John Gray at the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in 1900.

The Grays of Mt. Pisgah



esse Franklin Gray settled at Mt. Pisgah before the Civil War.  How he got here is described in this excerpt from Gray family research material that was published and archived in the Arkansas History Commission in Little Rock following the death of the author in 1998. Kenneth Gray, who lived in Cabot, was the great grandson of Jesse Franklin Gray.

The Grays came to America early. They were at Plymouth, Boston and Salem among the first settlers. It is said that Mrs. Desire Kent, daughter of Edward Gray, was the first woman ashore at Plymouth Rock.   

Benjamin Borden so pleased Governor William Gooch of the Colony of Virginia he authorized a grant to Borden for 500,000 acres of land on the Shenandoah and James River on condition he locate 100 families within 10 years. Borden lost no time in returning to England for settlers and in 1737 returned with more than 100 required families. 

Supposedly our ancestors John and Agnes Gray of county Antrim Ireland were part of the 100 families that came to Augusta County, Virginia, in 1737. William Gray, son of John and Agnes, was born in 1732 in Antrim, Ireland. 

He came with his parents [and siblings]… William Gray received a state grant of 640 acres November 13, 1779. His will named the following children: James "eldest son", William, Issac, Jesse, Joseph, Thomas, Samuel, Mary Brown, Elizabeth Raper and Lydia… 

William Gray, son of William Gray, was born September 17, 1755, in Guilford County, North Carolina.  He was a Captain in the Revolutionary War and served with Gov. Jesse Franklin at the battle of Guilford Courthouse. 

For his service he received a grant of 600 acres of land in Ashe County, North Carolina. He married Ann Thornberry around 1777.  His issue:  Samuel, William J., Ann and Others.  William J. was born in 1780 in Guilford County, and on November 19, 1799, he married Phoebe Martin of Guilford County. He moved to Ashe County to be close to his father where he had received a land grant for his Revolutionary War service. 

Phoebe Martin Gray died in 1825. 

William and most of the family moved to Tennessee and then on to Missouri, where he died around 1850. 

Issue: Jonathan, Daughter Martin, John, Martha,William, Alfred, Jesse Franklin and James.
             Jesse Franklin Gray, son of William J. and Phoebe Martin Gray, was born May 02, 1823, in Guilford County.  He was living with his parents in Ashe County when his mother died. At age 9, Jesse was apprenticed to learn the machinist trade. He did not like the man he was apprenticed to and ran away to Scott County, Virginia, and lived with the Stephen Epperson Family.  On December 10, 1846, Jesse married Mary Ann Epperson, daughter of Hopson and Anny Agee Epperson, niece of Stephen Epperson.    After the death of Hopson Epperson, Jesse, his wife, two children and brother-in-law Harrison Epperson floated down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, Arkansas, White and Little Red Rivers to his home at Mt. Pisgah in White County, Arkansas.  Jesse received a state land grant in 1851of 120 acres.  He owned slaves, operated a lumber mill and a remount station for stagecoaches that traveled the old Military Road through Mt. Pisgah. 

His slaves dug a huge well which furnished water for the stage passengers, teams and surrounding settlers.  This well is still visible near Mt. Pisgah Cemetery, for which Jesse donated land in 1856.  Jesse was active in Arkansas politics and was considered a radical in association with Thomas Hindman and others. 

He was active in the 1860 presidential election (Confederate Arkansas by Michael B. Gougan). Mary Ann Epperson Gray died December 12, 1860, and is buried at Mt. Pisgah Cemetery.  Jesse then married Martha Jane Parks, who was born September 1, 1834, in Shelby County, Tennessee.  She died May 11, 1902.  Jesse died March 15, 1907, and was buried at Mt. Pisgah Cemetery. 

His issue:  Martha Ann Gray, William Hopson Gray, Harrison Thompson Gray, James Franklin Gray, Robert W. Gray, (second marriage) Walter Alexander Gray, Margaret S. Gray, Louella A. Gray, Joseph Gray - who died young, Idomin Gray - who died young, Rufus B. Gray, Sarah Jane Gray - who died young, and John Andrew Gray.

This article and photo are courtesy of Ron Strong, a member of the White County Historical Society, who lives at 230 W. Nicolet, Marquette, MI 49855,  He is a great grandson of Walter Alexander Gray, who “died of a drowning accident (or murder) in the White River near Georgetown (I think) on July 7, 1895.” 

The “Dry Goods – Notions” advertisement postcard is courtesy of Eddie Best of the Historical Society.  [See Pictures of Yesterday – Mt. Pisgah on this website.]