‘A stranger to us’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The Grays’ summer was flying by in Marion, and Regina Shober Gray[1] faced new social responsibilities as her daughter Mary[2] ventured into society:

Sunday, 6 August 1865: A week ago last Wed’y, I went up to Boston to make my deserted husband a visit, intending to return early on Friday; but some deeds were sent on for the girls[3] to sign before a commissioner – so they had to come up on Friday morning and I waited, of course, to return with them p.m.

Frank [Gray][4] went to Worcester that mg. for the [rowing] regatta – he was so excited about it that he hardly slept for 2 nights previous. If he took it so hard, what must have been the excitement of the fellows actually competing in the race; and alas! for all their hopes and efforts, the Yale men bore the palm, in both races – and Harvard was only second best.

On Monday our dear daughter went to Beverly for a week’s visit to Katie Loring[5] – and we were all glad she could have such a pleasant change, but shall rejoice to see her back to-morrow, for our quiet circle loses a great deal of cheerful life by her absence. Frank is back again now. Ned Gray[6] left us last Saturday.

The boys enjoy sailing in their little skiff, much; but they have twice gone down the bay in a larger vessel, with Capt. Luce for skipper, and found little success in fishing, but a deal of sea-sickness. Sam & Morris [Gray][7] have really not yet got over yesterday’s cruise – so they have quite decided, the younger boys, that they will “have none on’t;” which rather discourages Mary Shober and me, who had almost screwed up our courage to attempt, some quiet time, the run down to the Light House…

Sunday, 20 August 1865: We have just got home from the Sunday evg. concert of sacred music at the Hotel. Mr. Luce is quite a good leader, and plays on his melodeon very well. After tea, the younger boys went with Mary Shober and me for a long ramble through the Pines woods – a charming twilight walk we had, with a glowing sunset.

Last evg. the young people got up a burlesque opera – Bluebeard – introducing their favorite songs pathetic & comic with great effect. Rob.t Peabody[8] – Bluebeard – with a wonderful moustache & beard made of hanging moss and died with indigo blue – a tremendous turban of old white cotton fancified with ribbons &c – a most formidable old Turk. Miss Lizzie Howe was Fatima & Mary Gray the sister, Sam & Rege [Gray][9] the avenging brothers – … Frank G. & Frank P[eabody][10] being supernumaries & chorus.

Out of the meagrest materiel they got themselves up in a wonderfully effective manner – and the acting & singing were admirable. They brought in among other things “Sad hour of parting,”[11] “Ich wollte meiner Liebe,”[12] “Ever of thee,”[13] “Thou thou reignest in this bosom,” The Hunter’s Chorus & the Prayer in “Der Freyschutz,”[14] “Down among the dead men,”[15] &c &c…

Out of the meagrest materiel they got themselves up in a wonderfully effective manner…

Both affairs were irresistibly comic and the contriving & rehearsing made no end of fun! I fear we shall have no more as Robt. P. goes off to Mt. Desert tomorrow – and he is the star of the company. He drew up on the reverse of a large handbill a most comic playbill which Mary intends to keep as a memento!

There have been several pleasant sailing parties this week too. Yesterday Mary accepted an invitation to drive with Mr. Foster – they went tandem round to the Marion house, and thought it great fun – and got back safe to my relief! I hesitated about letting her go – the young man is a stranger to us but seems gentlemanly – and the accident which necessitates his going about on crutches interested us all for him – he sits at our table. And having been introduced by Mrs. Peabody,[16] I did not want to seem prudish about the matter, so consented – but Mary passed her 17th birth-day on Friday, and it behoves us to be cautious about whom she has for intimates!

Her aunties seemed to think Mrs. P.’s introduction and his own gentlemanly manners & appearance certificate enough; but to-night I find Mrs. P. knows little more about them, than I do!!! They are orphan brothers & wards of Mr. E. S. Rand[17] – and that is about all we know, so I am glad our season is nearly over – as I could not … let such a watering place intimacy run on for weeks without more knowledge of the parties!

Continued here.


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

[2] Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923).

[3] The diarist’s sisters Mary Morris Shober (1816–1873) and Elizabeth Kearney Shober (1821–1865).

[4] Mrs. Gray’s eldest son Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904), a rising senior at Harvard.

[5] Katharine Peabody Loring (1849–1943), a great-niece of Mrs. Gray’s sister-in-law Sallie Gray.

[6] Sallie Gray’s son Edward Gray (1851–1907).

[7] Mrs. Gray’s sons Samuel Shober Gray (1849–1926) and Morris Gray (1856–1931).

[8] Robert Swain Peabody (1845–1917), the future Boston architect.

[9] The diarist’s son Reginald Gray (1853–1904).

[10] Robert Peabody’s brother Francis Greenwood Peabody (1847–1936).

[11] The Hour of Parting (1852) by Elizabeth Anne White.

[12] Felix Mendelssohn’s Ich wollt meine Liebe ergösse sich (1836–45).

[13] Ever of thee (1858) by George Linley (1798–1865).

[14] Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821).

[15] Down Among the Dead Men (traditional), attributed to John Dyer (1700–1758).

[16] Mary Jane Derby (1807–1892), the widow of Rev. Ephraim Peabody and mother of Robert and Frank.

[17] Edward Sprague Rand (1809–1884), a Boston lawyer.

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 stranger to us’

  1. I absolutely LOVE these diary entries. I am saving all of them. It is a wonderful glimpse of day gone by. How times have changed!

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