Located on the west side of Floyd St., between Oak and Ormsby Streets, in a shaded, fenced-in lot in Louisville, Kentucky, you will find what remains of the Captain George Gray family cemetery.
George Gray was born in 1756 in Stafford County, Virginia, and later moved to Culpeper County, Virginia. During the Revolutionary War he spent one year in the Third Virginia Regiment as a cadet and an ensign. From 1777 to mid-1779, he held the rank of lieutenant and then captain in the Fourth Continental Dragoons, or mounted troops, who patrolled, scouted, carried messages, and harassed British soldiers. Saying he had no money, Captain Gray resigned after three and a half years of service. In 1781, he married Mildred Rootes Thompson, who had inherited the income from the estates of former governor Spotswood from her father, a well-known and well-to-do minister.
As compensation for his time in the military, George Gray received two warrants for a total of 4,100 acres of western land in present-day Kentucky. The warrants allowed him to have surveys made which then had to be registered or “patented” by a government official. Kentucky records show that Gray had two surveys made in 1785 for two 1000-acre parcels in western Kentucky which were recorded in 1795. No further information has been found concerning his patented property or the remainder of his warrants. However, from his first cousin, General George Weedon, he did inherit land in Washington County, Kentucky, which appears on the tax rolls early in the 1800s. The listing of a couple of young white males, perhaps George Gray’s sons, about twenty blacks, and several horses indicate the land was being farmed.
In the Louisville area, Gray’s first entry in the Jefferson County deed books occurred in 1798 for the lease of two 100-acre lots. The first maps to show this property are from the middle of the 19th century when the city limits reached the north edge of his farm. The maps reveal an undeveloped area of about 100 acres from near Kentucky Street to Woodbine and from First Street to Preston, most of which lies in the present Toonerville Trolley neighborhood. Another undeveloped area of equal size east of Preston Street adjoined the first.
In 1819, President James Monroe and General Andrew Jackson visited Louisville. Gray chaired the committee in charge of arrangements for five days of celebrations and activities which apparently began late on June 23 with the arrival of the entourage at Gray’s farm. From there the Louisville cavalry and infantry escorted the dignitaries into town.
George Gray died on December 26, 1823, and was buried on his farm two days later. Major General Winfield Scott, who had just arrived in Louisville, was a pallbearer. The funeral procession included military men, the Masonic fraternity, family, friends and citizens. A public dinner several days later praised the veteran, a charter member of the Virginia Order of the Cincinnati “as true as steel to his country, and an honest man.”
George and Mildred Gray had twelve children, the last two born in Jefferson County. Three sons were captains in the U.S. Army. Other sons became prominent Louisville merchants and businessmen. The best known was John Thompson Gray, the postmaster for many years and an investor in the first locally built steamboat, among many other ventures. Late in the 19th century, members of the third generation gave the last remnant of their ancestors’ farm containing a small cemetery to the Episcopal diocese. They requested that a church be built over the graves of Captain Gray and his wife. “All Saints Chapel,” where Sunday school classes and evening prayers were held, gave its name to the site until the building was removed. In the 1940s, the DAR rehabilitated the area, calling it “Fort George,” and held commemorative services there for about forty years. Then the Fort George Neighborhood Association looked after the property until the Toonerville Neighborhood Association acquired ownership in 2009.
The research above was written by Toonerville neighbor Susan Price Miller, and presented to Fort George on 6-23-15. Many articles were published by local media in the past that reported facts that were not accurate.
Susan believes the third generation of Grays did not have any family records when they applied for SAR and DAR membership at the end of the 19th century. By then, the family stories were far from true.
Some of that misinformation was has been proven wrong by Susan’s research: “A wealthy plantation owner when the Revolutionary War broke out” and, “Captain Gray spent his own fortune on maintaining and equipping the Third Virginia Infantry during the American Revolutionary War”.
The recent discovery of 1756 (instead of 1740 that has previously been reported) as the year of Gray’s birth changes the whole arc of his life history. He was only twenty in 1776, and had not had time to build his fortune. It appears that he inherited little from his father, who died when George Gray was thirteen, and who never owned more than a few hundred acres. This explains why George had no money after the war. It wasn’t because he had supported his men, which was not allowed anyway.
We now know that Gray was a second cousin to both Presidents Taylor and Monroe.
The cemetery site had “degenerated into a neglected vacant lot” over many years until the John Marshall Chapter of the DAR became interested in rehabilitating the cemetery in 1941.
In 2009, the Toonerville Neighborhood Association acquired the property and has undertaken the research as a first step as how to best preserve the history and physical aspects of this site, which falls within its boundaries.
By April 2015 a generous Old Louisville family has had the property cleaned up and an illuminated flagpole installed, and the neighborhood has big plans to give this historic cemetery the much needed attention it deserves.
Research continues and is added as it becomes available at this link.