1861: George W. Gray to Alonzo Brown

Letter Head of G. W. Gray & Company, Lansing, Iowa

Letter Head of G. W. Gray & Company, Lansing, Iowa

This manuscript contains two letters. The first letter was written by George W. Gray (1820-1900) to Alonzo Brown (1823-1867) of Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa. The second letter was from Alonzo to his brother-in-law, James O. Crosby (1828-1921) in New Hampton, Chickasaw County, Iowa.

George W. Gray was a hardware merchant by trade. He was a native of Tioga County, Pennsylvania, and came to Marion, Linn County, Iowa in 1840 where he did his first merchandising. In 1848 he was married to Minerva Berry. In 1852, Gray moved his family to Lansing, Allamakee County, Iowa where he resumed his hardware trade and became the president of the National Bank of Lansing. In 1857 he was elected to the lower house of the state legislature and in 1859, and again in 1863, he was elected to the senate. Before and during the civil war, his dominant political ideas were represented by the Democratic party but he was opposed to the rebellion and supported the Lincoln administration. After the war, he relocated his family to Oregon.

Alonzo Brown was married to Mariah C. Crosby (1835-1915). She and her brother, James O. Crosby, were the children of Nathan Crosby (1800-1870) and Malinda Bishop (1806-1900) of Cattaraugus County, New York. Land records indicate that James Crosby purchased acreage in Clayton County, Iowa in 1854 and 1857. It appears that he and Alonzo Brown, both practicing attorneys and partners, came to Iowa together. Beginning in 1861, however, James Crosby practiced alone.

1861 Letter

1861 Letter

Addressed to J. O. Crosby, Esq., New Hampton, Chickasaw County, Iowa
Care of Judge Williams; forward if necessary. In Haste!

Banking House of G. W. Gray & Co.
Lansing, Iowa
July 17th 1861

A. Brown, Esq.
Garnavillo, Iowa

Dear Sir,

Yours of the 12th Inst. is received and contents noted. I am informed by the clerk of the District Court today that he has received a procendo from the clerk of the Supreme Court that the case of Cowles vs. Gray was dismissed and the judgement below conformed. The clerk of the District Court says that Cowles has ordered out an execution so that in a few days I suppose some person will be pulling down my warehouses. Can’t you send a messenger to Mr. Crosby? and if it is too late to reinstate the case in the Supreme Court? get an injunction to prevent the sheriff from destroying my warehouse? I am extremely anxious and miserable about the action of my attorneys in this case. You tell me there is no trouble in getting the case reinstated, but here comes the sheriff and orders me to remove my warehouses &c. The fact is Cowles and his lawyers are vigilant and active while I fear my lawyers have entirely neglected the case. Do send to Mr. Crosby at once and let him know my situation. — G. W. Gray

[Written on reverse in different hand]

Garnavillo [Clayton County, Iowa]
July 23d 1861

Brother James,

I received this by Saturday’s mail and I enclose it to you hoping it will reach you at New Hampton. I shall write you too at Waverly — again.

We had a caucus Saturday night and elected Sam & Jim Davis, myself, J. C. Mohrman, John H. Neiter, & Stillman delegates to the convention. I introduced resolutions instructing the delegates to vote against having anything to do with Eliphalet [Price]’s convention. ¹ Sam & Jim opposed them but they were accepted. I expect to have a warm time at the convention but am preparing for a hard fight. Dan E. Meyer was here Saturday evening & made a speech coming down on Price & his tools very severely.

Sam in his speeches cames out strong against taxation to defray the expenses of the war & said if the Republican Party in this state went on a year longer as they have for two years past, they would become obnoxious to 9/10 of the people & be ignominiously defeated. In reply, I said that if Mr. Vallandigham ² had made such a speech, it would have been very appropriate. But I was astonished to hear Sam talk so. But upon reflection, I concluded that it was one of the arguments manufactured for the new party.

Yours, Alonzo

¹ Eliphalet Price (1811-1880), a native of New Jersey, came to Iowa Territory in 1835 and was a public servant in Clayton County in its formative years. In 1852 he was appointed by President Fillmore as receiver of the land office at Des Moines and held the office during that administration. In 1855 he was elected Judge of the County Court of Clayton county and held the office for two years. Price, formerly an ardent Whig, “threw his whole soul and action into the Republican party, and was among the very first, with voice and pen, to arouse the people against the strides and encroachments of the slaveholder. When the rebellion broke out, he took an active part in the organization of military companies, encouraged his sons to draw the sword, and from the beginning to the end of the great war his voice and pen were never idle in the cause of the Union.”

² Clement Vallandigham (1820-1871), the leader of the Copperhead  faction of anti-war Democrats, had already become nationally famous for his February 1861 speech titled, “The Great American Revolution” in the House of Representatives. In it, he accused the Republican Party of being “belligerent” and advocated “choice of peaceable disunion upon the one hand, or Union through adjustment and conciliation upon the other.” He proceed to vote against every military bill that was introduced in an attempt to thwart Lincoln’s efforts to put down the rebellion.


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