseph Gray was married 3 times in his life: Melinda, Miriam, and then Dianna.
I really need to try to find out who Joseph Gray's parents are - - and any information about their lineage - especially when they came to this county. This is very important as it may impact on the other Gray family that has ties to the Little Orphant Annie character...
The creator of comic strip Little Orphan Annie was Harold Gray. Luckily - his line is very well documented, and I have corresponded with Nick Papp, a descendant of this line - - but not a descendant of Harold Gray himself. Harold Gray was married twice, but had no children so there is no direct line of descent. Nick sent me his Gray family tree, which is also for Harold Gray's family. It has been traced back to when the family came from the Isle of Wight. Harold Gray's father was Ira Lincoln Gray who was born in Paloma, Illinois in 1866. Harold Gray's grandfather was William Wallace Gray who was born on the Isle of Wight off of the coast of England in 1824. Harold Gray's Great-Grandfather was Isaac Gray. He was the one who immigrated with his family to America. Isaac Gray was born in 1785 on the Isle of Wight.
According to Nick's records, Isaac Gray and an older son, Richard, came to New York from the Isle of Wight in 1829. They made enought money to secure passage for the rest of the family, and the mother and the younger children - including William Wallace Gray (Harold's Grandfather), came over in the fall of 1830. The family wintered in Ohio, and then in the Spring of 1831 - they moved to Rush County, Indiana. This set off alarm bells for me - because Rush County is located right next to Hancock County - which is where the Jospeh Gray family would be located by 1835.
Nick went onto say that the Isaac Gray family would move to Adams County, Illinois - but he didn't say when they made that move.
It was not uncommon for family members to move into areas where other family members were already located. So here is what I need to clarify: Is there any sort of familial relationship between Isaac Gray and Joseph Gray? Isaac would be about 10 years older than Joseph. So was Joseph the child of a recent immigration of a Gray family related to Isaac? Of course, then one wonders - why would Isaac locate in New York - so very far away from Joseph's family in North Carolina? I don't know?
Both families - Joseph's family and Isaac's famiily would have been in Ohio at about the same time. I need to find out for certain - WHERE in Ohio the two families were in the 1830's. We know that by 1835 - Joseph Gray was in Greene County, but we don't know if he was somewhere else in the state prior to that time period. The Isaac Gray family would not be in Ohio long, but would be in Rush County, IN by the Spring of 1831. I don't know how long the family was there before they moved onto Illinois. This is another mystery. Joseph Gray would be in Hancock County by 1835 - so were the two Gray families only miles apart from each other in 1835?
Is there some planning going on here or is it mere coincidence?
Finding out any sort of familial relationship - may explain some of these moves. Furthermore, it may also explain some of the reason why Harold Gray was inspired to name his comic character - after a family story.
I can't provide answers to those questions right now - - - so for a later post - or in my book - maybe those questions can be answered!!