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John Hamilton Gray

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Col. Gray c. 1860

 

  • John Hamilton Gray was likely one of very few men to have had a father (the United Empire Loyalist Col. Robert Gray) serve in the American Revolutionary War in the 18th century, and a son (Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton-Gray) serve in World War One in the 20th century.
  • Robert Gray was 64 when his son John Hamilton was born in 1811. John Hamilton Gray was 65 when his son Arthur was born in 1876.
  • In an October 1864 speech, John Hamilton Gray reflected on the great benefits of Confederation for “our sons”. In 1876, after six daughters, Gray finally had a son, Arthur, with his third wife Sarah Caroline Cambridge. He had another son, Hamilton Edward Jarvis Gray, in 1880 when he was 69, but the boy did not survive to adulthood. His first two wives, Fanny Sewell Chamier and Susan Ellen Bartley-Pennefather, each died of childbirth-related ailments.

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    painting of Gray`s second wife Susan in India in about 1842 when she was 17 and they were about to be married.

  • As a soldier, John Hamilton Gray participated in a sensational duel of honour. His pistol shot winged his opponent, who missed Gray in the exchange of fire. To defend the honour of his regiment, he had been issued a pair of dueling pistols as a new officer with the elite Dragoon Guards cavalry regiment.
battle of zwartkoppies and Capt gray capturing the boer cannon scanned aug 13 2014,

Battle of Zwartkoppies, South Africa, April 30, 1845, photograph of colour painting by Major Sir Harry Darrell, 7th Dragoon Guards

 

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Detail of hand symbol pointing to Capt. John Hamilton Gray capturing the cannon at Battle of Zwartkoppies

  • In 1845 Gray received a medal for capturing an enemy cannon in action against insurgent Boers in South Africa.  His colleague General Graham Montgomery-Moore later said Gray would have qualified for a Victoria Cross for that act of heroism, but it was 11 years before Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross as the highest honour for valour in the face of an enemy.
  • Among the seven Prince Edward Island Fathers of Confederation, Gray was the most fervent supporter of PEI joining Confederation at the Quebec Conference of October 1864 and in subsequent presentations. When colleagues turned against Confederation, he resigned as leader of the PEI government in protest in December 1864.
  • Perhaps the best-known story about Gray is him mentioning to the future King Edward the Seventh that he had daughters born in each quadrant of the world: Harriet on a troop ship in the Red Sea, Margaret at Fort Beaufort, South Africa, Florence in Kent, England, and Mary in Charlottetown, PEI.  He subsequently had two more daughters in Charlottetown: Bertha and Rosie, and finally a son, Arthur.

    Bertha`s siblings, clockwise from bottom left: sister Harriet Worrall Gray (later married Henry Stokes) in 1864; another of Harriet in Aldershot, England, where she was caregiver for her aged Pennefather grandparents; front, sister Margaret Gray (Lord), standing Florence Gray (Poole) with cousin Edward Jarvis at left, 1868; sister Mary "Mim" Gray (Abbott); stepbrother Arthur Cavendish Hamilton Gray, when serving as a lieutenant with the New Brunswick regiment in the Boer War; and sister Florence with grandmother Lady Pennefather. (McBride Collection)

    Clockwise from bottom left: Harriet Worrell Gray (later married Henry Stokes) in 1864; another of Harriet in Aldershot, England; sitting is Margaret Gray (Lord), standing Florence Gray (Poole) with cousin Edward Jarvis at left, 1868; Mary Gray (Abbott); Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton-Gray, when serving as a lieutenant with the New Brunswick regiment in the 1890s; and Florence with grandmother Lady Pennefather.

  • By phenomenal coincidence, there were two unrelated Fathers of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray – one in PEI and the other in New Brunswick. Even more amazing, each one was known as Colonel Gray – the PEI Gray achieving the rank as a career officer with the British Cavalry, and the New Brunswick Gray for his service with the militia.
  • There is no record of the PEI Gray venturing west of Ontario, but the New Brunswick Gray moved to Victoria, B.C. late in his career and died in Victoria in 1889. Ironically, the New Brunswick Gray is buried at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria close to the burial site of the PEI Gray’s son-in-law Frederick Peters and granddaughter Violet Peters.

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    Gray`s daughter Bertha Gray Peters. Known in the family as Dally.

  • Gray and his brother Robert Gray both suffered from gout.  They believed they inherited the condition from their hard-drinking grandfather Lt. George Burns, who was an original proprietor (among the first land grantees after Britain gained control of the island in the 1760s).
  • Gray’s son Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton-Gray was likely named after Gray’s long-time friend and colleague in the 7th Dragoon Guards, Major Arthur Cavendish Bentinck. In his will, Arthur styled his surname as Hamilton-Gray.

    arthur bentick commanding dragoon guards

    Major Arthur Cavendish Bentinck of the 7th Dragoon Guards.

  • At age 18, John Hamilton Gray’s daughter Margaret Stukeley Pennefather Gray accompanied her father to the Quebec Conference and subsequent Confederation-related events, including a visit to Niagara Falls, in October 1864. By the 1930s, Margaret Gray Lord was the last surviving participant of the Quebec Conference. She died at age 96 on December 31, 1941.

    margaret gray lord

    Margaret Gray Lord

  • Gray idolized his father-in-law General Sir John Lysaght Pennefather, a victorious hero of the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War in 1854.   In honour of his father-in-law, Gray named his new estate in Charlottetown Inkerman House, and carefully planted trees along the entrance known as Inkerman Way to represent the order of battle at Inkerman involving British and French forces on one side, and Russians on the other side.

    (c) The Royal Hospital Chelsea; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

    Gen. Sir John Lysaght Pennefather

  • Gray’s roots in PEI go back to the beginning of British control of the island in the 1700s. His grandfather Lt. George Burns was granted land on the northeast coast of the island for his service at the coronation of King George the Third.
  • Gray was named after the Hamilton family in Scotland who hired his father Robert as an agent for their tobacco business in Virginia. As Robert’s family was in financial distress, Robert appreciated the opportunity given him by the Hamiltons for the rest of his life, and named his youngest son in their honour.
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