Reuben C. Gray

An Illinois Farmer Takes Over

As noted above, onMay 20, 1878,Reuben C. Gray of Chicago, Illinois, purchased Mount Pleasant from Alexander Aldridge of Surry County.  In 1879 and 1880 the Surry County tax assessor credited Gray with 642 acres called Mount Pleasant that had $1,250 worth of structural improvements (Surry County Deed Book 16 [1873-1879]:651; Land Tax Lists 1878-1880).

On October 1, 1880,Reuben C.Gray and his wife, Clara, who had become  residents of Surry County, conveyed to Charles M. Gray and his wife,Mary, a half-interest in Mount Pleasant and its household furnishings, plus a half-interest in their livestock, and agricultural equipment.  Through this means, the Grays of Mount Pleasant borrowed money from the Grays of Chicago, using their farm and other possessions as collateral to secure their loan.  By May 15, 1882, the outstanding funds had been repaid.  At that time, Charles M. and Mary Gray deeded their interest in Mount Pleasant back to Reuben C.Gray and his wife for $100 (Surry County Deed Book 17:646; 18:422-423).

In 1880 the county tax assessor credited Reuben C. Gray with 642 acres called Mount Pleasant that had $1,250 worth of improvements.  Then, during 1881 and 1882 the assessor briefly credited both land and buildings to Charles M.Gray, but failed to provide  an explanation (Surry County Land Tax Lists 1879-1882).

Land Use Patterns atMount Pleasant

In 1880 when agricultural census records were compiled throughout Virginia, Reuben C.Gray was listed as the owner of Mount Pleasant, which had a cash value of $15,000, a sum that included all of its improvements.  Gray had 400 acres of tilled land, which included fallow and grass land such as pastures or meadows, that were in a crop rotation system.  He also had 200 acres of woodland.  Gray apparently was an enlightened farmer, for he had invested $1,000 in farming implements. During the 1879 crop year Reuben C. Gray had spent $2,000 on building and repairing fences and $100 on fertilizers of various types.  He had workers for fifty weeks, people who were employed in farming, dairying, and housework. Gray’s livestock herd, which was worth $1,000, included one horse, seven mules and asses, three working oxen, six milk cows, and eleven other cattle.  During the year, five calves were born. Although Gray’s dairy cattle had produced 300 pounds of butter, none of it had been sold to others.  His flock of poultry (twenty birds that were not classified as barnyard poultry) produced forty dozen eggs.  The census-taker described the agricultural crops that had been grown at Mount Pleasant during 1879, making note of how much acreage had been used to produce those quantities. He indicated that 30 acres had produced 60,020 bushels of Indian corn and that 221 acres had produced 24,012 bushels of oats.  148 Twenty acres had yielded 50 pounds of peanuts, four acres had produced 40 bushels of Irish potatoes, and two acres had yielded 30 bushels of sweet potatoes. Reuben C.Gray’s 10 acre apple orchard, which had 200 bearing trees, had yielded 200 bushels of apples.  During 1879, $100 worth of orchard products were sold or consumed.  Likewise, 15 cords of wood were cut at Mount Pleasant and $100 worth of forest products were sold or consumed (Surry County Agricultural Census 1880).

Reuben C. Gray’s Bequest

Although the relationship between Reuben C. Gray and Charles M .Gray is unclear, by 1884 the latter man had inherited a part interest in Mount Pleasant.  On May 6, 1884, Charles M .Gray conveyed his share of Mount Pleasant to Emma E. Wingfield, another of Reuben C.Gray’s heirs, along with five lots in the city of Denver, Colorado.  In 1884 Mount Pleasant consisted of 642 acres (Surry County Deed Book 19:670).  The tax assessor noted that the 642 acre farm had buildings valued at $1,250 (Surry Land Tax Lists 1880-1884).

[1] The census-taker used a printed form and recorded these totals under specific headings marked “bushels.”  However, as the quantities he listed sound implausibly high, he may have been making note of the pounds of corn and oats, not bushels.