William Gregory III

In Invisible Immigrants: The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in 19th-Century America (1990), Charlotte Erickson extracts excerpts from letters written by English immigrants who entered the U.S. throughout the nineteenth century.[i] Through these letters, Erickson explains that many English immigrants left comfortable hometowns in hopes of increasing their standard of living in the U.S., like owning a home or farm instead of leasing one, or simply just boosting their family’s social status and wealth. After reviewing the data contained in the 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census records for Alexandria, Virginia, one English immigrant in particular stood out from the rest, and further inquiry into his background tends to support Erickson’s argument.

William Gregory III was either an English-speaking Scotsman or a recent English arrival to southern Scotland who likely came to the U.S. to expand his family’s business and affluence. Gregory was born on January 3, 1789, in Kilmarnock, Scotland.[ii] Nearly ten months later, on November 17, 1789, Gregory was baptized in the St. James Anglican Church in Westminster, England.[iii] His father, William Gregory II, owned a woolen factory in Kilmarnock.[iv] When Gregory was eighteen, he immigrated to Alexandria, Virginia, and worked as a clerk in Scotsman Robert McCrea’s dry goods store that was located on King Street.[v] He actively participated in the War of 1812 by serving with the Alexandria Blues, and his unit fought in the Battle of the White House in 1814. [vi] After the war, Gregory prospered as a dry goods merchant and achieved considerable wealth. Though he retired from the merchant business in 1847, he eventually became “the president of the Alexandria branch of the Farmers’ Bank of Virginia, a position he retained until the bank closed in 1866.”[vii] As president, Gregory’s name appeared in the Merchant’s and Banker’s Almanac for 1853.[viii]

Records indicate that Gregory lived in the City of Alexandria from the time he arrived at the age of eighteen until his death in 1875. He also seemed to have integrated into the American society quite well. For example, in addition to his service during the War of 1812, Gregory signed an Oath of Allegiance that swore allegiance to the Union during the time of the U.S. Civil War.[ix]

(Data Courtesy of the Alexandria Library)

Analysis of the available marriage and U.S. Census records reflect that Gregory was married twice, had ten children, and that he was a wealthy slave owner. Gregory married his first wife, Margaret Douglas Bartleman, on December 2, 1822, and they had five children together.[x] According to her headstone, Margaret died in Barbados on June 19, 1833.[xi] Gregory appeared in the U.S. Census records as a resident of Alexandria three times, and each of these documents provides additional interesting facts about his life. According to the 1850 Census, Gregory’s real estate was valued at $21,000 and he had nine people in his family that were living in his home, one of which is his second wife, Mary.[xii] Like Margaret, she and Gregory had five children together.[xiii] An additional available document, the 1850 Census Slave Schedule, reported that Gregory owned two female slaves who were aged sixteen and eighteen.[xiv] By the 1860 Census, Gregory had six family members and three slaves living under his roof [xv], and the combined value of his property was $110,000.[xvi]  Finally, in the 1870 Census, Gregory only had five family members living with him but his combined property value increased to $130,000.[xvii] Based on this data, it is reasonable to infer that the U.S. Civil War and subsequent emancipation of slaves did not negatively impact Gregory’s wealth.

 

(Documents Courtesy of Ancestry.com)

A variety of passenger manifests reveal that Gregory and his children were quite the ocean travelers, and they suggest that he did not sever ties with his family in Scotland. Two passenger lists depict that the Gregorys traveled from both Barbados and Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Alexandria via the Schooner Velocity in September of 1833.[xviii] These documents substantiate the death date and burial location of Gregory’s first wife, Margaret. Over the course of the next three years, other passenger manifests indicate that the Gregorys traveled to New York from Liverpool, England, on several different ships, including the Oxford on June 8, 1840, the Independence on November 2, 1841, and the Talbot on May 18, 1842.[xix]

 

(Documents Courtesy of Ancestry.com)

Over the span of his long life, Gregory owned multiple expensive properties in Alexandria. Later known as the “William Gregory Building,” Gregory owned a structure on 400-02 King Street, but it was demolished in 1968 under the Gadsby Urban Renewal Project.[xx] The second “William Gregory Building” was located on 404-06 King Street. Gregory also owned another property called the “Old Leadbeater House,”[xxi] which was located at 329 North Washington Street.[xxii]

According to Boyd’s Business Directory of the Cities of Alexandria, Georgetown, and Washington (1875), Gregory lived at 87 North Washington Street in 1875, the most prestigious street address in the city.[xxiii] He died in Alexandria on July 13, 1875,[xxiv] and was buried in the Gregory family plot located within the Presbyterian Cemetery.[xxv]

(Created by Dino Reschke Using GoogleMaps)

[i] Charlotte Erickson, Invisible Immigrants: The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in 19th-Century America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990).

