A modern Wolsey

[Author’s noteThis series of excerpts from the Regina Shober Gray diary began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In August 1879, the Grays[1] were back in Massachusetts after their lengthy European sojourn, and Mrs. Gray’s diary listed a fatiguing (if doubtless engaging) social round. The Grays’ adult children were in and out of the house: daughter Mary and sons Frank, Sam, Rege, and Morris, along with Sam’s wife Carrie, who was expecting their first child.[2] On the dates of these diary entries, Dr. Gray was in reasonably good spirits, but he remained in chronic pain:

Beverly Farms, Sunday, 3 August 1879: It seems to me I never suffered more with heat than yesterday & today; blazing, breathless, sultry August weather, without the delicious sea change, which has heretofore given us such refreshment daily at 11 a.m. – the thermom at 93 & 4 for hours – and even at 5 p. m. up to 87! There is some promise of thunder gusts by & by, which may cool us off a little.

We have had a delightful summer till now, cool & bright, but with abundant showers, so that the foliage is still green & fresh. The heat has been the more trying to us, as it was accompanied by an awful nuisance, an invasion of potato-bugs – the Colorado beetle, a rather pretty thing too of its kind – a thick oval [insect] with brown & gold stripes, a reddish head, and many red feet. They swarmed over piazza and house walls, from Mr. Haven’s potato patch, on his lawn.

It seems when a lawn is run down that the right thing to do, to bring it back up again, is to plant it with potatoes. The patch runs just outside our hedge – when the creatures had eaten away every green thing on the potato plants, they invaded everything else in the neighborhood – they swarmed in platoons – and kept Sam [Gray][3] and me engaged all day in killing them – and the day before Carrie [Gray] and I did it. We began by taking them on the end of a stick & dropping them into a pail of soap-suds – but soon had to give up such delicate measures & just stamp them out – a nasty nauseating job wh. makes me sick and gives me horrid dreams of the crawling torments; but we literally killed them by the scores & hundreds. Mr. Haven’s farmer say they will be all gone in a couple days now; that Mr. H. has employed boys daily for five weeks to kill them off…

Carrie seems poorly to-day – I fear she got over tired on Friday helping me get rid of these potato beetles. She thinks of going up to town tomorrow for a consultation with her Doctor – but I think he would better come here, and save her such fatigue, even if he do charge $20 or $30 for it; and I told her, Dr. Gray would pay the fee.

Morris [Gray][4] comes home from Cotuit, on Tuesday – tomorrow Rege [Gray][5] goes off on a week’s cruise with Augustus Hemenway;[6] and Frank [Gray][7] goes to make Oscar Iasigi[8] a visit at Lynn… Sidney Burgess[9] has lent Rege a very nice row boat, with moveable mast, centre board &c. He sailed here with it in tow, and left it at our mooring – Sam & Frank had been inquiring for one to hire or buy, all around Beverly & Salem, in vain. Rege, meeting Burgess in the [train] cars, & knowing him to be a boating man, asked him where one could be got – and lo, this is the result. Sam says “That Rege is a lucky cuss. The rest of us spend hours of time & patience inquiring round for a thing, wh. we are willing pay a fair price for – and can’t get it – while Rege has but to open his mouth & speak – and the thing drops into it”!!

It is a kind thing in Burgess – and the boys find it very convenient, especially these fine moonlight nights for rowing.

Thursday, 14 August 1879: F.C.G. has come home from his visit to the Iasigis at Lynn; he and Oscar drove down one day to dine; and Oscar, who is nothing if not statistical – and whose information is encyclopedic on all subjects – informed us that the summer population of Mt. Desert[10] this season is 4,000 souls – 3,500 of these belonging to the fairer & worthier sex – and the other 500 being of the male persuasion, mostly hobbledehoys!! An alarming disproportion truly!

Yesterday Georgie Eaton[11] & Katie Lowell[12] came over for tennis & tea – and luckily George Gardner[13] & Willie Hodges dropped in also. Today Harry Pickering[14] comes for the day – also [Mary Gray’s friend] Annie Dixwell, either to day or tomorrow for a meeting of the “History Club” – and to day I expect Dora Foster, my invaluable Dora,[15] with her 2 nieces to pass the day so kitchen as well as parlor will have its guests. Fortunately Mary Jane, good as gold, is always ready to cook for any number & to any extent. We have a constant run of guests here – the situation is central & people drop in – or, crossing the lawn to the Beach, stop for a chat.

