THOMAS L. GRAY is widely known in Southwestern Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle through his activities as a merchant. He was one of the earliest merchants at Guymon, Oklahoma, and a few years ago extended his mercantile enterprise to Liberal, the town where he now makes his home. Mr. Gray is an old resident of Kansas, having come to the state when a boy of seven years.
He was born at Terre Haute, Indiana, November 4, 1871. His father, Mathew Gray, who was born in Southern Ohio in 1830, was one of a family of two sons and four daughters and was a small boy when the family moved to Indiana and he grew up in that state. When the war came on his brother served as a soldier in the Union army, but he himself was kept out of the army because of physical defects. He learned the wagon maker's trade in Terre Haute, was also a millwright, and followed those lines until about middle life.
In 1878 he brought his family to Kansas, moving them with wagon and team. He located in Montgomery County, on a farm near Sycamore, and was one of the esteemed residents of that locality until his death at the age of seventy-two. In politics he was a greenbacker and Farmers Alliance man. He also had strong religious convictions, but never affiliated with any church. He married Amanda Ladd, who was born near Eugene, Indiana, and died in Montgomery County, Kansas, in 1879, the year following the family's arrival in this state. They had the following children: William A. of Sedan, Kansas; Sallie, who married Mathew Miller and died in Montgomery County, leaving no children; Walter H., who died unmarried at Bakersfield, California; Thomas L.; John G., of Guymon, Oklahoma; David Matthew, of Bakersfield, California; Annie, wife of Samuel Hudiburg, of Guymon; and Mattie, wife of Thomas Stevens, of Sycamore Township, Montgomery County, Kansas.
Mr. Thomas L. Gray grew up on a farm in Sycamore Township of Montgomery County, Kansas, and was educated only in the country schools. When just past his majority he left the old home and started out for himself. For a year he was a day laborer around Bakersfield, California. Returning to Kansas, he was a farmer in Montgomery County for three years, and for nine years he continued it on a farm west of Sedan in Chautauqua County. He owned this farm and devoted it to grain and stock raising.
From farming Mr. Gray transferred his interests to merchandising, and in the spring of 1905 removed to Guymon, Oklahoma. In the fall of that year he opened up a stock of new and second hand merchandise, and has owned and operated a store in that locality ever since. He continued in personal charge of this business until 1915, when he established his home at Liberal and took charge of the business he had launched there a few years previously. Guymon in 1905 was a town out on the frontier, surrounded by a vast cattle domain, and with permanent settlement by a substantial agricultural population just springing up. He was himself a factor in the upbuilding and settlement of that community and saw Guymon grow to a large and prosperous community. Besides his work as a merchant there he contributed two residences and a business house to the town. He has prospered through intelligent use of his opportunities, though he began his business career with only about $1,000 in capital.
His associations with the commercial affairs of Liberal began as a partner of Anson T. Bever, whom he later succeeded. The business at Liberal is also handling new and second-hand goods. He has contributed his store building to the growth of Liberal and in 1918 erected another business house in the town. In politics Mr. Gray cast his first presidential vote for Mr. Bryan. Later he voted for Mr. McKinley and latterly has been voting the democratic ticket. He and his wife are members of the Christian Church.
In Chautauqua County, Kansas, January 13, 1895, Mr. Gray married Miss Frances Bever. Her father was Anson T. Bever, above mentioned, who was born in Ohio and came to Kansas in 1884 from the vicinity of Hoopston, Indiana. He is now a resident of Coffeyville. During the Civil war he served with an Indiana regiment, and in politics has always been a steadfast republican and is a former county recorder of Chautauqua County. He is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Woodmen of the World and the Christian Church.
Mr. Bever married Mrs. Charlotte Doty, who had two children by a former marriage, Mrs. Flora Copeland, of Caney, Kansas, and Mrs. Mollie Comstock, of Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Bever had the following children: Edwin, of Prowers County, Colorado; Daniel, of Sedan, Kansas; Ward, of Hobart, Oklahoma; Mrs. Gray; and Anson, of Coffeyville, Kansas.
Mr. and Mrs. Gray have three children: Hettie Lee, Orwin Christian and Gerald. The daughter finished her education in the Salt City Business College at Hutchinson, and is now a very capable assistant to her father in his business affairs. The son, Orwin Christian, also took a business course at the Salt City Business College and is now serving as a lieutenant and instructor in the Aviation School at Dallas, Texas.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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