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Osburn Wilson Gray

Osburn was born December 31st 1833. He lived in a town that was named by his father, Graysville. It is in Floyd County, Virginia. He was from a family that had some money. His family was the first in the area to have a two story brick house. They built a grist mill, made furniture, including coffins for the town, and they had their own Inn.

Since the Inn was by a road they had many visitors that would stay at the Inn. One day while they were going to clean out a room they found a black woman hiding in the Inn. Her name was Mary, and she was a runaway slave. She was pregnant, so they brought her into their home. Mary had her baby, and named the baby Hazel. Although Osburn’s family did not have slaves his Uncle did. His Dad and Uncle would often argue about having slaves, and what was the moral thing to do. His Uncle purchased slaves off the auction block because he thought it would help give them a better opportunity. His Uncle would have the slaves work until they worked off the money he spent for them. He also had a school for the slaves, and his neighbors did not like that his Uncle was teaching the slaves how to read, math, and how to write.

He married Rebecca Otey when he was 21. The two of them are pictured below. He would soon have a baby girl Eliza Jane. In 1861 the Civil War broke out, and it is no surprise that Osburn or any of his family believed in succession. Even though his Uncle purchased slaves his father thought it was best to stay away from the auction block all together. Personally, I would think it would be a conundrum. On one hand you could help give some people a better life by giving them their freedom after they worked off their debt. If you do buy a human being then you are giving into the chain of supply and demand. In 1858 he has another baby girl Lucy, she only lived for 5 months. Rebecca died in the same year in July. In 1860 he remarried, this time to Lucy Ann Pendleton. When the census was taken in 1860 he was either not married yet, or Lucy dies in 1864. Osburn and Lucy have 2 children Mary B. Gray and Joseph (Joe) Gray.GR147

1861 when the order was placed on all men to volunteer the Gray families did not comply with the order. Osburn was captured in 1864, and was “pressed” into service. He then fled to Ohio. He was captured  May 23rd and put into prison in Ohio on Johnson Island.

In 1862 to 1863 he spent time in the Salt Sulfur Springs Hospital. He had a bill of $8.75. He did not pay the bill until Feb. 17 1865.

The was another wife that I just learned of today. Rebecca Strotter, he must not have been married to her for very long. I will have to investigate further to see what happened to this Rebecca.

In May 1871, he sold his interest in his father’s estate, purchased a team of horses and covered wagon, and leaving two of his children, Eliza and Joseph, with his father in Floyd County, set out with the balance of his combined families for the Great Kanawha Valley in West Virginia. Arriving at Gauley Bridge, Fayette County, West Virginia, with his finances at a low ebb. He occupied a tennant house on the farm of a uncle, John Gray, on Cane Branch and took employment as a laborer in one of the construction gangs then building the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in that vicinity.

A year or two later he left the young children Mary, James, John, Dennis, Louisa, and Sallie in the care of his Uncle John and his wife  Eliza Jane and moved to a rented farm near Kesler’s Cross Lanes in Nicholas County, West Virginia. He and Eliza would go on to have 5 more children Martha, William, Asa, Byron, and Augustus. Milton would come in the 1880’2, and the youngest child is Herbert.

Not making much of a  success at farming, in 1884, he moved his family to Coal Valley (now Montgomery), West Virginia and enered the employment of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. In the last years of his life he was employed by Samuel Dixon, a prominent coal operator, as general repairman at his coal mine at Longacre, West Virginia

Eliza dies in 1900 and in one of the sporadic outbreaks of smallpox which was still fairly common in those days, he contracted the disease and died in 1902. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the old grave yard at Smithers, West Virginia.

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