Helen Loring[16] & Ellen Parkman came for bathing – and Mary [Gray][17] is glad to have companions on the water. The Eatons & the Lorings call frequently, to take us to drive; we had the pleasure of seeing [Carrie Gray’s sister] Alice Weld[18] several times, during her stay at Magnolia – she went home yesterday & Edith [Weld][19] came down. Carrie cannot go much to see them – it tires & jars her – and we are glad to welcome here.

Bessie Lee Shattuck[20] comes often to sit with her, also Fannie Porter – old friends of hers. I am glad to encourage all this coming & going, for our young people have an anxious time at best – and it helps to take them a little out of our sorrows. And it helps Doctor [Gray] himself too – he often gets quite cheered up talking to our various callers and when he does not feel like seeing strangers, he drops off to walk in the grounds, &c.

The newest engagement we hear of is Susie Hinckley (her father was a Northampton Lyman, who took his maternal grandfather’s name and inherited his property) to Rev. Leverett Bradley[21] – assistant at Trinity [Church] to Phillips Brooks.[22] We hear his father was a country butcher – but the cloth “ennobles” all who wear it, I suppose – beside he may prove himself a modern Cardinal Wolsey – who knows! as to ability & success.

Continued here.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. Both entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Ralph Weld Gray (1880–1944) was born on 19 January 1880.

[3] The Grays’ second son, Samuel Shober Gray (1849–1926), had married Caroline Balch Weld in January 1879.

[4] The diarist’s youngest son, Morris Gray (1856–1931).

[5] Mrs. Gray’s third son, Reginald Gray (1853–1904).

[6] Augustus Hemenway (1853–1931). A friend of the whole Gray family, he married Harriet Dexter Lawrence (1858–1960) in 1881.

[7] The Grays’ eldest son, Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904).

[8] Oscar Iasigi (1846–1884); he is also mentioned here.

[9] Reginald Gray’s classmate Sidney Williams Burgess (1854–1914).

[10] The summer resort in Maine.

[11] Presumably Georgiana Goddard Eaton (1857–1914); her brother William Storer Eaton (1854–1949) was a contemporary of Rege Gray’s.

[12] Katharine Lowell (1858–1925), who was married to Alfred Roosevelt 1882–91 and the Rev. T. James Bowlker in 1902.

[13] George Peabody Gardner (1855–1939), Katie Lowell’s cousin and a Gray family connection. He married Esther Burnett (whose parents appear elsewhere in the diary) in 1884.

[14] A sometime suitor of the Grays’ daughter Mary.

[15] A former Gray family servant, mentioned in the 1860s volumes of the diary.

[16] Mrs. Gray’s sister-in-law Sallie Gray’s cousin Helen Loring (b. 1851).

[17] Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923).

[18] Alice Balch Weld (1844–1902).

[19] Carrie Gray’s younger sister Edith Weld (1848–1938).

[20] Elizabeth Perkins Lee (1846–1931) married Dr. Frederick Cheever Shattuck in 1876.

[21] The Rev. Leverett Bradley (1846–1902) married Susan Greenough Hinckley on 3 December 1879.

[22] The Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835–1893), Bishop of Massachusetts 1891–93.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

4 thoughts on “A modern Wolsey

  1. That was a most interesting tidbit of their life. I learned something new about the invasive potatoes bugs. I didn’t realize they ate more than the potato plants. I come from a farming family and it seems to be in the blood.lol.

  2. Scott,

    The ongoing stories taken from this journal are such a treat. What a view they give of the life of a Boston socialite, who has connections all over! I can’t wait for the entire book that I assume this is leading up to. Her comment on Cardinal Wolsey shows a lot about her politics, indeed that of the time. She’s well read, among other things.


  3. “Hobbledehoy” – what a great word! I had to stop and look it up to find it means a clumsy, awkward youth. I am enjoying reading Mrs. Gray’s musings, and learning some great new words at the same time. Thanks.

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