‘A very isolated family’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
By the end of May 1865, Regina Shober Gray’s son Reginald had been staying with his aunts for six months; his visit was meant to help the Shober sisters as they mourned their brother John. Mrs. Gray[1] took her youngest son with her to collect Regie Gray and visit with her sisters:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, 30 May 1865: We came here on Saturday, Morris and I, and are going home next Sat.y. Taking Regie, who is wonderfully grown & improved for his six months’ stay here with the beloved Aunties. I have but once heard him scrape his throat – at home it was incessant – and will be I fear again in our harsher air. This is a real summer day – and I am glad I decided to come on now, instead of three weeks later, as the girls think the warm weather has already pulled Regie down somewhat. I find my sisters looking pretty well – but it is very sad for them in their home without John – they do not get used to the loss, and now that Aunt Regina is gone they feel very desolate.

We are a very isolated family – our mother[2] was an only child – her brothers and sisters[3] having all died young. So there is no connexion on that side and on our father’s we have only the Kimber cousins and some far-away Morris relatives [living in Philadelphia]. Auntie’s house was for years our family centre – the dear old lady was always at home – and always glad to see us; we never could go too often there! It is very sad not to have a call on our minds as part of the day’s plans for some one of us. Mary [Shober] is busy at her house daily trying with Lizzie Clemens help to wind up affairs there. It’s not much of an estate to be sure and Aunty directed in her will where every piece of furniture should go – she had a great horror of having a sale in her house of the old familiar gear she had known & cared for since childhood – and so divided it among the nieces & nephews & a few old friends to all [of] whom it will be valuable as relics of her & a past forever gone.

She left … smaller legacies to various friends and accompanying her will was a beautiful letter of advice and exhortation to her “beloved children.”

Also the silver was so divided with strictest justice. She left $2000 to Lizzie C[lemens] – and smaller legacies to various friends and accompanying her will was a beautiful letter of advice and exhortation to her “beloved children.” The old chairs which belonged to our great grandmother Jones (née Morris)[4] & which must be over 100 years old, we each took one of. The old 8 day clock whose broad solemn face looked down from its portentous height upon our childish sports, comes here,[5] also the grand old chest of drawers with its elaboration of brass ornament about each handle and keyhole – that was given to Mary in her girlhood.

And we each have a strong twilled linen towel, woven in old colony times by our dear old Aunt Sallie Morris, the sweetest, gentlest, kindliest old lady, visits to whose home in Bristol, Pa. are among the dimmest but most charming recollections of my childhood. I can just remember being lifted up to the bedside of her husband old Uncle Isaac Morris[6] to kiss him wh. he lay dying nearly 40 years ago. He was a fierce tyrannical old man, and his wife the meekest of modern Griseldas.

Continued here.


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

[2] Mary Ann Bedford (1795–1828) married Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober in 1813.

[3] Her siblings included Edward Bedford (b. 1793), James Bedford (b. 1797), and Henry Bedford (b. 1800).

[4] Mary Morris (d. 1800), who married Colonel Blathwaite Jones in 1762.

[5] Presumably to Mary Shober’s house in Philadelphia.

[6] Isaac Morris (1736–1821), who died when Mrs. Gray was 2½ years old. He married Sarah Marriott in 1801.

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.

7 thoughts on “‘A very isolated family’

  1. I love these posts. I have kept every one since I started receiving them. They are such wonderful glimpse into the lives of these people. I wish everybody kept diaries. they re such a meaningful way to let others know about the life and times gone past.

  2. I was not surprised to read how they split up the set of what might have been splendid Philadelphia side chairs … The same thing happened to many pieces of silver in many families. Those “tokens” of remembrance doled out to various families made no sense to keep a couple of generations later. Many such “odd lots” have been sold– Had the sets of furniture, silver, books, etc., been retained and passed down intact, what a different heritage!

    1. There was a sequel to this when Mary Shober’s estate was settled — the surviving siblings did some trading, so I think in some cases these sets were reunited, at least for the moment.

  3. Carolyn Clay Swiggert: breaking up sets is sad!! That happened when my parent’s house was closed, too, so I have one of a pair of loveseats, brought from New Orleans up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers as a wedding gift c. 1858. I remember them with their original black horse hair when I was a toddler…but what does one do with two???!! But we also took down all the light fixtures so when I visit my sisters, I get to re-visit pieces of our childhood home as well.

    1. RE: removing light fixtures. The house across the street from us (built circa 1925, and considerably enlarged a decade or so later) contains two Victorian marble fireplace surrounds brought from the East Coast by the grandparents when they moved in! I think their former home was being torn down, so it wasn’t quite the act of vandalism that it sounds like.

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