[ii] Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[iii] England & Wales, Christening Index, 1530-1980, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[iv] “Historic American Buildings Survey: William Gregory Building,” accessed September 22, 2016, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/va/va0100/va0116/data/va0116data.pdf.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.; Amy Bertsch and Lance Mallamo, “Out of the Attic: A Dyed-in-the-Wool Alexandrian,” Alexandria Times, May 1, 2014.

[vii] “Historic American Buildings Survey: William Gregory Building,” accessed September 22, 2016, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/va/va0100/va0116/data/va0116data.pdf.

[viii]Merchant’s and Banker’s Almanac for 1853, accessed September 22, 2016, https://books.google.com/books?id=EmxQAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP8&lpg=PP8&dq=Merchant%E2%80%99s+and+Banker%E2%80%99s+Almanac+for+1853&source=bl&ots=yssX292IuL&sig=T1U-UDEiSpSLv5HUV3M6CS6tJ28&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiMq-j3vqXPAhWGXh4KHR_5CBIQ6AEIJzAC#v=onepage&q&f=false.

[ix] Alexandria Library, “Oath of Allegiance in Virginia, 1862-1865,” accessed September 22, 2016, https://alexlibraryva.org/client/en_US/home/?rm=OATH+OF+ALLEGI0%7C%7C%7C1%7C%7C%7C0%7C%7C%7Ctrue.

[x] “Margaret Douglas Bartleman,” accessed September 22, 2016,  http://person.ancestrylibrary.com/tree/102088298/person/100026340210/facts; Amy Bertsch and Lance Mallamo, “Out of the Attic: A Dyed-in-the-Wool Alexandrian,” Alexandria Times, May 1, 2014.

[xi] Find A Grave, “Margaret Douglas Bartleman Gregory,” accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=116200071.

[xii] 1850 United States Federal Census, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[xiii] “Historic American Buildings Survey: William Gregory Building,” accessed September 22, 2016, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/va/va0100/va0116/data/va0116data.pdf.

[xiv] 1850 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[xv] 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules, accessed September 29, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com; University of Virginia, “Voting Viva Voce: Unlocking the Social Logic of Past Politics,” Database Queries: Individuals in Alexandria; William Gregory, accessed September 29, 2016, http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu/node/14name=William%20Gregory&sex=&race=&bg=4&data_set=alex_people&contains=1.

[xvi] Population Schedule of the Eighth Census of the United States, 1860, Virginia, accessed September 22, 2016, https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu1331unix#page/n409/mode/2up.

[xvii] Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, Virginia, accessed September 22, 2016, https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu1632unit#page/n223/mode/2up.

[xviii] Atlantic Ports, Gulf Coasts, and Great Lakes Passenger Lists, Roll 1: 1820-1871, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com; U.S., Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[xix] New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[xx] “Historic American Buildings Survey: William Gregory Building,” accessed September 22, 2016, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/va/va0100/va0116/data/va0116data.pdf; Amy Bertsch and Lance Mallamo, “Out of the Attic: A Bland Building with Rich Commercial History,” Alexandria Times, July 17, 2014; Amy Bertsch and Lance Mallamo, “Out of the Attic: A Historic Property with A Bright Future,” Alexandria Times, January 8, 2015.

[xxi] “Gregory or ‘Old Leadbeater House,’” accessed September 22, 2016, http://cdn.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/va/va0100/va0118/data/va0118data.pdf.

[xxii] University of Virginia, “Voting Via Voce: Unlocking the Social Logic of Past Politics,” accessed September 22, 2016, http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu/node/14name=William%20Gregory&sex=&race=&bg=&data_set=alex_people&contains=1.

[xxiii] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[xxiv] Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.

[xxv] Find A Grave, “William Gregory,” accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=116250241&ref=acom.

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