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Thirty-five years have passed since James P. Gray came to Idaho to cast in his lot with its pioneers. People of the present end-of-the-century period can scarcely realize the struggles and dangers which attended the early settlers, the heroism and self-sacrifice of lives passed upon the borders of civilization, the hardships endured, the difficulties overcome. These tales of the early days read almost like a romance to those who have known only the modern prosperity and conveniences. To the pioneer of the early days, far removed from the privileges and conveniences of city or town, the struggle for existence was a stern and hard one, and these men and women must have possessed indomitable energies and sterling worth of character, as well as marked physical courage, when they thus voluntarily selected such a life and successfully fought its battles under such circumstances as prevailed in the northwest.
James P. Gray was a young man of eighteen years when he took up his residence in the mining camp at Idaho City. His early life was spent in Illinois, his birth having occurred in Peoria County, that state, December 10, 1846. He is of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and his grandfather, William Gray, emigrated from the north of Ireland with his wife, taking up his residence in Indiana, where occurred the birth of Thomas Gray, the father of our subject. In the Hoosier state Thomas was reared, and having attained years of maturity was married there to Rebecca Cochran, by whom he had seven children, five of whom are yet living. In 1864 the father, accompanied by three of his sons, including James, crossed the plains to the Pacific slope. They left Atchison, Kansas, on the 6th of May, with twenty-two wagons in their train, loaded with freight and drawn by oxen. Near Fort Laramie they were attacked by Indians, and William Gray, who was with another part of the train from the other members of his family, was killed.
At length the father and his other two sons arrived in Idaho City, and engaged in mining and teaming there, but not meeting with very great success in placer mining, they came to what is now Washington County and turned their attention to stock-raising. The father took up three hundred and twenty acres of government land near the city of Weiser, and devoted his attention to the management of his ranch until 1881, when he one day went out in search of a bear that he had seen prowling around the place. He was accidentally shot by a man who, catching sight of a moving object, thought it was the bear and fired. Mr. Gray was taken to Boise for medical treatment, but after lingering for some months he passed away, and his remains were interred in the cemetery at the capital city. The stream which bordered his ranch is known as Gray’s creek, for he was the first settler in that locality. He was one of the prominent and influential citizens of the community, and served for two terms in the territorial legislature, thus taking an active part in shaping the early policy of the state. The sons inherited the farm, but afterward sold it, and George D. Gray now resides in the old town of Weiser.
James P. Gray of this review aided his father for some time after coming to Idaho, but eventually entered upon an independent business career, purchasing three hundred and twenty acres of land on Weiser River, where he carried on farming and stock-raising for some years, meeting with excellent success in his undertakings. In 1898, however, he sold that property and purchased eighty acres a short distance north of the city. Erecting thereon a good residence he devoted his energies to the cultivation of his fields and the care of his stock, and is regarded as one of the most progressive, practical and enterprising farmers in southwestern Idaho. He is one of the best known stock-raisers of Washing-ton County, and for the past twenty-seven years has threshed most of the grain in this section of the country. He displays great diligence and sound judgment in the management of his business interests, and has thereby become the possessor of a competence.
On the 31st of October. 1871. Mr. Gray married Miss Clarissa E. Brassfield, a native of Missouri, and to them have been born eleven children, ten of whom are living, namely: Laura, wife of David Jones; Elizabeth, who died at the age of two years: Sarah, wife of Nathan Kimble; and Lucetta, Thomas, Josie, Ethel, James, Alba, Emma and Edward, who are still under the parental roof. The daughters are valued members of the Baptist church, and the family enjoy the friendship of many of the best people of this locality. In his political views Mr. Gray is a Democrat, and on that ticket was elected sheriff of Washington County, in which office he served most acceptably for four years. He is well and favorably known by the citizens of the County and the pioneers of the state, and merits honorable mention among the representative men of Idaho.